New York Yankees Jarod Lessar
(Photo via BYU Cougars)

While most undrafted free agents don’t usually have a future in MLB, the same can’t be said for New York Yankees signing Jarod Lessar. 

Thomas Hall

With the New York Yankees selecting just three players during the 2020 MLB Draft, they’ve been forced to scour the free-agent market for undrafted players.

As a result of COVID-19, this year’s draft was limited to just five rounds and players who went undrafted are only allowed to sign for a maximum of $20,000. Nevertheless, the Yankees have been able to sign five pitchers since the signing period opened on Sunday.

In total, New York has signed Carson Coleman, Ocean Gabonia, Trevor Holloway, Jarod Lessar, and Connor Pellerin. Since teams are allowed to sign an unlimited number of players, it seems like the Bronx Bombers will likely add a few more players to this list over the next few weeks.

Even though none of these pitchers are expected to become All-Stars, fans should be very excited about Lessar. If he’s able to make his major league debut in the Bronx, it’ll be a very special moment for the 22-year-old hurler.

Growing up in Carbon County, there wasn’t a bigger Yankees fan around than the right-handed pitcher. While playing on a Little League team called the Price Yankees, Lessar wore No. 13 to honor his favorite player, Alex Rodriguez.

Ironically, Lessar also looked up to a pitcher from his hometown named Brady Martinez, who spent two seasons (2006-2007) within New York’s organization. When and if baseball resumes this summer, the former high school quarterback will be attempting to follow in Martinez’s footsteps.

When the Yankees called to offer him a contract, the 6-foot-4 righty jumped at the chance to sign with his favorite team. Furthermore, the youngster revealed the team sent him a personalized photo of himself in pinstripes at Yankee Stadium. At that point, it took him just “two minutes” to call them back and accept their offer.

In speaking to Deseret News, Lessar admitted that it was “kinda surreal” to receive an offer from the team he grew up watching for so many years. With just one season left of eligibility at BYU, the Utah native couldn’t be happier to receive an opportunity to play at the next level.

“I hung up the phone and I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy and gratitude,” Lessar explained after speaking with the Yankees on Sunday.

Oddly enough, Lessar’s profile at his first school — Utah State Eastern — lists the Boston Red Sox as his favorite team. Regardless, Lessar is all about the pinstripes now.

Along with offering him a signing bonus of $20,000, the Yankees have expressed that they’re also willing to pay for Lessar’s final class, allowing him to complete his degree in sociology. Before he returns to school, the former three-sport athlete is expected to report to the team’s spring training complex in Tampa Bay.

After spending two seasons (2017-2018) at Utah State Eastern junior college, the 6-foot-4 hurler transferred to BYU after the 2018 campaign. Utilized as a starter and a reliever, the former Cougar was able to make 24 appearances during his near-1.5 collegiate seasons.

During his junior season, Lessar compiled 48.2 innings of work and produced a 4.44 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 1.46 WHIP, 10.2 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 20.6% strikeout rate along with a 7.5% walk rate.

Following his inaugural season with the Cougars, the towering righty continued working on his craft during the offseason and was hoping to improve his results this spring. Unfortunately, the coronavirus forced an early shutdown of the 2020 campaign — limiting him to just five appearances.

Over his 16.1 innings pitched, Lessar won three of his four starts and recorded a 4.41 ERA, 2.47 FIP, 1.47 WHIP, 9.9 H/9, 0.0 HR/9, 20.6% strikeout rate and an 8.2% walk rate during his senior season.

While Lessar doesn’t feature any plus pitches right now, there’s a very good chance he’ll be able to improve his repertoire at the next level. Last season, the right-hander featured a low-90s cutting fastball, slider, curveball, and a changeup as well.

Coming out of the bullpen, Lessar solely utilized his fastball and slider over his combined 12 outings as a reliever at BYU. In shorter stints, he was able to increase the velocity of his heater up to 94-95 mph.

Since Lessar focused most of his time on football in high school, he wasn’t able to refine his craft before heading to college. As a result, he was forced to spend more time learning about pitching rather than dominating on the mound during his time at Utah State Eastern and BYU.

If the rest of this past season wasn’t canceled, the athletic hurler would’ve likely been able to further develop his pitches, helping him improve his draft stock. During a traditional MLB Draft, he could’ve been targeted during the later rounds.

With the 2020 minor league season expected to be canceled, providing Lessar with playing time could prove to be difficult in the near future. However, there’s a chance he could be selected to play in the Arizona Fall League later this year if it’s not wiped out by the coronavirus.

Moving forward, Lessar will likely be given an opportunity to develop into a starter at the next level. But if the right-hander struggles with his secondary pitches, then he’ll likely end up in the bullpen, relying on his fastball and slider.