Power From The Pen: Edwardo Sierra

What are the obvious skills that an organization looks for in order to develop their very own power relief pitcher? Well, it sure isn't easy because obviously, they are extremely hard to come by. That is why it was puzzling when the Yankees dealt a guy that fell right under that description over the winter, Yhency Brazoban. However, only five days later, the Yankees replaced him with someone that was not only younger but better with even more electric stuff. His name is Edwardo Sierra.

It is possible that at the time the Yankees dealt Yhency Brazoban it was highly overlooked only because of what they got in return, Kevin Brown. But, Brazoban was by no means a pushover of a prospect so in the minds of the organization, he was a gun in the arsenal that needed to be replaced. As already mentioned, these young, power, bullpen arms are rare so it wasn't an easy task. So, the deal went down on December 14th that would send Brazoban, Brandon Weeden and Jeff Weaver to Los Angeles for star pitcher, Kevin Brown. It was a fair price to pay to say the least for a very fine pitcher but it would certainly leave a void for the Yankees to fill. Then, five days later, the Yankees made another move. Looking to deal their excess left handed relief pitcher Chris Hammond, New York found a match in the bullpen thirsty, Oakland Athletics. Obviously in dire need of bullpen help, the A's were more willing to part with a solid prospect, J.T. Stotts. However, the guy that the Yankees targeted all along was a player that Oakland was much less willing to part with. The organization eyed him as the ideal replacement for Yhency Brazoban and probably even an upgrade. Having some leverage over Oakland, they got their man, Edwardo Sierra.


In all probability, most people probably did not notice just how good Edwardo Sierra was when the Yankees acquired him. The headlines would read "Hammond Dealt" but the fact is, the deal may likely end up becoming more well known for the acquisition of Edwardo Sierra. Well the proof to the matter is that, immediately, Edwardo Sierra became the Yankees #11 prospect according to Baseball America. The fact is, Sierra is even better than Brazoban and any other relief pitcher in the Yankee Farm System. He is just about exactly what it takes to be a relief pitcher but this skill did not come instantly for him. But, now, he could be the perfect medicine for a much maligned farm system. It is very possible that he could be on a similar track to his 2003 teammate and Oakland prospect, Jairo Garcia, who was recently called up to the big club. Those two served as a devastating duo of pitching prospects last year for the Kane County Cougars. It is even possible that their influences on each other have helped both of their careers greatly. Garcia and Sierra were teammates for four years starting in the Dominican Summer League in 1999. But, Garcia has just happened to find the faster track to the big leagues. And, everyone knows that in the Yankee organization, making it to the majors is not an easy task. Who knows, it may have been Sierra that was brought up to Oakland if he wasn't traded this off season. He was on the Oakland 40 man roster at the time of the trade so who knows for sure what could have been for Edwardo Sierra.


Who would be able to predict over these past four years that Jairo Garcia would suddenly leap ahead of Edwardo Sierra to the Major Leagues? But, by no means does that knock Sierra. In fact, it is probably due to the old luck of the draw. While Sierra continues to dominate the Florida State League, it makes us take a look at the comparison between the two as Jairo is now sitting in a major league bullpen. Is it just that Garcia is having a breakout season of sorts this season that puts him ahead of Sierra on the prospect ladder or is Sierra just victimized by playing in the Yankee system? To put things in perspective, Sierra was the Yankees #11 prospect coming into this season while Garcia was not even ranked in the top 30 in the Oakland System. However, the reason we take a look at this comparison is not to say one of these prospects is better than the other because as of now, Jairo Garcia is recognized as the better prospect and is now in the big leagues. The point here is that the Yankees have a prospect that is highly comparable to Jairo Garcia in more ways than one.


Every single player in the Florida State League this year has found out and has learned to understand that, if Edwardo Sierra is on his game, you can generally pack your bags, turn out the lights and say good night. He is truly that dominating when he is right. Well, for the mast majority of the season, Edwardo Sierra has been "right" and it has shown up in his statistics. Sierra has successfully converted 25 save opportunities this season. That is one of top totals in all of the minor leagues and is tops in the Florida State League. Too add even more to that, he is average over 11 strikeouts per nine innings. The only thing he struggles with from time to time is control. Many times that is common with a young pitcher with nasty stuff. However, it has not become a major problem for him. For anyone who thinks he is just having one good season, think again. Sierra did just about the same thing last season with the Kane County Cougars. He was the closer on that team with Jairo Garcia as his teammate and he dominated the Midwest League. Edwardo converted 17 saves and had a minuscule 2.09 ERA in 2003. So, let's raise the question once again, what makes Jairo Garcia much or any better than Edwardo Sierra? Remember, on that team, Edwardo was the one they gave the ball to in those big relief roles. That hasn't changed this year as he is now with the Yankee organization and doing the same thing.


As we being to understand just how good Edwardo Sierra actually is while becoming more and more befuddled as to why he does not get the attention he deserves, why not find out just why he is what he is. One of the main reasons that the Yankees found Edwardo Sierra to be an upgrade over the traded Yhency Brazoban is that they believed his mental makeup was vastly better. The organization considers Sierra to be one of their elite power arms in the system and he may have a bright future lined up ahead of him in a major league bullpen like his suddenly more fortunate, former teammate, Jairo Garcia now has. It certainly helps to throw 97 MPH. Just ask Edwardo Sierra because he certainly knows how to use it. Sierra has made going up the ladder with his fastball into a trademark of his. He can blow it by just about anyone as he consistently throws in the mid to upper 90's. But, that is not all. This is where a hitter has to turn a blind eye. The lanky righty also has a devastating splitter that drops out of the sky also. With two big guns in his arsenal, he is an ideal closer. When both these guns are working, it is not a good day to be a hitter no matter who you are.


A guy like Edwardo Sierra could very easily follow the paths of two guys that he will always be linked with. As a matter of fact, the only reason he hasn't found that path to the big leagues like Brazoban and Jairo Garcia may simply be answered by looking at the organization he plays in. However, he may very well discover his own road to the big leagues sooner than anyone thinks. We may only be seeing a small sample of what Sierra could be in the future. If this is so, hitters beware.



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