Which Yankees pitching prospects might struggle in Yankee Stadium due to high fly ball rates?

Phil Hughes has pitched very well in his first year separated from the Yankees organization. Through 12 starts with the Twins, Hughes holds a 3.46 ERA and a 3.47 SIERA — both over half a run lower than his numbers with the Yankees. Many have attributed Hughes’ success to a change in his home ballpark. Hughes allows lots of fly balls: His FB% was 9th highest of 222 pitchers from 2007-2013. And Target Field’s outfield is much more spacious than that of Yankee Stadium.

It’s hard to pinpoint just how much pitching in Yankee Stadium has crippled Hughes’ performance over the years, but his home/road splits make it pretty clear that something was going on. In 780.2 innings across seven years, Hughes held a 4.96 ERA at Yankee Stadium, compared to a 4.10 mark on the road. A driving force behind this difference was his home run to fly ball ratio. At home, 13% of his fly balls turned into homers compared to just 7% on the road. Simply put, Hughes was never a good fit for Yankee Stadium, as his skill set was better suited for a park that didn’t allow for so many cheap homers.

Like Hughes, a few of the Yankees current pitching prospects are also heavy fly ball pitchers, which may put them at risk of suffering a similar fate. Keep in mind that Manny Banuelos and Nick Goody sat out the 2013 season, so their numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Minor league fly ball rates
With the exception of Phil Hughes, fly ball rates are for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

Some pitchers, like Rafael De Paula, seem to allow more than their share of fly balls. Of course, it may be a little premature to start worrying about how these pitchers will fare in Yankee Stadium. Not only are some of them years away from the majors, but they’re also still finding himself as pitchers. They may be prone fly balls today, but that could easily change once they become more polished. For example, De Paula could add a splitter to his arsenal, which could very well move the needle on his fly ball frequencies. For the most part, though, a pitcher who allows a lot of fly balls in the minors will likely continue to do so in the majors.

The Bombers figure to be in the market for a starting pitcher and/or an infielder in the next month or two, and many of the names listed above will certainly be discussed in potential trades. In any potential trade, the primary goal should be to maximize the amount of talent in the organization, but a pitcher’s compatibility with Yankee Stadium is a piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be ignored.  So when he’s wheeling and dealing this summer, Brian Cashman would be wise to shop guys near the bottom of the list — like Banuelos and De Paula — a little harder than ground ball types like Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and MLBfarm

This article originally appeared on Pinstripe Alley.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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