Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Meet the Undrafted Free Agents That Became the Newest Yankees

The MLB First Year Player's Draft was reduced from 40 rounds to just five rounds here in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, severely limiting the field and the number of amateur players that would begin their professional careers. Those undrafted in the five rounds this year were eligible to be signed by any team for no more than $20,000. Every team is expected to pick up multiple undrafted free agents this summer, especially now that the 2020 season is now a reality, and the Yankees are no exception to that. The team has already signed Elijah Dunhman, whom we met earlier on the blog, but there were a few more names that have inked Yankees contracts since the Draft... so let's meet them all too.

Carson Coleman (@Carson_Coleman) is a RHP out of the University of Kentucky. Coleman is a right-handed relief pitcher that may be on the fast track to the Bronx as early as 2020, or mid-2021. I won't count out 2020 because this year has been insane. Weirder things have happened. Coleman has three years under his belt with the Wildcats and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 33rd round of the 2019 Draft, but did not sign. In a pandemic-shortened 2020 season Coleman posted a 3.18 ERA in just six games, 5.2 IP, while striking out 13 batters (20.6 K/9) and walking just one on the way to a 0.882 WHIP. Coleman never started a game for the University of Kentucky, nor the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League, so the right-hander is a pure reliever at this point. Not to say that the Yankees won't attempt to convert him into a starter (Chance Adams and others come to mind as recent examples of this), but it appears for now Coleman may be a part of the Scranton Shuttle sooner rather than later.

Ocean Gabonia is a right-handed pitcher out of Everett Community College. Gabonia is looking to be the next hidden gem that we are all talking about in 5-10 years that found his way to the Major League Level after going relatively unnoticed prior to his drafting. I don't mean that as an insult, Gabonia himself said that he was "surprised" by the signing, but also stated that he is ready to "chase his dreams" with the New York Yankees. Gabonia is not yet 19-years old and has a ways to go in terms of physical development, currently standing 6'1" but just 175 lbs. Gabonia is limited in experience as he is yet to pitch in the Cape Cod League or an equivalent. Gabonia was throwing just 84 MPH fastballs in 2019, but improved his velocity to 88-89 MPH while topping out at 91 MPH at a preseason Northwest Athletic Conference showcase last year. The Yankees like Gabonia's "live and loose arm," his mechanics, his makeup on the mound, and his passion and heart for the game while he is on the mound. The next Mariano Rivera? Unlikely, but wow this could be a great story for Gabonia and the Yankees alike.

Trevor Holloway is a right-handed pitcher out of the University of Central Florida. In two seasons, including the shortened 2020 season, Holloway has started a total of 10 games for UCF posting a combined 5-1 record in 49.1 innings pitched. Holloway posted a 2.01 ERA in 2019 and a 1.19 ERA in 2020 while striking out 66 and walking only 21 batters. Holloway is an advanced metrics driven pitcher that possesses a 90-92 MPH fastball that matches up well with his slider and curveball. Holloway is certainly a project for the Yankees and their minor league development team, but given the current state of the game and the draft it almost makes no sense not to take a flyer on a guy like Holloway. While he has had pitching arm injuries in the past, for example a biceps injury ended his 2019 season prematurely, for $20K you take the chance of finding lightning in a bottle. I, for one, am rooting for Mr. Holloway in pinstripes.

Connor Pellerin was also signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane University. Pellerin is the 5th college right-handed pitcher that the Yankees signed after the draft, but Connor may throw the hardest out of them all. Pellerin spent the bulk of his time at Tulane as a relief pitcher, meaning a fast track to the Bronx could be in the works. Pellerin fits the "mold" that the Yankees like when drafting or signing a pitcher. The RHP is an intimidating presence on the mound standing 6'4" and weighing in at 210 pounds. Pellerin will be 21-years old next month and is coming off an impressive 2.25 ERA in six relief appearances during the shortened 2020 season. Pellerin compiled a 4-4 record with a 5.67 ERA over 55 collegiate appearances (two of them as a starter) allowing 54 hits and 75 walks (maybe his biggest gating issue en route to the Bronx) and 94 strikeouts in 74.2 innings pitched. Pellerin has a mid-90's fastball that can touch as high as 97 MPH with a solid, average slider. Pellerin's lack of a third pitch will likely keep him in the bullpen, as well as his lack of control. Control can be worked on and fixed.

The final UDFA the Yankees signed that we will talk about on this post is a right-handed pitcher out of BYU that goes by the name of Jarod Lessar. Lessar has pitched for two seasons with BYU after losing his freshman season to Rheumatoid arthritis. As a Sophomore, Lessar was throwing 92-MPH fastballs which offered him the chance to play for the Cougars professionally. Lessar posted a 3-2 record with a 4.44 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 48.2 IP as a Junior. As a Senior, Lessar appeared in five games, four starts, with 15 strikeouts in 16.1 IP in a shortened season. Lessar grew up a Yankees fan and even wore the #13, the number of his favorite player Alex Rodriguez. Lessar, the starting pitcher, possesses a low-90's cutting fastball to go with a slider, a curveball and a changeup as well. As a reliever, though, Lessar drops his repertoire to just a fastball and a slider with his heater touching 94-95 MPH. Lessar played football, not baseball, for much of his High School career and lost his freshman year, as we stated earlier, so his development is still in the "raw" stage. Don't expect Lessar to fly through the ranks, but that doesn't mean he won't get to the Bronx. His makeup is there and so is the stuff, he just has to stay healthy and put the work in.

To all the recent draftees and UDFA signings, welcome to the family. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)