Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list. 

Back-to-back lefty relievers to start the list. Stephen Tarpley shined at Double-A and Triple-A, then made his big league debut as a September callup. He’s impressing during spring training and is trending toward a spot on the opening day roster.

The basics

Position: Relief pitcher
Throws: Left
Age: 26
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 235
40-man? Yes
Acquired: In an August 2016 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a player to be named later for Ivan Nova. Originally picked out of Gilbert Hih School (Arizona) by the Cleveland Indians in the eighth round of the 2011 draft, but chose to attend junior college at Scottsdale Community College (Arizona) and was then selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2013 draft.
SWB ETA: 2019

2018 season

Tarpley began the year with Double-A Trenton and went 5-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 19 games out of the bullpen. In 35.2 innings with the Thunder, he allowed 18 hits, walked 15 and struck out 33. In 34 innings with the RailRiders, he had a 2.65 ERA and struck out 10.1 batter per nine innings. He made his major league debut Sept. 2 and went on to appear in 10 games for the Yankees. He struck out 13, walked six and allowed six hits in nine innings.

Why 14?

Below, Donnie and I discuss why Tarpley lands at No. 14 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work. 

CF: We’re probably the only Yankees prospect list where you’ll find two lefties in the top 15. They’re sort of short on southpaws at the moment. Tarpley is a unique mix of groundballs and strikeouts. Well, he’d be unique if he didn’t share a clubhouse with Zack Britton. It’s no surprise that the Yankees seem to really like Tarpley. He’s probably on the big league roster at this point. He’s got more than enough velocity for the type of pitcher he is and the secondary stuff is pretty good, too.

DC: He’s just solid. His numbers are great and it’s easy to see where they come from. He gets a lot of sink on his fastball, and that’s not something you used to see out of lefty relievers. But we’re going to be hearing this formula a lot with the players on our list. The Yankees love pitchers who keep the ball on the ground and manage to still pile up strikeouts. Tarpley has done that consistently.

CF: It’s interesting because even though he’s pretty much in the big leagues, I feel like there’s still a lot of room for improvement. He taught himself how to throw a true sinker, but he didn’t start throwing it until he got to the Yankees organization. So, I mean, it’s still fairly new to him. Same with being a relief pitcher. He was always a starter while with the Pirates.

DC: He’s 26, and it’s getting to be do or die time. But you’re right. He’s making huge strides, and I’m not sure many figured a guy in his third organization who was a player to be named later in the Ivan Nova trade was going to be a big leaguer. And he wasn’t going to be if he didn’t start to throw that sinker.

The list

15: Phillip Diehl
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Tuesday
12: Wednesday
11: Thursday
10: Friday
9: Saturday
8: Sunday
7: March 24
6: March 25
5: March 26
4: March 27
3: March 28
2: March 29
1: March 30