Yankees Must Roll the Dice on Top Pitching Prospect Luis Severino

Anthony Witrado@@awitradoFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2015

Mar 3, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (91) throws a pitch during a spring training baseball game at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Times have changed for the New York Yankees.

They can no longer bully with their bank account—or at least they are opting not to—because too many other teams have money these days. They cannot rely on the trade market to find their missing pieces because they are missing too many. And in their new age of not wanting to throw around money and choosing to grow their own players, they should not empty their farm system in order to acquire major league talent.

The Yankees are in the playoff race, though. That means they also can't sit back and do nothing while their competition works the trade market. The Yankees must find help from within, which translates to finally tapping the top of their rebuilding farm system.

Luis Severino is the top of that system. He entered the year as Baseball America's No. 35 prospect and has done nothing to hurt that rating. In 14 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, the 21-year-old right-hander has a 2.54 ERA. In six starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA, and while his strikeouts are down in those six outings, his run prevention has been better.

Considering the Yankees rotation went into Tuesday with a 4.43 ERA (13th out of 15 American League teams), a 3.88 FIP (seventh) and a 6.4 FanGraphs WAR (sixth), it needs help. It is filled with question marks, and the pitchers who actually have definitive answers attached to their arms aren't giving the answers the Yankees want.

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Knowing that, now is the time for the Yankees to call on their system. Now is the time to give Severino the ball, which he can bring at 95-97 mph with ease. The team's clubhouse certainly would not mind.

"I'd love to see Severino get a shot up here," one Yankee told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post on Monday.

The Yankees went on a spending spree on the international free-agent market and have done well in recent drafts, building their farm system into something respectable rather than barren, as it used to be. It would be detrimental to the organization's long-term plan to use its newfound prospects to make a blockbuster trade, which is likely what it would take to land a frontline arm this month since so many teams are looking to buy.

"Their system is a lot better. Dramatically better," a scout told Joel Sherman of the New York Post last week. "They have come a long way in the last year."

The Yankees don't need to raid the system to find outside help; Severino is primed to bring the help himself. He has a history of being a good-control, high-strikeout starter in the minors. Through nearly 300 innings over four seasons, Severino has nothing left to prove outside the big leagues.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a call for Severino to join the bullpen when closer Andrew Miller went on the disabled list with a forearm strain. At that time, general manager Brian Cashman said the team was not ready to make that move, but also said he's open to using his best options.

"If they're the best option to help us, whether they're a starter, and the best option for the pen, then I'm open to any of that stuff," Cashman told David Lennon of Newsday.

Well, Severino is the best option. He is the best option right now. And he is a better option than some of the arms currently pitching in pinstripes.

"I love the stuff, the poise, the feel for pitching and the ability to throw down in the zone," another scout told the Post's Sherman. "There is zero doubt he is better than guys who are in the [Yankees] rotation now."

All prospects develop at different speeds. Timelines vary, as does success in the majors. But those things will never change. Keeping a prospect in the minors an extra year does not guarantee productivity at the next level, and bringing him up sooner than anticipated does not ensure his growth will be stunted.

Michael Pineda
Michael PinedaDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press/Associated Press

In recent years, promoting prospects at around legal drinking age has given us some of the game's best players, including Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg and the Yankees' own Michael Pineda when he was with Seattle.

The Yankees have a need. They are in a dogfight in the American League East, and the Tampa Bay Rays have shown in the past that quality pitching can shut down juggernaut offenses. And because the Yankees don't need to worry about cost control—they can afford arbitration—they can promote a player like Severino when he is 21 and with 60 minor league starts to his name.

"He's really good," another scout told the Post's Kernan. "I just wish the Yankees would trust their young players a little more."

The Yankees wanted to rebuild their farm system for good reasons. They no longer wanted to rely on external help. They wanted to grow their own and watch them blossom into major league stars.

Now it is time to trust the process. Now it is time for Severino to boost the Yankees' postseason run.

All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.