Luis Gil has pictured himself pitching against a major-leaguer since he began playing baseball in the Dominican Republic. And his opportunity to square off with a former All-Star came even earlier than he could have expected.
On June 10, the 21-year-old Yankees prospect took the mound against Dallas Keuchel four days after the former All-Star signed with the Braves. Keuchel’s return to the mound came in Class A, with Gil and the Charleston RiverDogs in the opposite dugout.
The two pitchers traded shutout innings throughout the contest, nearly matching strikeout for strikeout. Gil, who has had a strong season for the RiverDogs since his first outing, struck out 10 and allowed a walk and three hits in seven shutout innings. Keuchel finished with nine strikeouts and allowed one walk and one hit in seven shutout innings.
“Every time you have an opportunity to compete against a big-league pitcher, it’s always fun and it’s a challenge,” Gil said through Tampa Tarpons pitching coach Jose Rosado. “So no doubt I went out there that night not to prove a point to [anybody], but to kind of raise my game. So it was a fun night.”
Gil has caught the attention of many around baseball. After being acquired from the Twins in exchange for outfielder Jake Cave in 2018 as part of a move to clear up a spot on the 40-man roster after the Yankees signed Neil Walker, the righthanded pitcher has shot up the Yankees' prospect list.
Gil entered this season as the organization’s 13th-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He currently ranks No. 4 and is pitching for the high Class A Tarpons.
Gil said he doesn’t focus on prospect lists and what other people think about him, but he acknowledged that moving up on a list like that helps his confidence.
“No doubt, yes, it’s great to hear that,” Gil said. “It’s great to know that I’m making strides and if my stuff and my performance takes care of that to be one of the top prospects, that’s great.”
Gil went 4-5 with a 2.39 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 83 innings in 17 starts for Class A Charleston. He also had a 1.19 WHIP and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings before being promoted to Tampa.
“I’ve been feeling very comfortable,” he said. “That’s been part of my workouts during the offseason, to create a good rhythm in my delivery and focus in the game, so it’s been fun. I’ve been feeling pretty good, so I will continue to stay focused on that.”
Rosado said Gil has been clocked in the upper 90s since joining Tampa. “This guy,” Rosado said, “no doubt man, let me tell you something. When you put 99 [miles per hour] on the radar [gun], that’s going to allow you to move up quicker and put a high number on the prospect list at that age.”
Gil, who is on the seven-day injured list for precautionary reasons, has a 4.85 ERA in three starts for Tampa, but Rosado said he has a strong future.
“I think he has all the talent in the world,” he said. “He has great ability to create in all his pitches. It’s just a matter of time for him.”
Tampa Tarpons, SP
6-3, 176 pounds
Hometown: Azua, Dominican Republic
Acquired: Via trade from Twins in 2018
Stats (Combined between Class A and Class A-Advanced): 5-5, 2.72 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11.5 K/9, 123 Ks, 47 BBs, 96 innings, 20 starts.