New York Yankees Prospect Profile Number 19: Brady Lail
Continuing our Yanks Go Yard Prospect Profile series, let’s move the pipeline to a kid who might be on the verge of making his big league debut in 2016: Brady Lail.
Scouting Grads (courtesy of MLB Pipeline): Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Cutter: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
The Yankees took Brady Lail out of Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah in the 18th round of the 2012 draft. Although he lacked the type of fastball the Yankees seem to have been coveting in their pitchers over the last few years, they liked his control and demeanor, so they signed him for an above-slot amount of $225,000.
After a couple years at the Rookie and A-ball levels, 2015 was a real breakout for Lail. He soon found himself on the fast track to the big leagues. After just one start in Tampa (A+ level) to kick off the season, Lail was promoted to the AA Trenton Thunder. The AA level proved to be a walk in the park for Lail, who had a 2.45 ERA, a 1.100 WHIP, and just 2.2 BB/9 in 106.1 innings over 20 games (19 starts).
Impressed, the Yankees decided to test Lail further by bringing him up to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately, he struggled at the AAA level, putting up a 4.62 ERA in 37 innings across seven starts. The main problem was that his walks jumped to 4.1 per nine innings, by far his career worst at any level. However, there aren’t a whole lot of 22-year olds dominating at the AAA level, so it’s impressive that Lail even made it that far.
So how did this breakout 2015 happen? Patience and projectability. When he was in high school, Lail was throwing his fastball in the 85-88 mph range. A lot of teams might have thumbed their noses at those numbers, but the Yankees liked his command and intangibles, so they took a chance. Last season, Lail’s heater was touching 94 mph, and averaging 88-92, which combined with his secondary stuff, made him suddenly a legitimate big league prospect.
That being said, you need more than 92 mph to get big league hitters out. According to Baseball Prospectus, Lail is very good at keeping that 90-ish mph fastball down, and he also runs it towards right-handers (away from lefties) from time to time. He also has a bit of a hunched over delivery, which helps him hide the ball from opposing hitters.
Lail also features an above average changeup and an equally above average curveball, although neither has yet developed into a true out pitch. Like seemingly every young Yankees pitcher these days, Lail also has a cutter, although it’s just average at this point. However, if you don’t have the gas, you have to give hitters different looks. A cutter is a nice way to do that, especially if your regular fastball moves in the opposite direction.
Lail still has plenty to work on. First off, scouts are adamant that he needs to develop his curveball more. If hitters don’t respect his curve, they’re going to sit on his fastball and crush it. Without that strikeout pitch, Lail needs to be very precise with his other pitches. Otherwise, his mistakes are going to get hit hard. Fortunately, the 22-year-old doesn’t make that many mistakes.
As far as projecting his success at the big league level, it’s hard to say. Lail is not Luis Severino; the electrifying talent isn’t there. However, he’s a total bulldog on the mound. The Yankees love guys like Lail, and they seem to really get a lot of milage out of them. According to FanGraphs, Lail will probably top out as a fifth starter, if he can get a true out pitch. At worst, he’s going to be a guy the Yankees bring up for a spot start, or keep as a long man in the bullpen. I agree, and I think he could eventually be the one to step up and take the role once held by Adam Warren, or even David Phelps.
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Whether he takes his pitches to the next level or not, I’m fairly certain we’ll see Lail in the Bronx this year. Teams, especially those with injury concerns in the rotation, always need spot starters. Lail won’t be too far down the list when the time comes and the team needs an arm. Hopefully, he’s around for more than that.