Yankees: Three pitching prospects we could see crack the starting rotation in 2020
The Yankees farm system is deep with pitching prospects who project to be fixtures in the team’s starting rotation for years to come. Some of them have a good chance at pitching in the big leagues next season now that they’re officially on the 40-man roster.
Over the past five years, the Yankees have done an outstanding job of developing position players up through the minor league system. Players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar have all graduated from the top prospect lists and become All-Star caliber players in the big leagues.
These days however the strength of the system is clearly on the pitching side and over the course of the next couple of seasons, we’ll be introduced to a handful of arms that could make a big impact at the major league level. Three names, in particular, have a real shot at pitching in the big leagues as early as this upcoming season as long as they can stay healthy and continue their upward trajectory at the Triple-A level.
Garcia is now the top overall prospect in the Yankees system and for good reason. The 20-year-old right-hander finished the season at Triple-A Scranton after starting the year with A-Advanced Tampa. He made 11 starts in between at Double-A Trenton and totaled a combined 165 K’s in 111.1 IP at all three levels. Late in the year, there was talk of Garcia being a September callup to pitch out of the bullpen which tells you all you need to know about what the Yankees think of his stuff.
He’s only listed at 5’9, 163 lbs but his arm is absolutely electric and he has all the makings of a future stud at the front end of the starting rotation. He features a high spin rate fastball that can reach up to 96 mph and a wipeout curveball with 12 to 6 action. He also has a changeup he’s been working on that scouts say could become a “solid third offering“.
Last week Garcia and six other minor leaguers were added to the Yankees 40-man roster to protect him from being eligible for next month’s Rule 5 draft. it was a no brainer move by the Yanks and a sign that he could be a part of next season’s starting rotation at some point. It’s unlikely he’ll start the year with the club but if he impresses during Spring Training it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him make the roster.
A lot of that could depend on whether or not the Yankees add another starter this offseason but either way, it’s a safe bet we’ll see Garcia make his big league debut in 2020 sooner rather than later.
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King got his first taste of the big leagues late last September despite spending the majority of the year on the IL with a stress reaction in his elbow. The 24-year-old right-hander was acquired by the Yanks from the Marlins after the 2017 season in exchange for Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith.
Entering the 2019 season the Yanks had high hopes for King after he put together an outstanding campaign in 2018 when he posted a combined 1.79 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP at three different levels.
King isn’t considered overpowering on the mound but he has great control and command of all of his pitches. He induces a lot of groundballs with a sinker that can range from 92-95 mph and has a solid changeup/slider mix as well. Now that he’ll have a full, healthy offseason to prepare for 2020 he could be in the mix to win the fifth starter spot this spring along with Garcia and Jordan Montgomery if the Yanks add another starter this offseason or trade J.A. Happ.
Nelson was also among the seven players added to the 40-man roster last week and is coming off the best season of his minor league career in 2019. In 17 games combined at Double and Triple-A, he went 8-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 86 IP and an impressive 107 K’s. 12 of those starts came with Trenton so Nelson still has something to prove at Scranton, but he’s definitely trending upward and could certainly earn a call up to the big leagues next season.
According to MLB Pipeline, Nelson has power stuff which makes him very tough to hit although he can struggle with his command at times and gives up too many walks. He’ll have to work on that before he earns a call-up from Triple-A, but he’s decreased his walks per 9 rate every year since the Yanks drafted him in 2016 so that should continue in 2020.
The 23-year old is another intriguing right-handed starter in a system full of them all the way down to the lower levels. He still has some areas where he needs to improve and probably won’t make it to the big leagues before Garcia or King, but he’s definitely on the right track. If he can continue to make positive strides at Triple-A we could see him at some point during the second half of the season.