Q&A with Yankees' Prospect Steven White

RHP Steven White sits down with PinstripesPlus.com to talk about his time at Baylor, how his season went in 2004, where he thinks he'll be pitching in '05, how he feels about all the trade talks surrounding his good friend Eric Duncan, who he has been most impressed with in the Yankees' farm system, and a whole lot more in this Q&A session.

PinstripesPlus: Tell us about your experience at the University of Baylor.

Steven White: I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I never thought I would say this but I miss being back in college and learning things. It's really strange. I have friends in pro ball that went straight from high school to the pros and have spent the better part of two years at the rookie level and sometimes I feel like asking them, what are you doing? I mean it's not like we are getting paid very well down here and now I have a degree (in Education) to go with a great college experience, which are both great things.

PinstripesPlus: Which team were you a fan of growing up and did you have a favorite player?

White: Growing up near the Houston area I obviously was a fan of the Astros and Nolan Ryan was definitely my favorite player. His home town of Alvin, Texas was like five minutes from my home and he was the local hero to everyone. His name was all over the place and he was somebody everybody wanted to be like.

PinstripesPlus: With that in mind, how did you feel about being drafted by the Yankees, especially growing up an Astros fan?

White: It was wonderful for me. I mean there's not a better organization to play for. There's no better organization for the best minor league experience. We get a lot more perks in the Yankees' system than other minor leaguers get. It's weird though. It is the toughest organization to move in. I mean, not too many guys are going to make the rotation over the likes of Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson but right now, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

PinstripesPlus: How did you feel about the season you had this past year?

White: With the finish I had, it made it real good. I started off slow in the beginning at both Battle Creek and Tampa and finished off both really strong. I was just happy because I pitched my best ball at the end of a long season.

PinstripesPlus: Go ahead and give us a scouting report on yourself. What type of pitches do you throw? What speeds?

White: Honestly, I was mainly a fastball pitcher this past season. I mixed in a curveball this year. I had a pretty changeup in college but started focusing more on the curveball this year and simply forgot to throw the changeup. My fastball is about 90-94 MPH and it hit 96 MPH towards the end the of year. I think it hit 97 MPH once but I think the gun was off (laughing). My curveball is more of a "slurve", getting a bit of a slider action to it and I was throwing it 76-82 MPH towards the end of the year after getting it in a little too fast, around 86 MPH during the middle of the year. I only really began throwing my changeup in minicamp this past fall and it was around 80-82 MPH. That's where I want my changeup to be. I am not a complicated pitcher. I go straight at it and try not get too fancy with hitting spots.

PinstripesPlus: Do you set specific goals for yourself? What was your goal for this past season?

White: After having such a long layoff from baseball, my goal was to finish the year in high-A ball and to finish the season strong. I also wanted to have an ERA under 3.00. I guess I accomplished my goals.

PinstripesPlus: Stemming from that, what are your goals for the 2005 season?

White: It's to have a good year in AA-Trenton next year, possibly getting a promotion to AAA if I pitch well. I mean if I am 8-2 with a sub-3 ERA at Trenton I'd like to get promoted to the next level so I can reach the Majors within two years. But it wouldn't be disappointing if I had a good full year at AA next year. Again, I am shooting for an ERA under 3.00 and my general goal is to be more consistent. I worked with "Pav" (Greg Pavlick) on my changeup at minicamp this year and I am looking to throw my changeup more consistently next season. I'll have to have that pitch if I'm going to be successful at the higher levels unless I can develop a curveball hammer as my out pitch. I figure if I shoot for an ERA under 3.00, everything else will fall into place and I'll have good strikeout and walk totals.

PinstripesPlus: Is there one player that you have become closest to in the Yankees' system? Who is your best friend in the system?

White: There's really not just one person, but if I had to choose one, it would be "Dunc" (Eric Duncan). We both played at Battle Creek together and moved up to Tampa together. Here's a funny story, when we got moved up to Tampa there weren't many rooms available so we each were given air mattresses and shared a room. We basically had to line the air mattresses up side-by-side. It's easier to become friends when you're sleeping right next to one another (laughing).

PinstripesPlus: Well since you played together all year and have become good friends, what's your take on Duncan as a player?

White: Wow, he is the goods. The best thing I can say about "Dunc" is there's nothing you can say bad about him. He gets a bad rap for his defense. Here's another funny story for you. The very first batter I faced at Battle Creek hit a liner off Duncan for an error and I was like, thanks "Dunc" for the error. It was the last error he made in my starts for the rest of the season. He knows he has a lot of work to do to make it as a third baseman but I think he can be a Major League third baseman. Nobody works harder than him.

PinstripesPlus: Expanding on that, just how good can Duncan be in your opinion and who does he compare to at the Major League level?

White: I have never seen such a young hitter with such a great approach at the plate. One of my teammates at Baylor, David Murphy, was one of the most polished hitters I've ever seen. And despite the fact that "Dunc" is three years younger, he's as mature at the play as "Murph" is. He goes away a lot with the pitches. As far as an MLB comparison, I guess I'd say Chipper Jones because they both go away a ton. I don't know if he's going to be as good as Chipper, because really, that's truly saying something. But I see him as a .280 hitter with 25-30 home run power. He's a really smart hitter and one of the hardest workers on the team.

PinstripesPlus: Seeing as you have such a high regard for Duncan, how does it make you feel that his name is thrown about in all the trade rumors, especially in the Randy Johnson trade talks?

White: I know, it's tough. "Dunc" called me up last week and was like, "I guess we're not going to see each again other until we reach the Bigs". I guess it's just one of those things that's understood that while being in the Yankees' organization is great, chances are we're going to be traded. In fact, sometimes guys are jealous when another player is traded to another organization because you feel that guy is going to get his shot sooner than you. We all want to make it to the Majors with the Yankees but we all realize there's a better than average chance we're going to have to make it someplace else.

PinstripesPlus: Who in your opinion is the position prospect that has the highest upside?

White: That's easy, Eric Duncan (laughing).

PinstripesPlus: OK, you're right. That was too easy. Give me another name and tell me who you think he resembles at the Major League level, offensively.

White: Well that's another easy one. Melky Cabrera for sure. He is a GREAT bad ball hitter. In that regard, he reminds me of Vladmir Guerrero. It's so true. It's just his approach at the plate that compares to Vlad. I mean, hardly anything gets by him. I've seen him knock a breaking ball one ince off the dirt for a base hit. Honestly? The only pitch I've seen him struggle with is the fastball right down the middle of the plate. He hits everything else nobody else can touch and it frustrates pitchers. You know he's going to master the fastballs down the middle. That's a given. While he's never going to walk a lot, I am not a big believer in on-base percentage anyway. Melky's going to be great.

PinstripesPlus: Switching gears for a moment, which pitcher in the Yankees' farm system has the highest upside of the guys you've seen? And you can't pick yourself!

White: There's two guys that have amazing stuff. Christian Garcia has an unbelievable upside! And that's just from seeing him a little bit at minicamp. He's just got to mature and put it all together but I really like his potential. As for a guy I saw during the season? I'd have to say Edwardo Sierra. The best fastball I saw, the best slider I saw, and the best splitter I saw all came from Sierra. He really has the best stuff I have ever seen. If he could improve his command and start throwing strikes more consistently, he could be in the Big Leagues next year, that's how good his stuff is. This past season, people knew he had a hard time throwing strikes and they just laid off his pitches. He just needs to locate better. I mean, his ERA was awesome and he averaged a walk per inning. That should tell you something.

PinstripesPlus: Who do you think will make up the Trenton rotation next year?

White: A bunch of us were trying to figure that out at minicamp. From what we hear, it could be Sean Henn, if he's not moved to the bullpen, Matt DeSalvo, Jeff Karstens, Jonathan Skaggs, and myself.

PinstripesPlus: What is your opinion of Jon Skaggs?

White: Skaggs is a very intelligent ball player. He's a harder worker than Duncan, and that's really saying something. He kind of reminds me of Roger Clemens because of his work ethic and menatality. The thing with Skaggs is there's no room for error. He's always trying to locate too much and trying so hard to get more movement on his pitches that he's sacraficing velocity. The weird thing is, that even though he works on his mechanics so much, he's still a little wild. Sometimes I just wish he'd trust his stuff more and let it fly.

PinstripesPlus: Do you know anything about Brett Smith and where do you think he'll start next season?

White: I know Brett from college. He's really good. He can throw any pitch at anytime! His changeup is awesome and he's real confident with that pitch. He has no worries about throwing a 3-2 changeup. He has a good fastball, slider, and curveball too. He has a hitch in his throwing motion that gives his a very deceptive delivery, kind of like Eric Abreu. I'd imagine he'll start in Tampa next season and skip low-A.

PinstripesPlus: What are your thoughts on Abreu?

White: Abreu's a guy that does not throw real hard. I read somewhere that he throws in the mid-90's. He might be able to, but he didn't throw that hard in his three starts in Tampa. I think he only threw as hard as 88-90 MPH but he's a guy that just gets guys out. He really knows how to pitch.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Steven White for taking the time to answer our questions. You can look forward to hearing more from Steven during the 2005 season.

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