DRAFTED! Congrats to @Ken_Waldichuk who was drafted in the 5th round (165th overall) of the 2019 @MLB Draft by the @Yankees! Recorded 3rd-best ERA in SMC history in 2018 (2.05) & his 275 Ks are ranked 4th-most all-time. 1st player in the @WCCsports selected this yr.— Saint Mary’s Baseball (@SMC_Baseball) June 4, 2019
In the first five rounds, the Yankees took three pitchers. All three of them are lefties, including today’s subject, Ken Waldichuk. The Bombers scooped him up in the fifth round.
Waldichuk, 21 years old, hails from San Diego, California. He attended University City High School, also located in San Diego. Fun fact: Kyle Holder, the Yankees’ first rounder in 2015 also graduated from there, though his time did not crossover with Waldichuk’s.
Following high school, Waldichuk left home for St. Mary’s College, located outside of San Francisco. He spent his freshman season in the bullpen and pitched 45 innings in 22 appearances. His collegiate debut was stellar; he recorded a 2.00 ERA, 51 strikeouts, and 16 walks.
In his sophomore season, Waldichuk joined the Gaels’ rotation and was dominant. In 14 starts, the southpaw racked up 87 innings and boasted a 2.05 ERA. He fanned 118 batters and walked just 21. His performance earned him a spot in the Cape Cod League that summer with the Wareham Gatemen, where he dealt with some of his first tribulations in college. In five games (four starts), he posted a 4.91 ERA. The strikeouts were still there (9.8 K/9), but his control (3.4 BB/9) took a hit as compared to the season he had just finish with St. Mary’s (2.1 BB/9).
Waldichuk was solid in his junior year, but it was a clear step back from a season prior. In 87 frames, he posted a still solid 3.71 ERA. Again, not a bad outcome, but a decline from his sophomore campaign.
What do the scouts say?
There’s not much scouting information about Waldichuk on the internet, at least not yet. MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs left him unranked, but we do have some information from Baseball America (subs. required) and a brief comment from MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo in a moment.
BA describes Waldichuk as having the ideal pitcher’s frame: 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Sounds about right. His fastball sits in the low nineties but has touched 95 and is complemented by a slider, curveball, and changeup. BA calls his slider above-average and notes that his changeup has good fade away from right-handed hitters. Lastly, his curveball has “solid shape”. I wish there were a little more detail on the quality of his secondary pitches, but it is what it is.
Waldichuk is more of a control over command pitcher per BA. Lots of strikes, but not necessarily painting the corners.
Here are Mayo’s thoughts:
5th-rd @MLBDraft pick Ken Waldichuk gets $307K from @Yankees (pick 165 value=$309.5K). LHP from @SMC_Baseball has 6-4 frame and 94 mph FB that plays up w/lower slot. Stuff to start, would play up in pen.— Jonathan Mayo (@JonathanMayo) June 10, 2019
Now, why don’t we go to Waldichuk for a self-report? Pinstriped Prospects interviewed him and asked him to to do so:
I think I have a fastball with a good velocity that plays up with a high vertical break. I think I throw my slider pretty well with a pretty high spin-rate on it, I think that’s a pretty above-average pitch, and then I think that my changeup is a really good weapon against righties to keep them off of my fastball.
Signing bonus and what’s next
As you can already see from Mayo’s tweet above, the Yankees paid Waldichuk $307,000, just below his pick’s allotment.
Waldichuk made his professional debut last week for Pulaski, one of the Yankees’ rookie-level affiliates. He threw two innings and allowed four hits and two runs. The lefty also struck out two batters and didn’t allow a walk or a homer. He was on the mound again last night as well. There’s a decent chance he makes a cameo in Staten Island later this summer.
There’s a lot to like about Waldichuk. He’s well built to remain as a starting pitcher and seemingly has shot to develop into a fourth or fifth starter. I’d be thrilled with that outcome, especially for a fifth rounder in a draft that was relatively thin in terms of pitching.
Given his size, I’m not sure if there’s any more velocity the Yankees can squeak out of Waldichuk. Yes, the team is known for getting just about anyone to start throwing in the mid-to-high nineties regularly, but it will probably be tougher to do so with Waldichuk. That’s fine though in this instance; he already has enough in the tank to get by. And at worst, he’d theoretically throw harder in relief.
The command comment from BA doesn’t concern me, at least not yet. The fact that he is a strike thrower already is a good foundation to build upon. And if he never can harness his command, the bullpen is always a fallback option as Mayo tweeted.
As I’ve said ad nauseam in our draft coverage, it’s difficult to be upset about picks on day two or later. Just about all picks from that point on should garner an indifferent reaction, though I must say I’m intrigued by what Waldichuk brings to the table, even if he lacks a high ceiling.