Yankees could see this first-year prospect take a step forward in 2024

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Yankees have an excellent track record in recent years of finding value in the later rounds of the draft, especially when it comes to pitching. Chase Hampton is the top pitching prospect in the organization, and yet the team only had to use a sixth-round pick on him in the 2022 MLB Draft to land him.

Another top prospect in the organization is Will Warren, who the Yankees expended an eight-round pick on just a year before the selection of Hampton. Looking at last year’s draft, a couple of names could emerge in the organization, and Cade Smith might be the most interesting.

Selected out of Mississippi State in the sixth round of the 2023 MLB Draft, Smith could be a prospect to look out for this upcoming season as he possesses a strong arsenal with the potential to make strides in 2024.

Cade Smith Has The Exact Skillset the Yankees Excel With

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Mississippi State’s Cade Smith (15) pitching against Tennessee during their NCAA baseball game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, April 27, 2023. Ut Baseball Miss St Credit: Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Pitching development has quickly become a strength for the Yankees as an organization, and it rings especially true at the Minor League level. They’ve experienced a ton of success at building college pitchers into prospects of value, and Cade Smith could be their next late-round pick who turns into a quality arm in their system. His four-seamer is 91-95 with plenty of vertical ride, averaging 20+ inches of Induced Vertical Break in college while throwing from a lower slot release.

This pitch has the potential to be dominant if he’s able to get the velocity up a tick or two, as the movement on the pitch might be enough for it to play even with middling velocity. Location and command of the four-seamer will be important, too, as Smith struggled to throw strikes in college consistently, and it’ll be a learning curve for him. Throwing the fastball in the upper parts of the strike zone for whiffs will be a priority for him, and his ability to find success with the pitch will determine his ceiling.

Cade Smith also has a breaking ball that relies more on vertical drop than horizontal movement, and the Yankees might look to give him something with more horizontal break to the glove side. A sweeper is the best example of a pitch that the organization could help him develop, as the Yankees have taught plenty of pitchers in their organization that variant of the slider. He could still benefit from having his gyro slider, but the sweeper would serve well in matchups against right-handed batters and just diversify his pitch mix more.

Another pitch he might profile well for is a cutter, which is a pitch that can be easy to throw for strikes and help prevent damage contact. The Yankees led all of Minor League Baseball in cutter usage, and if Smith can pronate well enough to throw sweepers consistently, then a cutter could be a natural fit for him. Both Richard Fitts and Chase Hampton added these pitches to their arsenal after joining the organization, and they’re the ones I’d say mirror Smith the most as a prospect.

READ MORE: Yankees trending up in essential category with spring training underway

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
Feb 15, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Chase Hampton (86) works out during spring training practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Both pitchers were drafted with a solid fastball profile but middling velocity and subpar secondaries, and the additions of a cutter and sweeper took their profiles as prospects up multiple notches. Richard Fitts is the name I want to focus on most here since Chase Hampton is one of the Yankees’ top prospects and will be talked about more in a different piece. When the Yankees selected Fitts out of Auburn, he was a pitcher who previously had a first-round grade but dealt with an unfortunate slew of injuries in his collegiate career.

In the Yankees’ organization, he pitched up to Double-A and posted a 3.59 ERA and 27.4% strikeout rate with the organization, and there is a legitimate chance he’ll pitch at the Major League level this season. Unfortunately, that will have to come as a member of the Boston Red Sox, as he was part of the three-player package that helped the Yankees acquire Alex Verdugo. Still, converting a late-round draft pick into the centerpiece of a deal for a quality left fielder is a win, and he’ll comfortably settle into the top 20 of any organization’s farm system.

richard fitts, yankees
Auburn’s Richard Fitts (43) pitches during the Auburn-Alabama Capital City Classic at Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Alabama defeated Auburn 6-3. Jc Aubase 27

Developing guys with strong fastball shapes is a lot easier since developing a strong movement profile for a breaking ball is typically easier for organizations. It’s hard to make a pitcher generate more Induced Vertical Break on their fastball or get out of the dead zone, and the Yankees know how to get guys to refine their breaking pitches. Cade Smith is in an excellent organization based on his strengths and weaknesses as a prospect, and don’t be surprised if you see him fly up prospect boards during the 2024 season.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: