Scouting Yankees Prospect #32: Gabe Encinas

Encinas has a safe projection and upside too

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher Gabe Encinas in the sixth round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of St. Paul High School in California. While he has yet to make his official minor league debut, he has already impressed team officials with his showing in two Instructional League camps and he gives the Yankees another high-ceiling arm.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Gabe Encinas
Position: Pitcher
DOB: December 21, 1991
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"Instructs, even though I really haven't had my debut yet, in games there it felt like it was the real deal already," Encinas said. "At first I was a little uncomfortable. I didn't know what to expect.

"I felt alright but when I went to the Dominican [Instructs] I started getting in my groove and I felt a little bit of the pressure was off. I was more like myself. Finally with a little bit of coaching I felt real good out there."

Encinas showed a plus fastball-plus curveball combination at Instructs in Tampa, but word is he was the standout when he went down to the Dominican Republic for another mini-camp.

"[His] velo was up to 93 mph, he may have been up to 94mph, the curveball was 77-79 mph and it really improved," Yankees senior vice president Mark Newman said. "It had tight, tight bite. [His] changeup had some sink fade to it. He was really, really impressive."

Encinas had a ton of potential when he was drafted back in June but, possessing good makeup and extremely coachable, he has made quick changes to his stuff since he signed with the Yankees.

"That was the first thing we worked on, the curveball," Encinas said. "They've changed the grip from high school to a spike-curve and we've been focusing on making sure the break is perfect every time.

"It's been snapping and it's been my go-to pitch. I felt good with it and it's getting better."

He has also changed grips with his changeup, changed his arm angle a bit, and despite those adjustments he feels very confident about his stuff heading into his debut season in 2011.

"As soon as I started getting in my groove I felt really comfortable," he said. "It doesn't seem like anything different from high school. I don't know how it's going to be [at the higher levels], but right now I feel like I'm up there with the better guys."

Showing the kind of maturity found mostly in older players, however, as impressive as he has been, he knows what he needs to do to have the kind of success he wants going forward.

"Just be consistent," he said. "I feel like I'm mentally stable enough to go out there against anybody. I don't ever have doubt out there when I'm pitching my game. As long as I'm there you're going to get my ‘A' game. I just need to be more consistent."

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. The 19-year old has a power fastball already that consistently and comfortably sits in the 92-94 mph range out of the wind-up and he does it with such an ease of motion. Out of the stretch, however, when he employs his side-step delivery, his fastball had a tendency to dip down to the 90 mph range during Instructs. Whether that remains a constant going forward remains to be seen, but it is something that could need addressing if that discrepancy pops up again.

Other Pitches. Encinas has two quality big league secondary pitches already, but it's his curveball that is a true plus pitch. He was sitting mostly in the 73-75 mph range with his breaking ball in high school, but his spike grip now gives him better bite and harder velocity, sitting mostly 79-81 mph. His command of the curve isn't consistent just yet, but it's oh-so close and that's impressive for a teenager. He rounds out his repertoire with a big league changeup that has plus potential. He has changed grips on it more than a few times already, finally settling on a circle-changeup, and he can get swing-and-misses with it but it needs to be a more consistent weapon.

Pitching: A strong-bodied pitcher, Encinas generates good power without needing a lot of effort and that should help him to pitch deep into games. He has shown an adept ability to mix up his three-pitch arsenal and throw strikes consistently, and he has an innate ability to make adjustments very quickly. He also moves well for a bigger pitcher. His biggest problem right now appears to be how to generate the same power with his fastball from the stretch as he does out of the wind-up.

Projection. Encinas gives the Yankees an excellent combination of a safe projection while still having even better long-term potential. Not many kids his age show an ability to control three average to plus big league pitches with the kind of pitch-ability he has shown, but at 6-foot-3 and possessing the kind of body that could get stronger in due time, he has some significant upside too. He projects best as a potential middle of the rotation type of big league starter who could be a big innings eater, but watch that velocity closely. A couple of extra ticks on the gun could move him up projection-wise in a hurry.

ETA. N/A. Encinas is ready for Charleston in 2011 but the Yankees have taken a more conservative approach with their promotions lately so a trip to the short-season leagues seems more likely.

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