The Crown Jewel?: Steven White

How much longer do we have to wait? How long will it be until we have a crown jewel pitching prospect to headline the farm system? Well, maybe the wait is over. Is Steven White what we've been waiting for?

What exactly makes Steven White different from all the rest? Why should a Yankee fan get excited over another pitcher that may be destined to fail? Maybe this time it is just different. Perhaps it is just far more different than we can even imagine. Or maybe it is because no one really knew of him at all before this season. Minus the perpetual period of hype and buildup, Steven White is suddenly glowing atop the Yankee list of prospects. It may seem shocking but the Yankees do have someone in the pitching prospect department to brag about. The lack of hype will obviously end in 2005 for Steven White but he has gotten a good head start before people caught onto what he could really do. Could he finally be what we have been waiting for?

At the time he was drafted, people thought pretty highly of Steven White, but his selection was in a way overshadowed by the groans about New York, again, for being far too conservative in the draft. He was taken out of Baylor University in the 4th round after a roller coaster college career that did have a strong ending to it. After that, he seemed to fade away as Eric Duncan was really the only Yankee draftee that people seemed to care about. It didn't set in until next season, 2004, that there was no sign of Steven White on any Yankee Farm System roster. It was truly baffling considering that White was drafted as a college senior. Oddly enough, this is when people actually started to worry about whether he would ever sign. But, the worries were silenced when he finally signed and began to play in May of 2004. Soon after, he was assigned to the low A Battle Creek Yankees. In all honesty, did anyone really know what this 4th round selection, from a year ago, would bring to the table? Probably not, but he was soon able to show that, even with a long layoff, there was a reason he was such a superb college pitcher at Baylor University.

For people who studied Steven White very closely, his performance was not surprising. But, at the same time, people were not exactly jumping for joy about a polished 23 year old pitcher mowing down a Low A league. There was only one antidote for that, give the young man the promotion he deserved. He was pitching like a man among boys in the Midwest league so now it was time for his big test. The lanky righthander would be headed to the Florida State League to see what he could do with the Tampa Yankees. When he got there, not only was he just as good, he put up even better statistics there as well. Also, there was a sudden change in him that was in a way, reminiscent of "The Sandman", himself. How can anyone forget the story of Mariano Rivera's miraculous velocity increase a season before he broke in as a future Yankee legend. Not to get ahead of ourselves with Steven White, but his story still seems all to familiar. After being promoted to Tampa, Steven White suddenly starting noticeably harder. How much harder? Around 4 miles per hour harder. "I don't have a reason," Mark Newman had to say in an interview with Baseball America. "In college we had him at 90 to maybe 93 miles an hour," said Newman. "Now he is at 93 and touches 96. It has made a difference." Newman, a Yankee Minor League boss, then made the Rivera comparison. "Mariano Rivera was like that at a young age," Newman said. "His velocity jumped up." The big righty certainly is not the same pitcher as Mariano Rivera. But make no mistake, he may end up being just as valuable in the very near future.

So, is a jump in velocity enough to make Steven White into the crown jewel of the Yankee Farm System? Well, it certainly helps but he also has more than enough skills to compliment his new found power pitching velocity. "He will start next year at Double-A (Trenton)," Newman said in the same interview. "He can move up because he isn't just a power guy. He throws a two-seam and four-seamer. His curveball and change are good, too." This only makes him all the more intriguing. Here is a 23 year old who can not only blow you away with his fastball, but really knows how to pitch and has the perfect, aggressive mentality for the mound. To think, he will ride high into AA next season with less than a full season under his belt. For the Yankees, you don't usually see this type of aggressive move unless they really believe in their prospect. "White, you know, he was just fantastic for us and in Battle Creek," said Tampa Yankees Manager, Bill Masse. "He really looks like a very mature pitcher and it showed in his performance. His overall stuff is great. There is really nothing not to like about him."

What exactly makes Steven White so good? What are the characteristics of a crown jewel? Well, in pitching, it all starts with mentality. And, if you want the perfect attitude for a pitcher, Steven White has what you are looking for. "He has gotten the reputation as being arrogant, but you know what? I like that in a pitcher," said Masse. "He goes out there and he thinks no one can touch him and no one can beat him. I think that is actually a very good attribute to have." And, if you want to talk mechanics, the Yankees have not touched them yet since White was drafted out of Baylor. "He has a pretty violent delivery too. That helps him with his deception," Masse said about White's delivery. Also, it is not as if White does not have the repertoire to back up the attitude and the delivery. Bill Masse had some words about the righty's repertoire as well. "Right now, his curveball is average to above average but it looks like there is room to grow there. He is going to need a little work on his changeup so he is able to neutralize the left handed hitters. But, if he can continue improving that changeup, he is going to be incredible."

The miraculous velocity hike, the beneficial arrogance, the heart of a Roger Clemens and the overall tools to be a dominating starting pitcher. These are the unmistakable traits of a top pitching prospect and the crown jewel of the system. In a little under a full season, Steven White compiled a 10-4 record with an ERA well under 3.00. And, those are only the numbers behind the man. "He is a guy who has a heart the size of Texas," said a praising, Bill Masse. You can now call Steven White a power pitcher, a pitcher with the right attitude and a pitcher that has suddenly become the gem of the Yankee Farm System.

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