Ken Waldichuk, LHP, NYY

Process, meet results. Results, meet process. Readers, meet Ken Waldichuk.

Video courtesy of Eli Fishman
  • Born: January 8, 1998
  • B/T: Left/Left
  • 6’4″, 220-lbs
  • Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft from Saint Mary’s College of California (Moraga, CA).

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

You know how prospects sometimes repeat a level? This is why a prospect repeats a level. In 2021, in Waldichuk’s first full pro season (non-COVID division), he breezed through High-A about eas easily as he had Rookie ball in 2019. So he was quickly moved up to Double-A. There he did fairly well, but his strikeout rate came down from an insane 49% to a still excellent 32%, but that combined with his already elevated walk rate put his WHIP and K-BB% at a lower level. xFIP agreed.

So in 2022 he repeats Double-A to see if his usual dominance can appear, and whaddya know, it does. The usual stratospheric strikeout rate north of 40%, and now his walk rate back to his 2019 level. Total dominance.

But it’s just 10 innings, so let’s hold off before saying his control problems are finsihed.

At Double-A his splits are about the same. In Double-A his WHIP is a bit higher against righties.

Same deal this year: he wipes out the lefties he faces, and if he gives up a hit it’s to a righty. Still great WHIP agains them so far though.

So far, so good, right? Let’s give the floor to FanGraph’s Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein who, in January of 2022, included Waldichuk in their Yankees Top 40 list. Here’s what they said about Waldichuk:

“Totally dominant,” sounds good. What else?:

Wow, sounds great. But what’s that about he “doesn’t have a traditional starter’s mechanical look”?:

Record scratch…

Did you see his YouTube video above? If not, please look at it (it’s quite short).

Yup, it’s an atypical look all right. He’s getting good results through a flawed process.

Here’s what BaseballHQ’s Minor League Baseball Analyst book shows for Waldichuk:

There are the four pitches, with the FB being the plus pitch. There’s that good low-80s changeup. But here’s part of what the book says about Waldichuk:

Deceptive 3/4s LHP piled up Ks across 2 levels. Long arm path with limbs going every direction in delivery. Struggles getting to release point consistently, causing command issues.

Ah, now we see the occasional walk issue he’s had, and the potential for it to crop up again. And now we understand why FanGraphs puts a Multi-Inning Relief Prospect tag on Waldichuk. In today’s game, teams need those long relievers in the pen, and Waldichuk certainly has the tools to serve that role. BaseballHQ gives him a #4 SP rating, so it certainly could go in that direction if he can keep the walks down. So far, so good this season, but I’m sure that’s what the Yankees are looking for.

The Scouts

Warnings

Funky delivery can lead to command problems which can lead to a bullpen future.

It’s a small sample of dominance at the Double-A level this year, though to be fair, his 2021 there was pretty good.

Conclusion

And since he now (as of this writing) has almost 100 IP at the Double-A level, and since they are not giving him any problems, Triple-A (and the majors) cannot be far off.

That said, it’s the Yankees, and breaking into that rotation tends to be a multi-year, step forward, step backward, process for young arms. Injuries give them opportunities, an endless collection of other good arms provide competition.

So while Waldichuk looks like a sure major leaguer, what role he will play is yet to be determined. For that matter, what role he takes upon first arriving may not be his ultimate role.

He’s 24 and dominating. Move him up.

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