Scouting Yanks Prospect #40: Daniel Camarena

The New York Yankees selected left-handed pitcher Daniel Camarena out of Cathedral Catholic High School in California in the 20th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. One of the real standout performers earlier in the season last year at high-A Tampa, he has proven to be one of the higher pitch-ability guys in the entire farm system over the years.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Daniel Camarena
Position: Pitcher
DOB: November 9, 1992
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 200
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

He carried over the momentum he had built in the second half of his 2013 campaign that saw him finish with a 2.89 ERA in his final twelve starts in Charleston that year by posting an even lower 2.35 ERA through 16 starts with the high-A Tampa Yankees last season, earning Florida State League All Star honors and an eventual promotion to Double-A Trenton.

"I felt like I learned a lot just like the last couple of years, some new things," he said of his season. "Overall I thought it was a pretty good success getting up to Double-A and getting my feet wet up there, and having a lot of success down in Tampa. I felt like I came into my own there and did what I was able to do on a consistent basis."

As consistent as they come down in the Florida State League, things didn't go nearly as well upon entering the Eastern League. He went just 2-6 with a 5.07 ERA for the Trenton Thunder over the remainder of the season.

He initially struggled making the adjustment in Trenton but, just like he had in Charleston in his first full season in 2013, he ultimately did make the adjustment, allowing two earned runs or less in three of his last four starts including striking out 17 batters in his last two starts of the season.

"I just had to get myself out of my own head," he said of the Double-A adjustment. "I think I got up there and kind of psyched myself out just trying to do too much. I think a lot of guys wind up doing that.

"When you finally relax and settle in and play baseball, pitching off of my changeup and do what I normally do, it all worked out fine. For me after the really rough start [in Double-A] my goal was to finish strong and I think I achieved that with the last two starts I had."

Inside the season numbers was some real progress made expanding his repertoire. Once mainly a three-pitch hurler, he began incorporating a slider into his arsenal towards the end of the 2013 season. It became a bigger weapon for him last season and he also introduced a cutter as well.

"The cutter I developed just learning my slider," he said. "I tried a lot of different grips and then I ended up throwing a slider off of a cutter grip and then I wound up throwing some cutters too just to keep some righties from diving [across the plate] because I love to throw fastballs down and away.

"I started to notice more and more big right-handed batters trying to lean over the plate so having the cutter was keeping them honest, keeping them off of the plate for me."

The cutter allowed him to own another quadrant of the plate against right-handed batters and the slider further developed into another pitch he could help negate lefties.

"The slider is still somewhat of in a work in progress. I use it mostly against lefties. It's become my strikeout pitch for them. Instead of my curveball I've been able to throw a good hard slider down and away to them. I got a lot of swings and misses, and a lot of good results from it last year."

He has transformed himself to some degree by the addition of those two pitches. But make no mistake, at his core he's still a masterful artist with his three main pitches.

"Those are the bread and butter," he reiterated. "I still mainly pitch off of that three-pitch combo; fastball-curveball-changeup. And my changeup is still my main out-pitch. I've been keeping my curveball sharp, trying to take the loop out of it a little more each year.

"The changeup, I developed a really good feel for it last year. I learned a lot about myself, when to use it, how to get outs with it, and whenever I got into trouble it was really, really good. It helped me get out of a lot of stick situations last year."

The hope when he first signed was that there might be some untapped power yet to be realized with his average fastball. That has yet to materialize over the years and it may never come. No longer concerned about adding more power, however, he has learned that has more than enough stuff to get batters out.

"I've been sitting there comfortably and for me to go through the whole year around that range is good. I'm still young and have a lot of years ahead of me. I haven't even hit my man strength yet so hopefully a little more will come, but right now I'm really, really comfortable at 88-91 mph."

In fact, Camarena has no doubts that he can be the same consistently high performer he proved to be in high-A last year at the higher minor league levels. For him it's just about trusting his stuff and executing his pitches.

"Yeah, I know that's where I can be consistently," he insisted. "In Tampa every five days it was five, six, seven innings with one run or no runs with a couple of strikeouts here and there. If I can just find my base again and keep my consistency, and keep my pitches sharp, there's no doubt in my mind I can keep doing that.

"Right now it's about performing. I've got to trust in myself and trust in my ability. I had an All-Star first half in Tampa. I know what I can do. I've just got to keep my pitches sharp and stay confident in my abilities no matter who is at the plate, whether it's somebody in high-A, Double-A, Triple-A, or the Major Leagues, it's about performing, throwing strikes, and getting outs."

He has spent the entire offseason training in Tampa at the Yankees minor league complex in an effort to build upon last year's breakout season. As good a year it was for him, however, he's looking for so much more.

"I'm very excited. It's a big year. It's nice to know I spent at least a quarter of a year in Double-A so nothing is really going to be new to me up there. I guess that little mystery factor of what the bus rides are going to be like or the stadiums, that's not going to be anything new to me. I already feel very comfortable. I'm excited and hoping for a really good year.

"My arm feels really strong. I've been putting a lot of work in the training room. My arm feels strong, my shoulder feels strong, I feel like it's really going to pay off especially in July and August when guys are dragging some and you're trying to make it to the finish line. I'm trying to plow through the door towards the end," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Trenton

2-6

0

55.0

61

14

43

5.07

2014

Tampa

5-5

0

88.0

77

28

69

2.35

2013

Charleston

4-6

0

112.0

109

19

83

4.42

2012

GCL Yankees

0-0

0

17.2

8

0

15

1.02



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider, Cutter.

Fastball. There isn't a whole lot of power in Camarena's fastball. It sits mainly in the 88-91 mph range which grades out as big league average velocity-wise, but with an effortless motion and natural tailing action to his four-seam fastball it does play at an above average level with the swings opposing batters generate against it. Throw in stellar command of his fastball, he can do a lot more things with his fastball than some power pitchers can. He has also played around with a two-seam fastball and it may be an area of focus in the very near future, but it isn't something he has unleashed in games yet.

Other Pitches. What makes Camarena's fastball even more effective is his ability to mix in four quality big league secondary offerings, most of which grade out as above average or better. The cutter, his newest pitch, is the one that probably rates as only average right now. It sits mostly in the 84-87 mph range and it's a pitch designed more to keep right-handed batters honest up and in than it is as a real strikeout pitch. His slider, another relatively new pitch, has actually become quite the weapon for him. It sits mostly in the 80-82 mph range and he'll use it down and in to right-handed batters some but mostly it's a strikeout pitch down and away to lefties. He has a plus big league curveball -- two actually; one will be more of a first-pitch strike pitch at 75 mph and another harder one at 78 mph that is a true swing and miss pitch. He rounds out his repertoire with a plus big league changeup that he'll throw at any time. It's both a contact out-pitch and a strikeout pitch, and it's as consistent as it gets.

Pitching. Camarena is a pitcher, not a thrower. He has high baseball intellect and that allows him to excel at reading batters, pitch sequencing, and setting hitters up in almost chess-like fashion. He also has excellent feel for all of his pitches and his full-attack style of pitching allows him to pitch ahead of hitters most of the time. He simply doesn't beat himself. He has consistent mechanics and one of the real repeatable deliveries, and he is very good at fielding his position and holding runners. He doesn't throw very hard, however, and he is not a physically imposing figure on the mound so he runs into trouble at times when he doubts himself or his stuff.

Projection. The only thing holding Camarena back from having the ceiling of an 'ace' is the plus velocity. He has everything else anyone would want from an 'ace'; stellar command, five big league pitches that grade out as average to plus, good mechanics, high makeup, and once he realizes he has more than enough stuff to get hitters out and pitches with conviction and confidence, few can match his overall pitch-ability and therefore he still has a significant enough ceiling as a potential middle to back-end big league starting pitcher.

ETA. 2016. Camarena it ticketed back to Double-A Trenton to begin the 2015 campaign and just like last year a late season call-up to the next level [Triple-A in this instance] is not out of the question should he pitch as well as he did in the first half last year.


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