Tag: TJ Sikkema

2022 Yankees Top Prospects List Roundup

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Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, and MLB Pipeline have all published their 2022 Yankees top prospect lists. FanGraphs (top 38) and MLB Pipeline (top 30) go deeper into the system, while Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus stick to a top 10 list (with mentions of others who missed the cut and would be top 30 guys anyway). Today, I’ll take a look at these lists and make note of a few things that caught my eye. Let’s get right to it.

The obvious choice at #1: Anthony Volpe

All four sites agreed that Volpe belongs at the top of the organization’s list, and for good reason. In spite of not being the toolsiest prospect in the organization, “Volpe might have had the most impressive all-around performance of any prospect in 2021” according to Baseball Prospectus’ Jeffrey Paternostro. No kidding: the 20 year-old shortstop hit .294/.423/.604 (170 wRC+) in 513 plate appearances in stints with Tampa (Single-A) and Hudson Valley (High-A).

Starting pitching: Significant depth and prospects in the pipeline [2021 Season Preview]

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If you read my piece on the Yankees’ pitching depth last week, you know that the team is pretty deep in starting pitching. Sure, some of those pitchers have their warts, but there are also a number of viable options to pitch out of the rotation. Pitchers break — they always do — so it’s best to have a lot of them. By midsummer, the Yanks may have nearly a dozen major league caliber starters. Yes, some far better than others, but that’s a lot of insurance.

Today, it’s time to preview the organization’s starters. Not just those who’ll see major league time, either. Like my catcher preview or Dom’s corner infield breakdown, I’ll dive into the starters down the rungs of the minors.

A formidable front four

It’s awfully exciting to have a full season of Gerrit Cole ahead of us. In that sense, he still feels like a new addition to this team. I know we saw him for 12 regular season and 3 postseason starts in 2020, but there’s nothing quite like having a bona fide ace for 30-plus starts and 200 innings. And that’s what we can expect from Gerrit this season: a workhorse who could easily win the American League Cy Young award.

If there’s any uncertainty regarding Cole in 2021, it’s his battery mate. As you know, Kyle Higashioka became Cole’s personal catcher by last September. Cole had better numbers with Higgy behind the plate, and given Gary Sánchez’s struggles offensively, it was an easy decision at the time. This year, the Yankees are hoping to pair Cole and Sánchez, and understandably so. Ideally, the two mesh and Gary mashes once again.

After Cole is when folks start getting nervous, which I can understand. What’s a soon-to-be 35 year-old Corey Kluber going to look like after two injury-riddled seasons? How will Jameson Taillon rebound from his second Tommy John surgery? Will Jordan Montgomery‘s results catch up to his peripherals? And so it goes. No, this isn’t a rotation for the risk-averse. But at the same time, how many other big league rotations are full of sure things?

Draft Profile: TJ Sikkema


As part of the return for Sonny Gray, the Reds sent the Yankees a competitive balance draft pick. On Monday night, the Yankees used that pick, 38th overall, to select TJ Sikkema. Let’s get to know him.

Background

Sikkema, a stocky (6-0, 221 lb.) left-handed pitcher hails from Iowa. He wasn’t drafted out of high school, but built up his prospect status after heading to the University of Missouri. He was a jack of all trades for the Tigers; Sikkema started and relieved throughout his collegiate career.

Turning 21 in July, Sikkema just finished off his best season in school. He pitched in 17 games, 13 of those starts, and owned a minuscule 1.32 ERA in 88.2 innings. He struck out 101 batters, allowed 54 hits, walked 31, and allowed just four homers. His first two collegiate years were solid as well, but he took a big step forward this year particularly in the hits allowed column.

Although his junior year was impressive, his performance in the Cape Cod League last summer helped raise his profile. He threw 31.1 innings across five starts and recorded a 1.72 ERA. His strikeout total wasn’t high (23), but he only walked 8 and didn’t give up any homers. That’ll do.

What the scouts say?

Sikkema isn’t regularly a hardthrower. MLB Pipeline has him sitting 89-91 with his fastball, though he can reach back for 95. Fangraphs has him a tad higher, sitting 90-94 topping out at 95 while also praising his pitchability. That said, the Yankees’ player development department has a penchant for getting guys to throw harder. Don’t be shocked if Sikkema sits in the mid-nineties at some point in the next year or so.

The southpaw relies on three pitches and will throw them at different release points. His heater has has good sink and tailing action on it, but his slider is his best pitch. Per MLB Pipeline, Sikkema’s slider is high-spin offering which is something the Yankees covet. Additionally, he’s able to throw variations of the pitch, ranging from 78-83 on the gun with different breaks. Baseball America (subs. required) actually calls one version a slurve and the other a more traditional overhand curveball. His changeup isn’t anything special, but it sounds like it can and will be a usable pitch.

Based on his skillset, the consensus is that Sikkema could get to the major leagues quickly as a reliever. That said, he has a chance to be a reliable back of the rotation starter too. How do the Yankees plan to deploy the lefty? Here’s Damon Oppenheimer, Vice President of the Yankees’ Amateur Scouting Group (bold emphasis is mine):

Sikkema has a unique ability to throw from different angles,” said Oppenheimer. “He’s got plus stuff, he throws it for strikes, and the guy’s a real ultimate competitor. He really gets after it on the mound. He can probably get to the big leagues quickly as a reliever, but we see him as a starter. When you can get a guy who pitched in the SEC with success, it goes a long way.

Signing bonus and what’s next

It didn’t take long for Sikkema to officially join the organization. He signed for slot money on Friday. That amounts to $1,952,300 to be exact, but there could be some give or take. I had thought that Sikkema might get a little less than slot, but what do I know.

Anyway, anyone who lives in the Tri-State area might have a chance to see Sikkema pitch this summer. I anticipate him starting off in the New York-Penn League with Staten Island. Their season opens this Friday and we should hear about the rosters very soon.

As reports insinuate, Sikkema could be a quick mover. I wouldn’t expect him to advance above Staten Island this summer, but he could be in Double-A by the end of next season if all goes right. Perhaps he opens with High-A Tampa in 2020 and earns a promotion to Trenton.

My take

I think there’s a lot to like about Sikkema, especially pairing him with the organization’s player development team. For now, it sounds like he can get by with his low 90s fastball and secondary stuff, but if the Yankees can add a couple more ticks like they’ve done with so many other hurlers, look out. That could bring his floor from a middle reliever role to perhaps a higher leverage bullpen option. Further, it also might raise his starter upside from back-end to middle of the rotation.

I’m fine with the Yankees trying Sikkema out as a starter, but in today’s game, I wonder if his best value would come as a reliever even if he developed into a borderline third starter. Either way, relief is a good fallback option to have. There’s no need to hurry him through the system in the next year or two in order to get bullpen help; it’s doing just fine in the Bronx.

The Volpe selection comes with risk, so I’m pleased that they followed up with someone deemed safer like Sikkema. Even if that’s just as a bullpen arm, it’s something. I hope he signs quickly and get some reps in Staten Island this summer so I can see him pitch.

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