Brooks Kriske has power and deception, and significant big league upside as a result, all of which he's showing right away.

STATEN ISLAND, NY -- After wrapping up his baseball season with USC in late May, Brooks Kriske was given the opportunity to begin a new journey with the Yankees here in Staten Island. One month removed from pitching for the Trojans, he donned pinstripes for the first time, and since then has gotten off to a great start.

The Yankees selected Kriske, a pitcher from the University of Southern California, with their sixth round pick in this year’s MLB Draft.  This season, he appeared in 26 games with his alma mater, registering 42 strikeouts in 35 and 1/3 innings pitched.  He did an incredible job keeping runners off base, holding opposing batters to a .205 batting average, and accruing an impressive 2.55 ERA.

For Kriske though, his 2016 baseball season did not end there, as he came to Staten Island in June and has picked up right where he left off.  Having already pitched in 13 games already for the SI Yankees, he has a 2.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, and has earned four saves in five opportunities (as of August 7th). 

Here in Staten Island, as a professional pitcher for the first time, he has already noticed some crucial differences between college and pro ball.

“This league has a lot of college kids who I’ve played against,” Kriske mentioned, “but all the leadoff, three, and four hitters are the best hitters on every team, so there’s no let-ups in lineups, you have to stay focused.  They will battle in at-bats, you can’t throw three fastballs by them, you have to know how to pitch and execute a little better.”

Despite his impressive numbers so far, he is focused on continuing to develop.  While still just beginning his pro career, Kriske is already starting to find areas of improvement in his game. 

“I’m [working on my] command,” he added. “It starts with the fastball command, where I can throw it in or out, [when I’m] up or down in any counts; also commanding my offspeed, not just throwing it for a strike, but getting it on the outer part of the plate, and keeping it down.  I’m working on a changeup now, so being able to implement that as a third pitch will help a lot.”

While the transition from college to pro ball can be intimidating at times, Kriske has been picking up advice from many to help him adjust smoothly, including his current teammate and former college roommate, Timmy Robinson. 

“We’re both new to professional baseball and we both know each other well,” Kriske revealed.  “We were roommates, he’s my neighbor this year; it’s good to be able to have somebody to confide in.  We kind of coach each other even though we’re not the same position, we can kind of pick up things that we’ve seen when we’ve been going well.”

Additionally, Kriske has been developing confidence in his routine and work ethic in preparation for his outings. 

“It’s just throwing my pitches with conviction at all times, when it’s an 0-2 or 3-0 count, throwing my pitch hard and through the catcher.  Also, trusting the work that I put in before the games, while I’m playing catch, doing my lifting and conditioning, and just trusting that it’s all going to translate onto the field,” he commented.

The progression Kriske has been making in Staten Island since arriving has really impressed pitching coach Travis Phelps.

“He has a very deceptive arm action, and the ball explodes through the zone,” Phelps described. “When he combines those, he gets a lot of bad swings off of his fastball.”

As he continues the adjustment to pitching professionally, Kriske is concentrated on making any changes necessary to improve during his appearances.  In particular, Phelps pointed out the effort Kriske is devoting to his pitches.

“[Kriske] just has to clean up his mechanics a bit.  He is going to have to develop a really dominant slider,” Phelps clarified. “He has the ability, the makeup, and the arm action, [he just needs] a couple of small adjustments on his slider.  Then, possibly developing that third pitch – a changeup – or maybe at some point a split if the changeup doesn’t come around, but the biggest thing for him is just going to be consistency.”

If he can continue to perform the way he has been doing recently, Kriske is lined up to accelerate his growth as a player. He’s pitched in many spots for the Yankees so far and will most likely continue that pattern.  Going forward, Phelps believes he will only get better.

“He’s got a really good arm.  He can throw 94-95, he’s really got some power and life behind [his pitches], and he has a chance to be special.  He has to put some work in with his secondary pitches and learning to pitch to left-handed hitters a little better, but that comes with time, and that will be the determining factor for him – his ability at some point to develop that second or third pitch and get left-handed hitters out,” Phelps explained.

The steps Kriske is taking to develop as a pitcher are being seen throughout the rest of the clubhouse, including with manager Dave Bialas. 

“He has a good arm and good release,” Bialas highlighted. “He’s closed [too]; he has good deception, and he’s working on his slider.  It looks like his slider is getting better and better.”

"When you have an arm like he has, with the deception he has, he can go as high as the big leagues, without a doubt.  He has a big league arm and makeup.”

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