After being the first player selected by the New York Yankees in June’s Amateur Draft, left-handed relief pitcher Jacob Lindgren has ascended through the minor league levels at a rapid pace. Following an appearance in the Gulf Coast League, Lindgren blew through both Charleston and Tampa before landing in Trenton.
Lindgren made his Double-A debut for the Thunder on Wednesday, when he worked around a single to strike out the side. Dating back to his final outing with High-A Tampa, Lindgren has now recorded seven strikeouts in his past two innings pitched. Perhaps even more impressive, Lindgren has now struck out 33 of the 59 hitters he has faced since turning pro.
Lindgren’s first outing for Trenton has left an immediate impression with coaches who are seeing him for the first time, especially his pitching coach, Tommy Phelps.
“He’s got two plus pitches that he’s able to throw for strikes,” Phelps said. “He’s able to expand the zone. He’s got great stuff, so he’s able to attack the zone and get swings and misses.”
That “great stuff” Phelps refers to equates to a plus fastball and a dominant slider that may already be the best in the Yankees’ organization. Phelps walked away impressed with Lindgren’s ability to control the strike zone with both pitches.
“His fastball moves a lot,” Phelps noted. “It’s got some velocity behind it. And [he’s got] a really good slider.”
Lindgren insists that both pitches are still a work in progress, but indicated he would feel comfortable using either his fastball or his slider as an out pitch. One scout who say Lindgren’s performance on Wednesday revealed that both of the lefty’s pitches are nearly major league ready.
The Yankees appear to agree, and those two pitches could move Lindgren even further up the ladder by the end of the 2014 season. With left-handed specialist Matt Thornton leaving for Washington, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman named Lindgren as one of three minor league pitchers who could replace him when rosters expand in September. For Lindgren’s part, he tries to put that thought out of his mind and focus on his development and helping the Thunder win games.
“It's pretty crazy to think that the majors are right around the corner, but I just have to keep executing and take it one day at a time,” he said, “so I'm just pitching and going where they tell me.”
With such a quick rise through the system, Lindgren has had minimal time to analyze hitters at each level, but has noticed a trend as he reaches higher levels of competition.
“Each level I’ve gone up, the hitters seem to have more of a plan,” Lindgren said. “Maybe they lay off a slider in the dirt…older guys have more experience, and they know what to expect and maybe know what’s coming.”
Lindgren doesn’t let smarter, more advanced hitters faze him. Instead, he sticks to his game plan and throws what has worked for him for years.
“You’ve still got to execute your pitches the same,” Lindgren added. “The hitter still has to hit the ball.”
With the impressive display Lindgren has demonstrated through the first dozen games in his professional career, it is easy to see why hitters have had difficulties hitting the ball. At the rate he’s going, one scout believes Lindgren could serve as a late-inning reliever in the very near future.