20-Year-Old Right-Hander Dazzles Former Scout, Shoots Up Organizational Ladder

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A lot has been made of the Yankees’ farm system — or lack thereof.

But don’t tell that to the Bombers’ former head of pro scouting, Will Kuntz. He recently told Joel Sherman of the NY Post that the organization has what amounts to a can’t-miss prospect not far from the majors.

Luis Severino is not a household name among Yankee fans, but if Kuntz is right, he will be soon. The 20-year-old right-hander once made such an impression, Kuntz said you had to be there to really understand how good the kid was.

“There are times when you’re out scouting and you see a kid and instantly know that he’s a stud,” said Kuntz, who saw Severino pitch in Bradenton, Fla., back in March 2012. “I’d felt that way the year prior about (Pittsburgh Pirates prospect) Gregory Polanco when Stick (Gene Michael) and I saw him in West Virginia — you just can’t wait to get back to your hotel room and write him up.

“But to see it from one of our kids, who hadn’t gotten any pub anywhere? Borderline transcendental. It was one of those cases where I was legitimately anxious to get back in the car and call Cash (general manager Brian Cashman) and (assistant GM) Billy (Eppler) about it,” Kuntz added.

Severino throws in the mid-90s, with a nasty slider and vicious changeup. If that combination coming from a 5-foot-11 to 6-foot right-hander from the Dominican Republic doesn’t sound familiar, it should. While it may be too early to call Severino the next Pedro Martinez, the Yankees are fast-tracking him as if he could be. Three longtime Yankees executives called him the organization’s best pitching prospect in a decade, Sherman reported.

He made a combined 18 starts this season for Charleston of the South Atlantic League and Tampa of the Florida State League, the Yankees’ Class A affiliates, pitching to a 2.45 ERA and averaging 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He was recently promoted to Double-A Trenton, where he will pitch against the Binghamton Mets on Saturday, but likely won’t go any further this season due to an innings limit, Sherman reported.

Severino recently pitched in the Futures Game, tossing a scoreless inning. He drew rave reviews from many when he toyed with Texas Rangers power hitting prospect Joey Gallo, catching him looking with a slider after setting him up with two heaters and a change.

Kuntz, who is now Major League Soccer’s director of player relations, told Sherman even today, when looking back, he’s stunned by what he saw from Severino.

“I’m not one to get excited about one at-bat, but this was such a special combo of arm strength, ease of delivery, fastball command and quality to the breaking ball that there was no other appropriate response,” Kuntz said. “I’d seen two plus pitches with command … from a Yankee prospect.”

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