Scouting Yankees Prospect #29: Gabe Encinas

Encinas' fastball is now a plus pitch

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. Statistically he's been less than stellar his first two seasons in the organization, but he saw a major upgrade in his stuff last season that offers significant long-term projection.

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

His year began on kind of a sour note after he injured his oblique just a couple of starts into the Extended Spring Training season and then followed it up with a sub-par statistical performance in Staten Island, going just 3-7 with a 4.97 ERA and nearly as many walks as strikeouts.

"It was rough coming back," Encinas admitted. "I was injured for a little bit and getting into the groove right at the beginning of the [Staten Island] season was kind of hard but as it went on I started to feel a lot more comfortable."

Though the numbers don't bear it out -- he had an 8.78 ERA in the month of August -- Encinas had begun to transform as a pitcher later in the season, thanks to a dramatic power surge.

"All of the sudden I started throwing harder and harder, and then towards the end of the season it felt like I was falling apart a little bit. Things weren't going right and it was a struggle mentally but at the same time I felt that was good for me because it's good to get something like that out of the way, that way you know how to deal with them in the future."

Seeing his 91-92 mph fastball bump all the way up the 94-96 mph range came with its own set of adjustments as well. With the added power comes the need for even better control and that can be difficult.

"It was because you're not used to it," he said. "I'm not used it, I'm used to staying in the low-90s. As you start to throw harder sometimes the ball starts to rise up. That's what happened, as the later innings went on the ball would continue to rise up and it's hard to bring it back down to where you want it to be.

"It's something you have to practice with. Throwing that hard isn't easy to control, you have to practice. That's what we're going to focus on, just making sure that I can keep that ball down because I want my fastball control back to where it was.

"I feel like if I can get it back to where it was [command-wise] nobody should be able to touch me, especially throwing that hard."

He certainly was controlling it better at Instructs, however. In fact he was flat-out dominating there, not only because of the better control of the plus fastball, but because his secondary pitches started to click too, especially his curveball.

"I'm able to control it; throw it for strikes, throw it in the dirt, and I'm hoping to be able to continue to do that throughout the whole season," he said. That's a huge pitch for me.

"That's my strikeout pitch and I know it's my strikeout pitch. As long as I have that in my back-pocket I feel like I'm on top of the world."

And that's really the biggest point. As bad as his in-season stats were, seeing a significant uptick in his stuff has helped his confidence reach new levels and he seems finally ready to turn all of that promise into actual production going forward.

"I'm really excited. I want this offseason to go by fast because I want to see who got better. I want to see how much better I've gotten compared to everybody else. I really want this offseason to fly by to tell you the truth.

"I want to get stronger and a little bigger, but just make sure that when I get there for Spring Training they know I wasn't messing around, that I stayed focused. Just stay consistent, that's all," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

Staten Island

3-7

0

70.2

73

39

48

4.97

2011

GCL Yankees

3-0

0

51.1

57

18

46

5.08



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. We had been saying for a couple of years that Encinas had the type of frame to gain strength and could add velocity to his fastball, and that's exactly what happened in 2012. He saw his normal 91-92 mph fastball tick all the way up to the 94-96 mph range for long stretches last season and it topped out at 97 mph. The command of his fastball was spotty at best though. However, he did show at Instructs an ability to consistently command it in the lower-half of the zone. There's also a chance his velocity increase is not done from a top plateau standpoint.

Other Pitches. His added power was not exclusive to his fastball either. His once inconsistent curveball that sat 77-79 mph and had plus potential went up to the 81-83 mph range towards the end of the season. He had been fiddling with grips so often that it made it inconsistent and now that he has settled on one it's a true plus pitch with command. He's had a big league changeup in his mix for a while now, one that grades out as above average.

Pitching: The Encinas that pitched in Staten Island is completely different from the one that dominated at Instructs. When he's going right he's attacking batters with plus fastballs in the lower-half of the zone, slowing bats down with his changeup, and then going in for the kill with the now consistent curveball. As hard as he throws, he is still not a max effort guy and that also gives his fastball some deception. Once a less reliable pitcher from the stretch, that is no longer an issue. In fact, if anything his one time biggest weakness mechanically has become a strength -- he actually prefers pitching out of the stretch now. His biggest remaining issue is just keeping his mechanics consistent overall and getting ahead in counts more consistently.

Projection. Encinas' ceiling has changed dramatically over the past year. Once projecting best as a middle of the rotation starter, now that he has begun throwing harder, found a consistent grip with the curveball to help with his command of it, and started throwing more consistently downhill in the lower-half of the strike zone, he as frontline starting potential now. He still, however, has a lot to prove from a consistency standpoint with his pitch-ability going forward to make that ceiling more of a reality, but the potential has clearly changed.

ETA. 2015. Encinas is ready for the next test -- low-A Charleston. Should he pitch there like he did at Instructs, he might finally be ready to move quickly through the minor leagues. A call-up to Tampa later in 2013 seems likely at this point.

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