Sizing Up The Starting Pitching Prospects: Part II

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' starting pitching prospects. Which ones are the sleepers? Which ones are too early to call? And, which ones need to make a move? These questions are answered in Part Two of our two part series on the Yankees' starting pitching prospects. 

Sleepers

Eric Abreu - Perhaps for those who know him well enough, he really isn't much of a sleeper anymore. But, to others who don't know him as well, he might be a sleeper. If you talk to the coaches who have had Abreu on their pitching staff, they'll tell you just what kind of pitcher he is. He possesses a live fastball with excellent command. Not to mention, his curveball could also could be a potential plus pitch. Those two pitches, along with a solid changeup make him an outstanding sleeper prospect in the Yankee farm system. The only true test left for him is to see if he can handle a full season of logging innings. Other than that, the future looks bright for this 21 year old righthander. Ever since he was inked as an international free agent, the Yankees have awaited the time he would become one of their star prospects. It seems that 2005 could very well be that year.

Jesse Hoover - Well, his recent back injury sure isn't going to help his cause in 2005, but Jesse Hoover is still a very prominent prospect in the Yankee farm system. Coming out of college, he wasn't exactly a well known commodity. But, in the organization's eyes, he could be the biggest sleeper in the 2004 draft class. With a stress fracture in his back, Hoover could spend 2-3 months on the disabled list, but that doesn't mean it is nearly time to give up on him. The big righthander still has one of the top power arms in the entire system and has a lot to offer.

Jeff Karstens - When you think about it, it is amazing that Karstens has not gotten more attention than he has received during his time in the farm system. The righthander has shown good command of his fastball and his secondary pitches to go along with excellent pitchability. But, within the Yankee organization, he has gone far from unnoticed as they rank him as one of their top pitching prospects in their system. He will debut in AA this year as a part of the Trenton Thunder pitching staff. Not to mention, he will be the youngest staff member at only 22 years of age. There is no doubt that he has certainly found the fast track since the Yankees drafted him out of Texas Tech University back in 2003.

Brandon Harmsen - Although he was a fairly early round selection in the 2002 draft, Harmsen just really isn't an eye opener at first glance. He doesn't throw hard, he gives up a lot of hits, and doesn't really strike a lot of guys out either. But, he continues to pitch well. Posting a 10-3 record in 2004 with Battle Creek, the crafty righthander finally earned some attention in the scouting world. However, he still is going to have to battle for a starting spot in 2005. But, if he gets a chance, he'll have a shot to be a solid back end of the rotation starter down the road.

Chase Wright - First of all, he is left handed, so considering that, he is going to get a lot of chances. Not to mention, he is former 3rd round pick by the Yankees and he has a very live arm. He attempted to battle through arm problems in 2004 with Battle Creek and Staten Island, but it did more harm than anything else. But, he was able to repair some minor elbow problems during the off season and he appears healthy headed into 2005. So, considering the confidence that the organization has in the 22 year old lefty, he has been named the fifth starter for Charleston this season. He has battled control problems in the past, but he still has big time type of potential.

Need To Make Their Move

Ramon Ramirez - Perhaps Ramon Ramirez was far too over hyped in 2004, but what he did show was that the reports were right, he did have a very live fastball and he was going to rack up a lot of strikeouts. But, he lacked consistency and his control and command weren't exactly impressive either. So, we'll reserve judgment until the 23 year old righthander pitches in AAA once again in 2005. But, his stamina is still a question in our minds considering his less than large figure on the mound and his late inning performances last season. And, perhaps in the future, he would be better suited as a late inning reliever.

Jon Skaggs - Well, you really can't blame Jon Skaggs for being in this position right now. The Yankees drafted him in the 1st round of the 2001 draft, but after arm problems, he really didn't get a chance to pitch until 2003 with Battle Creek. By that time, he was already 25 years old. Then, he moved on to pitch for Tampa in 2004, where he had a solid year, logging 163 inning and keeping his ERA under 4. But, he is now 27 years old and he will finally get to pitch AA ball. As a former 1st round pick, he certainly has potential, but he'll have to pitch efficiently because his time may be quickly running out as a prospect. Any slip up could cost him his career.

Jury Is Still Out

Brett Smith - The only reason Smith falls into this category is because he is yet to log one professional inning. There isn't much doubt that he will be a success at the professional level, but let's see him pitch some innings first. Smith, the Yankees 2nd round pick out of UC Irvine in 2004 looks to be a strong, future number two starter at the big league level and the Yankees feel that he could fly up the minor league ladder very quickly considering his experience and college polish. His spring training hasn't really been dazzling but, it should almost be expected considering he really hasn't pitched in live game situations since last summer. With a strong 2005 campaign, the 6' 5" righthander could find himself as one of the pitchers with the highest ceiling by next season.

Jason Jones - One may ask, why does Jason Jones fit into this category? Well, the answer is not simply based on what he did last season. Jones, a 4th round pick in the 2004 draft, performed magnificently in his first professional campaign, but he is not exactly an overpowering type of pitcher. Not to mention, his college statistics were, by far, not outstanding. Although Jones still appears to be a solid looking middle of the rotation prospect, let's be sure he can duplicate his performance in High A Tampa in 2005.

Mike Knox - This could be the year that the Yankees have been waiting for. Mike Knox showed them big time stuff in 2003, but something just went wrong for the righthander in 2004. His command was simply not right with Staten Island and, as a result, his success was very scarce. But, he is still very young and has a chance to display his electric stuff in High A Tampa this year, most likely.

Jose Valdez - In 2004, Jose Valdez may have fit in much better with the pitchers with the highest ceiling. Well, the case still remains the same this time around, but after a dismal 2004 campaign, Valdez has to be judged a little differently now. His potentially electric stuff did not translate into success at a higher level of play so he will give it another shot in 2005. However, will the Yankees give him another shot at starting or will they move him to the bullpen? That remains to be seen. Either way, he is going to need to improve his command of his fastball in order to be successful.

Eric Hacker - Where he will begin his return is yet to be determined but Eric Hacker appears to be a very promising young arm. He sat out all of 2004 with arm troubles but he has looked strong in spring training thus far. It is too early to call him a legit sleeper prospect just yet, but keep a close eye on this righthander in 2005. He will start off in extended spring training but expect to see him in the Gulf Coast League or Staten Island before season's end. He has a live arm with good command. That could take him places in the future.

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