Because the Yankees’ minor league system is so deep, some players get lost in the shuffle.
A prime example is 23-year-old righthander Taylor Widener, a 12th-round pick in 2016 out of South Carolina who spent 2017 primarily at high Class A Tampa. “A lot of guys believe he will have a big impact as a reliever, and some guys think he will be a starter,” vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said. “He is on the same path as Adam Warren but has a bigger arm. He is a prospect who could jump up the list.’’
The 6-foot, 195-pound Widener impressed a scout who watched him pitch for Double-A Trenton in the Eastern League playoffs.
“I like him as a (big league) middle reliever. He has a good three-pitch mix,” the scout said. “The game I saw he threw five innings, faced 15 batters, struck out seven and didn’t issue a walk. He was 90-96 (mph) with his fastball and showed a slider and changeup. I liked the changeup better than the slider.”
While Widener might profile best in a big league bullpen, the Yankees used him exclusively as a starter in 2017 in the Florida State League, where he recorded a 3.39 ERA in 27 starts. In 119.1 innings he allowed 87 hits, fanned 129, held opponents to an FSL-leading .206 average but did walk 50.
“The walk rate was a little high,” the scout said.
In one of his two EL playoff appearances, Widener pitched the final five innings in a combined no-hitter by Trenton. Lefthander Justus Sheffield pitched the first four.
“His slider projects to be above-average and his changeup is a useful major league pitch,” Naehring said. “(Widener) will get some cut action on his fastball at some point. The max velocity on his fastball was 98 (mph), and as a starter he averaged 94.”
That Naehring comparing Widener with Warren was interesting because Warren worked primarily as a starter at North Carolina and during his first four years in the Yankees’ system. Since reaching the majors in 2012, however, Warren has started 21 times in 251 appearances.