Though they’ve both been sent down, the Yankees called up a pair of players who spent a lot of time in their system before making their Yankee debuts: Adonis Rosa and Brady Lail. As they each hold crucial 40-man spots right now, here’s a look at what Rosa and Lail bring to the table as well as how they got here.
Rosa, 24, was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 and made stateside debut in 2015. Though he has already been eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft, he’s stuck in the system and has gotten this opportunity after five years in the states.
He didn’t quite show it during his MLB debut, but the right-hander was rated as having “Best Control” in the Yankees’ system by Baseball America after the 2017 season. Still, he’s never been a top 30 Yankees prospect by BA or MLB.com despite the control and 80-grade name.
As you may have seen Tuesday, Rosa has a fastball that tops out in the low 90s while working in a curveball and slider. With a quick end to his motion that could deceive hitters, that may help the fastball play up as he got two swings and misses on it in his debut. The slider was his most effective pitch, getting three whiffs.
“I take away the experience,” Rosa said of his debut. “I take the experience of pitching at this level and knowing that if I was able to get those guys out, it lets me know I’m able to do this.”
The right-hander hasn’t quite spent as much time as Lail in the leadup to his MLB debut, but he’s been a steady riser in the Yankees’ system. He made eight starts above Single-A in 2017-18 (six with Scranton) while finding success in the lower minors in and out of the rotation. In the lower Minors, he limited walks and home runs while getting an adequate number of strikeouts, sporting an ERA under 4.00 in all of his main assignments.
This season, the 24-year-old has pitched well while challenged in Trenton and Scranton. Weirdly, he has a better ERA (3.45) in Scranton with the MLB baseball than in Trenton (4.60), though his FIPs are essentially the reverse in nearly equal innings. Thanks to the home-run happy IL, his home run per nine innings reached one for the first time since 2015 in Pulaski. His strikeout rates have been generally around 20 percent while his walk rate in the mid-single digits outside of his Trenton stay.
Rosa has both started and worked following an opener, starting just nine times in 21 games. Still, he’s thrown 87.1 MiLB innings and has handled his assignment in the upper Minors well. He hadn’t allowed a home run in three straight Scranton starts before his call-up. He doesn’t keep the ball on the ground (he did, after all, give up a homer Tuesday), but he’s been dependable in 2019 anyway.
Lail finally gets to wipe away the title of career Minor Leaguer after his 2 2/3 innings of work Monday evening. The right-hander has been in the Yankees’ system for the last eight years, selected in the 18th-round in 2012. Though drafted late, he got a $225,000 signing bonus to eschew a commitment to Arizona and sign out of high school.
That 2012 draft hasn’t produced all that much for the Bombers. Ty Hensley was the first-round pick, 30th overall, while second-round pick Peter O’Brien was first selection to make the Majors, albeit not with the Yankees. For the Bombers, Rob Refsnyder, Nick Goody and James Pazos made the show, while Corey Black, Caleb Frare and Dietrich Enns were traded, as were some of the above names.
That no one on the current roster is still around from that draft speaks to how long its been for Lail. It took him very little time to shoot up the Minors, reaching Triple-A for the first time in 2015, then still a starting pitcher.
However, Lail reached a barrier in Trenton and Scranton-WB. His strikeout rates dwindled while his walks went up, making his peripherals poor over time. He only made Baseball America’s top 30 for Yankees’ prospects once, ranking No. 22 in 2015 after he first reached Scranton.
“Evaluators both internally and externally praise Lail for his intelligence on the mound and pitchability. His arsenal starts with a fastball in the 88-92 mph range … He backs it up with a sharp curveball in the mid-70s as well as a changeup.”Baseball America on lail in 2015
Lail has found a few more strikeouts after his move to the bullpen in 2018, though he’s still thrives off pitchability. He re-signed with the Yankees as a Minor League free agent after last season and made three appearances in Spring Training. This season, he’s had his highest ever K-BB rates since rookie ball in 2013, all without too many home runs considering the change in baseballs.
In his Major League debut, his fastball topped out at 93 mph on his first strikeout while he averaged 91.6 mph.
And he’s changed as a pitcher in the four years since that Baseball America evaluation. Of his 46 pitches on Monday night, 21 were fastballs while 19 were changeups, using that aforementioned curveball just once. The changeup got four swings and misses with the fastball forcing two.
Lail likely isn’t a long-term option for the Yankees and could be excised from the roster by Sept. 1, let alone the offseason. That doesn’t change the wonder of an MLB debut for someone who put in as much time as he did in the Minors, and makes Monday night quite special.