Scouting Yankee Prospect #44: Edwardo Sierra

The New York Yankees acquired relief pitcher, Edwardo Sierra in December of 2003 in a deal that sent Chris Hammond to the Oakland A's. Sierra spent the entire 2004 campaign with the Tampa Yankees, having an up and down season. The 22 year old, flame throwing righty is highly regarded by the organization despite some struggles. Sierra ranks #44 in our Top 50 Yankee prospects.

Vital Statistics
Name: Edwardo Sierra
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: April 15, 1982
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
How Acquired: The New York Yankees acquired right handed pitcher, Edwardo Sierra in a deal that sent Chris Hammond to the Oakland Athletics.

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. Then, five days after Brazoban was traded, 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 his time with Oakland, Edwardo Sierra showed a lot of promise, which is the main reason that the Athletics had such a hard time parting ways with him. His breakout season was 2003, when he became the closer for Oakland's Midwest League affiliate, Kane County. He became a lights out reliever at the back end of the game as he racked up 17 saves while posting a dominant 2.09 ERA on the season. Another thing thing to note is that his control was decent. Sierra walked about 3.5 batters per nine innings in 2003. It is strange to think that his control would be that much better than it ended up being one season later.

The Yankees had to be beaming when they were able to pick up Edwardo Sierra, and certainly for good reason. They obviously thought a lot of him considering that they immediately put him on the 40 man roster after he was acquired. It was decided that the 22 year old Sierra would start the 2004 season as the closer for the Yankees High A affiliate, the Tampa Yankees. At first, the lanky right hander looked like a world beater, dominating the league and shutting the door night after night. However, things seemed to implode in last month and a half of the season for Sierra. He began walking batters at a disturbing rate while also blowing saves at an equally startling rate. His manager, Bill Masse spoke with PinstripesPlus.com about Sierra and his late season implosion. "You know, I really like Edwardo and he had some problems this year. If you look at his total number of saves you wouldn't know he struggled but he had his share of problems. Sierra has a great, great arm. He gets his fastball around 95 MPH+ every time. But, he has a wild motion. He flies off the mound and is really all over the place. The bottom line is that he walks too many. You just can't do that when you're trying to close out a game. He has the stuff but he has to work on his control issues to be successful." It can't be put any more clear than that. Sierra does have great stuff including two dominating pitches, but if he can't refine his violent motion and simply get the ball over the plate, his success will become less and less as he moves up the minor league ladder.

If you look at his numbers in 2004, most people would think he had an excellent season. After all, the righthander did post a solid 3.33 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per nine innings while compiling 25 saves as the Tampa closer. But, if you look closer, his walk totals are absolutely horrible. Sierra walked over 8 batters per nine innings pitched! The fact that he managed to still have a good season is mind boggling. However, he can't get by this way in the higher levels.
 

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2001

Arizona A's

2-1

1

44.2

45

9

41

3.02

2002 Arizona A's 2-1 0 33.0 29 10 35 4.64
2002 Vancouver 0-2 0 28.0 42 17 23 6.11
2003 Kane County 3-5 17 60.1 46 24 52 2.09

2004

Tampa

2-3

28

48.2

44

45

57

3.33


Repertoire. Fastball, Splitter

Fastball. The heater of Edwardo Sierra is the reason he can have such hideous control at times and many times get away with it. It is also the reason that the Yankees wanted to acquire him in the first place. Arguably, Edwardo Sierra has the best arm in the Yankee Minor League System. He loves to go up the ladder with his fastball that can sometimes touch 97 MPH. But, he will need to regain consistent command of that fastball in order to be successful.

Other Pitches. Besides a great fastball, Edwardo Sierra has a great secondary pitch in his splitter. And, when this pitch is right along with good command of his fastball, Edwardo can be nearly untouchable. However, many times, him being hit is not the problem. During the 2004 season, Sierra had control and command problems with everything including his splitter. And, when he did get hit, it would be on a tumbling splitter that laid up in the strike zone. This is a power splitter than can be a plus pitch when Sierra is on top of his game.

Pitching. Sierra has a pitching style that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. He likes to move the ball up and down in the strike zone. Edwardo knows how to go farther and farther up the ladder with his tremendous fastball. Then, he can drop a nasty splitter at the ankles. He is a classic example of a pitcher dominating hitters simply by changing their eye level with two plus pitches. That is why it is so frustrating to see him have such control problems. Sierra is not a pitcher that has to have pinpoint control and hit corners all the time. But, with his type of electric stuff, he must challenge the hitters. But, in actuality, he is not afraid to challenge the hitters. As stated by his manager, the righty has a wild motion, and if he gets the least bit out of sync, he couldn't buy a strike. However, here is where the conflict begins. That wild, violent motion is what gets him so much of his explosive velocity. He will simply have to learn how to duplicate that motion over and over again. To put it as plain as possible, if he can throw consistent strikes, no one is going to touch Edwardo Sierra. The proof in that is that even though he walked over 8 batters per nine innings in 2004, he defied the odds by managing to post a strong 3.33 ERA. It is really a testament to how good his stuff really is. Control will be the ultimate key for success in Edwardo Sierra's career because his stuff is as good as it gets.

Projection. Well, it seems more likely that, with the type of explosive arm he has, Sierra will eventually make his way into a Major league bullpen in a couple of years. However, even though he undoubtedly has closer type stuff, he is going to have to cut down on his simply awful walk totals from the 2004 season. 8.5 walks per nine innings is just not going to cut it. But, if he can get the ball around the plate, he has two lights out pitches that no one can seem to ever touch. Look for him to sort out his control problems and become and effective big league reliever in a couple years.

ETA. Late 2006. You can expect to see Edwardo Sierra closing games with the AA Trenton Thunder in 2005 despite his 2004 control troubles in Tampa. He will be 23 next season and the Yankees will want to keep him on track. Then, in 2006, he could very well be in AAA Columbus with a possibility of a September callup when the rosters expand.

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