With starting pitching depth a never-ending issue for the New York Yankees, where could pitching prospect Michael King fit in their future?
One of the biggest offseason splashes the Yankees have made in recent memory was the team’s acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton in December 2017 from the Miami Marlins. What many fans may not remember is that the Stanton deal was not their only deal with Miami that offseason, as they had completed a much smaller scale deal with Derek Jeter’s Marlins just a few weeks prior to reeling in Stanton. While the player they got in that smaller deal may not be one that many Yankees fans are familiar with yet, he recently got called up and is someone who might open some eyes in these last few games before the playoffs start.
At the start of the 2017 offseason, two goals the Yankees’ front office had for the team’s roster were to trade some fringe major leaguers to open up space on the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft and to acquire international bonus pool money in the hope of luring Japanese star Shohei Ohtani to the Bronx. They accomplished both of these goals in a seemingly minor deal on November 20th, as they dealt LHP Caleb Smith and 1B Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins for $250K in international bonus pool money and some pitching prospect named Michael King.
Not much was known about King at the time of the trade, as the 2016 12th round draft pick out of Boston College hadn’t pitched any higher in the minor leagues than Class A at the time. Since the team acquired him, King has risen through the levels of the minor leagues and earned a bit of name recognition, as he’s currently ranked as the team’s 11th best pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
King started the 2018 season in High-A ball and rose past both High-A and Double-A to Triple-A, quite an impressive feat for a pitcher in his first year within an organization. The right-hander posted a 1.79 ERA in 25 appearances across the three levels, going 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA in his six starts in Triple-A.
After such an outstanding 2018, the Yankees had high hopes for King in 2019, as he entered Spring Training as a player who the team thought could definitely help the big league club at some point during the season. Unfortunately, King felt some pain in his right elbow during a bullpen session early on in Spring Training, and then further aggravated the injury while lifting weights. An MRI revealed that King had suffered a stress reaction in the elbow, an injury which ended up keeping him on the shelf until early July.
After four months of rehabbing, King made his 2019 debut on July 3rd in the Gulf Coast League and pitched three games there before working his way back up to Triple-A. Across the four levels, he pitched in this season following the injury, King’s numbers have certainly been less than impressive, as he’s posted an ugly 5.48 ERA in his 11 appearances. Part of these struggles may have been due to him never experiencing a truly complete Spring Training, and his 2018 numbers suggest that the potential and talent are definitely there for King, so hopefully, this tumultuous season is just an outlier in a successful career. That being said, just a few weeks ago King turned in his best outing of the season, as he spun six innings of shutout ball for the RailRiders, allowing only three hits and striking out six in a 4-0 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox.
King was called up by the Yankees on Thursday, though he has yet to make his debut as of September 21st. Much like the team did with Justus Sheffield last season, expect to see them give King an appearance or two in relief to get some experience at the major league level, though he likely won’t get any meaningful innings in this last week of the season. He has an outside shot to crack the playoff roster if he really impresses over his appearances, but it’s highly unlikely that the team gives him a spot over someone like Luis Cessa.
With Domingo Germán’s future in doubt as MLB investigates his Domestic Violence case and CC Sabathia retiring after this season, the Yankees could very well have some openings in the rotation come 2020. Though King may not be a household name among fans just yet, he certainly could be in the conversation for a rotation spot when Spring Training rolls around next season, and putting together a handful of solid appearances over the next week would certainly open some eyes within the organization and fanbase to a player who could factor into the team’s future plans in a big way.