It wasn’t easy to see the Yankees trade International League Player of the Year Ben Gamel to the Seattle Mariners at the end of August, especially since the return was two teenage pitchers in Rookie ball no one had ever heard of. Gamel looked ready to help New York right now, whereas the pair of prospects they received, Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula, are a few years off from the show, if they ever made it.
Still, it’s clear something had to give with the Yankees log-jam of outfielders in the upper-minors, and the two young arms they landed each show some promise. Orozco in particular looks pretty advanced for a 19-year-old.
The Mariners managed to land Orozco in the 14th round of the 2015 June amateur draft because of a commitment to Arizona. Rick Randall of SeattleClubhousespeculates that a personal connection to Seattle’s minor league field coordinator Jack Howell allowed the Ms to grab him much later in the draft than he ordinarily would have been selected considering his abilities. Baseball America had him ranked in their top 200 list of draft prospects that year.
Fresh out of high school, the Mariners assigned Orozco to the Arizona League, where he pitched to a 2.95 ERA and struck out 10.1 batters per nine through 21.1 innings of work.
In 2016, he returned for a second go-round in the league. His strikeout numbers jumped to 11.7 K/9, but he has struggled with his control at times, walking three per nine innings through 48.1 IP.
Orozco showed enough in his second professional season that MLB Pipeline had him ranked 19th in the admittedly thin Mariners system prior to the trade. Here’s what they had to say about his arsenal:
His fluid arm action and clean delivery allow him to pitch to both sides of the plate with his 91-94 mph fastball, while his extension through the ball gives it some sinking action. Orozco’s curveball has above-average potential, thrown from an over-the-top slot with good arm speed, creating a 12-to-6 shape with depth, and he also shows good feel for a changeup, giving him the chance for three average-or-better offerings … Beyond the stuff, Orozco’s overall feel for pitching sets him apart from most pitchers his age.
At 6’1 210 lbs, Orozco is much more physically mature than the average 19-year-old. Combine with three quality pitches and you have a guy that could climb the minor league ladder fairly quickly.
Notably, MLB Pipeline doesn’t have Orozco listed among the Yankees updated top 30 prospects, but that may say more about the powerhouse farm system than about Orozco’s abilities. New York’s minor leagues are simply stacked at the moment, but Orozco isn’t far off from establishing himself among the club’s best pitching prospects.