With the exemption of Shawn Kelley and Matt Thornton, the Yankees bullpen is made up entirely of players that spent developmental time in the Yankees system. Developing relievers may not be a team’s number one goal, but it’s still very important, and the Yankees seem to have a knack for drafting or signing good draft prospects.
The Yankees have a bevy of relief prospects throughout their system. They seem to have at least two legitimate bullpen prospects on each organizational level.
In AAA the team has Mark Montgomery, Jose Ramirez and Chase Whitley. And will eventually get Danny Burawa off of the disabled list. That would give them 4 legitimate relief prospects in AAA.
Mark Montgomery stock dropped drastically last year, as he opened the year with a shoulder injury and lost a significant amount of velocity. His fastball sat in the mid-80s last season, which made him much less productive. He wasn’t that bad last year, but he certainly wasn’t the type of pitcher he once was.
This year Montgomery fastball is breaking 90 MPH again, and he has done very well so far. Montgomery has an ERA 1.76, a WHIP of .978 and is striking out 10.0 batters per 9 innings. His walk total is still higher than it was two years ago (4.7/9), but overall he has done pretty well. Assuming his fastball stays this strong and his slider is the same plus pitch it once was, he should regain his prospect status soon enough.
The next best reliever on the active roster is Chase Whitley. Whitley is actually playing as a starter right now, but most think his future is in the pen. He has had some success in both roles, but I most think he will end up in the pen.
Whitley has a four pitch mix, which features a four-seamer (around 94 MPH), a two-seamer, a good changeup, and a slider. Up until last year most people thought he was better than Preston Claiborne, and he was considered a possible Rule-5 pick.
Whitley has an ERA of 2.49, and a WHIP of 1.066 as a starter. He has k/9 of 11.4, and a BB/9 of 2.5. According to Jon Heyman, scouts like him, and think he will be called-up some time this year. He is certainly ready for the promotion, and could be used as a starter or a long-man.
The team’s two best relievers are currently down with injuries or have missed a lot of time with an inury. Both Burawa and Ramirez have dealt with an oblique injury this season. Ramirez sustained the injury at the very start of spring training and is finally back. While Burawa got his last month, and will be out a while longer.
Ramirez’ injury cost him an opportunity to remain a starter, but gives the Yankees a very good reliever. As a reliever Ramirez was ranked as a top 100 prospect by Scout.com. Ramirez made his season debut this past week, and only has one inning this season.
The reason he was ranked so high is that he has two plus pitches. He has a hard upper-90’s fastball, and a plus changeup. He also has a slider, though I’m not sure he would throw it that often as a starter.
Burawa suffered his injury at the end of last month. Before the injury, Burawa was having a very good season. He had thrown 6.2 shutout innings, and had a WHIP of 1.050. He had a k/9 of 16.20, and a BB/9 of 6.75. The walks may seem concerning but the fact is that four of his 5 walks came in his last appearance, so it may have to do with injury.
Burawa throws a high 90’s fastball, a slider, and a changeup. His slider has been inconsistent in the past, but it looked good this spring and was working during the season. Burawa has the ability to be a setup man and his overall ceiling is very close to Tommy Kahnle, who the Yankees lost to the Rockies.
In the AA, the Yankees have far less reliable options, but they have a couple of relievers that may be late bloomers.
The biggest relief prospect on the team is Branden Pinder. Pinder throws the same combination of pitches as Burawa, but his slider, and changeup are less developed. With that said he still throws pretty hard and his slider has gotten better.
Pinder is dominating in AA. He has pitched 16 innings—14 of which were shutout innings—and has an ERA of 0.56, and a WHIP of .562. He has BB/9 of 1.1, and a k/9 of 10.1. While he is slightly older than his competition, those are still amazing numbers. If he keeps this up it’s possible that he could be promoted to AAA very soon, and might be in the majors by the end of the year.
Barreda is the same age as Pinder (25), but his journey to AA seems to have been rockier. Though I suppose that’s because he was drafted out of high school. Barreda throws a 91-94 MPH fastball, a changeup, and a slider.
Barreda has an ERA of 2.16, and a WHIP of 1.2. A BB/9 of 4.3, and a k/9 of 7.6. He isn’t as highly thought of as Pinder, Burawa, or some of the other relievers, but has a decent ceiling. His changeup is considered to be an above-average pitch, so he really does have a good two pitch mix.
The Yankees also made a surprising move this past week, and called up Tyler Webb from Hi-A. Webb has good stuff and a decent ceiling, but this was a pretty quick promotion
Webb has pitched very well since being taken in the 10th round of last year’s draft. In Tampa Webb had a 2.77 ERA and a WHIP of .615. He has 11.8 K/9, and a BB/9 of .7. His dominance has earned him a recent promotion to AA. This sizeable jump shows how much they believe in him. They had to release a player to get him to AA, but they felt it was worth it.
Webb arsenal includes a fastball, a changeup, and a slider. His fastball sits in the low-90. His slider and changeup can be improved, but as of now they are both serviceable pitches that he uses well.
In Hi-A, the Yankees really don’t have a clear dividing line between starters and relievers. That goes for several pitchers such as: Dietrich Enns, Brett Gerritse and Evan Rutckyj.
But as far as strict relievers go James Pazos and Nick Goody are considered to be legitimate relief prospects.
While Pazos’ numbers aren’t good as of right now, he does have a decent track record. He did well in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is an advanced hitter’s league, so his dominance there didn’t go unnoticed. He is a hard thrower, and has the same mix of pitches as Webb does. He has a hard slider, and is still developing his changeup.
Pazos has a 5.27 ERA, a WHIP of 1.390 a 2.6 BB/9, and a 9.9 k/9. Pazos has done a lot better as of late and has given up only one hit in his last 4.1 innings. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not like relievers can get a bigger sample size in a month.
Tampa’s best reliever is Nick Goody, who has only pitched this season. Goody is one the organization’s best relief prospect, and it’s great that he is finally back from Tommy John surgery.
Goody’s ex-LSU teammate is in Low-A, and is also a good a pretty good prospect. Rumbelow and Phillip Walby are the two best relief prospects at the level.
Both pitchers were drafted last season and have done well since joining the Yankees. Walby is primarily a fastball pitcher, but has a slider, and changeup, and Rumbelow throws a fastball, slider, curve and changeup. Rumbelow’s curve is considered his out pitch.
Walby has an ERA of 1.59 ERA, a WHIP .529, a k/9 of 14.3, and a BB/9 of 2.4, Rumbelow has an ERA of 0.00 in 9 innings, a WHIP of .889, a BB/9 of 4.0 and k/9 of 18.0.
Both reliever have shown that they are too advanced to be in Lo-A, and I can’t imagine that either are there for too much longer.
Overall it’s clear that this team has a lot of good relief options and the talent is truly spread out across their system. With that said the team’s best talent is in AAA. This is a good thing as the Yankees still don’t know what they have in Claiborne, and who knows how Alfredo Aceves will pitch over a season.
Whitley could very well be the next Yankee player called up if Aceves and Vidal Nuno fail in their roles. Whitley isn’t on the 40-man roster, but I don’t think the team will hesitate to give him Bruce Billing’s spot.
Whitley, Burawa, and Ramirez, all could play an important role on this Yankee team. So far this season the team has decided to give the last spot in the pen to non-prospects to save the pen, but as the season goes on they will need to put real prospects in the pen. As we can see, that won’t be a problem for them.