Yankees top pitching prospect could be primed for a big 2024 season

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts

Chase Hampton was selected by the New York Yankees in the sixth round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech, and the right-hander had serious command issues that caused him to fall. The work he’d have to put in mechanically would be significant, and in just one offseason, he would go from an erratic pitcher to one of the most consistent strike-throwers in the Minor Leagues. 2023 was supposed to be a developmental year for Chase Hampton, and while he certainly experienced some struggles, the 22-year-old exceeded any expectations.

Entering this season, he’s a non-roster invite to the Major League camp and has been lumped in as some of the options the team will look at internally as pitching depth. There’s a real chance that Chase Hampton will end up making his Major League debut in 2024, and this could be a huge season for the Yankees’ top pitching prospect.

The Data Behind Chase Hampton’s Breakout

Last season, Chase Hampton was one of the best pitchers in all of Minor League Baseball, as he struck out 33.1% of batters faced with a 3.63 ERA across 21 starts. He would get off to an incredible start in High-A with the Hudson Valley Renegades but slowed down in the second half of the season with the Somerset Patriots in Double-A. The right-hander displayed an excellent ability to throw strikes, landing 66% of his pitches for strikes, which ranks in the 87th Percentile for any MiLB pitcher with at least 100 IP in 2023.

A dominant four-seamer leads Chase Hampton’s arsenal, as the right-hander has a high-carry heater that gets batters to swing underneath for whiffs up in the zone. It’s his primary pitch, and with him adding a tick to it with the Yankees, it has truly taken off as one of the best four-seam fastballs in the Minor Leagues. It’s even earned him some comparisons to the reigning AL Cy Young winner, as he delivered this quote in an article by Brendan Kuty of The Athletic:

“Some of the players joke and they call him a little mini Gerrit because he has some similarities but he’s obviously not Gerrit Cole at the same time”

– Sam Briend
MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays

For those unaware, Sam Briend is the Pitching Coordinator for the New York Yankees, and giving that kind of praise to any starting pitcher in your organization is pretty remarkable. Obviously, the expectation isn’t for Chase Hampton to become one of the best pitchers of our generation, but the profile led by a dominant fastball is what sparks these comparisons.

That just leaves one question: how well does Chase Hampton’s fastball stack up against Gerrit Cole’s?

Using Robert Frey’s Stuff+ calculator, the numbers for Chase Hampton’s fastball are on par with Gerrit Cole’s last season, but don’t start running around thinking that this is me saying that the two fastballs are the same. What separates the Yankees’ ace from most pitchers is his impeccable command and feel, as he meticulously reads the swings of hitters to try and anticipate what they would swing at and where he should land his next heater. Chase Hampton, who again only has one year of professional experience, has nowhere near the same feel or command of his fastball as Cole’s.

Focusing back on Chase Hampton here, the four-seamer is just one pitch in a deep arsenal, one that features a cutter and sweeper that were added once drafted by the Yankees. Hampton’s cutter is a reliable pitch he can throw for soft contact and some strikeouts, and his feel of the pitch is pretty good, considering he just developed it a year ago. A natural supinator (meaning external rotation of the wrist), he profiled really well for a sweeper as well, and that’s a big strikeout pitch for him.

The sweeper and cutter establish two different horizontal movement profiles, and he also has a curveball that he’s relied on since his days at Texas Tech. With how complete his repertoire is, the Yankees have a pitcher that could legitimately make an impact for them in 2024, but what does that timeline look like, and will there be a window of opportunity for him?

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Will the Yankees Turn to Chase Hampton in 2024?

One of the biggest concerns with the New York Yankees entering the season is with their starting rotation, a group that will have some tough injury questions to answer. You can’t guarantee anybody’s health, but when evaluating their starting five, there are some guys with more concerns than the norm. Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes combined for just 26 starts last season, and when they did pitch, the results were disastrous with a combined 5.92 ERA. Marcus Stroman also landed on the injured list last season, pitching poorly after making his second-ever All-Star team.

There’s a potential window of opportunity for Chase Hampton to get a start and contribute in 2024, but that depends on a variety of factors that might not be ideal for the Yankees. One would expect Will Warren and Cody Poteet to be lines of defense before they turn to an inexperienced 22-year-old in their rotation, and if 60% of your rotation is full of guys who have minimal MLB experience or success, something has gone horribly wrong. Another variable might be the Yankees’ desire to acquire another starter before the season begins.

“I definitely feel like there might be another move on the way, but you never know.”

Aaron Judge

READ MORE: Yankees’ captain hints at team making a free agent addition

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Acquiring another starter would likely bury any hopes of Chase Hampton making his MLB debut in 2024, but perhaps that’s the best thing for him and the team. On the other hand, one could argue that he could pitch himself into a Major League spot, and that would be a potentially ideal situation for the Yankees. Imagine if he makes himself impossible to ignore and has a season similar to what we saw in 2015, Luis Severino?

It’s impossible to set projections or expectations for a prospect, but I’d say the best bet is to be cautious with your optimism. Prospects can get hurt, regress, or just not translate to the Major Leagues, it’s part of the game and there’s no archatype of player that’s immune to underperformance. Using ZiPS as our baseline for expectations, here’s what they believe we could expect from Chase Hampton in 2024:

The most likely outcome is that he’s not a reliable MLB contributor in 2024, and that’s not really a bad thing, considering he has just 21 professional starts. Time will be Chase Hampton’s friend, and 2025 looks like the perfect window for him to make his impact felt. It’s still important for him to perform in 2024, as his ascent as a prospect will determine whether the Yankees view him as a trade chip or a long-term piece in this organization.

It’s also possible that he opens the season with the Triple-A affiliate in Scranton, and you never know what opportunities open up for him as the season progresses. As of right now, the Yankees haven’t added another starter, and Luke Weaver is their sixth starter. If the Yankees don’t sustain an injury early on, Weaver won’t be stretched out enough to just slot into a starting role, and they’ll pivot to their Minor League depth for help.

Chase Hampton has to just focus on what he can control, and that’s his performance on the mound. If he pitches well enough, the opportunities will come around. It’s just a matter of when and what they’ll look like. Maybe it’s early into 2024, maybe it’s not until the summer of 2025, but the Yankees are certainly excited to have him in their organization and can’t wait to see how he fares in Spring Training.

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