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May 2013 Prospect Profile: Taylor Garrison

05/31/2013 9:47 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Less than a year after being drafted, Taylor Garrison has pitched at three levels of the Yankees organization.(milb.com)
Less than two months into the 2012 season, nearly a dozen players have been promoted to Class-A Advanced Tampa from either Class-A Charleston, Extended Spring Training, or one of the nominal short-season rosters.

Pitcher Taylor Garrison is one of those dozen, and he’s also one of the many in the system who is getting their first taste of “full season” pro ball as well.

Garrison was the Yankees’ seventh-round pick in 2012 after a strong senior season at Fresno State University; he had returned to school after being a Dodgers draftee in 2011, and posted a 2.98 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 42.1 innings as the Bulldogs’ closer. He then followed that up by posting a 2.28 ERA, 11 saves, and 28 strikeouts in 27.2 innings at Staten Island last summer, before finally getting some time off.

“Coming out of college, we play from August to June; you do a bunch of baseball activity in the fall, then play in the spring, and then it was all summer after being drafted,” Garrison said, “so, to get that three months off for the first time this winter was nice, and you get to come out here fresh.”

So, as Garrison notes, just because this is his first “full season” of pro ball doesn’t mean it’s going to be his longest – but there are differences, the biggest for the 5-foot-11, 165-pound righty being in the strength and conditioning field.

“The biggest difference for me is in the weight room; I got to Spring Training on January 14 and have been doing stuff five, six days a week ever since, because you definitely have to prepare yourself a little more physically to play 140 or more games instead of 70 tops in college,” Garrison said. “I’m a smaller guy, so I want to get bigger physically so I can compete and last through a full season and erase any doubts I can stay healthy and last.”

So far, so good for Garrison, who heading into Memorial Day weekend had posted a combined 0.93 ERA, four saves, and 23 K’s in 19.1 innings over 11 appearances between Charleston and Tampa. Of course, his talent has a lot to do with that, but he did credit a couple of top prospects still in Charleston for helping him with the middle step of his pro journey.

“Cito (Culver) and Dante (Bichette) are both great guys, and they definitely have a lot of knowledge to give to us first time Sally Leaguers,” Garrison said prior to his promotion. “They know if anything stands out, how a ballpark plays, how other guys who have repeated may hit, and so on. They’ll give us that info and it’s always helpful.”

The Yankees have already shuffled their bullpen quite a bit this year, and with Mariano Rivera retiring after 2013, there’s plenty of opportunity in the system. Garrison was promoted to Tampa in early May when others were moved up the line, but while his strikeout totals and pitch selections have drawn comparison to another 5-foot-11 righty prospect (Triple-A standout and potential closer role heir Mark Montgomery), Garrison knows he has a long way to go before he’s a Major League option.

“There’s always opportunity, but someone told me there are two leagues, the Minors and the Majors, so for the most part you have to take one pitch at a time and focus on what you can do for yourself,” Garrison said. “Whatever happens at the higher levels, there’s nothing you can do to control that, so as long as you’re focused on what you’re doing you can put yourself in the best situation possible.”

He’s doing just that in 2013, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if, like Montgomery, Garrison ends up in the higher levels sooner rather than later.

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