(Courtesy of Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)
We continue our slow build towards the start of AB4AR Prospect Week with another look at a young player starting to make some waves in the Yankee MiL system but not enough waves to warrant full prospect status in my eyes. Today's player is Dietrich Enns, left-handed A-ball pitcher. You might remember Enns from my profile post on him last June, and since that post there have been some developments in his development that make him one of the more intriguing fringe guys in the system.
Quick refresher on Enns for those who were too lazy to click the link. He's 22 years old, average sized, and was an unheralded 19th round pick out of Eastern Michigan in the 2012 draft. He boasts a solid 3-pitch mix of a low-90s fastball, plus changeup, and an OK curveball. He worked almost exclusively as a reliever at EMU and built up a well-earned reputation as a pitcher who will attack the strike zone with all of his pitches and mix up his pitches and speeds well from batter to batter. After signing in 2012, Enns pitched to a 2.11/2.71 split in 42.2 innings over 22 appearances for SS Staten Island.
He got promoted to Low-A Charleston to start the 2013 season and that's when things started taking off for him. Enns was flat out dominant in his 44.1 IP for the RiverDogs, allowing just 3 ER (0.61 ERA), not a single home run, and striking out 69 batters. What really set him apart from your typical left-handed reliever was his ability to work multiple innings. Enns didn't just hold his own pitching multiple innings against both right and left-handed hitters, he overmatched them. It's not uncommon for a polished college pitcher to put up good numbers like that against Low-A ball competition, but a 40.6% K rate without the aid of a big time fastball is impressive no matter who you are or where you're pitching.
There wasn't much left for Enns to learn at Charleston, so he was bumped up to High-A Tampa in mid-June and that's when things really started to get fun. Because of his ability to mix pitches well and work his way through multiple innings effectively, the Yankees decided to experiment with him as a starter. 7 of the 9 appearances he made for Tampa last season were starts, and while the overall results don't look very good (5.63 ERA/4.11 FIP, 21 BB in 38.1 IP), there were some encouraging points. He did maintain solid K rates (24.9%, 10.10 K/9) and struck out 35 batters in 29.1 innings as a starter and he did pitch 3 outings of 5+ innings and 2 < ER allowed, including a 5.0-inning, 2 ER, 8 K performance in his first start and a 6.0-inning, 2-hit, 0 ER performance in July.
There's still a lot of work that Enns needs to do to become a consistent, good starting pitcher, but the tools are clearly there and the Yankees have clearly taken notice. He was shut down for the season after a 4+ inning relief appearance on August 7th, possibly to limit his workload and not put too much stress on his arm. Enns pitched a total of 82.2 innings in 2013 and if the Yankees are serious about converting him to a starter they would be wise to ease him into it.
I don't know what the plan is for Enns in 2014, but I have to imagine the Yanks will at least stay committed to the starter experiment to start the season. If he shows improvement in his command and maintains his ability to miss bats, he could start to make some real noise as a prospect. If not, he still has that "super effective lefty reliever who can work effectively against righties and lefties" thing going for him. Either way, another strong year in 2014 should have Enns forcing his way onto a few top prospect lists.