The New York Yankees have a type.
When it comes to pitchers, the packages might not always look the same, but the repertoires do: right-handed, elite velocity, lots of movement, elite sliders, and high spin rate. In developing an organizational pitching style, the Yankees have had great success in the minor leagues with these cookie-cutter prospects: Luis Severino, Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, Domingo German, etc.
The Yankees have found success in maximizing their prospects’ velocity, especially with international players. There are more coming down the pipe: Osiel Rodriguez, Albert Abreu, and Roansy Contreras are all candidates to play in the Bronx, but the one with the highest ceiling is Luis Gil.
Gil was a pop-up international arm who signed with the Minnesota Twins in mid-February of 2015. Not thought to be much more than organizational depth, Gil was traded to the Yankees in early 2018 for outfield prospect Jake Cave. The move was seen at the time as the Bombers getting rid of a middling outfielder who was on the verge of a major league spot and they simply could not oblige him with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Brett Gardner already holding down the fort – not to mention the more-talented Clint Frazier waiting in the wings. It was either let Cave go in Rule 5 the following season, or at least get something. Gil was that something. Cave was DFA’d a year later.
For most of 2018, Gil looked like exactly what everybody thought he was: a career minor leaguer. As a 20-year-old in Rookie Ball, he pitched like he was two years older than his competition, but as soon as he moved to Low-A, he had trouble. Working with him over the offseason on improving his velocity and secondary pitches, the Yankees promoted him to Single-A to start the year. This was an ambitious move, despite being nearly 21. Either the Yankees thought he was ready or thought if he wasn’t ready now he’d never be.
Either way, it didn’t take long for Gil to show how much he improved. He pitched his way to a 1.04 ERA with 26 Ks in 17.1 innings. Two more months of the same followed and people have now started taking notice. It’s getting to the point now where teams are reportedly asking for Gil in trades as the Yankees try to solidify their rotation at the major league level.
More than Trade Bait
A few things make Gil a special prospect. Velocity is first. It’s relatively new, but Gil can hit triple digits when he really pushes it, but sits around 95 mph with the fastball. Still, he’s been at this point velocity-wise for over a year so it’s likely to stay. Athleticism and body type separate Gil from many other prospects. At 6-feet-3-inches tall and 175 pounds, Gil has the ideal height and weight of a major league starter. His size makes repeating his delivery a challenge, but he is big enough to generate high-end velocity with ease. And oh boy is it easy:
There are few prospects who can make 95 mph look like a game of catch. Gil is one of those guys. If you’ll notice how quick and easy his arm action is, it also provides a bit of deception, making his already-elite velocity play up. When you throw in a plus slider and a developing curveball, you can see that this is the kind of prospect who needs to be owned in dynasty leagues.
All of this hype should be tempered. Gil will likely stay in Single-A for the rest of the season. He has tangible things to work on like a more consistent release point and finishing his delivery in a better position, as he currently leans toward first base after finishing his stride, almost like he’s falling off the mound. Improvement in both of these mechanical issues can help with control, which is something Gil will need to hone as well.
Still, it’s hard not to want to push the kid. After all, this is what his 2019 has looked like so far:
|Charleston RiverDogs (Single-A)||83.0||2.39||1.19||112||39|
It looks just like most pitchers who get promoted to High-A. His K-rate of 12.14 is phenomenal and the walk rate of 4.23 is high but improving. What’s more is he’s very hard to make contact against. Opposing batters are hitting just .193 against him this year, which sounds like he’s just getting very lucky until you see that his 2019 OBA is the same as his career mark of .193. He also gives up very few home runs, with just one so far this season and only seven in 194 career innings.
At the very least, there is a world in which Gil barely improves at all and becomes a high-leverage reliever. In fact, his profile reminds me a lot of Edwin Diaz. The reason why Diaz became a reliever, however, isn’t because he didn’t progress, it’s because the Mariners didn’t want to wait for him to progress to find out if he is a starter. I believe the Yankees want to find out with Gil, which is why they are moving him along so slowly.
He’s the kind of arm that has All-Star upside. It’s very volatile at this point though. Know that going in when you are paying the price for him. He’s worth a late pick in dynasty drafts (round four or five) this year. If your draft is next year, you might have to get him earlier if he finishes out the year strong. There is starting potential here, enough to be a middle-of-the-rotation arm.