Yankees’ hard-throwing right-hander has been beyond impressive in Spring Training

luis gil, yankees

Luis Gil was considered an afterthought in the fifth starter competition for the Yankees after missing nearly all of 2023 recovering from a UCL tear he suffered in 2022. While the right-hander is going to be on an innings limit and likely can’t be a full-time starter out of the gate, he has certainly flashed the upside to be a frontline starter. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Gil has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation force, and while injuries have held him back in his career, the addition of a new changeup and his refined command could finally unlock the upside we’ve drooled over since 2021.

The Yankees are going to need various arms to step up and contribute this upcoming season, and Luis Gil is looking primed to have his best season at the Major League level.

Luis Gil Has a Brand-New Weapon In His Arsenal

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
Mar 16, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Luis Gil (81) throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest problems with Luis Gil has always been the lack of a third pitch, as he spent his entire career as a fastball-slider arm. This left him vulnerable to left-handed hitters, but he seems to have fixed that issue entirely as he’s throwing a refined changeup that he’s been able to reliably locate against left-handed and right-handed batters. It’s generating 6.2 inches of Induced Vertical Break with 14.9 inches of horizontal movement to the arm side, with batters whiffing over 45% of the time against it thus far.

It plays well off of his four-seamer as it has over 11 inches of vertical separation to make up for the fact that the velocity separation isn’t anything to write home about. His four-seamer sets up his arsenal, as it’s a true power fastball that sits around 97 MPH with nearly 18 inches of Induced Vertical Break, making it a lot like Gerrit Cole’s four-seamer. When we compare the two pitches, we get some eerily similar properties.

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The velocity and vertical movement are essentially identical, and while Gerrit Cole gets a bit more horizontal break, the lower release height for Luis Gil makes his fastball move even better up in the zone. He’s flashing one of the best fastballs thus far in Spring Training, and various Stuff+ models grade it as one of the best in the game. The aforementioned changeup just takes his arsenal to the next level, and his ability to command three different pitches and generate strikeouts with all of them has boosted his profile significantly.

With his changeup, he can climb the ladder with the fastball and throw the changeup low in the zone for a whiff, and that vertical deception makes for an extremely difficult matchup regardless of the hitter. Lefties in particular have struggled to do damage, mainly because they haven’t been able to make contact at all against Gil. They have a 54.5% Whiff Rate against Luis Gil thus far in Spring Training, and that’s a massive improvement that can hopefully stick during the regular season.

Adding a reliable third pitch is arguably the biggest progression any pitcher has made on the Yankees over the offseason, but what does that mean for Luis Gil’s chances of making the Opening Day roster?

How Will the Yankees Utilize Luis Gil in 2024?

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at New York Yankees
Mar 18, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) (left) former manager Joe Torre (left center), bench coach Brad Ausmus (68) (right center) major league field coordinator Tanner Swanson (76) (right center) guest instructors Bernie Williams and Willie Randolph look (right) look on during a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest questions surrounding Luis Gil’s dominant showings in Spring Training is whether the Yankees will let him make the Opening Day rotation. On one hand, he’s clearly the best-performing pitcher among those currently in the mix, and his stuff is also considerably better than most of their internal options. The issue isn’t a matter of not having the arsenal, command, or experience, but rather the layoff Luis Gil had from 2022-2023 that he’s still working his way back from.

Aaron Boone mentioned on Talkin’ Yanks that they envision Luis Gil around the 100-inning mark for the season, as putting too many innings on his arm too soon could result in an injury. He hasn’t pitched into the fifth inning of an outing since 2022, and that’s not great for someone vying for a rotation spot. That doesn’t mean we can’t see him at any point as a starter this season, but rather that he could take a route that mirrors the one we’ve seen another oft-injured prospect take.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Sep 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt (36) leaves the field during the third inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we view Clarke Schmidt as one of the more durable starters in the Yankees’ rotation, as he made over 30 starts and helped anchor the rotation when injuries to multiple key pitchers ravaged them. He wasn’t always this way, as elbow injuries and other nagging problems would keep him off the mound frequently, barely pitching in 2021. The Yankees couldn’t use their former first-round pick as a full-time starter in 2022 even when things got dire, as they utilized him as a multi-inning reliever who collected 57.2 MLB innings and 33 MiLB innings.

His 2022 season propelled him into a full-time starter in 2023, and Luis Gil could find himself in a similar situation as the Yankees look to get through the season without their workhorse ace for at least 10 weeks. Clarke Schmidt didn’t become a full-time starter until he was 27 years old, it isn’t the worst thing in the world if Luis Gil develops over time into an option for the team every fifth day. The Dominican-born right-hander has enormous upside, and the Yankees could use him in a variety of roles as he can provide plenty of value to a pitching staff in need of extra firepower.

This might not be the season where Luis Gil becomes what we all envision he can be, but it could be the building block for what’s to come, and he can still provide plenty of value as he continues building up during the regular season.

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