New York Yankees pitching prospect Domingo Acevedo is a mysterious guy. He signed at an older age for an international prospect (19) and has been hiding in the Rookie Leagues the past few years. Thus, it makes sense that all scouting reports I have read on him are fairly vague.
I needed to check out the intriguing arm myself. So, on Tuesday I traveled to Staten Island to watch the flame-throwing prospect start against the Batavia MuckDogs. Armed with media access, I was able to slip through the gates three hours before game-time and catch the entirety of Acevedo’s warm-up tosses and bullpen session.
What follows are my impressions on Acevedo's game right now and what kind of player he might be in the future. Two brief notes: at least ten scouts were here exclusively to watch Domingo pitch, so it’s possible the 21-year-old finds himself on a new team in a few days. Also, all quoted sections are taken from a post-game interview with Pat Osborne, the Staten Island Yankees manager.
Standing tall at 6-7, Acevedo certainly has the build of a frontline starter or imposing bullpen presence. Baseball Reference lists him at 190 lbs, but I think Domingo is quite a bit heavier than that. His brother, who was in the stands, told me Domingo had gotten a lot bigger since signing with the Yankees, so perhaps B-R is just a little behind on that. Anyway, from what I have seen, Acevedo’s looks close to fully maxed out physically. That’s okay. He does not need any more help in the velocity department.
Domingo’s pitching motion evokes images of Michael Pineda. He starts standing bow-legged, then unveils a leg-kick that points in the direction of second base before delivering the ball. One thing I like about Acevedo’s motion is his ability to get great extension using his legs. This picture of the righty warming up in the bullpen demonstrates that extension. Acevedo is very stable and strong throughout his delivery and was very balanced on his plant foot during my visit. His motion was pretty low-effort in his bullpen session, but then he really kicked it in gear during the game in a clear attempt to throw as hard as possible. If Domingo wants to start, he needs to learn not to throw at 100% strength every pitch. His in-game delivery is not sustainable or repeatable. Hopefully, patience is something that will come with age.
With a tall guy, that’s a lot of moving parts. Sometimes it can be tough for those guys to repeat their delivery. He does a pretty dang good job repeating his delivery. It’s the same every time. That’s what allows him to throw strikes. He’s got a good feel. This kid has a great arm, but he has a good feel for the strike zone. He just has to be more consistent.
Clearly the featured offering of Domingo’s arsenal, the 21-year-old’s fastball is already a plus-plus pitch. Not only can Acevedo reach triple digit velocity with the pitch, but he throws it with inside movement to right-handers that makes it extremely tough to hit when he commands the pitch.
And speaking of that command, it is actually not bad for a youngster who is so tall. I’ll admit, Domingo’s command was better in the bullpen session when he scaled back his delivery. But he does seem to have the ability to change eye levels with his fastball and throw it inside with confidence. I really like this pitch. It has the potential to be a 70 offering with just a tad more precision.
Acevedo’s slider has been tagged as a developing pitch, but it looked pretty good in my viewing. The righty definitely struggles to consistently throw the pitch where he wants it. Sometimes, he fails to get on top of the breaking ball and leaves it hanging up in the zone. However, in one at-bat, Acevedo threw three straight sliders (all at 82 mph) that started on the right batter’s left hip and finished on the outside corner of the plate. If he can do that regularly, and I think he can, this pitch has 55 potential.
He and our pitching coach Jose Rosado down in the GCL really tried to focus on his slider last year. But it’s coming. It’s close. Tonight it looked like it had a strong quickness to it. With a guy with that type of velocity, once that slider comes along he could be special.
Acevedo’s change-up did not really look like a special pitch to me. However, every report I’ve read on the Dominican books it as plus offering and manager Pat Osborne called it "his pitch". The change-up comes into batters at around 86 miles per hour, so it is a good deal slower than his heater. It appeared pretty flat to me, but I will concede that Acevedo throws the pitch with deceptive arm speed.
That makes it a tough pitch for hitters to pick up, especially at the lower levels. I only see this pitch as average on it’s own. But since Acevedo keeps consistent arm speed on both his fastball and his change-up, the pitch should play up to a 55-60 grade at maturity.
His Change-up has always been there. The change-up is always going to be a good pitch for Domingo. He has a natural feel for it. He is confident in his change-up. He can throw it any time. He can throw it to left-handed hitters.
With three above-average pitches, good command that should get better, and a pretty good feel for the game, Acevedo has the making of a very good starting pitcher. Ultimately, though, I think the 21-year-old will end up in the bullpen. He only threw 56 pitches Tuesday and was still described as "tired’ by his manager. And over the course of the game, his fastball velocity declined from 98-100 in the first inning, to 94-96 in the second inning, to 93-94 in the third.
The Yankees will rightly do whatever they can to keep Acevedo a starter as long as possible, (Osborne said after that game that "we see him as a starter"). But, at least in my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before he starts coming out of the bullpen. I do think that when Domingo moves to the a relief role he will be dominate opposing batters. Not many relievers have three above-average to plus pitches that they can throw for strikes. Acevedo has shutdown closer potential.