Name: Anthony Claggett
DOB: April 9, 1985
"I had a lot of ups and downs," Claggett admitted. "I definitely think [my season] ended up well. I was real happy with the last third of the season. I went on a bit of winning streak there and helped out the team as much as I could, but in the beginning I had some struggles with my mechanics.
"I think a lot of that had to do with the numbers that I put up, just changing my mechanics and making those consistent. It took a little longer than I thought it would but eventually it came around."
After going 7-2 with 14 saves and a 0.91 ERA as the closer for the West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League with the Detroit Tigers in 2006, he did a solid job in the Tampa bullpen in 2007, picking up a pair of saves with a 3.86 ERA while serving mostly as a middle reliever.
Attempting to make several changes to his game however, the Yankees moved him into the starting rotation by mid-season in an effort to stretch him out and give him the opportunity to work more in between his starts.
"For this [past] year I think it was just to get me more innings," he said of starting, "and work on my mechanics. I'd be able to throw bullpens in between starts and that way I'd get a lot more reps. Relieving I would have been throwing maybe every third day and not getting as many reps with my mechanics and trying to make those consistent.
"I don't know what the plans are from them as far as keeping me a starter but I think the goal was just to get me more innings and I think next year I'll be going back to relieving."
Improving the positioning of his hands in his delivery which allowed him to go over his head more was one of the main mechanical changes. It gave him a more fluid motion, the ability to stay back on his back leg longer, and allow his arm to catch up to his body.
The end result was a much more consistent release point with all of his pitches: helping him with a more consistent slider, the ability to keep the ball down more in the strike zone, and more movement with his fastball.
The other key change to his game was focusing on developing his changeup this past season and he went to the Hawaiian Winter League this offseason to continue honing his mechanics and pitches.
"I was there to work on my mechanics again [in Hawaii], get more repetitions with that, and mainly I was there to work on my changeup," said the Cal-Riverside product. "I really needed to throw that a lot, which I did."
Going just 1-1 with a 6.01 ERA in 14 appearances with the Honolulu Sharks, on paper, he didn't do too well.
"To tell you the truth, I was okay with how I threw in Hawaii," he revealed. "My numbers weren't very good but I had one really terrible outing so that put a real damper on the stats. I went into it thinking I'm going to take some chances as far as what pitches to throw in which counts, throw the changeup a lot and just really get comfortable with it whether it got hit a lot or whether it was out of the strike zone.
"I just really wanted to throw it and get comfortable with it because I know I'm going to have to throw that once I move up the ladder. I threw the changeup in some situations that I wouldn't have during the regular season but I was happy I did. I think I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher in Hawaii."
Finally confident throwing his changeup to left-handed batters instead of just throwing it and hoping it would be a strike, the biggest lesson he learned was working off of his fastball even more.
Once prone to going to his slider a bit too much in key situations, his new fastball movement and even better command has allowed him to be more comfortable going to his heater in the big spots.
Taking his season as a whole, while adding nearly three runs to his previous season's ERA might be disappointing at face value, he realizes the pain was certainly worth the gain.
"I think faced a little bit of adversity, which is good for me. With the year I had before I didn't face many problems. I had a lot of expectations this past year and a lot of goals that I set, and only a few of the goals were met but I think I really grew a lot this year as a pitcher with the innings that I got and going through what I went through, having some problems and having to come back from that. I was pretty happy."
Running the entire gambit of roles in his short career thus far as a closer, a middle reliever, and now a starter, he offers the organization some flexibility down the road but he himself has a clearer picture of his eventual role in pinstripes.
"I feel comfortable in all of those roles, whether it be closing, middle relief, or starting," said the 23-year old. "I see myself as a middle relief guy once I get to the big leagues. I think I could go out there and throw three innings during a game and be effective.
"I don't know what they have planned for me and it doesn't matter to me. I just want to get to the big leagues and help, that's all that concerns me. I see myself most likely being a middle relief guy and throw every third day, every other day, basically like a Scott Proctor type deal. He threw a lot of innings and I think that's maybe a role I would be in."
Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Claggett throws both a four-seam and a two-seam fastball in the 90-93 MPH range. He has great command of his four-seam fastball, spotting it at will, and now he is using it a bit more as a strikeout pitch than in the past. One of the bigger developments to his repertoire this past season was his two-seamer. He has been able to generate great sink and movement with it and it has become more of a staple in his arsenal.
Other Pitches. Claggett has a real good slider that serves as his primary strikeout pitch in critical situations. He will throw it to both lefties and righties in any count. He has made huge progress with his changeup from a movement standpoint, but the velocity on his changeup is a bit too inconsistent to be a truly reliable weapon. It sits in the 85-87 MPH range at times, acting more like a batting practice fastball with good movement than a true changeup. He has had trouble stiffening his wrists and applying the correct thumb pressure to get his velocity consistently down with it. When he snaps off good ones though, it is quite good.
Pitching. A position player through his junior year of college, Claggett hasn't really been pitching all that long and is a bit polished all things considered. He attacks opposing batters with great fastball command and solid velocity, and then can go a very good slider for the big strikeout. The addition of a solid sinking two-seam fastball has allowed him to pitch a bit more to contact and get the big double-play when needed, a weapon he didn't really have prior to joining the Yankees. He has shown to be very comfortable with his new mechanics and slowing down his changeup appears to be the next big hurdle in his development.
Projection. Like his Tampa teammate this past season - Eric Wordekemper - Claggett is quite versatile on the mound. Primarily a one-inning pitcher prior to joining the Yankees organization, he proved he can be an innings-eater of sorts and that could be quite valuable in a big league bullpen. If he can continue to develop his changeup, he has the look of a future big league middle reliever who would have the ability to pitch on consecutive days or in multiple innings.
ETA. 2010. Claggett's path to the big leagues gets hurt with the depth of quality pitching in the Yankees farm system and it could be solely tied to how he's used at the minor league level in future seasons. If the Yankees move him back to the bullpen in 2008, he could move a bit quicker. He should open up with the Double-A Trenton Thunder in some capacity next season.