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MLB Prospect Review: Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees

Luis Severino went from a completely unranked prospect at the start of the season to a top 50 overall fantasy prospect and the likely top prospect in the Yankees' organization. What has changed, and what can we expect from Severino going forward?

Luis Severino of the Trenton Thunder
Luis Severino of the Trenton Thunder
Andrew Mearns (@mearnspsa) of Pinstripe Alley

Probably the most meteoric riser that appeared on our midseason top 50 fantasy prospects was Luis Severino, who was not ranked in the top 200 before the season, and, frankly, wasn't even in our top 10 for the Yankees only. Yet there he was, #48 in the midseason list. To give you an idea of how far away we thought Severino was from the top 10 for the Yankees, it's worth noting that we didn't even include him in the discussions for our top 10. With that though, the Dominican right hander has jumped into the picture for both the Yankees and fantasy owners, and that time could be coming sooner than previously anticipated.

Severino was signed as an international free agent at the end of 2011, and debuted with the Yankees' Dominican Summer League team in 2012. He produced a solid line that season (45 K, 17 BB in 64 innings pitched), but statistics from that level generally tell us even less than stateside minor league numbers. The Yankees moved him quickly in 2013, sending him stateside to the Gulf Coast League, and then to finish the year in full-season Charleston, their Low-A affiliate. The performance was solid again (53 K, 10 BB in 44 innings pitched), and early reports on how that performance was achieved led him to appear near the back end of the top 10 for both John Sickels and Baseball America this past offseason. Sickels had this brief note on him in his rankings:

Fast-rising right-hander showed mid-to-upper-90s fastball and improved slider and changeup along with very good 53/10 K/BB ratio in 44 pro innings (despite reports of shaky command). Just 20, could be some shiny-new-toy syndrome pushing him up lists ahead of guys closer to the majors, but he has legitimate mid-rotation potential, or could develop into a fine reliever.

While there was definitely some helium surrounding him at the start of the season, Severino went out and showed what made that helium last. He returned to Low-A Charleston to start his year, making 14 starts and throwing 67 innings before a promotion to High-A Tampa. That stop wasn't long, though, as he made just four starts before moving up heading to AA Trenton to finish the year. Overall, Severino finished the season with 127 strikeouts against 27 walks, allowed just 93 hits, and finished with a 2.46 ERA in 113 innings pitched.

The reports on Severino find a pitcher who uses three pitches, all of which have the potential to be at least average or better. His fastball is considered above-average to potentially elite, with mid-90's velocity that can be dialed up a bit more at times. Both his slider and changeup are expected to be at least useful offerings, with potential to be even better and capable of providing a decent amount of missed swings and weak contact. He gets a ton of ground balls (53% this season per MLB Farm), which definitely bodes well for his long-term outlook when combined with his repertoire and ability to throw his pitches for strikes.

The questions surrounding Severino coming into the season stemmed from whether Severino could stick in a rotation on a long-term basis, or whether he would end up as a high-leverage reliever instead. While the questions weren't extremely loud then, his performance this year has really cemented the likelihood that he will pitch in a major league rotation rather than the pen. He set a career high in innings this year, so the team may decide to try to build up his innings further in 2015 before using him in the majors.

In terms of ETA to the majors, Severino seems likely to return to AA to start the 2015 season, but could see time in the Bronx before the end of next year. Once in the majors, Severino has the potential to be a mid-rotation starting pitcher, both for the Yankees and for fantasy purposes, providing excellent ratios and a solid strikeout total.