The last thing the New York Yankees need is another pitcher whose radar gun readings are just as intimidating as his stature on the mound.
Nevertheless, Domingo Acevedo is coming.
Since he's far from a household name for the time being, a proper introduction is in order. Acevedo is a right-hander from the Dominican Republic whom the Yankees signed for just $7,500 in 2012. He'll turn 24 years old on March 6.
What's so special about him? Oh, you know. He's just a 6'7", 250-pound behemoth with a fastball that's been clocked as high as 103 mph. Stuff like that.
The minor leagues have had trouble containing Acevedo's sheer might. Despite some early injury trouble, he's logged a 2.82 ERA and registered a 4.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five seasons. He started the 2017 season at High-A Tampa and ended it at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He's now on the Yankees' 40-man roster and with the big club for spring training.
It all adds up to a classic case of a prospect who's knocking on the door to The Show. The hard part, however, will be Acevedo actually getting through the door.
He's a starter by trade, as his one and only minor league relief appearance happened in the Dominican Summer League all the way back in 2013. In Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees already have five good starters. They might still add another via free agency.
The bullpen would be another place for Acevedo to go, but there's no "Help Wanted" sign there, either. Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Chasen Shreve and Adam Warren might be the best collection of relief pitchers ever assembled.
Besides, the Yankees may not be ready to turn Acevedo into a reliever just yet.
"I'm not even sure it's time for that conversation," Larry Rothschild, the Yankees pitching coach, told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com last July. "Right now, you develop him as a starter and see where that goes.”
This is partially owed to how much more valuable Acevedo will be in the long run if he makes it as a starter. But it's also related to how his pitching potential isn't nearly as clear as his throwing potential.
Between his size, fastball velocity and minor league numbers, Acevedo has all the familiar trappings of a top prospect. What's missing is widespread agreement that he is a top prospect. Bleacher Report has him ranked as only the Yankees' No. 6 prospect. Elsewhere, he's notably absent from the top 100s put forth by Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN.
The rap on Acevedo is that he's been slow to develop a trustworthy breaking ball. He's featured a slider that has some upside but which Rothschild referred to as a "work in progress" last July.
Another knock against him concerns how Acevedo throws the ball. He's not unlike many pitchers his size in that he faces a tall order in keeping his long limbs under control. And the sheer violence of his delivery makes his particular plight that much more difficult.
The silver lining is that none of this has stopped Acevedo from throwing strikes. He's walked only 2.4 batters per nine innings in the minors. That's excellent by the standards of young power pitchers.
However, there's a question about the precision of his strike-throwing talent. Another has to do with whether his mechanics will allow him to handle 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings on an annual basis.
Here's how Baseball Prospectus' Jarrett Seidler summed Acevedo up:
His delivery is violent enough that his arm could just fly off at any time. Although the overall command profile is fine, he's been pretty inconsistent at times. Of all the high-level Yankee pitching prospects with a reliever risk, he's the most likely to end up in relief.
It is still possible that Acevedo will succeed in toning down and becoming more consistent with his pitching motion. That would ease concerns about his command and durability, and could also be the missing link to an above-average breaking ball.
But then there's the other, arguably more intriguing possibility: Acevedo stays as is and the Yankees become convinced the bullpen is the best place for him after all.
This would be the best way to unlock the full potential of his fastball. "I prefer to keep it in my heart," he told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post about his ability to dial up 103 mph. But if he was asked to pitch exclusively in short relief stints, Acevedo's heart would presumably become more generous.
The rarity of 103 mph heat can't be exaggerated. Since Statcast came into being in 2015, there have been only 185 fastballs thrown that hard: 174 by Aroldis Chapman and 11 by Mauricio Cabrera.
You may be surprised to hear that Cabrera actually has Chapman beat in average fastball velocity since 2015. What really matters, though, is how hitters perceive velocity. That's where Chapman has Cabrera handily beat:
|Player||AVG FB Velo (MPH)||AVG Perceived FB Velo (MPH)|
This is a case where size matters. The 6'4" Chapman has an inch on the 6'3" Cabrera. Between that and the long stride in his delivery, Chapman releases the ball closer to home plate. That makes his fastball, which is plenty fast as it is, appear even faster.
Which brings us to the scary part: Acevedo is three inches taller than Chapman and also appears to take just as big a stride toward home.
In theory, Acevedo should be capable of equaling Chapman's currently unmatched perceived velocity. He has a puncher's chance of besting him, in which case he would supplant Chapman as the velocity king of the baseball world.
Kahnle and Betances are also masters of perceived velocity, and Green, Warren and Robertson have pretty good velocity of their own. So if the Yankees do ultimately bring Acevedo up as a reliever this year, the only thing in the universe with enough heat to rival that of their bullpen will be a supernova.
For now, the Yankees can be patient and see if he can join Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams and Albert Abreu as legitimate candidates to become long-term fixtures in the club's rotation.
If not, it's good to know that Acevedo could become an entirely different weapon sooner rather than later.