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With 60% of their rotation on the IL (injured or COVID), the Yankees turned to young righthander Luis Gil to step into the rotation. And, if you’ve been paying attention the past few weeks, you’ve seen that he has been marvelous. In 2 starts, he has thrown 11 innings without allowing a single run and only walking 3 batters total. Here is how good his first two starts have been:
He has become must-watch television, so, let’s get to know him in preparation for his start against Boston this afternoon.
- Position: SP
- Born: 06/03/1998
- Bats: R
- Throws: R
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 185
The lean 23 year-old righty was signed for just $90,000 by the Twins from the Dominican Republic in 2015. He was acquired in what seemed to be a minor trade in spring 2018 when the Yankees traded outfielder Jake Cave for him.
The Story So Far
Gil’s career got off to a rocky start due to shoulder surgery in 2016 that kept him out the entire year. He spent all of 2017 in the Twins rookie ball affiliate throwing 41.2 innings across 14 starts with a strong 27.7% K rate and a less-than-desired 11.3% walk rate. Batters hit a weak .204 against him leading to a 3.34 FIP.
The Yankees started him out in rookie ball as well, where he upped his K rate to a staggering 35.8% while the walks remained at 15.4%. He ended the 2018 season with the low-A team making 2 starts for them.
In 2019, Gil moved his way up to A ball and high-A ball making 20 starts. In those 96 innings across two levels he pitched to a 2.72 ERA striking out 123 and a far-too-high 47 walks.
After being sequestered at the alternate site for 2020, the Yankees bumped Gil up to AA to start his age-23 season. He made 7 dominant starts there where he struckout 38.5% of batters faced while walking a better 10% of them. That got him a promotion to AAA where in 8 starts, he struggled pitching to a 5.74 ERA and 5.91 FIP. The K’s were down to 27.7% and the walks back up to 16.8%. Despite clearly needing more time to adjust to AAA, Gil was called into action for the Yanks on August 3 against Baltimore and again on the 8th against Seattle. In those two starts, he has a 0.00 ERA, 1.45 FIP, 2.38 xERA, 32.6% K rate and 7% walk rate. Dominant. Enjoy some video:
As you’ve undoubtedly seen watching him and in that video, Gil dominates with his fastball. MLB Pipeline gave it a scouting grade of 75 out of 80, and ranked it the best fastball in the Yankees system. In his two starts, he has thrown the heater 54% of the time, and it averages 96 mph with an elite 2,450 rpm spin rate. For reference, that would rank him 17th in baseball, just behind Gerrit Cole. Thanks to elite velocity and movement, Gil has a strong 35.2% whiff rate on the pitch. Gil clearly uses the north-south approach to throw his heater up in the zone.
We’ve written extensively about the necessity to locate four-seamers up in the zone, and that is what Gil has done thus far through two starts. Notably, see the lack of fastballs wasted way above the zone. That tells me a lot about his fastball command.
Gil’s main off-speed pitch is his slider, which he throws 34% of the time. That pitch has a 2,500 rpm spin rate and a 28.6% whiff rate. Unlike his fastball, Gil does not have great command of his slider as seen by this pitch plot:
For the north-south approach, you would expect Gil to consistently throw his slider down in the zone and below the zone to get swings-and-misses, but it is clear that is not what is happening. Interestingly, Gil uses his slider early in the count to try and steal strikes, throwing it nearly 33% of the time as a first pitch to hitters or in 0-1 counts. His count breakdown tells an interesting story:
Gil’s most common put away pitch is actually his fastball, followed by the slider. That data combined with the slider pitch plot tells the story of a young pitcher who has control but not command of his slider. He can throw it for strikes but he struggled to locate it well within and below the zone. Take another look at that slider pitch plot and notice how there are virtually none in the bottom right quadrant which is exactly where you want to throw a slider.
Gil’s third pitch is a changeup which he uses barely 12% of the time. It functions more like a sinker since he throws it at 93mph.
From a scouting perspective, it is clear Gil’s room for growth is with his off-speed pitches. Honing his slider command and gaining trust in the changeup will cement Gil as a starting pitcher moving forward and a key cog in the Yankee rotation.
As you might imagine, Gil is all over the Yankees prospect lists. He is 6th on the preseason MLB Pipeline list, 12th according to FanGraphs, and 5th on the recently updated Baseball America list. Here is a snipped of the MLB scouting report:
Gil has higher-octane stuff than most starters, beginning with a fastball that operates at 95-98 mph for several innings at a time and regularly reaches triple digits with significant riding life up in the strike zone. He made progress last year with his power breaking ball that features slider velocity in the mid-80s and sometimes has more of a curveball shape. He also has a hard changeup that parks around 90 mph with fade and sink, though it lacks consistency.
Gil generates premium velocity with relatively little effort but has difficulty harnessing his stuff. He reduced his walk rate to a career-best 4.2 per nine innings in low Class A in 2019 but will have to throw more strikes and continue to refine his secondary pitches in order to make it as a starter. His live arm potentially could make him a closer if he winds up in the bullpen.MLB Pipeline
That scouting report jives with what we have seen thus far from Gil. Elite fastballs, developing breaking balls, and question marks about his control.
Based on his two starts, I’d say Gil has earned the right to stay in the big leagues, at least above Andrew Heaney. Granted, it’s just been two starts against middling offenses. Today against Boston will be a huge test for Gil. No matter what, this year has been an unmitigated success for Gil. Even MLB Pipeline didn’t think he would reach the big leagues until next year.
The biggest thing to monitor with Gil is the walks. They have plagued him throughout his minor league career, and although they haven’t been an issue in his 2 starts, I worry once the league figures him out they could be a concern. The scary parallel is what is happening with Deivi García. After consistent walk rates of 11% in the minors, he came up last year and only walked 4% of batters. People thought he turned the corner, yet he is now walking a career high 16% of batters down in AAA. That is why I am cautiously optimistic about Gil and will continue to monitor his walks going forward. For a guy who hadn’t thrown above A ball before this year, it is a huge accomplishment for Gil and the Yankees pitching development staff that he is in the big leagues having success. So let’s all enjoy the young stud pitching the Yankees towards October glory.