SSTN Top 15 Prospects: Why I Ranked Medina and Sikkema So High
Luis Medina and T.J. Sikkema – Future Yankee Stars On The Mound?
Today, and every Monday and Wednesday at 10:00 AM EST, we continue our series on the SSTN Top 15 Prospects. For those of you who haven’t read that post yet, I strongly encourage it. In today’s installment, we’re going to talk about why I am so much higher on Luis Medina and T.J. Sikkema than my peers.
For reference, here is the list of all of our writers’ rankings:
Individual Prospect Rankings (Click To Enlarge)
And here are the SSTN Top 15 Prospects:
SSTN Top 15 Prospects
There was certainly some consensus that Luis Medina was a very good prospect, but there was a lot of variability in how our writers ranked Luis Medina. T.J. Sikkema was only listed on 3 of our writers’ ballots, although he did make an appearance on the Honorable Mention list. Obviously, I was the high man on both players. In truth, I may be the only person writing on the internet that ranks Luis Medina among the top 3 current Yankee prospects. So, what gives?
As far as prospects are concerned, as much as I like prospects with seemingly defined performance floors, I get excited by really loud tools. To me, in order for a player to be among the top prospects in a system that is as deep as the Yankees’ farm system, there needs to be some likelihood that a player can reach the ceiling indicated by their tools, but the tools need to just shout out at you. For me at least, two prospects in the Yankee system meet that threshold better than any other: Jasson Dominguez and Luis Medina.
It is rare to see a pitcher that has 3 plus pitches. Not 1 plus pitch and a couple of solid offerings, but 3 pitches that stand on their own. Medina has that in the form of an easy fastball that touches 100 MPH, a severe breaking ball, and a change-up with depth and proper velocity separation at its best. Watching Medina from a pure stuff perspective, it’s hard not to fall in love with him as a pitcher.
The knock on Medina has always been his control. Prior to 2019, control was a non-existent part of his game. However, we have some evidence that the tide is turning on that score. Over the 2nd half of 2019, Medina put in his best stretch on the mound as a professional, showing adequate control while ripping through A-ball lineups. Small sample size obviously applies, but we hadn’t seen another instance where Medina could control the baseball previously.
We also have visual evidence that change may be on the way. Medina has a very athletic delivery, lending one to believe that he should be able to find consistency more often. I have posted this before, but I thought one particular sequence in a Spring Training game against the Red Sox in March was eye-opening. Check it out (skip ahead to 1:33:46 if the video doesn’t start there):
Here we see Medina fall behind to a Major League hitter, Jackie Bradley Jr., 3-0. In the past, this would have been a lost at-bat, as Medina would have either walked Bradley or grooved one down the middle, allowing hard contact. Instead, Medina worked the count back to 3-2, throwing fastball after fastball to the edges of the zone. Finally, on the 9th pitch of the at-bat, Medina put JBJ down with a truly wicked breaking ball to end the inning. That one sequence provided evidence that Medina’s progression is for real, and he could be this year’s fast-riser through the system.
Sikkema is a prospect who is just starting to garner further attention. Sikkema’s tools are not quite as loud as Medina’s but he has more going for him than meets the eye. After signing, Sikkema steamrolled opposing lineups in a brief stint with the short-season Staten Island Yankees. Sikkema was nearly unhittable as he mowed down opposing hitters with ease. More importantly though, Sikkema’s fastball is up a tick from his college days, reportedly hitting as high as 96 MPH on the radar gun. Sikkema also has above-average secondary and tertiary offerings, mixing in his slider and change-up to great affect.
The attribute I like the best about Sikkema is his pitchability. In an era where we see many pitchers at all levels of the game become more mechanical and repeatable with their deliveries, Sikkema is a bit of a throwback, mixing and matching arm angles to deceive opposing hitters. I love pitchers who can throw off hitters by changing it up on the mound, and it allows Sikkema’s stuff to play better than it looks in a bullpen. You can see why Sikkema is an uncomfortable at-bat in this video:
The Yankees have a lot of talented arms in the system, and many of them were ranked highly by our writers. I just think that Sikkema is more likely to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter than many of the other pitchers in the Yankee system.
At some point during our series, I’ll talk a little bit more about some of the other guys on my list and my Honorable Mentions, but I thought it was important to address my obvious differences from the other rankings. Be sure to check in again on Monday and Wednesday next week for more about the SSTN Top 15 Prospects!