Yankees Top 30 Prospects for 2021: Ken Waldichuk (LHP, #27)
On the fourth day of looking at the MLB Pipeline Top-30 Yankees prospects we hit our first left-handed pitcher with another newcomer and a 2019 draft pick, Ken Waldichuk. A 2019 draftee from the 5th round, the left-handed pitcher already has a 4 pitch repertoire with 3 above average pitches, and if he needs to learn to control his pitches he’ll be rocketing up the minors soon.
(Skip to 2:51 to watch Ken Waldichuk; see Aiden McIntyre for more in Parts #2 and #3)
KEN WALDICHUK, LHP (#27):
Age/Date of Birth: 23 Years Old (01/08/1998)
Most Recent Team(s) (Level and Year): Pulaski Yankees (Rookie League, 2019)
Most Recent Yearly Statistics (2019, Regular Season): 10 Games Started (10 Appearances), 0-2 Record, 3.68 ERA, 29.1 Innings, 7 Walks, 49 Strikeouts, 0.89 WHIP
Height/Weight: 6’4”/220 Pounds
Acquired: Drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 MLB First Year Player Draft by the New York Yankees with the 165th overall pick.
MLB ETA: 2022
KEN WALDICHUK SCOUTING GRADES (20-80 SCALE):
What to Know:
Undrafted out of high school, Waldichuk attended Saint Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA; NCAA D-I West Coast Conference) where he had two lights-out seasons before a experimental junior year where he was working on adding velocity as a starter. He fell in the draft because of this, but his history showed good things going forward after a freshman year ERA of 2.00 (although mainly as a reliever) and a sophomore year ERA of 2.05 (mainly as a starter), though his junior year wasn’t horrible with a 3.69 ERA.
After being drafted, the New York Yankees sent him directly to Pulaski Yankees (ROK, Appalachian League) where he continued to work as a starting pitcher making all 10 of his appearances starts. However, coming off a junior year of college with 92.2 innings already under his belt, the Yankees did keep Waldichuk to a low number of innings per appearance as he got to just 29.1 over those starts.
Coming with a low 3/4ths arm slot that brings deception- especially for left-handed hitters- it comes about with a 4 pitch repertoire. Ken Waldichuk has changed his main fastball from a low-90 MPH two-seamer into a mid-90 MPH four-seamer (that can hit up to 97). Add along two breaking balls with a high-70 MPH curveball and a low-80 MPH slider that has scouts guessing which of two great secondary options is better. He also can mix in an average changeup with fade, but it’s currently his 4th best option.
What Will the Future Hold?
As he spent 2019 with the Pulaski Yankees in the now eliminated Rookie Appalachian League after coming out of college, there are likely two spots where Ken Waldichuk could end up: with the GCL Yankees with the now sole-Rookie League affiliate or with the Tampa Tarpons of Low-Single A. As with our #30 player in this series, I would encourage the Yankees to move him up to Tampa to start the season. He’s also supposedly on a fast-track to the MLB with a 2022 ETA even before having a full professional season of work, so it’d seem apt to test the waters quick with him and see if he can handle Tampa over a full season.
Even though he has a ceiling hovering around being a #4 starter in a rotation, I am a fan of the footage (albeit somewhat scarce) of how Waldichuk’s stuff moves. Though he does struggle with command, hovering around the zone that tends to be just a little too far outside, I do think he has a good shot to correct this with more reps in the organization. Though, I think a 2022 MLB ETA is a bit overzealous.