Exclusive: Yankees’ Prospect Hayden Wesneskiby Carter LaCorte December 18, 2021 1 comment
The New York Yankees’ farm system had a huge season for development in 2021. After a 2020 without the minor leagues, the organization saw a ton of growth all over the farm. One of the many players to take the next step was Hayden Wesneski. Drafted in the sixth round in 2019, Wesneski struggled after turning pro. However, he roared back to a huge campaign, reaching AAA with an impressive strikeout rate and a 3.25 ERA across three separate levels.
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With the absence of a place to play competitively, training was all that minor leaguers had last year. Wesneski took advantage of it, raising his velocity in the process.
“We did a lot of velocity training. I had a little minor hiccup in my mechanics to address, I wasn’t using my lower half. I also developed using a four-seam, which I didn’t use in the prior couple of years [and] I was able to maintain velocity because of me being able to use my legs when I used to not hold velocity very well.”
Changes like this have shaped Wesneski into the pitcher that he is today. To make it to the major leagues, it could require even more adjustments. One major fix for him came in college when he was a pitcher for Sam Houston State. During his first two seasons for the Bearkats, he had just 114 strikeouts over 203.1 innings. That all changed thanks to a text from his coach.
“In the middle of my sophomore year, I dropped my arm slot down. I was struggling for a few weeks and my coach sent me a text message with Charlie Morton and he goes, ‘we’re going to throw like him.’ So I dropped my arm slot down and the ball started running more and for some reason, I could control it more even though it was moving more. In my junior year, I finally got an off-speed pitch. I got a slider. I had a sinker-slider combo and I finally had an out pitch.”
If you were to watch Wesneski pitch now, the tweak that he made in college wouldn’t be seen. Here is him then:
And now, during a AA outing in 2021.
So while the side-arm motion was a big help, he now has moved away from it.
“The slot change came with the use of the legs. For some reason, because I wasn’t using my legs, my slot was lower. Once I started using my legs, my back leg, in particular, my slot went up a little higher. [Changing my arm slot] was not an emphasis, it was a byproduct of what work I had done on my lower half.”
Morton had a big impact on Wesneski’s pitching, but as far as influence goes, Doc is up there.
“I like Roy Halladay, rest in peace. He was one of my favorite guys, just the way he got after it. [Halladay] was a workhorse. He ate innings up which is one of the things that I try to pride myself on because it’s not easy. Charlie Morton is probably the best one for an active player, but Roy Halladay is somebody that I did enjoy watching.”
Morton spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. Those are the very same Rays who drafted Wesneski in the 33rd round back in 2016. If there was ever the slightest hope in that organization that they would see the Houston native in the organization, that was shut down pretty quickly.
“I thank the Rays, I appreciate them. They saw something obviously. To be honest with you, there was no way that I was ready to be a man, to live on my own. I didn’t understand why they drafted me. I was a regular, right-handed pitcher who threw 88-90 [miles per hour]. I’m very grateful and glad that they drafted me, but at the time I just wasn’t ready for it.”
Analytics in Baseball
One thing that both the Rays and Yankees have in common (aside from being in the AL East), is that they both place a big emphasis on data-driven content. For a prospect rising in the New York organization, data is everywhere.
“They are that way. There’s an either ‘you love it or hate it’, and there’s definitely a middle ground. The Yankees do a little bit of both. They are very analytically driven, and also understand that there is a human side to it. They understand that analytics don’t speak to everything. In order to fix something, it may be mechanically driven. We use them because it keeps tabs on what’s going on. It tells you what the issue is and what you need to work on and make it as unbiased as they can, which I do appreciate. You don’t want to get passed up because someone likes them more than you even though you have better stuff. It basically just shows how consistent are you or the symptoms of what is going on and what you’re doing wrong.”
Former Teammates… Future Rivals?
The Sam Houston State baseball team has not just produced Wesneski in the past few seasons. With the fifth overall pick earlier this year, the Orioles selected infielder Colton Cowser, who crossed over with Wesneski for the Bearkats in 2019. The elder of the two gave a glowing recommendation for MLB Pipeline’s 76th best prospect in all of baseball.
“He’s a great human being. He’s goofy, he loves baseball. He has really quick hands and he can hit any pitch without any real weak spots. He’s really good with hand-eye coordination where he can hit for contact and he definitely has power.
On the Recent Jump
After posting a 4.01 ERA over 15 starts for the AA Somerset Patriots, the Yankees gave Wesneski the call to AAA for three outings. This new assignment struck some nerves but was not a huge burden.
“I was not nearly as nervous as I was moving from High-A to AA. The difference is every level jump. I was definitely nervous, as I only knew a few people. It’s ‘big boy’ baseball. There are some older guys in there that are getting paid really good money to play baseball. This is the next step on your road to the big leagues, but to say that I wasn’t nervous would be a lie.”
— DST Performance (@DST_Houston) February 5, 2021
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Main Image Credit: via Pinstriped Prospects