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The New York Yankees are doing nearly nothing. At the same time, they wait to see if they can re-sign DJ LeMahieu; they are not addressing their Major League need for a premium type starting pitcher. They need to replace Tommy Kahnle in the bullpen, but they have been quietly building strength in the minor leagues’ available pitchers. In November, the Yankees selected RHP Roansy Contreras and Alexander Vizcaino from Tampa Tarpons. During December, they assigned pitchers Matt Krook and Reggie McClain to the Yankees.
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In the mid-month of December, they signed pitchers Lucas Luetge, Luis Garcia, Matt Bowman, and Adam Warren, who previously pitched for the Yankees. During January, they have signed pitchers Nestor Cortes Jr., Tyler Lyons, James Reeves, and just yesterday, Jhoulys Chacin. Just this offseason, the Yankees have added 14 pitchers to the already 70 plus pitchers they have in the minor leagues, and that doesn’t include the rookies pitching in the Dominican Republic. It makes you wonder what the New York Yankees are up to.
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Some prospects are known from the second they are signed or drafted by the organization as players who will have a major impact on a team’s future. Others tend to fly under the radar after being drafted late, or fighting injuries early in their minor league career before positioning themselves as players that can contribute to a major league roster. Greg Weissert and Glenn Otto are two players who have worked their way through the organization without much fanfare, but could be on the verge of joining the Yankees as early as this coming season.
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Every year, Baseball America releases a list of the prospects with the “best tools” for each minor league system. You can generally expect to find the top prospects in a given system among the pitching list. This year, Luis Gil (fastball), Clarke Schmidt (curveball) and Alexander Vizcaino (changeup) were top pitching prospects credited with a “best pitch” in the system. With his prospect status in tact, it would not have been surprising to see Deivi García retain his position from the previous year’s list of best slider among Yankees minor leaguers. I honestly did a double-take when reading the list and saw Greg Weissert listed as the pitcher with the best slider in the system.
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Weissert was an 18th round draft pick out of Fordham University in 2016, and has never been highly regarded when it comes to prospect rankings. He has never made a top-30 Yankees’ prospect list for Baseball America, and FanGraphs did not have him listed among their top-54 Yankees prospects in 2020.
After working mostly as a starter in college, the Yankees moved him to the bullpen and he began a steady rise through the system, peaking with Double-A Trenton in 2019. Armed with the plus slider, he has consistently been able to miss bats while recording a 11.5 K/9 in four minor league seasons.
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Only once, a 12-game stretch with Low-A Charleston in 2016, have opponents hit better than .229 against the righty. Limiting hard contact and generating a lot of strikeouts is a recipe for success, but Weissert also has consistently missed the strike zone as well.
Many minor-league pitchers around baseball have used 2020 as an intense development period. Weissert was not at the alternate site and he did not pitch anywhere in 2020, but reports of improvement must have come from somewhere for him to be named to this list. Armed with a plus-slider, Weissert is at the upper levels of the system where even just a moderate improvement in his control could land him in the majors in short order.
As Weissert was pitching in his first full professional season, the Yankees drafted Glenn Otto with their fifth-round selection in 2017. After working as a closer for Rice University, the Yankees saw starter potential in the 6-foot 3-inch, 240-lb right-hander and moved him to a starter’s schedule every fifth day.
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Armed with a 12-6 curveball that generates swings and misses and a strong fastball, Otto produced outstanding strikeout rates. A blood clot in his shoulder cost him most of the 2018 season. He returned for about half of the 2019 season and recorded more good results for High-A Tampa. The Yankees thought enough of his performance to send him to the Arizona Fall League to log more innings in a prospect rich environment.
Otto performed well again in Arizona, striking out 26 batters in 24 innings and producing a 0.958 WHIP. The walks were once again a problem though, as he recorded a 4.9 BB/9.
Since the end of the 2019 season, the Yankees have added a number of their top pitching prospects to the 40-man roster. Pitchers like Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Alexander Vizcaino and Roansy Contreras are all at a similar level or ahead of Otto in the Yankees system. Armed with a fastball, curveball combination the former college reliever could be a candidate to move fast if the Yankees move him back to the bullpen.
The Yankees have two relatively unheralded prospects that could move quickly through the system if things go well this year. Both Greg Weissert and Glenn Otto have a fastball, breaking ball combo that could play well out of the bullpen. The pitchers need to improve their control, but after a year of unseen development, that could be just what they have in store for hitters in 2021.
It appears at the moment that baseball is counting on a 162 game season that might possibly allow some fans in the stands at some point in the season. However, with the slow distribution of the new coronavirus vaccines, it doesn’t look as though those stands will return to full occupancy until very late in the season if then. The full health protocols and whether rules implemented last year will be continued yet to be seen.
However, after a 2020 canceled minor league season, there will be changes this season as well. It appears that the Triple-A season will start on time, but the lower levels will be delayed until the Triple-A players leave camp. This is obviously being done to increase social distancing and limit player interactions. There is no definite date set as of yet.
With the Yankees pitching needs, the New York Yankees will be watching all of these pitchers to see how they may contribute during the 2021 season. We know that Deivi Garcia will certainly be on the opening day roster. Depending on what the Yankees do to augment the every day pitching staff, fans will surely see Clarke Schmidt, Micheal King, Luis Gil, and Luis Medina at some point in the season. As far as the bullpen is concerned, the Yankees will have many arms to evaluate. Two relievers could come into play this season; Greg Weissert and Glenn Otto have worked their way up through the ranks.
A photo accompanying the article is of Yankee pitcher Luis Media who has have an excellent winter season in Puerto Rico.