Yankees have a new pitching prospect emerging in first pro season

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Every season the Yankees find a mid-round pick that they convert into a legitimate arm in their farm system, and it’s why you have to pay attention to every single selection they make. From Nestor Cortes being drafted in the 36th Round to Clarke Schmidt in the 1st Round, the Yankees can pluck pitching talent from wherever in the draft, and Cade Smith could be another name on that list of arms they’ve developed. The 22-year-old right-hander is dominating at the Single-A level, overpowering opponents with his array of weapons and movement profiles.

Cade Smith is carving through lineups with his elite slider, having the weapons to handle any kind of hitter he faces, and he could become one of the Yankees’ top prospect arms.

Dominant Performances Put Cade Smith on the Yankees’ Radar

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.

When Cade Smith was selected in the sixth round by the Yankees in the 2023 MLB Draft, what stood out to me was the low release height coupled with elite-level vertical movement on his fastball. Those two qualities create an illusion for opposing hitters, as they perceive the ball to “rise” even though that’s impossible. It hasn’t been a high-whiff pitch for him (21.4%) but the fastball has done a good job of establishing the top of the zone and setting up one of the best breaking balls in the Florida State League.

His slider generates -1.1″ IVB and 0.8″ of glove-side movement, meaning it hovers right around the zero line, creating a sharp dropping action that batters often swing over. With a 50% Whiff Rate and .118 wOBA allowed, it’s no surprise that he’s throwing this pitch more and more after each start. The slider is a dominant offering, and as the Yankees have continued to stretch out Cade Smith, we’ve seen him respond with even more dominant outings. Over his last two starts, Smith has allowed two runs over 12 innings with a 42.8% K% to just a 4.8% BB%.

yankees, cade smith

Using Robert Frey’s Stuff+ model, where anything above 150 is elite, we see that Smith possesses a wide array of elite-level pitches. The arsenal is played up by his unique release points, releasing the ball around 5.4 feet off the ground when the league average for right-handed pitchers is around 5.8 feet. There’s a large vertical separation tunnel from his four-seamer and slider, and that makes it hard for righties or lefties to try and barrel up his stuff. He has yet to allow a home run on the season with a 2.4% barrel rate allowed, a product of how well everything in his profile moves.

The changeup is his third-most used pitch and it has a 30% Whiff Rate and .140 wOBA allowed, serving as a weapon for him against left-handed hitting. Something that does stand out about his changeup is that there isn’t as much drop on it as you’d like, and it could get better if he’s able to kill a bit more spin on the pitch. I would suggest some sort of splitter or split-change, as teams have taught their young arms how to throw spin-killing pitches to establish that kind of movement profile.

It should also be noted that Cade Smith’s “sinker” is probably just a misread on his four-seamer, as they share the same spin axis and the 17.4″ of IVB is an indication that it’s a four-seam fastball. The results speak for themselves, Smith has a 38.8% strikeout rate and 2.11 ERA through his first four starts and the Yankees could see him in Hudson Valley sooner rather than later. The organization is chock-full of strong arms at every level, and Smith has been a strikeout machine thus far.

Cade Smith may not be a top-100 prospect or a high draft pick, but if he can continue turning in strong performances with his excellent arsenal, we could see him get more buzz as the season goes on.

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