Scouting the Yankees’ Return for Brian McCann

The Yankees acquired two high-octane arms from Houston in exchange for veteran catcher Brian McCann today in right-handed pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman.

Abreu is the main piece for New York, a somewhat undersized (on paper, anyway) righty with absolutely electric arm speed that he produces with little effort. Abreu’s fastball will sit in the low- to mid-90s, usually 91-96, and touch as high as 98. He has well below-average command of his fastball (and the rest of his repertoire) right now but the ease of Abreu’s delivery allows for considerable projection in this area, though of course it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll develop starter-level command.

Abreu’s secondary pitches are also promising. His curveball, an upper-70s hammer, is already consistently plus and used heavily against both left- and right-handed hitters. His changeup is inconsistent but projects to plus because of the arm speed is so deceptive and devastating when he releases one properly. Abreu also has a slider in the 83-86 mph range and he has some nascent feel for it, but its shape can get slurvy. It’s well behind his other three pitches both in present usage and future projection.

There are some scouts who worry that Abreu will be a reliever. He has issues repeating his release point, which has lead to inefficient strike-throwing, and some scouts wonder if Abreu has the frame to handle 200-plus innings. While his on-paper measurables (6-foot-2, 185) are unspectacular and below the prototypical 6-foot-4, 190 scouts prefer from righty starters, Abreu’s lower half is huge and his hips/thighs/butt carry a significant, torque-generating load in his delivery. Control/command development is certainly going to have to come, but I have no concerns about Abreu’s ability to start because of a perceived lack of physicality.

Abreu finished the 2016 season at High-A Lancaster and is likely to begin 2017 with High-A Tampa in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He’ll be about 2.5 years younger than the average FSL regular, as he only turned 21 in September. He could taste Double-A by late next summer and conceivably be in the big leagues as an inefficient, half-baked starter by sometime in 2018. It’s more likely that he debuts sometime in 2019. Houston signed him for just $185,000 during the 2013 July 2 International Free Agent period.

The secondary piece in this deal is RHP Jorge Guzman, who mowed through the Gulf Coast League this summer before moving on to the Appalachian League in August. Guzman touches 102 with his fastball but usually sits 95-97. He’s an average athlete and his secondaries (a slider and change) and command are extremely raw, 30s on the 20-80 scale right now. Most scouts to whom I’ve spoken about Guzman consider him a future reliever.

Now is a good time to mention that the Yankees have had recent success at developing arms within their system. Scouts have seen upticks in velocity from the likes of Chance Adams, James Kaprielian, (the departed) Rookie Davis, and others under the umbrella of New York’s player-development system. Internal pitching development is quickly becoming one of the organization’s core competencies. The raw material they’ve acquired in this deal, while carrying some risk due to proximity to the majors and command issues, adds considerable weight to what was already one of baseball’s best farm systems.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Nice write-up Eric. Its incredible to me that a guy that is 6’2″ might be considered to be too small to shoulder a starters load. Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver were “only” 6’1″… and starters today don’t come close to the IP levels that those guys threw in the 60’s-70’s.

I’m 6’5″… and I’m treated like a freak half the time… people CONSTANTLY ask about my height. Its astonishing to me that 6’4″ is the “baseline” for starting pitcher consideration today.