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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Trade Target, Volpe's Swing, And A Surprise Prospect!

It's nice to feel good about Spring Training. I mean that, because this feels like the first "normal" Spring Training in a long time. Think about it: 2020 and 2021 were marred by the pandemic; 2022 was the ongoing labor dispute that caused a strike; and last season was the WBC. Last week, I posited the opinion that the Yankees were out of shape in 2023, and a large part of it was the lack of veteran leadership for much of the off-season. But you know what? I think it's equally plausible that a truncated Spring Training due to the WBC had something to do with it as well for many guys. Nestor first hurt his calf working out at home, likely ramping up too soon to get ready for the WBC. Likewise, I wonder how true that was for other guys as well.

This year feels more normal. Most everyone is in the "best shape of their lives." Ridiculous? Of course! But at least it follows the normal rhythms of Spring. I wish more Spring Training games took place at night when I could see them, or that the video clips that MLB kept were a little more than a split second of the action. It would be really great to be able to break down more video for all of you, but alas, the video I've been able to obtain doesn't show everything I need for that kind of analysis. Still, we've got some stuff to work with, so everything that's supposed to be fun about Spring Training is fun again.

As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll discuss the merits of a particular trade target, analyze Volpe's swing, and talk about a prospect that has surprised many! Let's get at it:

Oscar offers the following trade target: Jack Leiter.

My, my how the star has fallen. Jack Leiter was billed as a "can't miss" prospect by much of the media, given how he plowed through the competition at Vanderbilt. However, there were always some questions about his control, as he often nibbled on the edges of the zone in college, with very good as opposed to exceedingly good stuff. Leiter has a great fastball, but really shows no feel for any of his breaking pitches, which he'll need to start. He remains an excellent athlete who keeps himself in great pitching shape, which gives him a better chance to get his mechanics, with which he's struggled since turning pro, back on the right track.

However, his performance has been ugly as a pro, beginning at AA Frisco, with a quick look at AAA Round Rock. These are notoriously awful places for pro pitchers to pitch, and even more awful for someone just beginning their pro career, so Leiter probably deserves a little slack on his bottom-line run prevention numbers, which are terrible. The longball is an issue, in part because the only pitch he can really trust is his fastball. His breaking balls rarely land for strikes, but the quality is just good enough frequently enough to get swings and misses with his slider.

Leiter is a tough profile. If Texas traded him now, they would clearly be trading low. They've invested a high pick in Leiter, and they'll need homegrown talent to add to their current core over time, so I don't think they'd be interested in dealing Leiter for anything other than what I would consider an overmarket offer.

Regardless of Leiter's current struggles, I think he is a relatively sure thing as a reliever, in the least. I remain skeptical of his ability to start given the lack of ability to even control a breaking ball, never mind command one. He needs to be able to land one of his breaking balls for strikes, and he's shown no ability to do that in two years as a pro. Can he figure it out? Sure, the talent is there, but the risk goes up with every month he doesn't get it straightened out. Leiter is a talented guy with high relief risk, and real risk that he's a homer prone reliever, which limits his value even further.

I'd certainly be interested in Leiter as a reclamation project, but I would expect to pay at that rate; I don't expect Texas to agree.

Vic asks: Aaron Judge and coaches have talked a lot this offseason about the changes Volpe is making to hit to all fields. Have you seen any changes in his swing so far in spring training? Do they resemble the changes you recommended earlier this offseason? What do you think about how his swing looks?

This is going to seem like I'm ducking the question, but unfortunately, I have not been able to watch one of Volpe's at-bats live yet this Spring, and when I've looked up Spring highlights for Volpe, I'm getting shots as the pitch has already been released from a bad camera angle, which cuts down on the video's utility. I really did try to give a better answer to this question, but there are a couple of things I noticed.

  • I need to see more video, but it looks like Volpe went in a very different direction with his swing than what I recommended, but that doesn't make it bad. Volpe appears to maintain a closed stance with a short leg kick, but his bat, rather than making an exaggerated load, is loaded upfront in his swing, creating a really short path to the baseball. This gives Volpe a bit more time to make a swing decision. It will almost certainly cut down on Volpe's power output, but putting more balls in play this year will help Volpe choose when to load up a bit more in fastball counts.

  • Unfortunately, the only contact I've seen is weak opposite field contact. It's early, so I don't put much stock in it, but it is an observation. He needs to be able to make hard contact against fastballs, and at least slap breaking balls.

  • It's a powerful load with a short bat path, at least what I can tell; it's an interesting combination I'd like to see more.

Brian asks: Can you give me one very under the radar prospect who is turning heads this spring? Like someone we haven't talked about.

Yeah, and stop me if you've heard this before: the Yankees have helped a pitching prospect add two grades to his fastball since drafting him. His name is Jackson Fristoe, drafted by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of Mississippi State (a school they seem to continually draft pitchers out of, anecdotally). Fristoe is a big righty with a prototypical build: 6'4, listed at 210 pounds, but is likely heavier than that now (in a good way). When he was drafted, he was sitting in the low 90s and peaking in the mid-90s, which is where he lived as a high school prospect as well. He has started in short stints in his minor league career, but his future appears to be in the bullpen, as he lives on a fastball and cutter/slider combination, without a real off-speed offering to speak of.

By the end of last season, Fristoe had climbed to the mid-90s with his fastball and was clocked as high as 98 MPH; supposedly Fristoe showed up to camp throwing even harder. With a clear future in the bullpen, Fristoe might be able to rise quickly through the minors. An extra grade or more on his fastball makes Fristoe a potential premium bullpen prospect, possibly nudging him on the periphery of the Top-20 Yankee prospect conversation. The Yankees have proven they can help pitchers add velocity, and it appears they've done it again. Jackson Fristoe is a name to watch.

2 comentários

01 de mar.

Interesting read. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for more info on Fristoe.

Andy Singer
Andy Singer
01 de mar.
Respondendo a

Thanks! Yeah, it was a quick note at the end of an article in the Athletic a week or so ago, and I've done a lot of digging into him. He's very interesting with more velocity.

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