At ballparks all across the United States and around the world scouts search fervently for the next perennial star. The expedition spans year round these days where the margin for error continues to shrink. Discovering the next Sidd Finch or Steve Nebraska can ignite anticipation in the facsimile of reality, while a Matt Harvey or Luis Severino can establish a reputation and provide the rare credence of promising living up to overwhelming hype and expectations. With Severino matriculated to the major leagues, New York Yankees believe they have found the next long range pitching prospect in Dominican born pitcher Domingo Acevedo, who has already entered the top 30 on the MLB.com, despite pitching his first season in A ball with the Staten Island Yankees.
At six foot seven and 190 pounds, Acevedo possesses the ideal size scouts envision from a pitcher. The Dominican born pitcher signed in November 2012 for an undisclosed amount, at a time when the Yankees were experiencing a watershed moment with their international prospects while spending liberally to replenish a moribund farm system. Along with Acevedo, the Yankees signed Luis Torrens, Jorge Mateo, and Thairo Estrada that calendar year, each of whom are currently considered among the top 30 prospects in the system. Unlike some of the previous international free agents signed by the Yankees, Acevedo treaded a bit on the older side, agreeing to terms with the club as a 19 year old and making his debut with the Dominican Summer League Yankees in 2013.
For most international prospects, the toughest challenge is adjusting to both professional baseball and rigors of adapting to United States culture. Fortunately for Acevedo and many undrafted prospects, the transition is made a gradual pace in the Yankees farm system. The New York Yankees, along with the majority of Major League Baseball hone young prospects unfamiliar with American life in the Dominican Summer League, allowing them to adjust to the speed of the game, while cultivating their unique talents. The Yankees are currently one of six franchises to have two teams in the league, in addition to the eight traditional minor league teams. Acevedo made his professional debut with the DSL Yankees in 2013 and quickly emerged as one of the top pitchers in the circuit, notching a 2.63 earned run average, while striking more than one batter per nine innings pitched.
Nardi Contreras, the Yankees long time roving pitching coordinator, dating back to George Steinbrenner, believes Acevedo has the necessary tools to develop into one of the premier pitching prospects in the organization. “He’s going to be special,” Contreras said. “He’s mid-90s, he’s got a real plus changeup, and he’s a strike-thrower.” (Scout.com). Assistant Director of International Player Development Mario Garza, who managed Avcevedo in the Gulf Coast League deduces a pitcher who might already be the best arm in the entire system. “He can be as good as any pitcher we have in the big leagues right now”, Garza said. “He has a power, explosive arm. He is still young. He has great mental makeup and if he can develop, really the sky’s the limit”. (Scout.com). After a strong showing in the DSL, Acevedo advanced to the Gulf Coast Yankees in 2014, pitching 15.1 innings while limited to five starts after battling a sore arm. Despite some nagging injuries, Acevedo continued to improve, fanning 21 batters, as his strikeout rate jumped to a robust 12.3 per nine innings.
One of the keys for Acevedo’s growth was developing his secondary offerings. A pitcher known for a fastball, which can break any pane of glass, Acevedo invested a considerable amount of time working with former 1997 All-Star and former Major League veteran Jose Rosado, who taught Acevedo the slider as a pitching coach in the Gulf Coast League. The addition of a third offering boosted his ceiling and placed him a position where some envision a long term future as a starting pitcher. After a one game appearance with the full season Charleston River Dogs in April, Acevedo was assigned to the short-season Staten Island Yankees. Managed by former GCL manager Pat Osborn, Acevedo entered the radar screen of many prospect experts, catapulting himself into the organization’s top 30, after being somewhat of an unknown entering the 2015 season.
Battling a blister problem to open the season, Acevedo got off to an inauspicious start as he struggled with bouts of fatigue. Spending two weeks at the Yankees complex in Tampa, Acevedo began to rediscover his timing and rhythm. After a seven strikeout performance on July 4th prior to the blister problem, Acevedo recorded a stretch of one earned run surrendered in his last eleven and two-thirds innings of work. Across seven starts, Acevedo has pitched to a 2.55 ERA in nearly 25 innings pitched, with opponents batting just .248 against him. Staten Island Yankees manager Pat Osborn attributes Acevedo’s success of late to his strong command and his ability to repeat his delivery, “He does a good job of repeating his delivery”, Osborn said. “That allows him to throw strikes. This kid has a great feel for the strike zone. He just needs to be consistent.” Acevedo believes that better focus mentally enabled him to sustain stout results over a longer period of time. “Last year I just came over to the United States”, Acevedo said. “In the two innings that I would pitch, I wanted to surprise everybody who did not know who I was. This season, I’m better prepared mentally. I’m more focused in knowing what I want to do and why I want to do it. I also know what I need to do to improve.” (Pinstripes Plus).
Similar to the recently called up Luis Severino, Acevedo possesses a fastball, changeup, and slider. His fastball is the first thing most fans and scouts discuss when evaluating Acevedo since it routinely resides in the triple digits. It is a pitch Osborn and the coaching staff want him to throw more frequently since it has the potential to reach the higher end of the 20-80 scouting scale. “He tends go to his changeup and his slider and we need to remind him, “hey, you throw 98-99 miles per hour”, Osborn states. “It is a weapon. Use it”. Though his fastball is his strongest pitch, Staten Island Yankees pitching coach Butch Henry, a pitcher for five major league teams, including the Montreal Expos, alluded that his changeup might have as much promise as his heat, “He’s got a major league changeup as we speak”, Henry said. “He is starting to develop into that prospect that we seen. As for his slider, Henry explained that feel for the pitch is essential when it comes to mixing his arsenal and getting results. “We have got him to get over the top a little more.”, Henry cited. “Since he got here. We are not as worried about velocity as we are good tilt and spin and he has shown a propensity to throw it for a strike and he has maintained that feel of it and it has come along very nicely”.
Despite less than three seasons in professional baseball and none in a full season league, Acevedo is displaying the tools of a potentially elite pitching prospect. With an easy to repeat overhand motion, Acevedo reminds some of Dellin Betances or Michael Pineda. Command, usually the biggest challenge for any tall, lanky pitcher seems to come easy for him, with a high swing and miss rate and the ability to suppress walks. Many pitches of similar height and build take considerable time to master the strike zone without a GPS. Until being converted into a dominant set up man, Betances struggled mightily with walk rates, which bordered on Carlos Marmol territory as a starting pitcher, which seemingly negated his strikeout rate. Acevedo currently demonstrated average to slightly above average command of his pitches, through his slider still needs to room to mature into a pitch with equal effectiveness to his fastball and changeup. The primary question for Acevedo is whether his stuff can translate better in the starting rotation or the in back-end of the bullpen once he advances through the farm system. Acevedo’s ability to control his fatigue through the second and third time through a batting order will eventually be the determination by Yankees brass. At this stage, the Yankees envision Acevedo to a be a starting pitcher with the tools and makeup to eventually become one of the best in the pipeline and continue the meteoric rise of a suddenly flourishing Yankees farm system, poised for prominence.