Yankees could see this interesting pitching prospect get an MLB promotion

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
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Clayton Beeter was acquired by the Yankees in a trade with the Dodgers, part of the deal that sent struggling outfielder Joey Gallo to Los Angeles. Something that has always bugged the former second-round pick is the lack of command, making most scouts believe that he’ll end up being a reliever in the long run. The Yankees have kept him in the rotation despite the Dodgers utilizing him more as a multi-inning opener, and the results have been pretty strong. Now in his second year with the Scranton RailRiders in Triple-A, the right-hander has been impressive, with his stuff improving dramatically.

The Yankees could use some multi-inning relief innings or spot starts as the season goes on, and Clayton Beeter could be a factor in their Major League pitching staff. With a revamped four-seamer while still having an excellent breaking ball, there’s a chance that this unique right-hander could be in their MLB plans in the near future.

Clayton Beeter Could Become a Versatile Weapon for the Yankees

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros
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The signature pitch for Clayton Beeter is his sharp gyro slider, a pitch that can fall off the table and create tough looks on both righties and lefties as he releases from a very steep angle. The way his slider tumbles to the plate makes it one of the best swing-and-miss secondaries in the organization, but a below-average fastball has always hurt his ability to have consistent success as a starting pitcher in this league.

Last season, his fastball allowed a .419 wOBA while being barreled 13.2% of the time, and that means that Beeter would oftentimes fall behind in counts as he didn’t want to attack hitters with a pitch he knew would get hit hard. Triple-A is not a forgiving environment for pitchers, as the average ERA sat at 5.18 in 2023 as the level experimented with various versions of the Automatic Ball-Strike system and even the challenge system.

His four-seamer is likely going to see the velocity climb up to 93-94 MPH again, he averaged 93.1 in his last start against the Durham Bulls where he fired five innings of two-run baseball with eight strikeouts. That pitch has improved it’s shape enough that the Stuff+ grade has increased by 10 points according to Robert Frey’s calculator, and the improved vertical break on it allows the slider to look even better.

As a result, the Whiff Rate has climbed by about 2% with an improvement in the quality of contact allowed on the pitch, with batters having a .339 xwOBACON against that pitch. The underlying data across the board has improved, as he has an elite whiff rate (38%), good chase rate (32%), and excellent xwOBACON against (.327). For those unaware as to what xwOBACON is, it’s a metric that evaluates damage contact, which is important to limit on the mound.

The slider is generating -3.8 inches of Induced Vertical Break, meaning there are over 22 inches of vertical separation on pitches that are within five inches of each other in horizontal movement. The fastball looks like it’s cutting thanks to an optical illusion that occurs when fastballs get less than three inches of movement. Hitters incorrectly perceive a fastball with 2.2 inches of arm-side run as moving to the glove-side, creating issues with consistently generating barrels.

With both pitches looking like they’re moving the same way horizontally, the vertical separation is lethal, as batters have swung and missed at over 50% of the sliders he’s thrown. A fastball upstairs sets up the slider down in the zone for a chase, and he’s pitching pretty well at the Triple-A level. He possesses a strikeout-to-walk rate over 20% with a 3.63 ERA, not having allowed a single home run thus far after posting a 1.90 HR/9 with Scranton the year prior.

The Yankees might not be able to utilize him as a starting pitcher right now but don’t be surprised if we see him in their bullpen at some point during the year. When the Yankees developed Clarke Schmidt and Michael King into starters, the first part of their development path in the big leagues was using them as relievers. With Luis Gil, the Yankees considered doing the same thing when they were narrowing their choices down to him or Will Warren, and there’s a reason for that.

You can save the bullets in a pitcher’s arm while getting them valuable experience at the professional level, and there are still reasons to worry about Clayton Beeter’s profile as a starter. The command is still subpar, and the lack of a third pitch creates some questions about whether he can get through a lineup three times reliably. What pitching at the Major League level could do is help him adapt and adjust by potentially finding that third reliable offering.

Clarke Schmidt developed the cutter after the 2022 season in an attempt to fix his splits against left-handed pitching, and Michael King learned his signature sweeping slider during the 2021 season, where he also realized his four-seam fastball could be a serious weapon for him. It’s also where Jhony Brito learned his sweeper last season, and these tweaks are an important part of elevating a pitcher’s game.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes (35) pitches during the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, the bullpen isn’t in the greatest shape for the Yankees, but the talent that Beeter brings could seriously elevate that group’s potential while also helping him understand how his stuff plays to big-league hitters. On the season, Beeter has struck out a whopping 35.6% of batters faced, and that number is while being built up to be a regular starter for the RailRiders.

Clayton Beeter could come up and make a spot start or become a real weapon in this bullpen, and his versatility alongside some of the very real changes he’s made to the pitch mix has made him a name to keep an eye out for if you’re the Yankees.

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