A strength of the Yankees’ minor league system is a depth of quality arms at the lower levels—but don’t overlook 21-year-old Venezuelan righthander Miguel Yajure, who began the 2019 season at high Class A Tampa and finished with two games at Double-A Trenton.
“He is a strike-thrower and there are some projections about him,’’ vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said of the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Yajure, who signed in 2015.
Yajure didn’t pitch in 2017 after having an elbow procedure on Nov. 11, 2016, that required a rehab period of six-plus months. He pitched at low Class A Charleston in 2018 and then fully broke out in 2019.
Yajure’s 2.14 ERA over 138.2 innings ranked inside the top 10 among qualified minor league starters. He struck out 133 batters and allowed 119 hits but truly excelled at limiting walks (1.9 per nine innings) and home runs (0.3 per nine).
“He has a feel for the (strike) zone (and throws a) fastball, curveball, change and cutter,’’ Naehring said of Yajure’s repertoire that features a fastball that ranges from 91-95 mph, which is a bump from 86-90 in 2016.
“His delivery and arm action is probably average to plus, and he is advanced beyond his years.’’
Yajure’s strong 2019 season has put him in the discussion of being added to the 40-man roster and thus protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason.
Yankees pitchers make popular Rule 5 targets. The organizations has had at least one pitcher—and a few position players—drafted in each of the last four drafts: Nick Green in 2018, Anyelo Gomez, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Jose Mesa Jr. in 2017; Tyler Jones, Caleb Smith and Tyler Webb in 2016; and Evan Rutckyj in 2015.
“The majority would say (Yajure) needs to be protected,’’ Naehring said.
Big league rosters are expected to jump from 25 to 26 players in 2020, and it remains to be seen how teams will treat the extra roster spot. Some speculate that rosters will be made up of 13 pitchers and 13 hitters, and since many teams already carry 13 hurlers there is a chance teams will roll the Rule 5 dice on a position player who has speed and can play defense.
— The Phillies hired well-respected national crosschecker Brian Barber to be the their scouting director.
“He has been a key guy,’’ Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said of Barber, a 1991 first-round pick of the Cardinals whose pro career was stunted due to injuries. “He twisted his way up from the bottom.’’