Yankees’ young flamethrower showing exciting confidence in changeup

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Gil was once considered one of the most exciting prospects the New York Yankees had, as the right-hander displayed excellent velocity and movement in his rookie campaign. From his first start against the Baltimore Orioles, the potential was easy to see and understand, but Tommy John Surgery would knock him out for months and slow his development to a halt. The upside here is enormous, and he’s showing off a changeup that he’s made some tweaks to and has shown confidence in during his last outing against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The fastball and slider have always been considered his two best pitches, but the lack of a third pitch made his role as a starter questionable at best. While he may never get an opportunity to start full-time ever again, his stuff seems to be just as good as it was before the surgery, and this new confidence in his changeup might be what takes him to the next level.

Luis Gil Could Become a Weapon for the Yankees

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers
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Potential and upside have never been the question for Luis Gil, but command and pitchability are things that he’s struggled with at every professional level. Looking at his profile, everything starts with his excellent four-seam fastball that sits in the upper 90s with excellent vertical movement that can work up in the strike zone. In Spring Training, he’s averaging 96.4 MPH while generating 17.9 inches of Induced Vertical Movement, and he has a flat angle on the fastball, which has always resulted in strikeouts regardless of the hitter at the plate.

Building off of the four-seamer is his brilliant slider, a firm pitch that gets sharp movement and can generate swings and misses for him, especially against right-handed hitters. The four-seam and slider profile results in strikeouts and outs, but that’s not a profile that helps him against left-handed batters because there isn’t anything that generates enough drop and movement away from opposite-handed batters to get them to chase. Given the vertical movement that his four-seamer has, if he could command an offspeed pitch, he would have a complete profile, and he finally has it.

The added drop and slower velocity on his changeup give it more separation off of his four-seam fastball, and he began throwing it aggressively in his outing against the Tampa Bay Rays. Now he has three different weapons to go to against righties and lefties, as he was throwing the changeup to righties and getting some swings-and-misses. With the aforementioned 17.9 inches of Induced Vertical Break on the fastball, the vertical separation off of the fastball is 12.3 inches based on these movement profiles; which should result in a lot of swings and misses.

It may not seem like a massive difference, but this could be the catalyst for Luis Gil to remain a starting pitcher at the Major League level. Two-pitch pitchers are great on a per-rate basis but struggle with pitching deep into games because they often suffer worse penalties than the average starter when they pitch second or third time through the order, which is why the Yankees have long been pondering whether Gil should go to a reliever role. It’s still possible that the poor command still limits his ability to be a starting pitcher at the Major League level, but this helps his odds.

One of the biggest questions that the Yankees have regarding their team is the starting pitching depth and their health, and Gil is one of the pitchers they’re going to consider turning to if there is an injury. Will Warren and Chase Hampton are the two prospects that get the most attention regarding a rotation spot, and for good reason, but Luis Gil shouldn’t be discounted from this conversation. Carlos Rodon, Marcus Stroman, and Nestor Cortes have all spent time on the IL last season, the Yankees could end up using more than one depth starter during the season.

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MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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Names like Clayton Beeter, Yoendrys Gomez, and Cody Poteet are all on the Yankees’ 40-man roster and will battle for opportunities to get promoted during the season when injuries or underperformance occur. Luis Gil might have more upside than anybody on that list, and if he can refine his command and get off to a hot start in Triple-A, it’ll get him looks at the Major League level. Whether it’s as a reliever or starter will remain to be seen, but now that he’s finally on the mound and healthy, the potential is limitless.

Depending on what unfolds for the Yankees’ rotation, they could turn to Luis Gil to make a start if needed, and the changeup could be the difference between struggling to get to the fourth inning or continuing to get whiffs a third time through the order.

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