Each year we rank the Top 50 Yankees Prospects and then follow it up with a 'Beyond The Top 50'…
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"But again I do wish I had a better couple of outings in high-A. I was honored to all heck to get that [chance] and I was thankful for getting that chance."
Posting a 2.33 ERA in twelve games for the Gulf Coast League Yankees this year and holding opposing batters to a paltry .200 batting average, Lail got the opportunity to pitch in a couple of high-A Tampa games this year.
While the results were nowhere similar to his rookie league level of success, posting a 7.04 ERA in seven innings over two appearances, he says that opportunity to be challenged helped him immensely.
"After the first high-A debut I had I kind of struggled a little bit but the things I was able to learn was to be able to put together some pitch sequencing, pitch to some batters backwards, kind of be able to command the game a little bit better," he said.
"I think that helped me a lot, especially going back down [to the GCL] because I was able to work with the sequencing and be able to teach the catchers why this in this count and why that in that count.
"It was just a great learning experience. It just gave me so much more confidence that I was able to learn that from one start up there and kind of get it clicking."
The experience of facing more advanced level hitters taught him the importance of sequencing his pitches better and using his entire repertoire more, including his newfound sinker and changeup.
"Being able to command my sinker that I was able to work on during Spring Training," he listed as his biggest improvement. "It was one of my better pitches this year, mixing it up if somebody was on my four-seam fastball I'd come in with my sinker, and it worked for me.
"Keeping the ball down with all of my pitches --- I was able to be comfortable in any count with a changeup, which was new to me, and be confident while throwing it. It also helped set up that sinker to work and get going from there."
He entered the organization a year ago throwing mostly four-seam fastballs and power curveballs, but now he is a four-pitch hurler who has improved dramatically in his delivery and command.
In fact, he had made so much progress over the course of his first full season that he was not asked to go to Instructional League camp this offseason, a bit of a rarity for a pitcher who just turned 20 years old in August.
"They said I got my innings and if I went down to Instructs they didn't really want to mess with my mechanics or anything," he revealed. "They thought during the season I improved a lot and reaching my innings limit they didn't need me down there. It was nice but I wish I was down there just to keep going."
In a very sponge-like fashion, he used his time in 2013 between Extended Spring Training, the Gulf Coast League, and even his brief time with the high-A Tampa Yankees to pick the brains of various coaches and pitchers.
For example, he says he got tremendous help from fellow teammate Luis Severino on developing his changeup and learned from the likes of Shane Greene and Bryan Mitchell about how to sequence pitches better. Mitchell is actually somebody Lail draws comparisons to already.
"During Spring Training Tim Norton told me that," Lail said. "He said that me and Bryan Mitchell are pretty similar but I just kind of laughed at it because the dude is sitting 96-98 mph. Hopefully I flash like that guy because he's a stud. That's a great compliment."
Like Mitchell though, Lail entered the organization with similar body types, similar stuff, and comparable advanced deliveries. And just like Mitchell a few years ago, Lail wants to continue working on his power and body heading into his second offseason.
"It's definitely gain some good weight," he said of his main goal this offseason. "I put on ten to fifteen pounds last year and I'm hoping to put on another ten [this offseason]. I'm crossing my fingers.
"I'd also like to stay healthy with my arm, maybe add a couple of ticks with my fastball again. I was very pleased to flash 93 mph a few times and actually a lot more than I expected. I'd like to add a couple of ticks but basically stay fine-tuned and stay healthy this year.
"They're expecting me to get 135-140 innings next year which is a lot more than I've ever thrown in my life but I'm ready for it and I just hope I stay healthy. This offseason is big for me just to develop physically again," he concluded.
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