By JED WEISBERGER
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Just a conversation with fast-rising Yankees pitching prospect Michael King leaves one impressed.
King, the 23-year-old right-hander acquired by the Yankees in exchange for outfielder Garrett Cooper, left-hander Caleb Smith and $250,000 in International Pool money Nov. 20, 2017, took time to talk after Wednesday night’s tough, 7-3 loss to the Bisons in Coca-Cola Field.
He starts tonight at Lehigh Valley, taking a 7-1, 1.88 mark, with a strikeout/walk ratio of 67-9 on is last 10 starts – allowing only 15 earned runs in 71.2 innings. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Rochester, N.Y., started the 2018 season at Class-A Advanced Tampa.
Now, 2-0, 1.74 in three starts since being promoted from Double-A Trenton, where he was 6-2, 2.09 in 12 appearances (11 starts), he is being mentioned as a Yankees rotation candidate for 2019.
“In spring training, my goal was to get to Double-A by the end of the season,’’ King, who played collegiately at Boston College before being drafted in the 12th round by Miami in 2016 and eventually signing. “I’m pleased things have worked out even better.
“My confidence level is really high.’’
King has improved at each level – he’s 9-5, 1.95 in 22 appearances over three levels – and there is a secret to it he was glad to reveal.
At Boston College, Jim Foster, who served as Associate Coach under Mike Gambino, taught his pitchers how to read swings and pitch in patterns, which gave King a foundation many others don’t have.
That has clicked in this season and has allowed King to advance through the Yankees system at a much-faster clip than anticipated.
“Jim actually worked with both the pitchers and catchers on that,’’ King said. “It really started helping me when I was at Trenton, and t has equally with Scranton. I really can read what the hitters are trying to do and feel I can control them.
“I just have to keep it going.’’
This ability has allowed King to sharpen his command and feel his plan can outwit the hitters.
“As I have gone up levels, I know the hitters are better and more experienced,’’ King said. “But I feel, with what I have learned, the game is really in my hands. I can only control what I can control.”
King’s main pitch is a two-seam fastball that sits at 93-94 and can register a tick or two faster. He mixes that with a four-seamer change and a slider,
“I’m working to improve my four-seamer, change and slider and gaining confidence with them,’’ said King “I’m happy with the way my secondary stuff is coming along, but I know they are not where they need to be for the majors.
“There is still work to do.”
King also credits pitching coaches Tim Norton (Trenton) and Tommy Phelps (Scranton) with helping him advance.
“The Yankees have really let me do my own thing and worked with me.,’’ he said. “When I was with the Marlins, they were always changing my mechanics. This had been a lot better for me.”
King also has enjoyed playing for both Jay Bell and Bobby Mitchell at Trenton and Scranton, respectively.
“Best managers I have ever played for.”
King has come a long way in 2018, making an excellent use of his overall skills. He also knows what still needs to do to become a serious Yankees rotation contender in 2019.