Q&A with SI Pitching Coach Pat Daneker

We sat down with Staten Island Yankees pitching coach Pat Daneker for a Q&A session to get his thoughts on what kind of stuff he saw from Thomas Kahnle, if he thinks Nik Turley is close to figuring it out on the mound, if Preston Claiborne and Chase Whitley have big league potential, what he likes best about Mikey O'Brien, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know the numbers don't really show it but it seemed to me that Shane Greene had some of the best stuff on your staff this year before he was sent to Charleston. What were your impressions of him this year?

Pat Daneker: He was a little up and down. His mechanics were his main issue. He just had to find someplace in his delivery to get comfortable and we worked on that a lot in the bullpen. We started changing some things up by the end of the year – going over his head in his windup and stuff like that – but from top to bottom he probably has the best stuff out of anybody we had. He just needs to find a rhythm in his delivery to put it all together and I'm pretty sure when he does he's going to be real good.

PinstripesPlus.com: A guy who seems to me to be on the verge of figuring it out in the mound is Nik Turley. He had some great starts and some not so great starts. Do you think he's getting close to figuring it out though?

Daneker: Yeah, yeah, he's a big strong kid and he has a real good mentality. He's such a young kid that at times he got a little emotional and started overthrowing a little bit. That was pretty much the only issue with him. His delivery is fine, his stuff is getting better, and like I said he's a big strong young kid with a good arm. The upside for him is tremendous. He's going to learn with more experience that when the going gets tough – he's just young. This was the first time he pitched in front of 7,000 or 8,000 fans and your emotions get the best of you sometimes. That was his only problem the whole year.

PinstripesPlus.com: Mikey O'Brien is a young kid too but the numbers were tremendous this year. What do you think were the keys to his success?

Daneker: He just keeps the ball down and hits his spots, and even when he doesn't hit his spots he keeps the ball down. That's about as plain as it can get for him. He's a spot guy – when he hits his spots they're getting five or six good swings the whole game, maybe less. And when he's not hitting his spots he's missing with the ball down in the zone so they're lifting the ball and hitting doubles, triples, or home runs. That's why he's been succeeding. His stuff is not as good as Greene's or anything like that, but his curveball is coming around and we're working on his changeup. His curveball by the end of the year was the best that he's thrown it. His fastball has been as high as 95 or 96 mph, but he's still working on his changeup. It's his third best pitch and like most young guys he's just going to have to develop that changeup because he's just a fastball-curveball guy right now. Once he develops that changeup I don't think he's going to have a whole lot of problems getting guys out.

PinstripesPlus.com: Damon Oppenheimer thought Zachary Varce was a bit of sleeper at draft time and while he didn't have the greatest overall numbers this year, he did pitch pretty well down the stretch. What did you see from him this year?

Daneker: I see him as more of a bullpen guy in the future because he can go out there and spin breaking balls, that's what he does best. He pitches more off of his breaking ball than his fastball, which we tried to work on but he's just a breaking ball guy. That's what he did in college and that's what he did here. He threw a real quality curveball, a real quality slider, and he runs his fastball in there around 90 mph. It's not like 82 mph or anything. He's got some delivery work to do and he'll need to locate his fastball better in the future, but he can go in there and punch out ten guys in five innings – swing and miss curveball, swing and miss slider, and once those two pitches going it makes everything else better.

PinstripesPlus.com: I don't know if it's because he's left-handed or what, but Kramer Sneed seems to me to be a little Shaeffer Hall-like as a potential breakout guy for next year. What do you think of that?

Daneker: He's a big lanky kid who definitely has more room for the fastball and here's a kid who definitely has a live fastball, whether it was 87-89 mph or 91-93 mph some games. He's a lefty so he has that natural tail and there were nights where he didn't have any other pitch and he could still dominate with that fastball. I know we're at a lower level but he definitely has a live fastball that he hides too with a funky delivery and different arm action. All of the sudden the ball is on you and you don't know what happened. He has a lot of movement to his fastball. His breaking ball needs a little bit work. It's small [break-wise] but it works and his changeup is already there.

PinstripesPlus.com: The numbers Thomas Kahnle put up were just ridiculous. Obviously everyone knows he throws hard, but talk about his delivery and his secondary pitches. Did you see progress in those two areas in particular?

Daneker: Obviously he throws hard. We had him at 96-98 mph. He definitely has a great arm but he's a max-effort guy who reaches back. He's going to throw every pitch he has as hard as he can. He's got a plus fastball obviously but he also has a real nasty changeup too. They're going to tighten up his breaking ball. He calls it a slider but it's more like a slider that throws like a curveball. They might give him a curveball or go with a slider, I'm not sure what they'll do yet. It's a lot slower than his fastball and he will probably have to throw it harder and get some more late tilt to it, more like a slider that looks like it's coming off of that hard heater. He'll have to work on some things mechanically because he just rears back and throws it. When you throw that hard though it's tough to mess with it.

PinstripesPlus.com: You had a few relievers who put up some numbers this year – Preston Claiborne, Matt Jernstad, Mike Gipson to name a few. Claiborne though stood out it seemed. What can you tell us about his game?

Daneker: Claiborne comes right at you. I think in his own head he throws 97 mph but I think he tops out at 94 mph, but he doesn't care who is up there hitting, he comes right after them. He's got a real plus changeup, a big-time changeup and he has a decent slider. His delivery needs to be cleaned up too though just like most young pitchers, but Claiborne is a guy I could definitely see pitching in the big leagues someday.

PinstripesPlus.com: Chase Whitley has similar type stuff, no?

Daneker: Whitley has similar stuff, yeah. When they brought him in out of college he was a third baseman and then they put him in the mound so he doesn't really even know how to pitch yet. He just goes out there and kind of chucks it in there. His delivery is a little out of whack but they'll work on that with him. He has a nice slider, he's got a nice fastball, and he's got a plus changeup, and he's got movement to his pitches. He's definitely the kind of guy who says ‘get in the box and let's go'.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I know the numbers don't really show it but it seemed to me that Shane Greene had some of the best stuff on your staff this year before he was sent to Charleston. What were your impressions of him this year?
\r\n
\r\nPat Daneker: He was a little up and down. His mechanics were his main issue. He just had to find someplace in his delivery to get comfortable and we worked on that a lot in the bullpen. We started changing some things up by the end of the year – going over his head in his windup and stuff like that – but from top to bottom he probably has the best stuff out of anybody we had. He just needs to find a rhythm in his delivery to put it all together and I'm pretty sure when he does he's going to be real good.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: A guy who seems to me to be on the verge of figuring it out in the mound is Nik Turley. He had some great starts and some not so great starts. Do you think he's getting close to figuring it out though?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: Yeah, yeah, he's a big strong kid and he has a real good mentality. He's such a young kid that at times he got a little emotional and started overthrowing a little bit. That was pretty much the only issue with him. His delivery is fine, his stuff is getting better, and like I said he's a big strong young kid with a good arm. The upside for him is tremendous. He's going to learn with more experience that when the going gets tough – he's just young. This was the first time he pitched in front of 7,000 or 8,000 fans and your emotions get the best of you sometimes. That was his only problem the whole year.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Mikey O'Brien is a young kid too but the numbers were tremendous this year. What do you think were the keys to his success?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: He just keeps the ball down and hits his spots, and even when he doesn't hit his spots he keeps the ball down. That's about as plain as it can get for him. He's a spot guy – when he hits his spots they're getting five or six good swings the whole game, maybe less. And when he's not hitting his spots he's missing with the ball down in the zone so they're lifting the ball and hitting doubles, triples, or home runs. That's why he's been succeeding. His stuff is not as good as Greene's or anything like that, but his curveball is coming around and we're working on his changeup. His curveball by the end of the year was the best that he's thrown it. His fastball has been as high as 95 or 96 mph, but he's still working on his changeup. It's his third best pitch and like most young guys he's just going to have to develop that changeup because he's just a fastball-curveball guy right now. Once he develops that changeup I don't think he's going to have a whole lot of problems getting guys out.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Damon Oppenheimer thought Zachary Varce was a bit of sleeper at draft time and while he didn't have the greatest overall numbers this year, he did pitch pretty well down the stretch. What did you see from him this year?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: I see him as more of a bullpen guy in the future because he can go out there and spin breaking balls, that's what he does best. He pitches more off of his breaking ball than his fastball, which we tried to work on but he's just a breaking ball guy. That's what he did in college and that's what he did here. He threw a real quality curveball, a real quality slider, and he runs his fastball in there around 90 mph. It's not like 82 mph or anything. He's got some delivery work to do and he'll need to locate his fastball better in the future, but he can go in there and punch out ten guys in five innings – swing and miss curveball, swing and miss slider, and once those two pitches going it makes everything else better.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I don't know if it's because he's left-handed or what, but Kramer Sneed seems to me to be a little Shaeffer Hall-like as a potential breakout guy for next year. What do you think of that?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: He's a big lanky kid who definitely has more room for the fastball and here's a kid who definitely has a live fastball, whether it was 87-89 mph or 91-93 mph some games. He's a lefty so he has that natural tail and there were nights where he didn't have any other pitch and he could still dominate with that fastball. I know we're at a lower level but he definitely has a live fastball that he hides too with a funky delivery and different arm action. All of the sudden the ball is on you and you don't know what happened. He has a lot of movement to his fastball. His breaking ball needs a little bit work. It's small [break-wise] but it works and his changeup is already there.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: The numbers Thomas Kahnle put up were just ridiculous. Obviously everyone knows he throws hard, but talk about his delivery and his secondary pitches. Did you see progress in those two areas in particular?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: Obviously he throws hard. We had him at 96-98 mph. He definitely has a great arm but he's a max-effort guy who reaches back. He's going to throw every pitch he has as hard as he can. He's got a plus fastball obviously but he also has a real nasty changeup too. They're going to tighten up his breaking ball. He calls it a slider but it's more like a slider that throws like a curveball. They might give him a curveball or go with a slider, I'm not sure what they'll do yet. It's a lot slower than his fastball and he will probably have to throw it harder and get some more late tilt to it, more like a slider that looks like it's coming off of that hard heater. He'll have to work on some things mechanically because he just rears back and throws it. When you throw that hard though it's tough to mess with it.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You had a few relievers who put up some numbers this year – Preston Claiborne, Matt Jernstad, Mike Gipson to name a few. Claiborne though stood out it seemed. What can you tell us about his game?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: Claiborne comes right at you. I think in his own head he throws 97 mph but I think he tops out at 94 mph, but he doesn't care who is up there hitting, he comes right after them. He's got a real plus changeup, a big-time changeup and he has a decent slider. His delivery needs to be cleaned up too though just like most young pitchers, but Claiborne is a guy I could definitely see pitching in the big leagues someday.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Chase Whitley has similar type stuff, no?
\r\n
\r\nDaneker: Whitley has similar stuff, yeah. When they brought him in out of college he was a third baseman and then they put him in the mound so he doesn't really even know how to pitch yet. He just goes out there and kind of chucks it in there. His delivery is a little out of whack but they'll work on that with him. He has a nice slider, he's got a nice fastball, and he's got a plus changeup, and he's got movement to his pitches. He's definitely the kind of guy who says ‘get in the box and let's go'.
\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

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