Yankees Will Lose Prospects in Rule 5

We are just about at the deadline. The Yankees have to set their 40-man roster for next month’s Rule 5 Draft Friday.

With the system possessing more talent than ever before, there is no way the Yankees have room on that 40-man roster to protect outfielder Jake Cave, right-hander Brady Lail, left-hander Dietrich Enns, catcher Luis Torrens and right-hander Ronald Herrera among others.

“Each and every one of those guys has a chance of being selected if not protected,” said a scout from a National League East team. “There are a few we are interested in taking a chance on.

“With the talent the Yankees now have in their system, they are certain to lose a few.”

We agree with that prediction. With catcher Kyle Higashioka already added to the 40, along with right-hander Domingo German, we can see the Yankees leaving Torrens, coming back from a rotator-cuff injury and subsequent surgery, unprotected. With Gary Sanchez established and Higashioka, an excellent defensive catcher and sound handler of pitchers, coming off a breakout offensive season, Torrens will likely not be protected.

Expect the Yankees to find spots for infielders Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar, who has much potential at third base, With  the acquisition and display put on by infielder Gleyber Torres in the Arizona Fall League, it would not be surprising if the Yankees moved Mateo in a trade, but it is doubtful they would give him up in Rule 5.

As far as Cave, who is just 23, it is time for him to get a chance with another organization. Frankly, we were somewhat surprised  the Cincinnati Reds did not keep him after his selection in last year’s Rule 5. He’s a good guy and a good player who certainly could make a big-league roster in 2017.

Lail and Enns also could slot as back-of-the-rotation starters – or bullpen operatives – on a big-league roster within the next few  years, but they are kind of lost in the shuffle right now. Expect both to be unprotected and quite possibly selected.

Also, do not expect right-hander Mark Montgomery, who has regressed and fought injury over the last few years, or left-hander Tyler Webb, who has the stuff, but also not the command, to be protected. There also may be no room for right-hander Ronald Herrera, who was obtained from the San Diego Padres last year and participated in a combined Double-A Trenton Thunder no-hitter in 2016.

Former first-round pick Cito Culver has already declared Minor League Free Agency.

A player is eligible for Rule 5 if they:

A – Were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming

B – Were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.

Players can be drafted for $50,000 and, if not kept on the selected team’s 25-man active roster  (active for at last 90 days) the following season, must be offered back to their original team, as Cave last year and Ivan Nova a few years ago.

Expect the waive goodbye to a prospect favorite our two. There are simply not enough spaces, even with the Yankees non-tendering pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and likely infielder Dustin Ackley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mantiply Ignites Pilot Light of Yankees Hot Stove

The Yankees gave up on Branden Pinder and his command issues.

The Yankees’ first Hot Stove League move came the other day, and, like your furnace in this fall’s mild weather so far, it was luke-warm at best.

Righty reliever Branden Pinder, who threw cheese but never had the command to be consistent in the majors, was designated for assignment, with lefty reliever Joe Mantiply picked up on waivers from the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees took a flyer on the 25-year-old Mantiply because, while he hardly throws as hard as Pinder – topping out at 91-92 mph – has the command the former Yankees reliever lacks.

He gets strikeouts with his corners-of-the-plate array. At Erie int 2016, he was 3-1, 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances at Double-A Erie. His strikeout/walk ratio was 62-11 in 51 innings. That impressed the Tigers, who called up the former Virginia Tech star n September, where he recorded an 0-0, 16.88 mark in five appearances covering 2.2 innings.

Mantiply occupies a spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Whether he stays there or not is a legitimate question, mainly because there are others who seemingly need to be protected before December’s Rule 5 Draft, led by infielders Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar.

Both Mateo and Andujar had their issues in 2016. Mateo served a suspension, forfeiting a spot in the 2016 Futures Game when he demanded to know why he wasn’t promoted t9 Double-A Trenton, which he never saw last summer. Andujar showed some power and hustle at Trenton, but, earn with soft hands, had struggles fielding.

One would expect, since Mateo is multi-talented and a top prospect, and Andujar, a great guy to deal with and a fun player who is the club’s best third-base prospect, will be protected. Two more moves would have to be made on the Yankees’ 40-man.

Two who likely will be exposed to being taken in Rule 5 are outfielder Jake Cave, who nearly earned a spot on the Cincinnati Reds last spring, and emerging left-hander Dietrich Enns, who was 14-4, 1.73 between Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in his first year as a starter.

With Cave, the arrival of outfielder Clint Frazier from Cleveland. along with the strong Double-A season put up by Dustin Fowler in Trenton this past summer, Cave is expendable, and likely will be selected again. Fowler, who is a better all-around player, does not have to be exposed to Rule 5.

With Enns, who has battled back from injury to baffle upper-minors batters with control and changing speeds, and can start or relieve, is lower on the totem pole than lefty starter J0rdan Montgomery and righty reliever Jonathan Holder. The pickup of Mantiply just might close the door on Enns with the Yankees unless things change with the 40-man.

The Yankees system’s talent level is to the point where some pretty solid minor-league players will be available to other clubs, whether  through Rule 5 or as Minor League Free Agents. Infielder Cito Culver, a former first-roumd pick, who could land on a big-league roster as a utility player in the mold of Brendan Ryan, leads that group.

With Rule 5 coming sooner rather than later, and the weather getting colder as December nears, there very well could be more movement with the Yankees and their 40-man. Why Mantipy? The Yankees had good luck with pitchers Chad Green and Luis Cessa, who came from that Detroit system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Interview] Zack Zehner Working on Defense, Talks Break-Out Season

New York Yankees minor leaguer Zach Zehner with the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (Bryan Green)

Zack Zehner is only one of two players who was a starter on Opening Day for the High-A Tampa Yankees and finished as a starter once the season was over. Zehner, an 18th-round-pick in 2015, played all of 2015 in Staten Island, and was moved straight to Tampa in 2016 this last season. Zehn’ was much of an unknown coming in, he has size, a good bat, and good speed once he gets going, but it needed to come to life at a level he hadn’t been near before. To say he started to put everything together was a bit of an understatement.

Zehner started off slow hitting-wise, from what he’d call a ‘learning-curve’ jumping from Staten Island to Tampa, but he’d then play a huge part in the Yankees success through the first half and second. Even without the hits, Zehner was getting on base despite his slower start. He’d finish the season sixth in the FSL in walks. Eventually Zehner started complimenting his plate discipline with solid contact hitting and became one of many stronger assets in the Yankees’ lineup.

Tell me about how your season came along, despite a slow start you were still successful, how did your game come together in the first half?

“I think it took a few months to work on my swing a little bit and just make the adjustments. Guys are throwing more strikes with their off-speed and just kind of getting a feel for my zone and how these guys are pitching me in the first half.”

When things are going well at the plate is there anything you feel like you shouldn’t change? 

“I think when things are going well you have the simplest of approaches and your eyes, bat, and everything is working together in unison. If I’m going well I try to stay middle or opposite field, I don’t try to think very much I try to stick to the pitches that I feel I can control really well. If i can stay in that rhythm and that approach it ends up doing pretty well for me.” 

I noted how Zehner was staying on base even when he didn’t hit and he talked on that aspect of his game as well.

“Even when I’m not hitting, getting on base a bunch, if I’m not feeling well at the plate, I’m trying to be a tough out, I’m trying to work and see as many pitches as I can to help me if I’m not in my rhythm.” 

When thinking about your rookie season to last season, what do you think you’ve improved on the most?

“I think knowing myself, understanding my strengths and weaknesses, you obviously have to work on your weaknesses, but when it comes to game time you have to stick to what you’re good at. I think not trying to do as much this year and sticking at what I’m good at really helped me to be consistent where as in my first year I was trying to make a million adjustments in-game and you’re not gonna be successful trying to do that.”

Moving to the playoffs, how did you feel going in? 

“Going into it that was our goal from day one, Os’ (Pat Osborn) comes in and says ‘hey were getting to the playoffs’. The team we had was completely different from the team we ended with but I think that goal stuck around in the clubhouse and that’s all we were focused on was getting to the championship. I was with Os’ in Staten Island the year before and we made it to the championship but we didn’t win, we lost to the Pirates actually the first time and this time so I knew Os’ really wanted to get there and everyone else wanted to get there and so that was the goal the whole year.”

You slowed down the last couple of weeks, what did you think you were struggling with at the plate? Was it fatigue?

“I think my timing was definitely off like you said the last two weeks of the season I definitely slumped a bit. It was definitely a timing thing for sure. I was consistent the whole year with my workout, you know you’re beat up at the end of the year, but so is everyone else. It’s not an excuse to be tired it’s the playoffs you got to be ready to roll and it’s baseball, you get in a slump sometimes and it’s unfortunate that it happened the last two weeks of the season. You want to end on a high note but it is what it is.”

Even if you didn’t play as much as you wanted, what did the playoffs teach you at this level? Was anything different?

“The thing I took away from it is it’s still the same game, it’s just another game. My first year I think I got pretty hyped up for the playoffs and you kind of try to leave your approach, everyone’s trying to do something to make something big happen trying to hit that go-ahead home run and you just have to stay within yourself and treat it like another game.”

Take me through the days after the series, what did you do when you got home to relax? When did you start off-season workouts? Any change from last season?

“I came home to San Diego, I took a trip pretty quick after I got back to see my girlfriend, got to see the whole family, everyone who didn’t get the chance to come out and see me. Took a couple weeks off, you know you got to get away from it a little bit, and then get back to the grind pretty much. I took some time off this year, last year I don’t think I took a day off I went straight into my hitting and my running. I didn’t play a whole season yet so I didn’t know what to expect, so i took a couple weeks off from lifting. But A typical day I get a lift in, I just started my hitting last week, try to get my speed up and do some sprints in at the end of the day. It pretty low-key right now, pretty much just hitting the weights and getting back in shape for next season.”

Heading into next season what’s something you want to work on? 

“I think defense is big, I think its an easy way to separate yourself from others it something you can work on everyday. You have 100% control in your defense. Speed is always a focus, trying to become faster, I’d like to be better on the bases, you know I’m not going to steal a lot of bags but there’s other things you can do running the bases to help your team win, being better 1st to 3rd, 2nd to home, dirt ball reads, so getting better with the small things will help push my game forward.”

Zack Zehner will most likely start the season at High-A Tampa, but depending on who stays and goes from Trenton, he could very well be taking his trip up north sooner than you think. After his performance last season, expectation will be high for him. He’ll need to show a more consistent bat, and better speed as he mentioned. His plate discipline will be tested as it was in the second half, but for a lengthy body he sees pitches well. Coming from behind in the count will still be an issue for him as well, which means he’ll need to make those same adjustments in-game through the weeks. Overall Zehner is a solid guy to look forward to, his size and speed for his size makes him an interesting asset in the outfield for Tampa or Trenton.

 

2016 Season in Review: Eduardo Rivera

Eduardo Rivera in the fall instructional league. (Bryan Green)

Eduardo Rivera debuted with the Yankees in 2011, and has always been known as a pitcher with a big arm. However, his lack of control made him a complete non-prospect. He might’ve been throwing upper 90’s, but It’s hard to get that excited over a prospect that had an 8.06 BB/9 through the first four season of his career. It was only until 2015, that he started to look like a decent pitcher. However, most ignored his solid numbers, which is certainly understandable considering his track record, and the fact that he was a 22-year-old playing in the APPY league.

Which brings us to 2016 where we could say he finally started to ascend through the Yankees system, and actually ended his season playing against age-appropriate competition.

Rivera’s season began with the Staten Island Yankees of the NYPL, where he pitched 12.1 innings and gave up zero runs. His walk rate was still high (4.4 per 9), but for the first time in his career he was pitching well despite his overall poor control.

His performance led to a quick promotion to Class-A Charleston. Rivera pitched 14.1 innings at this level, and did even better than he had in the NYPL. Most notably he got his BB/9 down to just 3.1, and only allowed 4.4 H/9. His improved control helped him achieve greatness in A-ball as he put up the following numbers: 1.26 ERA, 1.73 FIP, 13.2 K/9, .837 WHIP.

While the above numbers are impressive, it should be noted that Rivera posted them as a 23-year-old in A-ball. Which would make him about a year too old for the level. Once the Yankees pushed him to an age-appropriate league (High-A), his control did once again waver.

In those 7 innings Rivera seemed to revert back to his old-self. He walked 8 batters, and gave up 7 hits. It’s not like he one bad appearance either, he consistently had bad games in High-A. The only positive stat was that he struck out 13 batters. While it was only 7 innings, I do feel that it shows that Rivera still needs to work on his control. With that said his overall season was very impressive, and it’s clear that he’s finally beginning to make progress.

Rivera’s fastball and curveball combination, could make him a solid bullpen piece in the future, but he wants to be a true back-end reliever he has to learn how to throw strikes on a consistent basis. He’s certainly a name to watch out for in 2017. Assuming the Yankees don’t lose him in the rule-5 draft—which is probable—he should begin the 2017 season in Tampa, and if he can continue to improve he should move through the system pretty quickly.

Off-Season Interview: Kevin Cornelius

Kevin Cornelius with the Tampa Yankees in 2016 (Bryan Green)

Kevin Cornelius is one of many Yankees prospects on the move. After starting the season in Pulaski, he was then promoted to High-A Tampa after taking the Appalachian League by storm. In 13 games, Cornelius posted five doubles, six homers, and 21 RBIs. He then would have a solid season for Tampa, contributing to their huge offensive season. With a .277 average, he’d add on nine doubles, seven home runs, and 27 RBIs. Cornelius did have some things to improve on from last season, fielding and size being some. I talked to Cornelius about his time in Tampa last season, playoffs, and how he’s preparing for whatever may come in 2017.

Starting in the playoffs, what was it like heading in? What was your mindset?

“I think I’ve been in the playoffs every year since becoming a Yankees; I think two or three of them have been with Pat Osborn. I was comfortable; Pat’s an awesome manager, and he takes it pretty seriously, but he has the same managing approach he has the whole season. So he stays consistent, and that keep us consistent. Although the outcome of the actual Championship series wasn’t what we wanted, I feel like all throughout the team did well, and I think everybody was happy with this season, we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.

Did you know before the playoffs that there would be no games at Steinbrenner? Did you feel being on the road for two series hindered the team at all physically or mentally?

“No, we had no clue. It was a little bit of a shock at first, but then once we found out, we were okay with it. I don’t think the home-field advantage mattered to us especially since our stadium plays so big. I think a lot of the hitters were a little happy we were going to be playing at the Jays and Pirates park because they’re more hitters’ parks. I don’t think that (travel) affected us too much, maybe the traveling every day may have had a response from us because we didn’t have that chill-out time. We didn’t have that time to relax and prepare mentally as well as we could if we could sit in the clubhouse at home, you know? We were trying to get to the field, trying to get to the bus on time, and trying to get to the field on time. So I think that might have had a little bit of an effect, but that’s no excuse. I don’t think it affected us so much that that’s why we didn’t win.”

What did you specifically feel you needed to work on heading into the playoff series?

“At third base, I’d have some troubles defensively; I got into a throwing slump at third. Going into Bradenton I thought that was going to be an issue, but I only played first base and DH so that kind of subsided. Pat brought me into his office and sat me down and told me you’re not going to be playing third at all, so that took off some pressure.”

Did Pat have you as a player again give you a sense of comfort on where you’d be or where he’d want you to be?

“Absolutely, I mean Tampa’s the highest level I played at by far and never playing at that level I had some back-of-the-mind insecurities about how I would possibly perform, but when I got there and talked to Pat he said ‘No man, you’re going to be fine, you can do it’. So having Pat there to tell me that, and my level could play at High-A really relaxed me.”

Cornelius had seven hits and four RBIs combined in the two playoff series.

What are some takeaways from 2016 for you compared to 2015? Have your off-season workouts changed because of what you’ve learned?

“From 2015-2016 I learned a lot about myself as a player and what I need to do to help a team and be successful. In 2015, I had a small injury and didn’t know how to cope with my body as well, and in 2016 at the end, I feel like I know what I need to do as a player and what I need to do to prepare myself every day to compete. I think that got a lot better from 2015-2016. I’m focusing more in transferring bad weight I used to have to good weight. Not carrying as much fat and turning that into muscle is going to help me stay healthier through the season. I don’t need to bulk up so much as I need to focus on workouts that are going to lean me out and focus more on fast twitch muscles rather than larger muscles. And so I’m focusing more on agility stuff and leg strength and hip strength rather than all-around body-bulking.”

What do you want the Yankees organization to see in you moving forward? 

“I want them to see that I’ve had a lot of ups and downs injury wise and playing wise, that I’ve earned everything that I’ve gotten, that nothings been handed to me and I’m not just going to give up, and I’m here until they tell me I’m not good enough to play anymore.”

Cornelius spoke on all he needed to work on and was. His fielding was something he mentioned further, and working on his body and agility will transfer to the field in 2017. We also asked what coaches were working on with him in 2016, and he mentioned the same. “Footwork at third and all-around defense. I had some troubles there once I got to Tampa. It’ll be something I focus on in the off-season“. Expect to see just that from Cornelius next season, a leaner and agile player in the field and at the plate.

When we asked him about what his ‘next step’ needs to be, he noted health and consistency. “The preparation pregame, preparing for the pitcher and the hitters, defensive placement, what pitches are thrown in counts, my preparation for both of those is what’s going to help me stay consistent and reach those levels.” Cornelius will start next season with High-A Tampa more than likely, whether he’ll be playing third or not is the question. If he continues to struggle defensively his future may be at first or DH, but he clearly knows what he needs to do to stay at third, and continue success at the plate.

 

 

 

 

Five Yankees MiLB Pitchers to Watch in 2017

5pitcherstowatch

The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best.  With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base.  But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.

While fans know the likes of James Kaprielian, Domingo Acevedo and Ian Clarkin we wanted to look at five lesser-known Yankees prospects who fans should keep an eye on in 2017.

Jose Mesa Jr.

Mesa was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2012 draft but did not make his professional debut until 2014 due to Tommy John surgery.  After a solid 2015 season, he was held back in Extended to start 2016 but we would go on to play for the Charleston RiverDogs and Tampa Yankees before an arm injury cost him the rest of the season.  Read the full profile here.

Adonis Rosa

Right-handed pitcher Adonis Rosa was signed by the New York Yankees in December 2013 as an international free agent.  After strong performances in the Dominican Summer League in 2014 and the Appalachian League in 2015 he found himself in Class-A for the first time in 2016.  Rosa impressed with the Staten Island Yankees, earning a promotion to the Charleston RiverDogs during the season.  Read the full profile here.

Luis Cedeno

Signed as a minor league free agent in May of 2012 Luis Cedeno recently completed his fifth season in the organization.  He has proven to be a strike thrower, showcasing strong command of his fastball and improving his curveball and changeup.  On the mound, he has an aggressive approach, going after hitters to get the out. Read the full profile here.

Erik Swanson

The Yankees acquired Erik Swanson on August 1, 2016 in the trade for Carlos Beltran.  Originally the eighth round draft of the Texas Rangers in 2014 he spent this season in the South Atlantic League. Read the full profile here.

Stephen Tarpley

Tarpley, 23, was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year-Player Draft out of Scottsdale Community College.  In 2015 he was traded to the Pirates for Travis Snider.  The Yankees acquired him on August 30 as a player to be named later in the Ivan Nova deal.  Read the full profile here.

Pitchers to Watch in 2017: Stephen Tarpley

Stephen Tarpley (Bryan Green)

The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best.  With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base.  But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.

When the Yankees traded Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 1 for players to be named later, no one knew what kind of caliber of prospect the Bronx Bombers would get back.  But on August 30 we found out when the Pirates sent Tito Polo and left-handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley to the Yankees to complete the trade.

Tarpley, 23, was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First-Year-Player Draft out of Scottsdale Community College.  The Los Angeles, CA native made his professional debut later that year in the Gulf Coast League, starting seven games for the GCL Orioles striking out 25 batters in 21 innings.  After 2013 season had ended Tarpley was named the #21 prospect in the Orioles organization by Baseball America.

The 2014 season was him get a promotion to the NY-Penn League where he was a regular in the rotation of the Aberdeen IronBirds.  Tarpley earned a 3-5 record with a 3.66 ERA in 13 games, 12 starts, striking out 60 batters over 66 1/3 innings.  His strong performance earned him a spot in the organization’s top 20, being named the #16 prospect in the system by Baseball America.

In January 2015, the Orioles traded Stephen Tarpley to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Travis Snider.  In his first season in the Pirates organization, he started 20 games for the West Virginia Power, striking out 105 batters in 116 innings and winning 11 games while earning a 2.48 ERA.  His success earned him pitcher of the week honors as well as a spot-on Baseball America’s Low Class-A All-Star team as well as being named by BA as the #17 prospect in the Pirates organization.

The 2016 season saw Tarpley start the season on the disabled list due to an oblique injury, but after he had returned from injury, he started 20 games for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League.  With the Marauders, he was 6-4 with a 4.32 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 100 innings.  After being traded to the Yankees, he would appear in only one game for the Tampa Yankees, allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 innings against the Lakeland Tigers on September 4.  After a few days, he went on the disabled list after experiencing some soreness.

Tarpley is a rare talent, a left-handed pitcher that usually sits in the mid-90s with his fastball.  He backs it up with a curveball, changeup, and slider.  His repertoire allows him to keep hitters guessing what is coming next.

 

 

Higashioka, German Added to Yankees 40-Man Roster

Kyle Higashioka was added to the Yankees 40-man roster on Friday. (Photo by Martin Griff)

The Yankees announced on Friday afternoon that prospects Kyle Higashioka and Domingo German have been added to the organizations 40-man roster. Additionally, the club announced that Dustin Ackley, Nathan Eovaldi, Chad Green, Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow have been reinstated from the 60-day disabled list.

Kyle Higashioka was added to the Yankees 40-man roster on Friday. (Photo by Martin Griff)
Kyle Higashioka was added to the Yankees 40-man roster on Friday. (Photo by Martin Griff)

Higashioka, a 26-year old catcher, is coming off a breakout 2016 campaign that saw him hit .276 with a career-high 21 homers and 81 RBI between Trenton and Scranton. The Yankees love what they have seen in his two-way development and believe that Higashioka is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that essentially forced him out of action for the 2013-2014 seasons. It is easy to lose him in the shuffle with Gary Sanchez, Brian McAnn and Austin Romine ahead of him, but the Yankees believe that Higashioka is a major league caliber backstop who can help them next season. You can never have too much depth at a premium position, right?

German is a 24-year old right handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic; he was signed as an international free agent by the Miami Marlins in 2009. The Yankees acquired German along with Eovaldi in an offseason deal that sent David Phelps and Martin Prado to Miami nearly two years ago. Shortly after the trade, German underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2015 season. At this time last year, the Yankees non-tendered him a contract before agreeing with him on a minor league contract one week later. In his first healthy season in the system, German went 1-3 with a 3.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 49.2 innings between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa; opponents hit just .225 against him.

Pitchers to Watch in 2017: Erik Swanson

Erik Swanson in his Yankees debut with the Charleston RiverDogs (Charleston RiverDogs)

The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best.  With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base.  But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.

The Yankees acquired Erik Swanson on August 1, 2016, in a trade that also saw Nick Green and Dillon Tate join the Baby Bombers in exchange for outfielder Carlos Beltran.

Swanson was the Rangers eighth round draft pick in the 2014 First-Year-Player Draft, taken 1-round after fellow new Baby Bomber Nick Green.  The right-handed pitcher was drafted out of Iowa Western Community College but was signed to go to the University of Pittsburgh.

After signing with Texas, he reported to the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League to start his professional career. In 15 relief appearances with Spokane, he owned a 1-2 record with a 4.63 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.

In 2015 he made a brief 1-game appearance in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with the Round Rock Express, striking out two batters in an inning before reporting to the Frisco RoughRiders for a game.  There he walked 2 and struck out one while allowing a run on two hits for the Rangers Double-A affiliate then went to the Hickory Crawdads where he spent the rest of the season.

With the Crawdads, Swanson appeared in 7 games, striking out ten batters in 12 1/3 innings but his season would end after suffering a forearm flexor strain.  He would return later in the year for a 1-game rehab stint with the Arizona League Rangers but by then the season was just about over.

This year he came back to Hickory as a starting pitcher, starting 15 out of the 19 games he has appeared in earning a 6-4 record and a 3.43 ERA.  His success earned him a spot in the 2016 South Atlantic League All-Star Game.  After being traded to the Yankees, he reported to the Charleston RiverDogs.  In 5 games for the RiverDogs, he threw 15 innings, striking out 15 and allowed just six earned runs.

Swanson has a powerful mid-90s fastball which has topped out at 98 MPH and complements it with a changeup and slider.  Long-term he projects to be a reliever, with the potential to be a closer in the majors.

Pitchers to Watch in 2017: Luis Cedeno

Luis Cedeno (Robert M Pimpsner)

The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best.  With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base.  But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.

Signed as a minor league free agent in May of 2012 Luis Cedeno recently completed his fifth season in the organization.  Shortly after signing his first professional contract he was assigned to the Dominican Summer League Yankees where he went 1-0 in eight games out of the bullpen, striking out ten batters in 9 1/3 innings.

The following season, in 2013, Cedeno only appeared in 5 games, throwing 17 innings and allowing just one earned run.  He earned a win in each of the five games he appeared.

Cedeno made his United States debut in 2014 when he played for the Gulf Coast League Yankees.  With the GCL Yankees, he made his first professional starts, starting 6 out of the 15 games he appeared in.  During those games he earned a 1.13 ERA in 40 innings of work, walking just six batters while striking out 35.

The 2015 season saw Luis start out in Extended Spring Training but on April 2 he made his season debut after being called up to the Charleston RiverDogs.  In his first game with Charleston, he threw five no-hit innings, allowing two walks and striking out four batters.  He went on to appear in 8 more games, earning a 3.52 ERA in 9 total games, all starts, striking out 28 batters in 46 innings of work.

When the Staten Island Yankees season began in June, he was reassigned to the New York-Penn League where he went 5-3 with a 2.73 ERA over 13 games, 12 starts and striking out 51 batters in 66 innings of work.  His success with Staten Island earned him a spot in the NY-Penn League All-Star Game.

Cedeno spent the 2016 season with the RiverDogs, making 20 starts, throwing 107 2/3 innings and earning a 3.68 ERA.  He earned pitcher of the week honors on July 31, 2016.  During the playoffs, he made his High-A debut allowing three runs on six hits and two walks in 5 innings of work for the Tampa Yankees.

This offseason the 22-year old right-hander is pitching for Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezuelan Winter League.  In 2 appearances, out of the bullpen he has thrown 4 2/3 innings allowing two runs on five hits and striking out four batters.

Cedeno is undersized at 5-foot 11-inches and 154 pounds but has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can bring it up to the mid-90’s at times.  He has proven to be a strike thrower, showcasing strong command of his fastball and improving his curveball and changeup.  On the mound, he has an aggressive approach, going after hitters to get the out.