Rays Prospect Mikey York on Pitchability (and the Ryan-Ventura Fight)

Mikey York was coming off Tommy John surgery when the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him out of the College of Southern Nevada in the fifth round of last year’s draft. It soon became clear that he wasn’t fully recovered. The Las Vegas native was shut down after allowing 16 runs in just 9.1 innings at Rookie-level ball.

This year was a different story. York didn’t take the mound until late June, but once he did, he was lights out. In 11 starts between short-season Hudson Valley and Low-A Bowling Green, the 21-year-old right-hander allowed just 36 hits in 61 innings. He walked 11 and fanned 53, and finished the campaign with a 0.89 ERA.

Along with a repaired ulnar collateral ligament, the promising youngster possesses big-league bloodlines. His father, Mike York, played 13 professional seasons and had stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians. Blessed with a feel for his craft and a bulldog mentality — Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux are role models — Mikey York aspires to follow in dad’s footsteps as a Tampa Bay Ray.


York on his repertoire and approach: “My biggest thing is that I like to command my fastball — throw it for strikes, get ahead early, work on the hitters. I like to get them off balance by mixing speeds, working inside and outside, changing eye levels. Most importantly, I let them put the ball in play.

“I command the ball pretty well, so I consider myself a pitcher as opposed to a thrower. Throwers throw pretty hard, and I wouldn’t say I’m a fireballer. I’ll be anywhere from high 80s to low 90s, depending on the day.

“I throw both a four-seam and a two-seam — mainly the four-seam — and also a curveball and a circle change. My father was a big two-pitch guy — he was just fastball-curveball — and hopefully one day I’ll have the curveball he had.”

On Tommy John surgery and last season’s struggles: “I was coming off an injury — it was my first year back from Tommy John — and I hit a wall. I was just out of gas. I lost my feel, and things just started going south. The Rays shut me down, which was probably the best thing they could have done.

“It’s hard to say why [the elbow injury] happened, but I it might have been because I jumped up in velocity out of nowhere. I’d never really thrown a lot of innings — I was always on a pitch count and an innings limit — and once I graduated from high school, I went from 84-86 to 88-92. That put a lot of stress on the elbow I wasn’t used to. I was also the same height I am now (6-foot-2) but only 150 pounds. I looked like a twig. Honestly, I don’t think I was strong enough to be throwing that hard. My muscles couldn’t handle it, my tendons… my ligament, obviously.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then. How much I weigh now kind of depends on the day — it depends on what I eat for breakfast — but I’m anywhere from 200 to 207.”

On his draft experience: “I had zero expectations for the draft. I always just wanted an opportunity to play, and it didn’t matter where it was or how much it was for. Whatever team wanted me the most was going to be the best fit for me.

“The only other teams… there were a lot of teams before the draft, but come draft day it thinned out. There were only four or five that seemed really interested — that we thought might draft me. I was pretty sure I’d sign with whoever it ended up being. My plan was always professional baseball as opposed to college.”

On two of his idols:Nolan Ryan has always been my idol. The dude threw flames. He was somebody that batters feared when he was on the mound. I mean, the [Robin] Ventura story is, like, one of my favorite things. The dude came right at him and he put him in a choke hold and started waling on him. That’s how I like to envision myself. I want to be that guy out there… ‘You can’t beat me; here’s my stuff. I don’t care how hard it is, try to hit it. I’m going to get you out.’ That’s how I picture Nolan Ryan.

“I’m a big Greg Maddux guy, too. I’ve gotten to know him in the offseason, what with him living in Las Vegas. I’ve been picking up on some stories he’s told me, and getting some pitching advice. I mean, that dude is smart. He was definitely out there pitching… and he was really good.”

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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