Yankees pitching prospect Richard Fitts delivers impressive argument for system's top spot

Prospect Richard Fitts is on an August hot streak.
Auburn's Richard Fitts (43) pitches the ball during the Auburn-Alabama Capital City Classic at
Auburn's Richard Fitts (43) pitches the ball during the Auburn-Alabama Capital City Classic at / Jake Crandall/ Advertiser

Look out, Drew Thorpe and Chase Hampton, because there's another name threatening to become the Yankees' top pitching prospect!

Or, instead of "looking out," I guess you could ... just ... be excited, considering a rotation consists of five or six arms at the same time, and the more the merrier. Yes, that's probably a healthier way to look at it!

While Hampton has rocketed up Baseball America's rankings (58th overall!) after being selected in the sixth round in 2022 and Thorpe has ridden his trademark changeup to new heights at Double-A (159 total Ks in 123.2 innings across two levels), Fitts has somewhat silently dominated the level since early May, reaching new heights in August.

He doesn't have a singular, devastating offering. He hasn't undergone a meteoric rise like Hampton, reaching Double-A after just three professional months. He's simply an ex-Auburn reliever who entered the first-round conversation, promptly exited it after injuring his foot, went to the Yankees in the sixth back in 2021, and pairs a mid-80s sweeper with a fastball that touches 97, varying both velocities when the situation calls for it.

His future could be in the back end of the bullpen, or as the leader of an offseason trade package. More immediately, though, he seems ticketed for Triple-A after finishing off Thursday's start with a 0.37 ERA for the month.

Yankees pitching prospect Richard Fitts challenging Chase Hampton, Drew Thorpe

Per the consensus, Fitts currently ranks behind Hampton, Thorpe and Will Warren, with Brock Selvidge, Randy Vásquez, Clayton Beeter, and newcomer Kyle Carr in the same tier.

With every six-inning shutdown outing, though, he's strengthening his argument to be considered among that top tier, rather than leading the Yankees' second pack.

If the Richard fits, Fitts could be considered for the big-league roster by 2024 in the same role Vásquez and Jhony Brito have filled (somewhat admirably) in 2023. If there's one thing Yankee fans should forgive Brian Cashman for (and, yes, that list might literally be one thing long), it's the accusation that the team's upper-level pitching depth was "gutted" by New York's 2022 deadline trades. In reality, the arms they kept around emerged as reliable options during 2023, and the ones lurking behind them have much higher upside.

Consider Fitts among the mid-round picks who've earned more accolades -- and a late-season bump to Scranton.