Dumb move or desperation? Yankees gamble on 17.61 ERA Colby White puzzling

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John Allen
Friday May 10, 2024

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The New York Yankees claimed Colby White off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday and subsequently assigned him to their Double-A affiliate, as per the team’s announcement.

While the team is hoping that their recent acquisition, will become their latest success story in the realm of pitching development, the 25-year-old right-hander White, who was previously pitching in Triple-A, had been struggling with his command over the past two years. The Yankees believe that a change of scenery and a less pressurized environment may help Colby White regain his form and get back on track.

Before his Tommy John surgery in April 2022, Colby White was regarded as a potential closer in the making. However, since the surgery, he has been plagued by command issues that have hindered his progress. In 7 2/3 innings this season, the pitcher allowed 10 hits, 10 walks, and 15 earned runs, resulting in a 17.61 ERA, while striking out 10 batters.

Tampa Bay Rays minor league player Colby White prepares to throw during spring training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Tampa Bay times

Why did cash-rich Yankees bargain hunt for Colby White?

Despite his recent struggles, Colby White was still considered a top prospect by both Baseball America (ranked 20th) and MLB Pipeline (ranked 27th) among the Rays’ prospects in 2023. His “electric” fastball, which can reach speeds of up to 98 mph, has been a key factor in his high regard within the industry.

White’s development has been hampered by his wildness since the surgery, which has prevented him from earning a promotion to the major leagues. In the 2023 season, Colby White walked 17 batters in 22 total innings across three minor-league levels and added three more walks in 3 2/3 innings during spring training.

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However, the Yankees don’t have to rely solely on dreams when it comes to Colby White’s potential, as he demonstrated his abilities in 2021. During that season, he rapidly ascended through four levels of the Rays’ minor league system, striking out an impressive 104 batters in 62 1/3 innings while walking only 15 and maintaining a 1.44 ERA.

The Yankees’ primary focus now is to help rebuild Colby White’s confidence and refine his command. If he can successfully unlock his command, it would not be surprising to see him reach the major leagues this year. However, the key word here is “if,” as his progress is contingent upon his ability to overcome his control issues. 

MLB Pipeline’s 2023 scouting report hinted at the potential of a near-MLB-ready arm, stating that the Rays were optimistic about Colby White regaining his form and making an impact on their bullpen sooner rather than later. Will the Yankees meet a different fate?

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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