Last night I was on hand at Turner Field to finally see how New York Yankees top prospect Luis Severino looked in action at the big league level. I was actually in for a real treat as he and the Atlanta Braves 22-year old right-handed future star Matt Wisler went head-to-head in a fantastic six inning pitching duel.
As enticing a future that Wisler holds, Severino was the star of the show. I’m not here to give you a scouting report, because this was Severino’s fifth big league start. We know the skinny on him by now. I want to share some impressions on how that electric Minor League stuff has translated thus far in the big leagues.
The answer is extremely well. Saturday night’s start for Severino was more of the same. The 21-year old flame throwing right hander struggled with command of his secondary pitches early on, but his fastball was able to get him out of every jam he found himself in throughout the night.
Severino let up a leadoff single to Nick Markakis and issued a walk to Freddie Freeman a batter later, but was able to induce a double play and come out of the inning unscathed. The first inning was a prime showcase of Severino’s five starts in the big leagues. He struggled (I use that term loosely) trying to get batters to chase his slider and change up out of the zone.
He threw 13 pitches in that first inning, with roughly 50 % landing for strikes. Of those seven pitches he landed for strikes, six were fastballs, coming in consistently at 94 to 96 miles per hour. Of the six balls he threw, only one was a fastball, and that was barely up. It is important to note that Severino wasn’t wild per se. You could tell he was trying to paint the corners or get batters to chase low, and he was missing close. He simply still needs to hone his command of his full arsenal to land those pitches.
Severino was barely challenged, as he didn’t allow a runner past second over his six innings. One hard hit double by Adonis Garcia was the only "big" hit off of him, as the other three hits were soft singles. He did walk three, but again, he was able to rely on that fastball and some good defense behind him to get out of any real jams he was in all night.
He was responsible for one of those great defensive plays himself. Looking for his first 1-2-3 inning of the evening, Cameron Maybin hit a soft ball towards shortstop. Severino showed some of his athletic ability by diving to his right off the mound, and getting Maybin to end the third in order.
Severino seemed to get stronger as the night went on as well. His fastball was pounding the zone right between 94 and 96 for the first four innings, but he struck out Andrelton Simmons to lead off the fifth with 97 mile heat. Two batters later, he would hit 97 twice while striking out Markakis for an up and down inning. All in all, Severino tossed 88 pitches last night, and 57 landed in the zone. 64 % isn't a source of concern, but certainly can be improved upon.
Simply put, Severino is an exciting pitcher. When he got out of a six inning jam — runners were on first and second following consecutive singles to right field — he was fist pumping in his glove. It was clear that Severino has the moxie and desire to succeed on the big league level. He also has all of the talent in the world to do so, and the more he hones those secondary pitches and improves on that strikeout to walk ratio (last night’s was five strikeouts to three walks, and and he has walked at least three batters in each of his last three starts) the more exciting he will become. One thing is for certain: Masahiro Tanaka’s days as the ace of the rotation may be numbered.