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.
This guy opened a lot of eyes last year, and for good reason. Deivi Garcia started the year at Low A and finished the year as a 19-year-old in Double-A, striking out nearly 13 batters per nine innings along the way.
Position: Starting pitcher
Acquired: Signed as a nondrafted free agent July 2, 2015, out of the Dominican Republic
SWB ETA: 2019
Overall numbers: 5-4 with a 2.55 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, 12.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. Garcia — who didn’t turn 19 until May — started the year with Charleston, where he struck out 63 and walked 10 in 40.2 innings. He was even better at High-A Tampa, where he went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in six starts, striking out 35 and walking eight in 28.1 innings. Just for good measure, he wrapped up the year at Double-A with five innings of scoreless, hittless ball — he faced two more than the minimum — walking two and striking out seven.
Here are some videos of Garcia:
Below, Donnie and I discuss why Garcia lands at No. 5 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.
CF: I know that this guy is already ranked up at No. 5, but there are few Yankees farmhands I’m more excited about. I think part of it is that it doesn’t add up. He’s 5-foot-9. He’s very small. Yet, he dominates. Three levels of the minors last year. 2.55 ERA. 105 strikeouts and 20 walks in 74 innings. Opponents hit .189 against him. If Mike King doesn’t do what Mike King does last year, that’s minor league pitcher of the year type stuff. Oh, and he did all that as a 19-year-old.
DC: He’s another small guy, and if you look at the pitches and the speeds, he’s kind of a yawner. 92-95 fastball, but he works at the lower end. Good curveball. Changeup that is kind of developing, and not a 10-mph difference off the fastball. But, nobody touches the guy. And if you go to YouTube and type in his name, you see why. His fastball has more late life than any pitcher I’ve seen in 17 years covering minor league baseball. The radar gun is saying one thing and your eyes are saying another. That kind of fastball is so hard to gauge as a hitter, because it sneaks up on you and then overwhelms you. And it’s not even his best pitch. That curve can be an unhittable pitch.
CF: The curveball is nuts. The Yankees player development department is tweeting out videos of some of its prospects. The Deivi one — also, I will only refer to him as Deivi (pronounced Davey) because there’s just something about the name that’s great, like Gleyber — is just 1 minute, 21 seconds of him throwing curveballs.
In 14 starts last year, RHP Deivi Garcia’s 12.77 K/9.0IP was 2nd highest among Yankees minor leaguers (min. 50.0IP).
— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) February 12, 2019
CF: The swings and takes on it are some of the weakest you’ll see. The worry with smaller guys is whether they can develop enough of a downward plane one their pitches to prevent homers and such. But I bet there’s something about the shape of his curveball and his fastball that pair so well together that his height doesn’t matter. If he works his fastball up in the zone — which, I bet he does because you’re right about that late movement — it probably looks a lot like his curveball out of his hand.
DC: He has an incredible spin rate on that fastball, which you can tell by watching. We talk a lot about spin rates and fastballs and how much the Yankees love spin rates. But the spin rate on his curveball is one of the best in baseball, according to Baseball America. Not just in the minors. But the majors. It look like that curveball is falling off the Empire State Building, so fast and so sharp.
CF: It also seems like he knows what he’s doing out there, like he’s wise beyond his years. His mechanics looks super smooth. Not too much effort in the delivery. I asked Yankees senior director of player development Kevin Reese about him when I was in Tampa. Here’s what he said: “What don’t I like about Deivi is a better question, because there’s not really anything I don’t like about him. He’s super mature. He’s got good stuff. He knows how to pitch. Usually, there’s — one of those things are missing. Like some guys have really good stuff and they just rear back and throw the ball. But he has a feeling for how to set up hitters, he has a feeling for how to keep himself strong over the course of a game as opposed to just come out and throwing it out. He made a couple outings or at least one in Double-A last year and he had no fear. Usually it’s like this guy might not be ready for it, or how will he handle this situation? And The pitching guys had no issue with him being anywhere and he rose to the occasion every time out.
DC: He was the one who pitched one of the more famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) games of the minor league season last year. Seven perfect innings for Tampa in a game the Tarpons ultimately lost without actually allowing a base runner because of the stupid extra innings rule. That’s the game that kind of put him on the map, but you’re right. He was really great before that and really great after. He is a guy who threw a ton of good strikes in some free-swinging leagues. But he was over his head, age-wise, in high-A and obviously that one start in Double-A. He has a very professional approach.
CF: Only thing I’d wonder about as far as progressing this year goes is his usage. Only threw 74 last year and that was a career high. Sort of limits his ceiling for the year, I’d imagine. But he’s going to be fun to watch no matter what.
DC: That’s why I won’t go so far as to say he’ll make his debut in Triple-A this year. Certainly, it’s not out of the question. But I can’t imagine him throwing much more than 110 innings this year, maybe. He has some time before the clock runs out for sure. But he’s so good, everyone is going to want that clock accelerated. The Yankees are going to need to show some patience for the kid’s sake.
15: Phillip Diehl (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Clarke Schmidt
5: Deivi Garcia
Photo: New York Yankees