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What do the New York Yankees have in Domingo Acevedo?

20 JUN 2014: Domingo Acevedo of the Yankees in action during the Gulf Coast League game between the Gulf Coast League Tigers and the Gulf Coast League Yankees 2 at the Yankees Minor League Complex in Tampa, Florida.
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

Chance Adams’ fast rise in the New York Yankees farm system has been Internet fodder for several months. Not to be overshadowed, Domingo Acevedo has paved himself a path all the way to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in just two months.

The Yankees have gotten aggressive the past two seasons with Acevedo. He jumped from Charleston to Tampa last season, and has already jumped two more levels to Triple-A this season. His Triple-A debut was far from perfect. That said, it showed the promise that makes him a special prospect.

The Yankees signed Acevedo out of the Dominican Republic for a mere $7,500 bonus in 2012. The righty has grown since his debut season, getting taller — he’s now an intimidating 6 feet 7 — and heavier, now weighing 240 pounds. The Yankees were attracted to the big flame-thrower, and the additional growth has only added fuel to the proverbial fire.

While Acevedo has always been a hard thrower he has also learned to pitch. Despite a climb up the minor league ladder marred by injury, there is no denying that Acevedo has taken the steps in transforming from a thrower to a pitcher. That doesn’t mean his command is pristine, nor that durability concerns have been erased. But Acevedo has come a long way in a short time.

Last season, Acevedo really came into his own. Eight starts in Low-A Charleston proved too easy for him. His fastball — which regularly hits the high 90s and has clocked as high as 103 mph — was too much for the young hitters of the South Atlantic League. He posted a 0.96 WHIP, struck out 48 and walked seven over 42.2 innings.

The improvement was overwhelmingly noticeable.

02 OCT 2015:      Domingo Acevedo of the Yankees during the Florida Instructional League (FIL) game between the FIL Yankees and the FIL Blue Jays at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photos by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

(Photos by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

“He’s a power guy,” then-Charleston skipper Luis Dorante (who now managers the Pulaski Yankees) told me. “Acevedo used to throw hard a lot, and not so much around the zone. This year he was a different guy. He was around the zone more. He toned it down more, used his velocity to throw strikes.”

The Yankees quickly jumped Acevedo to High-A Tampa to finish 2016, but two trips to the disabled list limited him to just 10 starts. The numbers were still in line with his improvements as he struck out 9.66 per nine and walked 2.68 per nine.

Acevedo began 2017 back in Tampa, and had an odd start to the season. He was more hittable than he had ever been (a career-worst .290 opponents batting average), but he was also victim to an unlucky .393 BABIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratios were still in line of a flame-throwing strikeout artist with developing command.

Once he got to Double-A, Acevedo dominated. His stay in Trenton was brief, just five starts. He went 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. He walked a microscopic 0.8 batters per nine, just three over 33.1 innings. The Yankees wasted little time getting him to Triple-A.

There are two ways to look at Acevedo’s Triple-A debut on Friday against Buffalo. You can say he was overwhelmed, reverting to the wild pitcher he once was. Or you can say, despite his failing command that night, he showed an ability to get out of jams.

Acevedo threw 104 pitches, 62 for strikes. He walked more batters (five) than he struck out (four), but at the end of the day, the big righty went seven innings. That is something special in today’s game, especially considering he only allowed three hits and one run. Acevedo’s biggest foe in that game was his command, and when he controlled it, he looked OK.

The now-23-year-old is a peculiar case. His fastball is all the rage, but he has a nice changeup. His ever-improving slider is still his weakest offering but is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was when he started. Add in a delivery with a lot of effort, and Acevedo has all the making of a reliever.

Yet the Yankees continue to stretch him out and, more important, Acevedo continues to succeed. He has thrown seven or more innings five times this season, and has gone at least six innings another four times. He has eclipsed 90 pitches in eight of his 13 starts. The numbers are certainly there, with a 3.09 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and an 87-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 81.2 innings. And this season, he has been able to stay healthy.

Perhaps Acevedo will prove the doubters wrong and evolve into the starting pitcher the Yankees need. CC Sabathia is off to a strong start but at his age he is an injury liability. Masahiro Tanaka’s nagging elbow injury has rendered him inconsistent and unreliable. While Adams is an impressive piece, the Yankees could surely use the help of more young starting pitching.

Like Adams, Acevedo is not on the 40-man roster, which means someone will have to go should the Yankees decide his time is here. That is highly unlikely in the near future. But the Yankees’ aggressive approach and his continued success in the face of adversity leads one to believe that it might be time to believe Acevedo could become the starter the Yankees hoped he would become.

*****

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