The New York Yankees are gearing up to tackle their starting pitching rotation this off-season, with a key question on their minds: How much are they ready to invest? Brian Cashman, their General Manager, has already made known his admiration for Yoshinobu Yamamoto. This star pitcher from Japan, who is gearing up for an MLB transition, impressed Cashman with a no-hitter. In fact, several Yankees executives were dispatched to Japan to witness Yamamoto’s prowess firsthand.
The Yankees’ Cost-Efficient Alternative: Drew Thorpe
If the Yankees decide to pursue a more budget-friendly approach to strengthen their rotation, prospect Drew Thorpe could well be in their sights. At the young age of 23, Thorpe showcased his pitching finesse in the Yankees’ farm system. His record in High-A Hudson Valley stands impressive: over 109 innings, he recorded a 2.81 ERA with 11.39 strikeouts per nine.
But Thorpe was even more spectacular in Double-A. Over 30.1 innings, he boasted a 1.48 ERA, managing 13.05 strikeouts per nine. His numbers, including a remarkable 94.9% left-on-base rate and a 52.5% ground ball rate, leave little room for improvement. Thorpe, MLB’s No. 99 prospect, remarked on his performance, “I thought it went pretty well…I don’t think it could have gone much better.”
A significant aspect of Thorpe’s arsenal is his elite change-up. This pitch, distinct for its exceptional quality, was a significant factor behind the Yankees’ decision to draft him in the second round of the 2022 June amateur draft. Thorpe elaborates on what makes his change-up stand out, “I think it’s just different than most changeups guys see,” Thorpe said. “It mimics my fastball a lot. That’s where I get the most swing and miss with the differential and how much it looks like my fastball. … Most changeups are more horizontal break, horizontal movement. Mine is pretty vertical. I’ll get up to 18-20 inches of vertical on it, so it’s basically a fastball almost, just 10 mph less.”
Having pitched close to 140 innings, the Yankees opted to curtail Thorpe’s playtime to preserve him for the following year.
Future Prospects in the Rotation
Thorpe’s ascent to Triple-A in 2024 seems imminent, and if he maintains his performance, he might soon cement his spot in the Yankees’ rotation. Considering the Yankees’ history of frequent injuries, Thorpe’s MLB debut next year seems not just possible, but probable. The timeline and circumstances, however, remain to be seen.
Other prospects, including Clayton Beeter and Will Warren, are also showcasing their talents in Triple-A. This reservoir of promising arms suggests that the Yankees might prioritize efficiency over aggressive spending in the upcoming free agency. An arm like Yamamoto might command upwards of $150 million, but the Yankees might just have other plans up their sleeve.