Yankees’ top left-handed pitching prospect could reach MLB in 2022

In June 2019, Ken Waldichuk was a fifth-round pick in the MLB Amateur Draft. Two and a half years later, he is perhaps the New York Yankees’ best left-handed pitching prospect, which is really something.

Before the draft, he threw in the high-80s, but in the last couple of years, he experienced a big velocity gain on his fastball, which he can now dial up to the mid-90s if necessary. Combined with an excellent changeups and two additional developing breaking balls, the Yankees are really excited about Waldichuk’s future.

NJ Advance Media’s Randy Miller had a long, interesring Q&A with the prospect, who threw 30.2 scoreless innings (!) to start the 2021 season in High-A. After a promotion to Double, his ERA rose to 4.20, but struck out 108 in 79.1 frames.

He is not far from the majors, as he told Miller. “I think I’m definitely close. I probably have to take another step or two with my command, but I think with the stuff I have right now and how it plays and how I can deploy my arsenal, I think I’m definitely setting myself up pretty well.”

His stuff, which is definitely good, is aided by the deception of his unconventional mechanics.

The Yankees’ young prospect has to take another step forward

The Yankees’ lefty knows what he has to work on to reach his objective: “The goal was probably just to work on command. My (4.17) walks per nine innings were pretty high last year. I can make my misses smaller, make them more competitive. I don’t like walking too many people. So it’s probably that and then just trying to get some of that velocity back that I had earlier in the year,” he said.

The 24-year-old lefty could reach the Yankees’ big league team by the summer if he takes another step forward. He thinks he can do it because the organizational player development structure is sound.

“The player development we have is insane. In the offseason, you work out at home with plenty of pro guys from other organizations. I’ll tell them, “I’m working with player development on a new slider and sending them video three times a week and they’re getting me feedback.” The other guys will say, “I haven’t talked to my organization in two months.” Other teams have one or two Rapsodos (to collect data from throwing sessions) for the entire facility. Meanwhile, anytime someone (in the Yankees organization) throws, it’s being tracked. The player development that we have is honestly kind of ridiculous. It’s nice to have that advantage.”

The 2022 season will be a big one for Waldichuk, and the dream of making an impact on the big leagues with the Yankees at some point remains very much alive.

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