Under the Radar Yankees Prospects: Jordan Foley

Yanks Go Yard is combing through the New York Yankees minor league system in search of hidden gems in this ongoing series. Today, we look at starting pitcher Jordan Foley.

There hasn’t been much buzz about New York Yankees minor league pitcher Jordan Foley despite excellent results the last two seasons. He spent 2015 as a starter with Low-A Charleston, pitching to a 2.88 ERA while striking out an impressive 26.5% of the batters he faced over 90 innings of work. In 2016, the Yankees shifted him to the bullpen, and he thrived in his new role, bumping up his strikeout rate to 31.4% while posting a 3.03 ERA over 65.1 frames.

Although the switch was successful, it seems strange that the organization would switch Foley to relief work after such a strong season in the rotation, but there are two reasons to think he might be better suited to that role long-term.

First, Foley has struggled with serious control issues as a professional, walking 10.9% of opposing batters (4.2 BB/9) across his three minor league seasons. The move to the bullpen hasn’t helped Foley improve his control as of yet, but typically, a move to short relief can be helpful for guys who need to simplify their mechanics.

Second, Foley came into the year as basically a two-pitch pitcher, although in the second half of 2016 he actually made some changes to his repertoire. After the season, Foley told Patrick Teale of Pinstripes Plus (subscription required):

Earlier in the year I was more fastball-split, and the split kind of left me for a bit. We tinkered with a slider grip that really helped turn it into a pitch that I can use and that [eventually] turned into my number two pitch behind my fastball. If I was able to get ahead with the fastball I was able to put guys away with that slider. The slider became an out-pitch.

By the end of the year, Foley was still primarily using two pitches, but strangely he had shelved what had previously been seen as his best offering, his splitter. The emergence of Foley’s slider makes me wonder whether the Yankees shouldn’t take another look at him as a starter in 2017 now that he’s expanded his arsenal, but for his part, Foley sounds like he enjoys his new gig, telling Teale:

I liked it. I liked coming in high-leverage situations, getting the big outs, and helping the team win a ball game. It’s a little different mentality-wise. I like that mentality though, you come in, your adrenaline is pumping and you’re trying to harness that to use it the best you can, whether it’s coming in for an inning or two or sometimes even more, and just kind of letting it go. I think my mentality plays well into that role.

After a dominant finish with High-A Tampa, Foley will face more advanced batters in the upper-minors for the first time with Double-A Trenton next year. The 23-year-old righty could move quickly if things go well and is even a possibility for the 2017 Scranton Shuttle.

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