Prospect Profiles: Luis Severino

2014 Stats:

Level: A/A+/AA

24 G     113 IP     28% K%     6% BB%     0.7% HR%     53% GB%     2.46 ERA     2.40 FIP

Severino ranked #1 on my Yankees top 100 list.

Background:

Luis Severino wasn’t viewed as a high-profile prospect when the Yankees signed him as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican for just $225,000. Nonetheless, he quickly began turning heads in 2012 by putting up a 1.68 ERA in the Dominican Summer League. Severino came stateside in 2013 and lit up the Gulf Coast League to the tune of a 1.37 ERA before closing out the year with a four start cameo with Low-A Charleston.

What he did in 2014:

Severino returned to Charleston at the start of 2014, but didn’t stay there long. Despite having all of 17.2 innings above above Rookie ball heading into the year, the 20-year-old breezed through three minor league levels — Low-A, High-A, and Double-A — dominating every step of the way. His high-strikeout (28% K%), low-walk (6% BB%) performance enabled him to achieve a 2.46 ERA and a 2.40 FIP. Not only did this performance vault him onto the prospect map, but its established him as one of the very best pitching prospects in the game.

What Kiley says:

Severino was mostly 91-95 mph in 2013 and early in 2014, then got stronger as the year went on, flashing 94-97 mph heat at times later in the year and sustaining it for innings. For about 40 pitches in the 2014 instructs in the video, he sat 94-97, with no fastball below 93 mph … Severino took quickly to using a changeup regularly after arriving in America, developing it as a plus pitch in about a year of using it, though it can sometimes play to 55 on certain days, as he’s still developing consistent control of his off-speed offerings. His slider is still a third pitch, but it flashes 55 at times. The concern is that he’s throwing one pitch and, in the 2014 outing in the video, the velocity of it ranged from 82-91 mph, looking like a cutter, slider and a hybrid third pitch between them. He “accidentally” threw a 91 mph pure cutter one time in the outing that was plus, further underlining the arm talent but lack of feel for how to consistently spin the above average breaker that he clearly has in there somewhere.

What KATOH says:

Severino

The above percentages may not seem very exciting — a 39% chance of earning over 4 WAR doesn’t sound very impressive. But its important to remember that KATOH almost never hands out high percentages for anything other than making the majors, especially for innings thrown below the Triple-A level. What really stands out for Severino, though, are the projections on the high end.

A pitcher’s strikeout rate is the metric that’s most predictive of big league success, and Severino’s posted one of the better strikeout rates in the minors these past couple of years. Additionally, he’s done a good job of keeping his walks and homers in check, which is also a good sign for pitchers in full-season ball. Throw in that he’s done all of this while being somewhat young for his level, and you have a very exciting statistical profile, which lead KATOH to rank him third among pitching prospects with at least 200 batters faced last year, behind Julio Urias and Noah Syndergaard.

Future Outlook:

It’s pretty easy to get excited about Severino. His stuff makes him a potential top-of-the-rotation pitcher if everything breaks right, and he backs it up with an excellent statistical track record. He’s kept his FIP below 2.70 at every minor league stop since coming stateside; and most exciting of all, he’s done it while still learning how to be a pitcher rather than a thrower.

He’s the most exciting pitching prospect the Yankees have had in quite a while, but he’s also not without flaws. For one thing, his command is still something of a work in progress. While he’s made it work so far, major league hitters will be much more likely to capitalize on misplaced pitches. There’s also some concern over Severino’s physical build. At 6’0″, he’s smaller than most major league starting pitchers, which has lead some to question his ability to withstand a starter’s workload. Keith Law has also expressed concerns about Severino’s delivery, noting that he “can’t name an MLB starter who uses his lower half as little as Severino does.” While this’s a valid concern, its hard to deny what Severino did as a 20-year-old in the minors last year. 

With a slight build, fringy command, and a questionable delivery, Severino checks multiple boxes for the “future reliever” designation. But he’s simply way too good not to be tried as a starter, although that could change with a couple of injury-plagued seasons. In any event, Severino looks like a lock to be an effective big league pitcher, and could easily be ready to contribute in some capacity — as either a starter or power reliever — as soon as this August or September.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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