The 2015 Draft class is turning out to be an interesting one for the Yankees. After being described as a mid-rotation starter at best, first round pick James Kaprielian has some scouts wondering if he could be something more. Fifth rounder Chance Adams has turned heads as well, reaching Double-A in 2016 and receiving an invite to major league spring training this year. Lefty Josh Rogers looks intriguing as well, after some drama surrounding the Yankees’ ability to sign the 11th rounder.
Lost in all the madness is 10th round pick James Reeves. A lefty from The Citadel, Reeves struck out almost 115 batters in 95 innings in his last year of college. As a senior from the lesser-known Southern Conference, he was never going to receive a ton of attention. However, in 2016, he spent most of the season at High-A Tampa, working as a swingman. He had 25 appearances, 12 of which were starts. In 83.1 overall innings, he had a 2.27 ERA, with over 10 K/9.
The Yankees were impressed enough to give him a taste of Double-A, where didn’t allow a run in three appearances, but struck out eight batters in four innings. His coaches and teammates clearly think highly of him, as shown by a profile the YES Network did on him last season:
2013 first-rounder Ian Clarkin had high praise for Reeves’ slider, comparing it to that of Andrew Miller. The Yankees clearly saw something in him as well, inviting him to big league spring training. Unfortunately, Reeves was shut down with a sprain in his elbow ligament. He will miss at least three weeks, but there is currently no indication that he will need Tommy John surgery.
In any case, Reeves is a name to follow. The thing that is most exciting about him is that he was as dominant as a starter as he was out of the bullpen. In his 12 starts, he logged 58 innings, with an ERA of 2.17 and 62 strikeouts. What’s even more impressive is his WHIP, which was a minuscule 0.84.
In general, one simple strategy should be used when evaluating a reliever’s minor league numbers: don’t do it. In past seasons, pitchers like Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow, and Johnny Barbato have shown promise out of the bullpen in Triple-A Scranton, only to falter at the big league level. The fact that Reeves has shown the ability to start in the minors is indicative of his ceiling being higher than other bullpen prospects, assuming that is where he ends up.
While his injury puts a damper on things, fans should be on the lookout for Reeves as he continues to rise up the ladder in the Yankees’ farm system. Hopefully, his sprained elbow ligament will be nothing more than a blip in the radar, and he can get back to making hitters look silly with his wipeout slider soon.
Data is courtesy of FanGraphs and The Baseball Cube.