A prospect who was relatively unheralded entering the season, Luis Severino has exploded on to the national scene during his breakout 2014 campaign. I attended his two most recent outings, Sunday at Harrisburg and last Tuesday against New Hampshire, and will offer my thoughts on his performance, tools, and potential below. It should be noted that Severino was on a pitch count during both of these outings and threw a combined 5.2 innings, so I was not able to evaluate things like the ability to hold velocity deep into the game and the quality of his arsenal as he tires.
Severino is listed at 6’0", 195 pounds but appears taller and stronger than that. He has a solid present build with long limbs and some room to fill out. Any further concerns about his relatively small listed height are diminished by his delivery, as Severino stands very tall throughout the motion and features a high 3/4 arm slot. For this reason, he is able to generate good plane when he works down in the zone; much more than the average pitcher of his listed height.
The delivery itself has a bit of Yordano Ventura in it, in the sense that he stands very tall, has a limited follow through, and a short stride. Severino generates momentum through a quirky leg kick and explosive hips and then transfers it well to his loose arm which features plus armspeed. Out of the stretch, he keeps his leg kick very small, likely losing a bit of momentum but his times to home are quite good in the 1.1 to 1.2 range. He didn’t show a pickoff move, but with those times to home any decent defensive catcher should be able to throw out a high rate of basestealers.
Severino’s fastball hit as high as 98, but he sat comfortably in the 93 to 95 range. The offering featured good life at the higher velocities and good arm side run at the lower velocities, but was effective throughout. He was very aggressive with the pitch, attacking hitters in all quadrants of the zone and challenging them to hit his best heat, which they often could not. His command of the pitch was solid, especially for a young pitcher with plus velocity. This is already a plus pitch, but if he can tighten his command a bit more this offering could become even better. Grade: 60/70
His best offspeed offering was an 83-85 MPH changeup, which featured good arm side run and was sold extremely well. Opposing hitters had a very difficult time distinguishing it from the fastball and he was able to generate frequent swings and misses and weak contact with the pitch. One minor concern is a bit of inconsistency, as he slowed his arm down and tried to place the pitch a few times, but this is not unusual for a young pitcher and not frequent enough to cause significant concern. This is an out pitch that will be very effective at the Major League level. Grade: 60/65
The third offering is the 83-85 MPH slider, which shows flashes of being an above average pitch but is far too inconsistent at present. When thrown well, it has sharp two-plane break and generates swings and misses, but Severino threw far too many flat sliders over the plate in my looks. Apart from one fastball down the middle that Dalton Pompey crushed, the slider was the only pitch opposing hitters were able to square up. Consisteny of this pitch will go a long way in determining his future role, and so even though presently plays below average, it could be a third effective weapon in due time. There is a large gap between present and future grades with this offering, and I believe it will ultimately grade at or near its potential as a plus pitch. Grade: 40/60
Severino possess solid-average command and decent pitchability. He certainly enjoys blowing fastballs by hitters but also shows some ability to work a hitter and engage in the 95 MPH chess match. He was a bit more erratic in the second look, throwing 57 pitches in 2.2 innings, but was able to hit a spots often as well. I was also pleased with his ability to establish in fastball inside to right handed hitters, sometimes even off the plate. He repeatedly threw to that spot and was able to hit it with regularity.
Additionally, I was able to see Severino react after running into a bit of trouble in each outing. In the first look, he was displeased after surrendering a two run home run to Dalton Pompey and was angry in the second look after leaving a hittable slider over the plate then falling behind in the count to the next hitter. Both times, however, he was able to turn his anger into positive energy and retire the next batter and often with a spike in velocity. That’s a good sign for his competitiveness and makeup, neither of which I see no reason to question.
Severino is a very good prospect with three potentially above average pitches who should occupy a spot in the Yankees’ rotation soon. I would like to see him develop more consistency with the slider before moving him up, but he is getting close to a finished product. I think the slider will improve and be a weapon at the Major League level, but even if it is stagnant Severino could be a very good late innings reliever without it. That’s a good high-floor, high ceiling combination that should excite the Yankees and their fans. His breakout is real and I believe Severino is here to stay.
There are a few different future outcomes for this player, so instead of just doing a present and future grade I will offer a floor, a ceiling, and a most likely outcome.
Floor: Set Up Man
Ceiling: Number Two Starter
Most likely: Number Three Starter
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Dan Weigel, whose hobbies include driving long distances to watch Double-A games, is a contributing writer at Minor League Ball and Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @DanWiggles38.