The New York Yankees‘ farm system is rocketing up the charts (well, to the direct middle of the charts) for three reasons: Anthony Volpe’s leap, international talent, and a buildup of really impressive breakout candidates.
Typically, these players are found between spots eight and 20 on various top prospect lists; or, more specifically, the countdown starts whenever Ken Waldichuk’s name first appears.
Waldichuk, the unheralded left-hander out of St. Mary’s, made mincemeat of High-A and Double-A last year, bringing almost obscene strikeout numbers to the bump (55 in 30.2 innings in Hudson Valley, 163 in 110 overall after he kept up the pace).
Clearly, even tippy-top prospects aren’t immune to Waldichuk’s magic, as Yankees fans found out Wednesday when the pair locked horns at minicamp in Florida.
Both currently eligible to practice with the team considering they’re not on the 40-man roster, Volpe was left wishing he’d already gotten promoted on Wednesday, as Waldichuk finished their battle with a flourish, sending the consensus top-10 prospect into a blender.
Overall, Waldichuk reportedly retired seven batters on the day, five of them via the K. This one, in particular, sent Volpe’s bat into another zip code.
Yankees top prospect Ken Waldichuk out-dueled Anthony Volpe
Volpe’s 2022 season will start off on a better foot, just as soon as he can travel north and extricate himself from these intrasquad games. Mercy.
Waldichuk, who certainly passes the eye test, ranks ninth on MLB Pipeline’s top prospects list, still below better-established pitchers like Luis Gil, Clarke Schmidt and Luis Medina. Gil showed off his unique poise at the big-league level last year, but Schmidt faltered, and questions still remain about Medina’s exact role moving forward.
Waldichuk? As long as the numbers keep matching the optics, he’s going to be a fast riser. According to the man himself, he’s already touching 96 on the gun this early in the spring, and has added a slider to his arsenal, which should raise his big-league floor.
Every left-hander with a wipeout slider gets work, after all. Even as the three-batter minimum looms.
Waldichuk’s bread and butter is still his fastball, though, referred to throughout league circles as the disappearing “invisi-ball.”
Volpe learned that lesson well this week. Better luck next time, hotshot.