The New York Yankees employ some young and exciting prospects who could put themselves on the map in Spring Training this year.
Spring training is like going to Comic-Con. The usual stars like Marvel and DC are there, plus the usual Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead panels. Basically, star attractions everyone knows will be there and what can be expected of them.
But Comic-Con is also a great opportunity to learn about what’s coming down the pipeline. This can be anything from highly-anticipated trailers to new gaming technology, to even a new book. In terms of Spring Training, these would be equivalent to minor league prospects.
And the 2019 New York Yankees have plenty of prospects in camp this year. Some have already had a cup of coffee in the majors already, but this is really their chance to show they deserve as much attention as the latest Avengers trailer. From pitchers tearing up the minors to hitters not quite there yet, the action at Steinbrenner Field features much more than the regulars.
In fact, when it comes to 2019 Spring Training specifically, the Yankees and their fans should concentrate on five players in particular. They may not get called up this year, but could get pretty close if they have a strong spring.
No. 5: Chance Adams
Chance Adams has had a yo-yo of a time in pinstripes. He was the Yankees’ top pitching prospect at one point. Then, he saw his velocity drop and his BB/9 in the minors jump to 4.62 from 3.36 in 2017. Despite that, the state of New York’s pitching staff at one point last year was so dire, Adams landed a spot start versus the Red Sox and, of course, lost.
But Adams believes he is a new man in 2019. He had surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching elbow last offseason, thus the drop in velocity. Now, per Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, Adams claims he wasn’t fully healthy last year and should be fine now that his velocity is returning. Fangraphs lists his average fastball velocity last year as 92.9 mph, so Adams could prove a nice surprise if that number goes up.
Adams will probably start the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he went 4-5 with a 4.78 ERA in 23 starts in 2018. The 24-year-old also went 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in three MLB games. If he can bounce back in Spring Training and keep his walks down, count on him getting called up in some capacity this season.
No. 4: Domingo Acevedo
On looks alone, Domingo Acevedo is a scary pitcher. Standing 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, the 24-year-old Dominican righty can throw absolute gas and has some nice breaking pitches to complement that. Since debuting in 2013, Acevedo has posted a 2.85 career ERA in the minors with 417 strikeouts in 401.1 innings.
However, Acevedo has one problem: injuries. He has only made over 20 starts in a season once and dealt with blister and bicep issues last year. Splitting time between Double-A Trenton and Low-A Staten Island, he went 3-3 with a 2.99 ERA in 16 games.
Staying healthy is the key to Acevedo’s long-term success, but he was also called up to the majors last summer. He didn’t play, but the organization clearly thinks highly of him. Be it as a starter or reliever, his Bronx debut is coming soon.
No. 3: Michael King
Michael King’s 2018 season was like WWE Superstar Randy Orton’s finishing move, the RKO. It literally came out of nowhere.
No, seriously. King, 23, was a 12th round pick by the Miami Marlins in 2016 and was traded to the Yankees for depth last offseason. He was 11-9 with a 3.14 ERA in 25 starts in A-ball in 2017 and, while good, nobody expected him to just outperform expectations like he did last year.
King made 24 starts in the Yankees’ system in 2018 and was 11-5 with an excellent 1.79 ERA. Those numbers are great, but here’s the kicker. King did that while pitching across three levels: High-A Tampa, Double-A Trenton, and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He walked just 29 in 161.1 innings and gave up only eight home runs, posting an excellent WHIP of 0.91.
King was recently shut down for three weeks with what is being called a “stress reaction” in his elbow. He will have an MRI next month but even if he misses all of 2019, one thing is certain.
Don’t sleep on Michael King’s potential. At all.
No. 2: Estevan Florial
Every dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fans knows about Estevan Florial. The 21-year-old outfielder turned some heads with his lefty bat and slick fielding across two levels of A-ball in 2017. He hit .298 with 13 homers, 57 RBI, and 23 stolen bases, and it was assumed he’d continue improving in 2018.
Such was not the case. Florial broke his wrist in May, missed three months, but still managed to hit .283 in 84 games. The only lingering concern are his strikeouts, as he has posted a career K% of 27.3 percent in the minors.
But between Florial’s ceiling and strikeouts being up across baseball, his K% won’t matter. Keep in mind, the Yankees don’t have regular center fielder Aaron Hicks signed long-term. If he doesn’t take a major step forward and Florial rakes in the minors in 2019, don’t be shocked if Florial is a regular in the dugout sooner rather than later.
No. 1: Trevor Stephan
If you haven’t been paying attention to Trevor Stephan, you should be. The hard-throwing Texan righty posted a 3.69 ERA across two levels last year and struck out 140 hitters in 124.1 innings. Stephan posted a K/9 of 10.1 and also issued just 38 walks over that stretch.
The 23-year-old will likely begin the season at Double-A Trenton, where he is expected to continue developing his slider and changeup. If he does well enough in Spring Training, his promotion to Triple-A may be accelerated. It really all comes down to how those secondary pitches develop.
Stephan may be a non-roster invitee this year, but don’t let that fool you. The Yankees clearly hold him in high regard and he’s ready to show the fans he deserves their praise too.