Name: Anthony Claggett
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: July 15, 1984
"I think it went really well," Claggett said of his 2008 season. "I was pleased, especially all the way up until the last month. I felt at times I could get anybody out.
"All three pitches were working well and I felt really good. And then that last month hit and I kind of lost it a little bit. Still, all in all I was pretty pleased."
Even though he posted a 4.97 ERA [but still went 2-0 with two saves during that time] in his last six appearances, he finished his first year at Double-A with a 2.15 ERA, significantly better than his first season with the Yankees in 2007 when he posted a solid 3.69 ERA with the Tampa Yankees.
"For one I was more confident," he said of the biggest difference in his second season with the Yankees. "Each time I went out I wasn't so worried about mechanics and stuff like that, whereas the year before I was really working on mechanics and trying to change some things.
"This year I just went out and pitched and I think I was able to use all three pitches. My changeup really came into play this year and that was probably the best thing, that my changeup was really effective."
Working on more balance with his wind-up, a more consistent release point, and developing his changeup were just some of the adjustments he worked on while in the starting rotation a year ago, a role the career reliever had not been accustomed to prior to 2007.
Claggett now realizes all of the hard work he put in last year were all part of a long-term plan to make him a better overall pitcher.
"I can remember Nardi saying ‘stay with it, stay with it, it'll turn out fine' through some of those low times that I had," he added. "Now I know why he was saying that because it definitely turned out well with the season I had this year, thanks to the changes in mechanics and stuff like that."
"Anthony Claggett has shown us that he's got a chance to pitch in the big leagues," said Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras.
"When I saw him pitch he commanded both sides of the plate with his fastball and great sinker, he shows a big league slider and a changeup that he developed as a starter. He was able to use his changeup against both right-handed and left-handed hitters."
He became a legitimate three-pitch reliever more than a mere fastball-slider pitcher and he improved his command of his entire arsenal, despite what his 2008 walk totals might suggest.
"Throwing that sinker sometimes my movement was a little inconsistent," Claggett said of his 30 walks in nearly 59 innings. "It would start inside the zone and then sink out of the zone.
"Sometimes it would get away from me and I think that's where most of the walks came from. I think some of them were situational walks, which is something that's going to happen. I know I can be more consistent with my sinker and really attack hitters with it.
"I'm okay with it. It got me into some trouble this year but for me I think the numbers looked worse than it actually was."
He believes getting a little more consistent movement with his sinker is the the final piece in his developmental puzzle.
"I think just being more consistent every time I go out, especially in the bullpen," he admitted. "If I have a bad game I have to let that go and be ready for the next time I go out because it could be the next day.
"One thing this year, I walked too many people. I think pounding the strike zone is something I definitely need to improve on more, just be confident with my stuff."
Not overly concerned with his walk totals, however, now a member of the 40-man roster, he says a little more consistency in that department would allow him to help out the big league club in the immediate future.
"I do feel pretty close, especially out of the bullpen," he said. "If some things happen I might get a shot. I still know though that I have to go out and perform wherever I'm at. I still have to open some eyes. If I get a shot, I'll be ready."
Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Claggett, despite being a good strikeout pitcher, attacks batters with his sinking two-seam fastball with the goal of inducing weak grounders. Sitting in the 90-93 MPH range with his sinker, he generates a ton of movement with it and it nosedives through the lower-half of the zone. While he can have sporadic command of it at times, leading to a few walks, the good news is he misses low and out of the zone when he does miss.
Other Pitches. Even though Claggett's main objective on the mound is to induce contact, his plus slider gives him the ability to be a legitimate strikeout pitcher when he gets ahead in the count. It gets a lot of late break and he has impeccable command of it. The biggest enhancement to his game has been the development of a non-existent changeup into a big league changeup. He can command it quite well and he uses it against both right-handed and left-handed batters, and it has become a strikeout weapon against lefties.
Pitching. Claggett went from a sinker-slider pitcher, one who gave batters a 50/50 shot of guessing the pitch coming in, to a three-pitch hurler who could baffle hitters more. His main objective is to use to sinker to get batters to roll-out harmlessly to his defense behind him. Though he can walk batters when his sinker is getting too much movement, his innate ability to get double-plays makes the majority of his walks a non-factor. He is also very adept at keeping the ball in the ballpark. If you throw out his time in the starting role in 2007 while working on his mechanics, he has given up just three career home runs out of the bullpen. And when he gets into jams or needs the big strikeout, he has a put-away pitch with his slider. He doesn't get fazed out on the mound and he pitches with a quiet confidence.
Projection. Though the development of his changeup could give him the ability to be a spot starter at the big league level, Claggett has developed into quite the relief weapon. Few have his ability to strike batters out, induce the double-play when needed, and avoid giving up home runs so proficiently. In a lot of ways he is a relief version of Colorado Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook, a pitcher who annually resides among the major league leaders in double-plays induced and fewest home runs allowed. Claggett would fit in perfectly as a big league middle reliever, but his abilities could allow him to pitch later in games when big outs are needed. His versatile bullpen abilities might prevent him from securing an everyday big league setup role, but his value could be nearly as important.
ETA. 2009. The Yankees bullpen depth at the big league level should keep Claggett in the minors for one more season, but even though he should start 2009 in the Scranton bullpen, now a member of the 40-man roster, he will most likely make his big league debut sometime next season.