The starting rotation for the New York Yankees has been racked by injuries this season. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda have missed huge chunks of the season for the Bronx Bombers, leaving the Yanks scrambling for replacements. They've treaded water with the likes of David Phelps, Chase Whitley and Shane Greene, among others, but none of them is viewed as future rotation anchors by any stretch of the imagination. Enter Luis Severino, the 20-year-old righty out of the Dominican Republic who is having a breakout season for the Yankees. Severino has vaulted from Low-A all the way to Double-A this year. For Low-A Charleston, Severino posted a 2.79 ERA and 70:15 K:BB ratio in 67.2 innings. It took just four starts at High-A to realize the opposition was no match for him, as Severino notched a 1.31 ERA and 28:6 K:BB ratio in 20.2 innings. Severino continued his domination in his Double-A debut Saturday, allowing one run on two hits in five innings for the Thunder. Severino walked one batter while fanning six. While it's unlikely Severino will help the Bombers this season, he'll enter 2015 as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball, with the chance to hit the big leagues before that year is finished.
Here are some quick hitters in this week's edition of "Three Strikes:"
1. Byron Buxton's wrists have betrayed him this season. After missing about three months due to a left wrist ailment, the Twins phenom was hit in the right wrist by a pitch Friday and has not yet returned to the field at High-A Fort Myers. X-rays came back negative, but Buxton must feel snake-bitten at this point with the way his 2014 campaign has gone.
2. How about a sleeper prospect? Chicago Cubs starter Duane Underwood was a second-round pick in 2012, and just turned 20 years of age. Underwood has a 2.36 ERA and 51:24 K:BB ratio through 68.2 innings for Low-A Kane County. Underwood is still learning how to pitch, but his peripheral numbers have been decent. Underwood has a 1.23 GO:AO ratio, and opposing batters are hitting just .235 against him.
3. Rafael De Paula was sent to the Padres as part of the Chase Headley deal, and the change of scenery could be welcomed by the 23-year-old righty. De Paula had been average at best at High-A Tampa for the Yankees in 27 starts dating back to last season. De Paula has outstanding strikeout stuff, but has battled control issues and also had trouble keeping the ball down.
You want some more? You asked for it. The rest of the Minor League Barometer is on deck.
Jorge Soler, OF, CHC - It is clear Soler has an abundance of talent. Soler finally appears healthy, though, and as a result is really starting to pay dividends for the Cubbies. In his last 10 games at Double-A Tennessee, the 22-year-old slashed .400/.529/.900 with four home runs and 11 RBI. Soler played in just 20 games at that level due to a variety of ailments, but batted a robust .397/.493/.862 with six home runs and 21 RBI over that span. As long as he can stay on the field, the Cubs could have yet another future stud prospect to add to their already impressive collection. He was recently promoted to Triple-A, and it is not entirely out of the question that he could make his MLB debut in September.
Brandon Drury, 3B, AZ - Fellow minor leaguer Jake Lamb has been getting the pub for the D-backs at the hot corner this season, but Drury is having a stellar season in his own right. The 21-year-old is batting .293/.359/.512 with 17 home runs and 74 RBI through 97 games at High-A Visalia. Drury continues to show he can be productive when it counts, as he is on pace to break last season's career-high of 85 RBI. He has driven in 16 runs over his last 10 games for the Rawhide, hitting .326 with four home runs during that time period. It is unclear if Drury will be blocked by the aforementioned Lamb or used as trade bait, but it certainly appears that Arizona will have some excellent depth to choose from at the very least.
Taylor Williams, P, MIL - A fourth-round selection in 2013 draft, Williams had a decent debut in the Pioneer League last season. He fanned 42 batters in 42.1 innings, but issued 17 walks over that span and was a bit too hittable. The polished college product was moved to Low-A in 2014, and the transition has been seamless. Williams has a 2.63 ERA and 93:22 K:BB ratio in 96 innings. He's been shuttled a bit between the bullpen and the starting rotation, but his performance thus far in 2014 will clearly cause the Brewers to view him as a starter moving forward. Opposing batters are hitting just .210 against Williams this season, who has shown above-average control of his heater and a nasty slider to get swings and misses. He doesn't have great size and needs to develop a more consistent third pitch (changeup), but it's tough to argue with the results in 2014.
David Dahl, OF, COL - A bump up to High-A seemed warranted for the 20-year-old Dahl, who bounced back from a horrific 2013 to campaign to dominate Low-A ball in 2014. Dahl slashed .305/.345/.501 with 10 home runs, 41 RBI and 18 steals for the Asheville Tourists, showing the all-around skills that made him the No. 10 overall selection in the 2012 draft directly out of high school. Dahl ended his time at Low-A on a high note, hitting .333 over his final 10 games before being promoted. Dahl still could learn to draw a few more walks, but he doesn't strike out a ton so it becomes less of an issue, particularly if he hits .300. Add in that Dahl will play his future home games at Coors Field, and there's a lot to like in the Rockies' centerfielder of the future.
Dan Langfield, P, CIN - Langfield missed all of 2013 with a shoulder injury, but has been dominant in 2014. Though he is still being stretched out, the 23-year-old righty has a 2.86 ERA and 62:26 K:BB ratio in 44 innings at Low-A Dayton. His strikeout stuff has been evident; opposing batters are hitting a paltry .181 against him this season. Due to the injury, Langfield is a bit old for this level, and his control has still been a bit spotty. In his last outing, Langfield walked five batters. If he continues taking positive steps towards a full recovery, though, the Reds may end up cashing in on the third-round pick from the 2012 draft.
Dylan Cozens, OF, PHI - A second-round selection in 2012, Cozens' first taste at full-season ball has gone pretty well. Cozens is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-6, 235-lbs; in fact, he was recruited to play defensive end at the University of Arizona before ultimately signing with the Phils. His power stroke is still a work in progress, but the lefty has knocked 13 balls out of the park in 96 games as a 20-year-old at Low-A. His plate discipline needs work; Cozens is batting just .246/.308/.421 and has fanned 104 times this season. Nevertheless, he has been swinging a hit bat recently, slashing .361/.414/.556 with two home runs and six RBI over his last 10 contests. Still, perhaps most surprising, Cozens has swiped 17 bases while being caught just four times. Clearly Cozens is much more athletic than his frame suggests. Cozens is far from a polished product, but he may end up supplanting Ryan Howard at first base for the Phillies.
Adam Plutko, P, CLE - An 11th-round pick in 2013, the polished Plutko has found little resistance at the lower levels of the minor leagues thus far. Plutko was teammates with Trevor Bauer at UCLA, but does not quite have the same natural stuff as Bauer. Still, he started at Low-A, where he notched a 3.93 ERA and 66:12 K:BB ratio in 52.2 innings. Plutko was then promoted to High-A, where he has started another 10 games. Plutko currently possesses a 3.83 ERA and 45:10 K:BB ratio in 54 innings. Plutko pounds the strike zone with three pitches (fastball, slider, changeup). The question remains if he will be too hittable at the higher levels, but thus far he has managed to limit the damage enough to be successful.
Dane Phillips, C, SD - A little love for the backstops this week, as Phillips is having a breakout season for the Padres. The 23-year-old catcher started the year at Low-A, where he batted .295/.335/.449 with two home runs and 28 RBI in 40 games. He was quickly promoted to High-A Lake Elsinore, where he has been able to enjoy the friendly hitting confines of the California League. In 36 games since being promoted, Phillips is slashing .309/.382/.590 with seven home runs and 31 RBI. Phillips was a second-round pick out in 2012, so it's not like he's coming out of nowhere. However, he had a poor 2013 campaign, and is a bit old even for this level. He is essentially repeating the path of his 2013 season. In other words, there is a question as to whether he can continue this upward trend at the higher levels.
Jesse Winker, P, CIN - Winker raked at High-A earlier this season, vaulting himself near the top of the Reds minor league rankings. The 20-year-old outfielder hit .317/.426/.580 with 13 home runs, 49 RBI and five steals in 53 games for the Bakersfield Blaze. Winker found much more resistance after being promoted, though, batting just .208/.326/.351 with two home runs and eight RBI in 21 games for Double-A Pensacola. Winker fanned 22 times over that span. Subsequently, Winker injured a tendon in his right wrist and could miss a month. Though he will not need surgery, Winker's wrist will be immobilized for the time being. As a result, it would not be a surprise if the Reds were cautious with one of their prized phenoms and kept him sidelined for the remainder of the 2014 campaign. Winker will still enter 2015 as a highly-touted prospect, but his 2014 season may be over.
Brett Mooneyham, P, WAS - The Nats had high hopes for Mooneyham after picking him in the third round of the 2012 draft. Perhaps the Stanford jinx has gotten a hold of him as well as Houston Astros pitcher Mark Appel. Rotation mates at Stanford, both Appel and Mooneyham have been abysmal in 2014. Mooneyham was just awful at High-A to begin the season, notching a 7.36 ERA and 18:35 K:BB ratio in 33 innings at that level. Yes, he had nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. Even two outings in the Short-Season New York-Penn League went awry. Now back at Low-A where he dominated in 2013, Mooneyham has been better, posting a 3.86 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 25.2 innings. Still, the 24-year-old lefty has issued 18 free passes during that time period as well, showing his control is still in shambles. It may take some serious overhauling of his mechanics to right the ship, and even then there is no guarantee Mooneyham gets back on track.
Blake Snell, P, TB - It's been a tale of two cities for Snell, who was dominant at Low-A Bowling Green but has struggled mightily since being promoted to High-A Charlotte. The 6-foot-4 southpaw had a 1.79 ERA, 42:19 K:BB ratio and staggering 3.35 GO:AO ratio in 40.1 innings for the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He was able to work around the high number of walks due to the fact that he held opposing hitters to a .184 BAA. The tide has turned at High-A, though, as the former first-rounder has a 5.11 ERA in 44 innings for the Charlotte Stone Crabs. His peripheral numbers aren't that much different at this level, though he has not been able to keep up that unsustainable ground ball rate. Still, his GO:AO ratio sits at an above-average 1.94, and the 21-year-old has notched a 43:18 K:BB ratio. Opposing batters are seeing the ball much better against at him to the tune of .263 BAA. Add in the extra walks, and Snell has allowed entirely too many base runners at this level. Snell battled control issues in 2014 as well, issuing 73 free passes in 99 innings. He still has upside, but Snell remains a work in progress.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, KC - Unfortunately for Royals fans, Kansas City seems to collect a lot of guys like Bonifacio, who come in with high expectations but are unable to live up to the hype. Mike Moustakas, Bubba Starling and Cheslor Cuthbert are a few that come to mind, players with raw talent and allegedly huge upsides who were talked up but have failed to put it all together. Though Bonifacio is still just 21 years of age and already at Double-A, he is having a down season. Bonifacio is hitting just .231/.303/.324. he has fanned 96 times in 97 games, while also showing little power or speed. Over that span, the 21-year-old outfielder has hit four home runs and stolen four bases. If Bonifacio doesn't develop a power stroke and can't swipe more than a couple of bags, his fantasy value obviously takes a nosedive. If he can't hit for average either, well, then it's into the prospect abyss he may go. Bonifacio is still young, but he may not be much of a fantasy gem even if he gets his average back on track.