Flamethrowing Yankees sensation reveals grand ambitions

Yankees prospect Richard Fitts is pitching at the Somerset Patriots.
@Yankeelibrarian
Michael Bennington
Sunday August 27, 2023

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He is a Yankees pitching prospect in Double-A but this doesn’t deter the fireballer from aspiring for the sky. The Yankees’ young arm shoots for All-Star and Hall of Fame class because he knows only achievement matters in today’s baseball. However, this envisioning of soaring achievements is not without a reason, as the pitching sensation is well known for his devastating fastball.

At 23 years old, Richard Fitts is the No. 12 prospect for the Yankees, according to MLB Pipeline. He’s currently making his mark in Double-A Somerset during his second season in professional baseball. In fact, he stands out as one of the top pitchers in the entire Double-A league, leading the Eastern League with an impressive 3.16 ERA and recording 139 strikeouts across 131 innings.

Consistently delivering quality performances, the Yankees prospect carries an abundance of confidence, a mindset deeply rooted in Richard Fitts’ ability to throw a high-90s fastball that continues to improve.

Richard Fitts shoots for the stratosphere

The Yankees’ young arm describes his pitching style as the one that predominantly relies on his fastball. According to Richard Fitts, his approach is to deliver the fastball with maximum velocity and precision in specific locations. He harbors a deep affinity for his fastball, believing that it’s a potent weapon that can be effectively used across different levels of play. The prospect has seen considerable success thanks to his reliance on the fastball.

In that regard, Richard Fitts’ approach aligns closely with that of a starter such as Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole, a pitcher who heavily relies on his four-seam fastball. The pitching coach of Somerset, Grayson Crawford, underlined that the Yankees pitching prospect employs his fastball for over fifty percent of his pitches. This fastball has become even more effective due to recent tweaks to his slider and improvements made to his changeup.

According to Crawford, the fastball in Richard Fitts’ pitching arsenal has consistently been his standout pitch. He highlighted how the Yankees pitching sensation had managed to enhance his fastball velocity over the course of this year, which has contributed to his effectiveness. Crawford also observed that Richard Fitts’ slider, introduced recently, has been showing progressive improvement with each passing week. Additionally, he noted significant advancements in the pitcher’s changeup, indicating his evolution into a more formidable weapon.

Expanding on his evaluation of the Yankees prospect, Crawford paid Richard Fitts a significant compliment by characterizing him as both competitive and remarkably consistent. The coach sees Fitts’ exceptional consistency is evident in his day-to-day approach, work ethic, and commitment to establishing effective routines. In fact, Crawford went so far as to state that Richard Fitts’ consistency and approach might arguably be unparalleled within the organization.

Richard Fitts’ Yankees dream is inspired by a Nationals pitcher

As a child growing up in Helena, Alabama, Richard Fitts didn’t have a preferred baseball team even after his 10th birthday. In his hometown, where college baseball had a strong following, many fans gravitated toward the Braves due to their proximity as the only MLB team within reasonable driving distance.

Yankees prospect Richard Fitts at a press conference after his big Somerset debut.
courtesy Somerset Patriots

However, the Yankees prospect wanted to stand out. Richard Fitts considered himself a free agent in terms of fandom, waiting for something or someone to capture his interest.

That turning point came when Stephen Strasburg, known for his blazing fastball and potential for stardom, made his debut with the Nationals in the summer. Strasburg’s performance captivated the entire baseball world, and it was during that time that Richard Fitts found his allegiance. He didn’t just hurriedly return home from school to watch Strasburg’s unforgettable MLB debut on national TV that June. The Yankees prospect even woke up early the following morning to rewatch the highlights on ESPN.

Richard Fitts shared that he began tracking his favorite player’s journey and developed an interest in emulating him. He reflected on the appeal of possessing a powerful fastball and aspiring to be a starter similar to Stephen Strasburg. The Yankees prospect also mentioned that his admiration for Strasburg started with his debut and persisted over time.

For the subsequent ten years, Richard Fitts closely monitored Strasburg’s career from a distance, admiring one of the league’s most dynamic pitchers as he progressed into a hard-throwing prospect himself, ultimately joining Auburn University. Following his freshman season with the Tigers, which included appearances in the College World Series, Richard Fitts found himself celebrating Washington’s remarkable championship victory. He was elated that Strasburg had secured a championship ring and had been honored as the World Series MVP.

As Richard Fitts became part of the Yankees‘ organization after being selected in the sixth round of the 2021 MLB Draft, he held onto the hope of facing his idol on the field or even getting a chance to meet him and gain insights. The opportunity to witness Strasburg’s pitching prowess in person was a longtime aspiration for Richard Fitts.

However, it’s this dream and years of fervently following Strasburg’s performances that now have Richard Fitts feeling disheartened. According to The Washington Post, Strasburg is retiring from professional baseball, having decided to step away due to a series of injuries.

Richard Fitts expressed his sympathy for Strasburg’s situation, mentioning that he was feeling a sense of sadness when thinking about him. The Yankees prospect also remarked that it seemed unfortunate that things didn’t go as planned for Strasburg, who he was expecting to transition smoothly into retirement, allowing him to pursue his interests without experiencing pain or discomfort.

The Yankees prospect may not have the chance to meet his favorite pitcher, but his journey toward the major leagues is still patterned after Strasburg’s playing style during the peak of his career, and it is just commencing.

An intricate mix of precision, devastating fastball

Yankees prospect Richard Fitts is training at the Somerset Patriots.

Combining the liveliness of Richard Fitts’ repertoire with his precision, it’s understandable why batters have encountered significant challenges in scoring runs against him. Among pitchers in the Eastern League, the Yankees prospect boasts the second-highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.09) and holds opponents to the second-lowest batting average (.223). During August, Richard Fitts has yielded just one earned run across 24 1/3 innings, resulting in an impressive 0.37 ERA across four starts.

Catcher Ben Rice, another rising name in the Yankees farm, highlighted a standout aspect of Richard Fitts’ pitching repertoire, focusing on his exceptional command. Rice shared an anecdote about their routine catch play, where the Yankees’ young arm accurately aims for specific corners of the strike zone, even from a considerable distance. He emphasized on Richard Fitts’ remarkable control, as evidenced by his precision in consistently hitting intended spots.

Rice further elaborated on the capabilities of the Yankees pitching sensation by acknowledging his aptitude for comprehending and executing game plans. He underlined Richard Fitts’ ability to analyze the approach of opposing hitters, enabling him to make strategic decisions that influence their swing mechanics, timing, and overall performance. Rice expressed his admiration for Richard Fitts’ skill in these aspects, finding it truly impressive to observe.

All indications are pointing toward the Yankees pitching prospect soon earning a promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His fellow promising pitching prospects, like Will Warren and Clayton Beeter, have recently advanced to the RailRiders, while top-rated Yankees pitcher prospects Chase Hampton and Drew Thorpe are newer additions to Somerset, not far behind.

Setting himself apart within this group is a continuous process for Richard Fitts. While his statistics are impressive, he acknowledges that there’s still room for improvement, particularly in terms of his mental approach. The Yankees prospect is already envisioning the transition from his Patriots uniform to the iconic Yankees attire, demonstrating his willingness to set ambitious goals for his future in the majors.

Expressing his aspirations, Richard Fitts conveyed his ambitions to attain significant achievements in his baseball career. He mentioned his desire to become an All-Star player and eventually make it to the Hall of Fame. However, the Yankees prospect also acknowledged the importance of maintaining a realistic perspective. He emphasized his primary goal of establishing himself as a consistently reliable player, noting the value placed on this attribute in the contemporary baseball landscape. Richard Fitts believed that becoming a dependable starter, known for consistently delivering quality performances, would likely lead to All-Star selections and a prolonged career spanning around 15 years. In the long run, he hoped that achieving these milestones would pave the way for a potential induction into the Hall of Fame.

Reflecting on the dynamics within the team, Richard Fitts noted that he had been the younger member when players like Will and Clayton were already part of the AA team. Currently, with the presence of Thorpe and Hampton, he found himself in the company of more experienced players. The Yankees prospect highlighted the mutual learning process among the group, where they share insights and knowledge with each other.

Richard Fitts underlined the shared sense of pride in potentially being teammates for an extended period, envisioning a collaboration that could span a decade or even fifteen years in the major leagues. The Yankees’ pitching sensation emphasized the excitement and enthusiasm that stemmed from the idea of accomplishing their goals together as a cohesive unit.

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