Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list. 

It wasn’t the headlining Yankees-Marlins deal of the 2017-2018 offseason, but when the Yankees flipped Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith for international pool bonus money and a right-handed starter, they probably didn’t see things going this well. Mike King dominated his first season in the organization, showing the stuff and smarts that could carry him to the bigs.

The basics

Position: Starting pitcher
Throws: Right
Age: 23
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 210
40-man? No
Acquired: Traded to the Yankees along with international bonus pool money Nov. 20, 2017, for LHP Caleb Smith and OF Garrett Cooper. Originally the Marlins’ 12th-round pick in 2016 out of Boston College.
SWB ETA: 2019

2018 season

Named the Yankees’ minor league pitcher of the year. Climbed three levels, starting at High-A Tampa where he had a 1.79 ERA in 40.1 innings. Spent most of the year at Double-A Trenton, going 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA, then saved his best for down the stretch at Triple-A. He went 4-0 with the RailRiders and pitched to a 1.15 ERA. He allowed five earned runs on 20 hits in 39 innings, striking out 31 and walking just six. On Aug. 29, he worked six perfect innings against Syracuse before being pulled from the game at just 66 pitches.

Here are some videos of King:

Why 2?

Below, Donnie and I discuss why King lands at No. 2 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.

CF: So I put Loaisiga at No. 1 on my list. That doesn’t mean he’s my favorite prospect. This guy is. What Mike King did at Triple-A last year — it was flat-out domination. Weak contact. Weaker swings. Strikeouts when he needed them. No walks. Designs an intricate gameplan and sticks to it. He was so impressive.

DC: I ranked King No. 2 on my list, but I thought about him at No. 1 for most of the spring until…well, I’ll explain that tomorrow I guess. But I’d agree he’s my favorite player on this list too. He was so dominant last year, and his stuff is like nobody else’s. The movement he gets on his pitches is insane, and it’s not like he’s just firing fastballs up there and letting the movement do the work. He implements a gameplan almost to perfection. He’s a thinking man’s pitcher.

CF: He really started working on that glove side two-seamer — runs back across lefties’ hips and spills over the outside part of the plate for righties — and I think it did a world of good for him. The movement really plays up with the deception he gets from his delivery. He stands on the far side of the rubber, turns his back to the hitter, his foot lands past the other side of the rubber and then he throws across his body. I talked to one opponent after he faced King and he said it was crazy how tough it was to pick up the ball against him.

DC: If you pay attention to the radar gun or if you absolutely have to have a second offspeed pitch that is an out pitch, you’re not going to love King. I think that’s probably how the Yankees were able to get him from an organization that is desperate for big-time pitching prospects. But if you like approach and you like deception and you like the ability to keep hitters guessing, you should love this guy. His results are unmatched in this organization, and you’re right. Nobody looks like they get great swings off the guy. Ever.

CF: I think that’s why I ranked Loaisiga ahead of him, because yeah, King doesn’t have that outstanding secondary pitch. It’s funny, I was listening to a podcast with King, and the guy asked King what he’d say to people who say he doesn’t have a put away secondary pitch, and King said something like, “They’re right.” I won’t bet against him because of that kind of self awareness. He knows his strengths and shortcomings. He knows how he has to go about getting outs. I also think he’s got the kind of work ethic where he’s going to keep getting those secondary pitches better. Before last season, the Yankees let King go back to some mechanical things he had done in the past and it obviously worked, so who knows, maybe that leads to better secondary pitches, too.

DC: Here’s the thing: I don’t think his secondary pitches are necessarily subpar. His cutter moves opposite his two-seamer, which is important. His change is good. Slider has some depth. You know me. I don’t like doing the comps thing. But I used to love Mike Leake back in his younger days in Cincy, and I think Leake is a good comp for King. They both pound the bottom of the zone. They both had two-seamers with crazy movement. Leake has kind of lost his stuff over the years, but he’s a smaller guy than King, and I think he’ll be able to be a bulldog type for a lot longer. But even so, Leake has mostly been a serviceable big league starter, even after he lost a few mphs. I just keep coming back to the results with King though. I’ve only seen three pitchers have that kind of statistical dominance in Scranton. One was Joe Roa in 2002, and I to this day can’t explain that. He didn’t have great stuff, but for five months it never seemed like he missed a spot. Luis Severino was the second, and it’s obvious how he did it. King is the third, and I think he slots somewhere in the middle of having really good stuff and the knowledge of pitching and approach you need to have to get guys out. You made a great point: you see guys all the time who think what they’re doing is good enough, and it’s not. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and can avoid the latter while exploiting the former.

The list

15: Phillip Diehl  (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Clarke Schmidt
5: Deivi Garcia
4: Kyle Holder
3: Jonathan Loaisiga
2: Michael King
1: Sunday


Photo: The Times-Tribune