The Grooming of an Ace: Jesse Hoover

There is no way you could miss the landing of Jesse Hoover this year in Staten Island. As he blew away the league with his blazing fastball, he starting drawing more and more attention and it soon became clear that we could be watching something special.

In a sport now dominated by offense, this process has become increasingly rare but there is no doubt that the New York Yankees are grooming an ace and his name is Jesse Hoover.

The Yankees have tried for years and years now to find that dominating starting pitcher that seems like a rarer commodity now than it has ever been. Of course, this is no easy task for any one, as these pitchers are few and far between since the offensive explosion. The Cubs have developed Mark Prior, the Marlins have Josh Beckett and the Royals are close with Zach Greinke. It seems that the dominating, young power pitcher is not extinct but over the the years, the Yankees haven't been able to come up with one it seems. However, they may have someone that fits that mold right in Staten Island. Jesse Hoover is his name and what a professional debut he had this season in Staten Island. The Yankees drafted him in the 5th round in the 2004 draft and the organization had very high hopes for good reason. It is not too often that you are able to steal an arm that can produce a 96 MPH fastball. Get to know the name because this young man is for real. After all, he does model himself after Roger Clemens.

 

Jesse Hoover certainly looked like something special in his first professional season as he averaged nearly fifteen strikeouts per nine innings. That's right, fifteen. How can you deny this about someone that models his work ethic after Roger Clemens? In fact, he has drawn multiple comparisons to his boyhood idol and there is nothing the Yankees would covet more than a remake of the Rocket. Let's find out more about this right handed fireballer as Jesse Hoover sits down with us to assess his season and tell us his plans for next season and beyond. Plus, Jesse also critiques his own game to give the best angle possible to scout him. Could this be the beginning of the Grooming of an Ace? 

 

PinstripesPlus: What was your first professional season like?


Jesse Hoover: It was definitely a fun summer for me, being my first year. Overall I was satisfied with the way I was able to pitch.


PP: You were a strikeout machine this year. Have you always had a knack for the K?


Hoover: Not until I put some velocity on my fastball during my sophomore year of college. After that I was able to use other pitches to set up my fastball for an out pitch. I went into college topping out at 87 or so and by the time I graduated I think I hit 96 and then 97 a few times this summer. I would credit both physical and mechanical development, but physical development is definitely a big factor. I've grown about 2 inches and put on around 20-30 lbs since high school.


PP: So, when did you start pitching?


Hoover: I guess it was probably as early as the 3rd or 4th grade in little league. I would spend hours in the back yard with my dad, too.


PP: Were you good from the start or do you attribute your success to hard work and improving through the years?


Hoover: I guess I was a little bit above average in high school, but I was not a standout. It basically took all three years of college to get to where I've gotten. I basically take a negative point of view when I think about not working out or not working on my mechanics. I tell myself that if I'm not getting better there's always someone that is.


PP: No scouts took much interest in you in high school?


Hoover: No, I basically didn't interest any colleges (other than a small community college) until legion ball after I graduated.

PP: Did you know the Yankees were interested in you before the draft?


Hoover: Yeah, it was a long process but obviously worth every bit of it. I had a pretty good idea the Yankees were interested as well as a few other teams. I was pretty excited when I found out that's who I would be playing for, though.


PP: So, where do you expect to be next year in the organization?


Hoover: I think if I do well in spring training I will get an opportunity in Tampa. Just the same, I may go to Charleston. It's really a decision made towards the end of spring training. I know they had a good team this year and I know a few of the pitchers that were with that team. I think pitching alongside those guys would make for an interesting summer. There's definitely some talent on that team from this year.
PP: Do you think you will be a starter next year or closing again?


Hoover: I guess I'm not really sure, yet. For me personally, I'd be happy either way, but I haven't been given any indication either way on what my role will be.
 

PP: Have you thought about adding to your repertoire that already consists of a fastball and a curveball?

Hoover: Basically that was all I used this year in the Penn League, but I put some work into a change-up over the last two weeks down at instructional league. It's coming along better than I expected. It was effective for me in a short period of time and it's amazing how a change-up, even if it's not a power change, can set up your other pitches (which leads to more strikeouts).

PP: What do you think is the key for successful pitching for you?


Hoover: The bottom line is throwing strikes for me, personally. As long as I'm able to get ahead of hitters I believe I can be pretty effective with the pitches that I have.


PP: Just how good is your breaking ball?


Hoover: It can be a very good out pitch for some games. One thing I would like to do is get to the point of throwing it in any count I want. Generally I get ahead so I can use that curveball down to get a swing and a miss. As long as I have a good blocking catcher I love to throw it 0-2 and 1-2.


PP: Did you grow up idolizing Roger Clemens?


Hoover: Of course, Clemens, Ryan, and Schilling were the big three that I loved watching.

PP: Did you model yourself after them at all?


Hoover: Not other than knowing that it takes hard work and dedication to be able to do the things they've done. That's one thing I hope I'll always have in common with those guys.

PP: Would a splitter be a pitch that you would ever like to add or is a changeup and a curve enough for you to compliment your fastball?


Hoover: I tried to mess around with a splitter this summer and at this point I have a better feel for the change.

PP: Which of your pro teammates would you least like to see in the batters box against you?


Hoover: That's tough. Well, let's see, Justin Christian definitely, definitely is one of the most scrappy players I've played with. Vechionacci is tough, too because he's so smooth, you never catch him over swinging.

PP: Who worked with you in the instructional league?

Hoover: A number of guys worked with me but the pitching coordinator was Nardi Contreras.

 

Even though Hoover is at least a couple years away from the Major Leagues, he is still an exciting proposition for any Yankee fan. The Yankees are going to be responsible for grooming an ace of the future but they have a lot to work with in Hoover. You can't find a pitcher with a better work ethic unless you go to Roger Clemens, himself. Maybe there is just something about the allure of a fire balling strikeout pitcher or maybe it is just the Jesse Hoover's future could truly be just that bright.

 

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Jesse Hoover for his time and efforts in answering these questions.


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