The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox rivalry is one of the most profound rivalries in all of sports. With hundreds of years worth of competition with tensions rising far higher than the boiling point, this is a rivalry that defines baseball and transcends sports in its entirety.
However, the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry also has fans of both teams going at each other over which team has the brightest future. At the end of the day, both fanbases want bragging rights for years to come over their inferior.
In any case, when comparing and discussing prospects, it makes more sense to compare positional players to fellow positional players, likewise for pitchers. For that purpose, I will be doing the Top 3 Positional Players and Pitching prospects within each organization.
This article specifically will be discussing the Top 3 Pitchers within both organizations
For many teams, having a healthy crop of young pitchers with positive upside is crucial to long term success. Every Free Agency will feature far more competent hitters than it will feature skilled arms. With the 2019 FA market, the top four for Starting Pitchers are Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, and the now signed Zack Wheeler. Those pitchers are all fantastic options, but the drop off from Strasburg to Bumgarner and even Wheeler (yes, he did have a tremendous 2019) is a large one. Now, for the positional players, there are more than enough competent bats and capable gloves on the market. With players like Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Brett Gardner, and Nicholas Castellanos all available.
While the pitchers, as mentioned earlier, are — as a whole last year — better than their hitting counterparts, the difference is that after those four pitchers, the market is rather barren. Even Cole Hamels signed a contract worth a hefty $18,000,000. It is to the point where the Angels are panicking and acquired the Baltimore Orioles’ pet-project that’s been long overdue, Dylan Bundy. Whereas with the available position players after Castellanos (who I think is the second-best positional player available behind Rendon), you have Edwin Encarnacion, Robinson Chirinos, Todd Frazier, and more for your power needs and wants. If you’re in need of positional services from a utility type player, there’s Brad Miller, Cesar Hernandez, Eric Sogard, and even Ben Zobrist available.
The point here is that it is way more investing and a far bigger gamble to spend big on pitchers than it is on an offensive player who will sign a massive contract, but with the intent to play 162 games. The better teams in the league are the ones that find ways to produce talent within, especially out of their pitching crop. Take the Dodgers, Yankees, Nationals, Cardinals, and a handful of others, that can do that to a tee, and see results from it.
The Top 3 Pitching Prospects (New York Yankees)
Now, the New York Yankees have always prided themselves on young guns that have the potential to be great. In years past, we have seen the talented arms of Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Manny Banuelos, David Robertson, David Phelps, and many more, prosper in the Yankees minor league systems. For many teams, having a healthy crop of young pitchers with that upside is crucial to long term success, as mentioned prior. The Yankees have made a living off of producing talent in the pitching department, and have brought in Matt Blake from Cleveland to develop the young guys further, and help James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka find their consistency. Blake is a guy who is said to be “ahead of his time” and one of the Yankees’ newfound assets for the pursuit of Gerrit Cole, and future pitchers as well.
This crop of young and talented minor league arms within the Yankees organization might be as gifted as its ever been. Pair that with the arrival of Blake, the already talented MLB Rotation and Bullpen, and the Yankees appear to be locked and loaded for 2020.
1. DEIVI GARCIA (RHP, 20, ETA: 2020, 2019 Fangraphs FV: 50)
At the top of that crop of talented arms, and the top of the list for both teams’ pitching prospects, is Deivi Garcia. Garcia is basically a Marcus Stroman clone on the mound in stature and delivery. Standing 5’9 and weighing 185 lbs, he may not be massive in his size, but his delivery and stuff is next level. Signed back in 2015 for $200,000 at the age of 16, Garcia has been the Yankees’ prize, and a project of their’s for years now. He entered 2018 as the team’s 11th ranked prospect, but it looks like he’ll repeat as the Yankees top-ranked prospect coming into 2020.
Garcia throws a plus fastball that touches 96 and 97 frequently and blows by hitters. The fastball rises in the zone, and across both High A and AA baseball, his K/9 was roughly 15.5, which exceeded Gerrit Cole’s MLB high of 13.82. Yes, the level of competition is far and in between, but this kid has electrifying stuff, and his slider and curveball combo reminds me of Luis Castillo’s.
Those two pitches that he sprinkles in with his fastball are what allow him to throw that high fastball so often. Being only 20 years old comes with a lot of inexperience, and despite the astonishing K numbers, he did walk 4.2 batters per nine innings, which shows that his style of pitching is sporadic, and that control is a bit of an issue up to this point in his career. Deivi is beginning to become more of a household name across all of baseball, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cashman contemplates adding another piece via trade, Garcia is one of the first names asked about. With that being said, I wouldn’t give up Deivi Garcia unless it’s for a game-changing player, this kid can become something special.
2. LUIS GIL (RHP, 21, ETA: 2020/2021, 2019 Fangraphs FV: 45)
The number 2 and 3 SP prospects for the Yankees are honestly up for grabs between three or four arms: Luis Gil, Albert Abreu, Luis Medina, and Clarke Schmidt. For me, Luis Gil is the number two arm in the system because of his tremendous upside, his build (6’3, 180), and his talent as well. Luis Gil’s style of pitching reminds me of Carl Edwards Jr. which may be alarming to those reading this article now, but when CEJ came up for the Cubs, he was lethal for three seasons with them. Across ’16-’18 Edwards pitched 154.1 innings, and never posted a K/9 under 11.0 in any of those three years, and finishing all three years with a FIP sub 3.50.
Last season in A baseball, Luis Gil saw a very similar season to that of Garcia. He blew people away with his plus fastball — 60/70 according to Fangraphs 2019 report — en route to a 12.14 K/9 paired with a 2.39 ERA across 83 innings. However, just like Garcia, he struggled to limit the walks, with a BB/9 of 4.27 during that season. He has all the tools to be something special and looks to build on his strong 2019 and continue to rise up the Yankees prospect rankings. If the Yankees are to be cursed with the injury bug again next year, Gil could possibly see himself come up as a spot starter, or as Bullpen help.
3. LUIS MEDINA (RHP, 20, ETA: 2021+, 2019 Fangraphs FV: 45)
Luis Medina is one of the more balanced pitchers out of the Yankees flurry of talent in the minor leagues. His fastball is astonishing, as he’s touched 102 already, and that leads to an impressive K/9 of roughly 10.5 across 103.2 total innings between A and High A baseball. While he’s very similar to both Gil and Garcia, in that he walks a decent amount of batters per nine — at essentially half his K/9 — around 5.5. Medina’s got the talent, and definitely has the stuff, but the walks are going to bite him and seemingly be an issue for some time to come. In 2018, the story was no different, as his BB/9 (11.5) matched his K/9 (11.75), leading to a horrendous 6.25 ERA across 36.0 IP.
With that, however, Medina does show promise in that his HR/9 in 2018, despite those terrible numbers, as it sat at 0.75. In 2019, in a bigger sample size, he showed again, the ability to limit the long ball — at 0.79 across those 103.2 IP. Medina could be something special, but ultimately the only way for him to ever improve or challenge for a spot in the Yankees rotation is if he limits the walks. His stuff is electrifying, but I think he’s destined for a bullpen role. That’s not a knock on Medina, as much as it is an encouraging thought. Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, and many more all started off as SP’s, but transitioned into the pen and became far more lethal. A similar track could be in Medina’s future.
The Top 3 Pitching Prospects (BRS)
The Boston Red Sox farm as a whole has been slowly drying up over the past couple of seasons, as Boston flipped on the “WIN NOW” switch, and did so a couple of seasons ago. Boston accomplished the goal of that mentality, as they took home the 2018 World Series Trophy. However, 2019 for Boston was the complete opposite, as they missed the playoffs entirely. Ever since trading away numerous prospects in exchange for Chris Sale back in December of 2016, Boston has been watching their internal options becoming less and less helpful longterm. In that 2016 trade, Boston sent the at-the-time “prospect demi-god” Yoan Moncada, who is now one of many valuable and talented offensive pieces for the White Sox, which immediately knocked Boston’s farm down heavily. Add on to that the loss of the talented Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz in that same deal, and at that point, Boston’s farm system was looking drier than a Summer afternoon in the Sahara.
With that being said, Boston’s developed some talented pitchers over the years, and there can never be any guarantees with prospects, nor are prospect rankings written in stone. The Red Sox’s rotation appears to be one of the biggest problems going into the 2020 season, so it is more than likely that at least one of these three guys could be seen in the big leagues.
1. BRYAN MATA (RHP, 20, ETA: 2020/2021, 2020 Fangraphs FV: 45+)
Bryan Mata is by far the Boston Red Sox best-pitching prospect when you take into account just how young he is. Being only 20 years old, Mata has had his fair share of troubles, as he was thrown into full-season baseball at 18 years old. Mata has great stuff, including a 99 MPH fastball that moves more like a sinker. However, Mata has struggled to find his stride and has struggled tremendously, consistently throwing strikes, similar to Medina. Mata’s 2018 season saw a 17% BB Rate, for comparison Medina’s 2018 in which he walked nearly 12 batters per nine, was at 25%. The difference, Medina’s K% was 25.5%, whereas Mata’s was 18.7%.
Mata can become something special for Boston; however, I’d say that despite his filthy sinker, he struggles to find his second pitch and figure out which one of his other pitches can be that go-to out pitch. His ERA before his 2019 season at AA was sub 3.50 cumulative, so there is evidence that he can continue to improve each year.
2. NOAH SONG (RHP, 22, ETA: N/A, 2020 Fangraphs FV: 45)
Boston is in an interestingly awkward situation regarding Noah Song. While Song has had hardly any time spent with the Red Sox themselves, he is one of their most electrifying talents and could be a considerable addition to their team in the future. However, the situation is that Noah Song committed to serve two years for the US Navy, but there is now uncertainty as to whether or not he is going to be required to serve those two years. With that being known, and Song’s future being unknown, that hurts his value and poses tons of question marks about him.
His stuff, however, appears to be lethal. There’s a reason Boston took that gamble on him, and if it pays off — and he ends up being what they expect him to — he could be a strong force in the AL East for years to come. He did show the talent in his short stint with Boston’s Low A affiliate, the Lowell Spinners, last year. Across 17.0 IP, he had a 29.2% K Rate to a 7.7% BB rate, with a 1.06 ERA.
3. TANNER HOUCK (RHP, 23, ETA: 2020, 2020 Fangraphs FV: 40)
Tanner Houck’s delivery reminds Boston management and ownership of that of Chris Sale, so that alone is enough to give this kid a shot. However, as for the rest of the league, there are doubts about that delivery, and whether or not his arm action and overall stuff can keep up in the Major Leagues. Those doubts were mainly prevalent when he was drafted, despite his stellar showing with Team USA prior. He offers a sinker/2-seam mash-up pitch that he slings in the low 90’s, and a slider that is devastatingly difficult for righties to hit. With that being said, the issue with Houck is that he doesn’t seem set to be a starting pitcher long-term. Worries about his arm action, as well as the fact that his stuff is far better only seen one time through the lineup, don’t pair well for him as a long-term option in the rotation.
Houck’s career is, in a word, average up to this point. While he’s flashed signs of being something great, with a 10.02 K/9 to 3.22 BB/9 in his first trial with the organization in 2017 across low A, he’s taken steps backward since then. The strikeouts have gone down (hasn’t posted K/9 over 10.0 since then), and the walks have gone up (over 4.00 BB/9 since then). Houck could end up being a tremendous middle reliever thanks to his swooping arm dynamic, but ultimately his stuff screams average.
The End Verdict
While there are never any guarantees with prospects, as mentioned before, the Yankees have made it a priority to preserve the future, especially when it comes to pitching. If the Yankees want to learn anything from years past, its that internal options are the best options. A few of the names of homegrown Yankee arms in years past include Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Phil Hughes, and of course, Andy Pettitte.
With the flourish of talent the Yankees have within their organization, the sky is the limit for them. Focusing on the development within has given them the edge over the majority of MLB teams, Boston included when it comes to Farm System discussions. When it comes to discussing the overall player production and quality within those Farms, the Yankees are one of the best in all of the league.
Boston undoubtedly will do everything in their power to field the best team possible come this year, and for all of eternity. The only way for Boston to truly challenge the Yankees’ Farm system would be if they were to trade away current pieces — like Mookie Betts who will most likely not be with the club come 2021, as salary problems could be prominent for Boston with JD Martinez, Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts, and others under contract — for prospects.
The New York Yankees have most definitely flipped that “WIN NOW” switch that Boston hit in 2018, but they’re doing so gently and slowly. While they’re pushing for a World Series Title, Brian Cashman knows how vital youth development is to the longevity and well-being of a franchise.