- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- When the Yankees signed teenager Luis Severino in 2012, he threw 91 mph. In 2013, at Class A Charleston, he was touching 97. Like his fastball, Severino is a prospect on the rise.
Just 19 years old, with a smooth delivery, he might turn into a major league starter one day. The Yankees signed Severino, out of the Dominican, two years ago for a mere $225,000.
“Last year, as an 18-year-old, he would have been a high school senior in the draft,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations. “He was pitching in the Gulf Coast League in Charleston, running it up there 96, 97. That gets you picked high in the draft. When we signed him, he was at 91.”
Donny Rowland, the Yankees’ international scouting director, liked Severino because of his easy delivery, Newman said. ESPN.com’s Keith Law had Severino as the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect. With a strong 2014, he could move up various prospect rankings.
“Severino intrigues me for a couple of reasons,” Baseball America’s Josh Norris, who has extensively covered the Yankees’ farm system, said in an email. “First and foremost, he's shown very advanced qualities in terms of both stuff and ability at a very young age. He has a fastball that's touched as high as 97 miles per hour, which plays up because he gets good extension. He couples it with a solid-average changeup that's hit as high as 90 miles per hour, a big plus for someone his age. He also has a slider that flashes plus at times.
“Moreover, after dominating the Gulf Coast League [32 strikeouts and 16 hits over 26 2/3 innings], the Yankees saw fit to skip him over Staten Island and send him straight to Charleston in the South Atlantic League, where he fanned 21 in as many innings and walked just four. He has to prove it over a full season, obviously, and he's a bit on the smaller side, but three excellent pitches and command of the strike zone is an excellent recipe to start."
Law wrote about Severino: “[His] three-pitch mix might be three pluses out of the pen, and it's a grade-65 or 70 fastball even in the rotation. However, he's less than 6-foot, and he has to prove he can maintain his stuff over a full season when going six innings every time out.”
The Yankees have developed some pitching in recent years, even if there have been no No. 1 starters. From David Robertson to Phil Hughes to Joba Chamberlain to Ivan Nova, they have had some success stories. Severino may be a big part of the next wave.