A Fresh Start Is Just What Yankees Pitching Prospect Clayton Beeter Needed

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Beeter was a promising pitching prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization when he was first featured here at FanGraphs midway through the 2021 season. He’s now a promising prospect in the Yankees’ system, having been acquired by New York early last August in exchange for Joey Gallo. A 24-year-old right-hander whom the Dodgers drafted 66th overall in 2020 out of Texas Tech University, Beeter is coming off of a season where he logged a not-so-impressive 4.56 ERA at a pair of Double-A stops, but also 129 strikeouts in 77 innings. Possessing a power arsenal, he’s a hurler with a high ceiling.

Command has been Beeter’s bugaboo. The Fort Worth native walked 5.4 batters per nine innings last year, and his career mark as a professional is 4.7. Much for that reason, our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen feels that Beeter profiles best out of the bullpen, where he would feature a fastball that “has big carry thanks to its backspinning axis.” Eric has likened the action of Beeter’s best pitch to the one thrown by Tampa Bay Rays reliever Nick Anderson.

Beeter believes that he can remain a starter, and the Yankees appear to want to give him that opportunity. They loosened the reins on his pitch count after trading for him, and not only was that welcome news for the young right-hander, but it also had a positive effect on his walk rate. After issuing 35 free passes in 51.2 innings with Double-A Tulsa, Beeter issued just 11 walks in 25.1 innings with Double-A Somerset.

Beeter discussed the deal that brought him to Yankees, and what it could mean for his future, at the end of the 2022 season.


David Laurila: Let’s start with the trade. How surprised were you?

Clayton Beeter: “Everyone knows it’s a possibility to get traded, but no one really sees that actually happening. That’s kind of the way it was for me. My pitching coach with the Dodgers had asked me the week before if the deadline was weighing on me, and I was like, ‘Not really, I don’t think I’m getting traded at all.’ Then, sure enough, I’m riding in the car to a road trip, and Twitter starts blowing up with my name on it. It happened.”

Laurila: Surprise aside, what was your reaction?

Beeter: “I was sad to leave, because I had some really good friends over there, but I’d also been feeling a little… I guess ‘stuck.’ I kind of needed a fresh start, and that’s exactly what happened. I was actually really excited to move teams.”

Laurila: What changed besides the organization you’re playing for?

Beeter: “I think the most important thing for me, the way I see it, was that when I got to the Yankees, they immediately told me, ‘Hey, you’re going be a starter and we’re going to build you up to 90 pitches by the end of the year.’ That’s what I had hoped to do all season, but the Dodgers had different plans. I was really excited about that. I started building up and was throwing five innings for the first time in my career by the end of the season.”

Laurila: Is that what you meant by feeling a little stuck?

Beeter: “Yeah. I was doing the same thing — 50 pitches every outing — and was getting pretty tired of it. I kind of wanted a different direction. I got it, but in a different way than I was expecting.”

Laurila: You were drafted two years ago. Do you know how much interest the Yankees had in you at that time?

Beeter: “I think they were very interested. I actually played summer ball for one of their area scouts, Bill Pintard, with the Santa Barbara Foresters, and he called me right away. He said, ‘Hey, man, I’m so excited. We wanted you in the draft but couldn’t get you. Now you’re finally here.’”

Laurila: Did the Yankees make any suggestions regarding your repertoire?

Beeter: “Not really. The first week it was kind of them just letting me pitch and seeing what I’m working with. I was successful, so they didn’t want to change much. I guess the only difference is that they… first of all, they led me to start throwing my changeup again, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I’ve been developing it since college, and it’s just kind of been in my back pocket. The Yankees want me to throw it. They also told me to pitch off my fastball a little more.”

Laurila: The fastball has always been a big pitch for you.

Beeter: “Yes, but I’ve also had a really good breaking ball and kind of fell in love with that when I was with the Dodgers. Right before I got traded, I was down to something like 40% fastballs. After I got to [the Yankees], it was up to maybe 55%.”

Laurila: Is that part of the reason why your walk rate went down?

Beeter: “I think so. I really focused on getting ahead with the fastball. Establishing my fastball also helps the breaking ball.”

Laurila: What about any mechanical tweaks?

Beeter: “I actually started doing a lot less mechanical work. With the Yankees, it’s more usage-driven and stuff-driven. About a month in with them, I actually had to kind of go back and start working on some of the mechanical stuff that helps me stay good. But as far as actual tweaks, not really.”

Laurila: Is your breaking ball is still a curveball?

Beeter: “So toward the end of the season I started differentiating, throwing a slider and a curveball. But it’s really the same pitch. I just throttle back for the curveball, and when I throw it harder, that’s my slider.”

Laurila: The Yankees are known for teaching a sweeper.

Beeter: “I actually had a conversation with them about that. I didn’t want to learn the sweeper yet, and they didn’t want to teach it to me yet. I don’t think there are any plans for that, unless for some reason my breaking ball doesn’t keep working like it has been working.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts on going from the Dodgers to the Yankees?

Beeter: “Maybe just that I’ve revamped my focus. Being allowed to throw more pitches helped me go into games not only trying to limit runs, but also trying to win the game. When I was only throwing 50 pitches, I would have to go out there and try to strike out eight guys in three innings just to get noticed. And when you’re trying to strike everybody out, you’re usually going to walk more people. That’s not really the right way to pitch. Having a higher pitch count allowed me to focus on pitching, not just trying to strike everybody out.”

Laurila: At the same time, you’re still going to be a power pitcher.

Beeter: “I am. It really just boils down to being in the zone more and trusting that my stuff is going to get them out. You can be a power pitcher without trying to strike everyone out.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

I suspect Beeter is not the only Dodgers pitching prospect who might be a bit annoyed at how conservative LAD is with their arms in the Minors. Even their top SP prospects are stuck well under 5 innings a start, with pretty strict pitch counts. Nobody is really built up as a starter, most guys are treated as MIRP more than anything.

It’s an interesting dynamic if you get drafted by LAD, because the Dodgers are terrific at figuring out what guys do best from a biomechanical standpoint and designing an arsenal based on that, so you’re gonna get the best of the data-based approach to player dev… but you’re also not likely to get a chance to build up starter innings and pitch counts. It encourages guys to hunt for K’s to get noticed, because why pace yourself or pitch with context in mind when you’re maxed out at 50-70 pitches?

Great job as always, by the way.

Last edited 1 year ago by mariodegenzgz