Scouting Yankees Prospect #26: Jeff Karstens

The Yankees selected Jeff Karstens in the 19th round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech University. Karstens struggled early in Triple-A in 2006 before turning things around in a hurry, including a solid big league debut with the Yankees. With the possibility Yankees fans could see him again in 2007, here's a scouting report on Jeff Karstens.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Jeff Karstens
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: September 24, 1982
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 175
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"After the way they started I couldn't have asked for much more," Karstens said of his 2006 season. "To end up where I ended up at was great."

Karstens, coming off a solid but inconsistent season at Double-A Trenton in 2005, struggled mightily in his first taste of Triple-A to start the 2006 season, going a surprisingly 0-5 with a 7.01 ERA in seven starts for the Columbus Clippers.

"I just couldn't throw strikes," he said of his first stint in Triple-A. "In the past I had the ability to pound the strike zone and this year it seemed no matter how hard I tried or whatever I tried to do in my bullpen sessions, when it came down to the game it wasn't there."

It was a shocking display of imploding for a pitcher who relied on control. For a guy who had barely walked two batters per nine innings in his career prior to the start of the 2006 season, Karstens inexplicably walked five and half batters per nine innings in his first stint with Columbus.

"It was just all in my head," he said. "In Triple-A, every time I went out there and I'd get two balls on a guy and I'd be like 'here we go again, I'm going to walk him'. I mean, I walked seven guys in one game there and I would go almost two months without walking seven guys last year [2005]. It was just all me. It wasn't anything mechanical. It was just not believing in myself."

The Yankees sent Karstens down to Double-A Trenton in mid-May to help restore his confidence and he responded in a big way, going a perfect 6-0 with a 2.31 ERA in eleven starts for the Thunder. But more than anything, he found his command.

"In Triple-A, I think it's a little bit harder to work on things," he admitted. "You're up there and when you continuously struggle it's hard. When they told me I was going down, I took it with arms wide open to go down to Double-A."

"Nothing against Neil [Allen]. Neil was great. He worked on stuff with me everyday and we talked. Just to go down to Dave Eiland [Trenton pitching coach], who has had me three of the last four years, he knows me. It was just something that worked out."

Resurrecting his control in Double-A, the Yankees sent Karstens back to Triple-A in the middle of July and he was simply a different pitcher than he was the first time, going 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA in seven starts in his second stint with Columbus.

Riding an 11-game winning decision streak, he was promoted to New York to finish out the year in the big leagues and he continued to look comfortable. He went 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in eight appearances for the Yankees - six of them were starts.

"The first guy I had to face was Ichiro," Karstens said reflecting on his Major League debut, "and I was like, 'great'. The guy gets like 200 plus hits a year and he's bound to get one off of me."

"It wasn't anything too different though. I just went out there just like another start, [Adrian] Beltre hit the home run it was great because I got it over with quick and I was like 'let's go from here'. With the offense the Yankees have in that lineup, if you hold the team to three runs you're probably going to have a good chance to win."

Not a flame-thrower by any means, and considering the control issues he had earlier in the season, he looked very confident in the big leagues and he credits his hot pitching prior to the callup as the reason why.

"If I was struggling again, yeah," he said if there were any nerves in the big leagues, "but the way things were going for me it felt like it was just another game I tried not to think about it too much. I didn't notice the crowd or anything too much until I came out of the game. It's something I try and do, just focus on what's going on in the field."

The California native also said he felt at home on the mound for the Yankees even though he wasn't exactly used to his new surroundings.

"It's different," he said of New York. "It's a little more fast paced than I'm used to. The crowds were great and they embraced me. I felt right at home."

Often times hearing from his critics coming up through the ranks how he was neither big enough nor threw hard enough to project as a big league pitcher, the former 19th round draft pick says he enjoyed surprising people.

"Projectability is a big thing I guess for baseball players in the minor leagues. I was honestly going to quit baseball coming out of high school and then I was drafted as a catcher and I was like 'keep going and see what I can do'. Even since then I've been out there to do my best. I've always been an under the radar kind of guy as Dave Eiland used to say," said the 24-year old.

Aside from gaining confidence and throwing more strikes in Double-A to jump start his year, Karstens said the further development of his changeup made him more even effective on the mound.

"I was just able to throw my changeup when I had to, behind in the count, in a full count, especially when it was in a fastball count," he revealed. "To get those guys off-balance and out front just makes a world of difference, especially when you're behind."

Hitting rock-bottom prior to doing a complete 180 degree turnaround, including finally realizing his childhood dream of reaching the big leagues, Karstens is now preparing himself to remain in the majors.

"Just as far as it goes, physical strength," he listed as the thing he wants to work on the most. "I got tired there towards the end of the year. I threw around 190 innings last year. That's really the only thing. As far as everything else, just maintaining what I did last year."

Realistic in his expectations, Karstens admits it is not a given that he will automatically be included in the Yankees' mix for 2007, but he'll be prepared either way.

"My goal is to go into Spring Training and show them I've been working out this offseason. I've been working out in Los Angeles at a place called Athlete's Performance that they wanted me to work out at."

"I just want to keep things in line to the way they were last year. Whatever happens, happens. Right now I expect to most likely go to Triple-A and we'll see what happens as the year goes on."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2006

Yankees

2-1

42.2

40

11

16

3.80

2006

Columbus

5-5

73.2

80

30

48

4.28

2006

Trenton

6-0

74.0

54

14

67

2.31

2005

Trenton

12-11

169.0

192

42

147

4.15

2004

Tampa

6-9

138.2

151

31

116

4.02

2003

Staten Island

4-2

67.1

63

16

53

2.54



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider.

Fastball. Karstens uses a heavy sinking two-seam fastball to help keep left-handed batters off-balance and it is the reason he is often times better against lefties than righties. He gets good movement on his two-seamer and it sits primarily in the 87-89 MPH range with good control. He also throws a solid Major League four-seam fastball that sits 88-92 MPH which he also has pinpoint control of, able to spot it wherever he wants it.

Other Pitches. Karstens has really come a long way with his changeup. While his slider, which averages 78-82 MPH, used to be his out-pitch, his changeup has become a true weapon for him. He has excellent command of it and he's willing to throw it in any count. He compliments his repertoire with a solid curveball that sits 74-77 MPH that he primarily uses against lefties.

Pitching. Karstens is usually a ground ball pitcher with great control who can pick up a fair amount of strikeouts. In 2006 however, when he was missing, he was missing up in the zone and it took him off of his game. He throws seemingly effortlessly and the looseness of his arm allows the ball to jump towards home plate. He is able to hit spots very well and he is highly mechanically advanced. A backwards pitcher, Karstens' solid secondary pitches allow his fastball to be deceptively quick. So while he may not throw hard, his fastball is as effective as most power pitchers.

Projection. We projected Karstens to break in as a spot starter and reliever with the Yankees, which is exactly the role he filled in 2006, but he could also fit in nicely in the back end of the rotation if the Yankees so chose. There are pitchers with better raw stuff coming up behind him, but he is also one of the more polished pitchers that is big league ready. He should fit somewhere in between the two roles and be a calming force in either situation.

ETA. N/A. He made his "ETA" a moot point by making the big leagues last season. As he himself pointed out above, he'll most likely begin the year in Triple-A Scranton in 2007. But with possibly a couple of openings on the pitching staff, he will be on the short list of possibilities out of the farm system for the Yankees next year.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics;
\r\nName: Jeff Karstens
\r\nPosition: Starting Pitcher
\r\nDOB: September 24, 1982
\r\nHeight: 6'3\"
\r\nWeight: 175
\r\nBats: Right
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\n\"After the way they started I couldn't have asked for much more,\" Karstens said of his 2006 season. \"To end up where I ended up at was great.\"
\r\n
\r\nKarstens, coming off a solid but inconsistent season at Double-A Trenton in 2005, struggled mightily in his first taste of Triple-A to start the 2006 season, going a surprisingly 0-5 with a 7.01 ERA in seven starts for the Columbus Clippers.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just couldn't throw strikes,\" he said of his first stint in Triple-A. \"In the past I had the ability to pound the strike zone and this year it seemed no matter how hard I tried or whatever I tried to do in my bullpen sessions, when it came down to the game it wasn't there.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt was a shocking display of imploding for a pitcher who relied on control. For a guy who had barely walked two batters per nine innings in his career prior to the start of the 2006 season, Karstens inexplicably walked five and half batters per nine innings in his first stint with Columbus.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was just all in my head,\" he said. \"In Triple-A, every time I went out there and I'd get two balls on a guy and I'd be like 'here we go again, I'm going to walk him'. I mean, I walked seven guys in one game there and I would go almost two months without walking seven guys last year [2005]. It was just all me. It wasn't anything mechanical. It was just not believing in myself.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe Yankees sent Karstens down to Double-A Trenton in mid-May to help restore his confidence and he responded in a big way, going a perfect 6-0 with a 2.31 ERA in eleven starts for the Thunder. But more than anything, he found his command.
\r\n
\r\n\"In Triple-A, I think it's a little bit harder to work on things,\" he admitted. \"You're up there and when you continuously struggle it's hard. When they told me I was going down, I took it with arms wide open to go down to Double-A.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Nothing against Neil [Allen]. Neil was great. He worked on stuff with me everyday and we talked. Just to go down to Dave Eiland [Trenton pitching coach], who has had me three of the last four years, he knows me. It was just something that worked out.\"
\r\n
\r\nResurrecting his control in Double-A, the Yankees sent Karstens back to Triple-A in the middle of July and he was simply a different pitcher than he was the first time, going 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA in seven starts in his second stint with Columbus.
\r\n
\r\nRiding an 11-game winning decision streak, he was promoted to New York to finish out the year in the big leagues and he continued to look comfortable. He went 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in eight appearances for the Yankees - six of them were starts.
\r\n
\r\n\"The first guy I had to face was Ichiro,\" Karstens said reflecting on his Major League debut, \"and I was like, 'great'. The guy gets like 200 plus hits a year and he's bound to get one off of me.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"It wasn't anything too different though. I just went out there just like another start, [Adrian] Beltre hit the home run it was great because I got it over with quick and I was like 'let's go from here'. With the offense the Yankees have in that lineup, if you hold the team to three runs you're probably going to have a good chance to win.\"
\r\n
\r\nNot a flame-thrower by any means, and considering the control issues he had earlier in the season, he looked very confident in the big leagues and he credits his hot pitching prior to the callup as the reason why.
\r\n
\r\n\"If I was struggling again, yeah,\" he said if there were any nerves in the big leagues, \"but the way things were going for me it felt like it was just another game I tried not to think about it too much. I didn't notice the crowd or anything too much until I came out of the game. It's something I try and do, just focus on what's going on in the field.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe California native also said he felt at home on the mound for the Yankees even though he wasn't exactly used to his new surroundings.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's different,\" he said of New York. \"It's a little more fast paced than I'm used to. The crowds were great and they embraced me. I felt right at home.\"
\r\n
\r\nOften times hearing from his critics coming up through the ranks how he was neither big enough nor threw hard enough to project as a big league pitcher, the former 19th round draft pick says he enjoyed surprising people.
\r\n
\r\n\"Projectability is a big thing I guess for baseball players in the minor leagues. I was honestly going to quit baseball coming out of high school and then I was drafted as a catcher and I was like 'keep going and see what I can do'. Even since then I've been out there to do my best. I've always been an under the radar kind of guy as Dave Eiland used to say,\" said the 24-year old.
\r\n
\r\nAside from gaining confidence and throwing more strikes in Double-A to jump start his year, Karstens said the further development of his changeup made him more even effective on the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was just able to throw my changeup when I had to, behind in the count, in a full count, especially when it was in a fastball count,\" he revealed. \"To get those guys off-balance and out front just makes a world of difference, especially when you're behind.\"
\r\n
\r\nHitting rock-bottom prior to doing a complete 180 degree turnaround, including finally realizing his childhood dream of reaching the big leagues, Karstens is now preparing himself to remain in the majors.
\r\n
\r\n\"Just as far as it goes, physical strength,\" he listed as the thing he wants to work on the most. \"I got tired there towards the end of the year. I threw around 190 innings last year. That's really the only thing. As far as everything else, just maintaining what I did last year.\"
\r\n
\r\nRealistic in his expectations, Karstens admits it is not a given that he will automatically be included in the Yankees' mix for 2007, but he'll be prepared either way.
\r\n
\r\n\"My goal is to go into Spring Training and show them I've been working out this offseason. I've been working out in Los Angeles at a place called Athlete's Performance that they wanted me to work out at.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I just want to keep things in line to the way they were last year. Whatever happens, happens. Right now I expect to most likely go to Triple-A and we'll see what happens as the year goes on.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n W-L

\r\n

\r\n IP

\r\n

\r\n H

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

\r\n SO

\r\n

\r\n ERA

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Yankees

\r\n

\r\n 2-1

\r\n

\r\n 42.2

\r\n

\r\n 40

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 16

\r\n

\r\n 3.80

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Columbus

\r\n

\r\n 5-5

\r\n

\r\n 73.2

\r\n

\r\n 80

\r\n

\r\n 30

\r\n

\r\n 48

\r\n

\r\n 4.28

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Trenton

\r\n

\r\n 6-0

\r\n

\r\n 74.0

\r\n

\r\n 54

\r\n

\r\n 14

\r\n

\r\n 67

\r\n

\r\n 2.31

\r\n

\r\n 2005

\r\n

\r\n Trenton

\r\n

\r\n 12-11

\r\n

\r\n 169.0

\r\n

\r\n 192

\r\n

\r\n 42

\r\n

\r\n 147

\r\n

\r\n 4.15

\r\n

\r\n 2004

\r\n

\r\n Tampa

\r\n

\r\n 6-9

\r\n

\r\n 138.2

\r\n

\r\n 151

\r\n

\r\n 31

\r\n

\r\n 116

\r\n

\r\n 4.02

\r\n

\r\n 2003

\r\n

\r\n Staten Island

\r\n

\r\n 4-2

\r\n

\r\n 67.1

\r\n

\r\n 63

\r\n

\r\n 16

\r\n

\r\n 53

\r\n

\r\n 2.54


\r\n
\r\nRepertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider.
\r\n
\r\nFastball. Karstens uses a heavy sinking two-seam fastball to help keep left-handed batters off-balance and it is the reason he is often times better against lefties than righties. He gets good movement on his two-seamer and it sits primarily in the 87-89 MPH range with good control. He also throws a solid Major League four-seam fastball that sits 88-92 MPH which he also has pinpoint control of, able to spot it wherever he wants it.
\r\n
\r\nOther Pitches. Karstens has really come a long way with his changeup. While his slider, which averages 78-82 MPH, used to be his out-pitch, his changeup has become a true weapon for him. He has excellent command of it and he's willing to throw it in any count. He compliments his repertoire with a solid curveball that sits 74-77 MPH that he primarily uses against lefties.
\r\n
\r\nPitching. Karstens is usually a ground ball pitcher with great control who can pick up a fair amount of strikeouts. In 2006 however, when he was missing, he was missing up in the zone and it took him off of his game. He throws seemingly effortlessly and the looseness of his arm allows the ball to jump towards home plate. He is able to hit spots very well and he is highly mechanically advanced. A backwards pitcher, Karstens' solid secondary pitches allow his fastball to be deceptively quick. So while he may not throw hard, his fastball is as effective as most power pitchers.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. We projected Karstens to break in as a spot starter and reliever with the Yankees, which is exactly the role he filled in 2006, but he could also fit in nicely in the back end of the rotation if the Yankees so chose. There are pitchers with better raw stuff coming up behind him, but he is also one of the more polished pitchers that is big league ready. He should fit somewhere in between the two roles and be a calming force in either situation.
\r\n
\r\nETA. N/A. He made his \"ETA\" a moot point by making the big leagues last season. As he himself pointed out above, he'll most likely begin the year in Triple-A Scranton in 2007. But with possibly a couple of openings on the pitching staff, he will be on the short list of possibilities out of the farm system for the Yankees next year.
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