Scouting Yankees Prospect #19: George Kontos

The Yankees selected George Kontos in the 5th round of the 2006 MLB Draft out of Northwestern University. A power arm who has been learning to develop his entire repertoire and improve his pitchability, he seemingly turned a corner late in the 2008 season after a near-trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Vital Statistics:
Name: George Kontos
Position: Pitcher
DOB: June 12, 1985
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I thought my year went very well," said Kontos. "My numbers for the most part were very good. There's not much I can do about the record, 6-11, it happens. That's pretty much out of my control but I thought my numbers were pretty solid."

He went just 6-11 for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, but still managed to sport a solid 3.68 ERA and strike out 152 batters in 151.2 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .239 average.

But while the overall numbers were solid, it was the way he finished his season that has many believing he has turned a corner in his development and ironically the timing coincided with his near trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Xavier Nady-Damaso Marte trade.

"Knowing that I was going to be traded, my next start would have been against the Thunder in Trenton," he reflected back. "That was the first thing going through my mind. Jason Jones was joking around with me, 'you're going to be pitching against us here in a couple of days'. When it didn't happen I think it definitely lit a fire under me. I definitely had a lot of adrenaline.

"I was very focused in that next start against Altoona and after that I pitched really well. It just kept building and I got better and better, my confidence was high and it allowed me to do the things I wanted to do on the mound. After that happened I definitely think it motivated me to be better."

Primarily a fastball-slider hurler in his younger days, Kontos had spent his previous two seasons honing his curveball and changeup and he believes nearly losing his Yankee life is the turning point in his development.

"With me, after that start against Altoona, everything kind of broke down why I was successful that day," he continued. "I located my fastball early in the count and low in the zone, I was throwing my breaking ball for strikes, I incorporated my changeup and I started pinpointing my four pitches.

"I was successful because I was able to get ahead in the count consistently, that was the main thing."

Whether or not nearly losing his Pinstripes was the impetus for him pitching well down the stretch or not, what has become abundantly clear was that his vastly improved curveball was the common denominator for his success.

"Early in the season his curveball and slider were kind of mixing together, there wasn't much of a difference," said Trenton catcher P.J. Pilittere. Right around mid-season - it's kind of funny because it was right around the time him and Phil Coke were almost traded - he started throwing his curveball on a different level.

"It was definitely a different pitch than his slider, it was a pitch that was getting him out of some jams, and it was getting him some strikeouts. It became a pitch he could almost go to at any time as opposed to him just being that fastball-slider guy."

Once having his pitch-ability questioned by his critics, those in charge with his development have firmly seen just how far his game has come and they believe he is now a dual threat for the Yankees role-wise.

"He's really developed a good looking curveball and the changeup is average now," said Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. "He's learning how to use them. He knows how to use it and knows he needs them to be a starter at the next level.

"At the major league level he could always be a good reliever because he has the great slider, he can sink the ball, he's very aggressive, and he's got that kind of mindset. But he's got pitch-ability, he's got four pitches that he can throw strikes.

"Some days are better than others but he has learned and now he's got the mentality of pitching instead of just throwing the baseball. He's using his curveball and his changeup more now so he's becoming more of a pitcher."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2008

Trenton

6-11

151.2

134

57

152

3.68

2007

Tampa

4-6

94.0

95

30

101

4.02

2006

Staten Island

7-3

78.1

64

19

82

2.64



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup, Curveball.

Fastball. He throws a heavy four-seam fastball and a sinking two-seam fastball with good movement, which runs in on righties and away from lefties. Kontos, who primarily had averaged anywhere from 91-94 MPH and topped out a tick or two higher with his fastball, saw his average dip down to the 89-92 MPH range for long stretches in 2008 as he focused more on throwing strikes and less on blowing it by batters. Scouts believe that now that he has learned to hone his delivery and command that his velocity could spike back up to his normal range.

Other Pitches. While Kontos is not afraid to pitch up and in with his fastball, what makes him a very good strikeout pitcher is his plus slider. He gets a sharp break with it and it sits in the 83-86 MPH range, and he has the confidence to go to it in any count and in any situation. The fastball-slider combination was his staple for a number of years and now he has added a plus curveball into the mix. It was once just a get-me-over pitch and it has now developed into another legitimate strikeout pitch that allows him to keep left-handed batters off of his slider that dives in on them. Throw in the fact he has also added a big league average changeup into the mix - a pitch that is built more for contact than getting swing and misses - Kontos has become a four-pitch hurler.

Pitching. Kontos has come a long way from the days of trying to overpower every batter to now being able to keep batters off-balance by setting them up with an array of pitches. Even though his stuff has changed, his approach has not. He is still very much a bulldog on the mound who goes right after batters. He has a rare ability to both intimidate batters with his size, power stuff, and willingness to pitch inside quite often, and an ability to keep them guessing as well. Kontos, a workout junkie and fitness freak, has some of the best endurance and natural strength among the pitchers in the organization and that allows him to be an innings eater. He also works very quickly on the mound, often times getting into his wind-up before the batters have had a chance to get comfortable in the batter's box.

Projection. He offers the organization a lot of flexibility role-wise. Once projecting best as a future setup man with his fastball-slider combination akin to a poor man's version of Joba Chamberlain, Kontos has developed his game into a potential big league starting pitcher as well now that he has added a plus curveball and a solid changeup. In fact, aside from not being able to hit triple digits on the radar gun, his game isn't all that far off from Chamberlain's. Like Chamberlain, Kontos has the size, strength, durability, and deep enough repertoire to be a good starting pitcher, and the fact he no longer relies on just his fastball and slider in big spots makes that possibility even more likely.

ETA. 2009. Recent big league free agent signings by the Yankees have created unprecedented depth at the upper minor league levels and that could cause Kontos to possibly repeat the Double-A level in 2009. However, he should still see ample time in Triple-A next season and needing to be protected on the 40-man roster next offseason, a big league cup of coffee is not out of the question for him.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: George Kontos
\r\nPosition: Pitcher
\r\nDOB: June 12, 1985
\r\nHeight: 6'3\"
\r\nWeight: 215
\r\nBats: Right
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\n\"I thought my year went very well,\" said Kontos. \"My numbers for the most part were very good. There's not much I can do about the record, 6-11, it happens. That's pretty much out of my control but I thought my numbers were pretty solid.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe went just 6-11 for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, but still managed to sport a solid 3.68 ERA and strike out 152 batters in 151.2 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .239 average.
\r\n
\r\nBut while the overall numbers were solid, it was the way he finished his season that has many believing he has turned a corner in his development and ironically the timing coincided with his near trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Xavier Nady-Damaso Marte trade.
\r\n
\r\n\"Knowing that I was going to be traded, my next start would have been against the Thunder in Trenton,\" he reflected back. \"That was the first thing going through my mind. Jason Jones was joking around with me, 'you're going to be pitching against us here in a couple of days'. When it didn't happen I think it definitely lit a fire under me. I definitely had a lot of adrenaline.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was very focused in that next start against Altoona and after that I pitched really well. It just kept building and I got better and better, my confidence was high and it allowed me to do the things I wanted to do on the mound. After that happened I definitely think it motivated me to be better.\"
\r\n
\r\nPrimarily a fastball-slider hurler in his younger days, Kontos had spent his previous two seasons honing his curveball and changeup and he believes nearly losing his Yankee life is the turning point in his development.
\r\n
\r\n\"With me, after that start against Altoona, everything kind of broke down why I was successful that day,\" he continued. \"I located my fastball early in the count and low in the zone, I was throwing my breaking ball for strikes, I incorporated my changeup and I started pinpointing my four pitches.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was successful because I was able to get ahead in the count consistently, that was the main thing.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhether or not nearly losing his Pinstripes was the impetus for him pitching well down the stretch or not, what has become abundantly clear was that his vastly improved curveball was the common denominator for his success.
\r\n
\r\n\"Early in the season his curveball and slider were kind of mixing together, there wasn't much of a difference,\" said Trenton catcher P.J. Pilittere. Right around mid-season - it's kind of funny because it was right around the time him and Phil Coke were almost traded - he started throwing his curveball on a different level.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was definitely a different pitch than his slider, it was a pitch that was getting him out of some jams, and it was getting him some strikeouts. It became a pitch he could almost go to at any time as opposed to him just being that fastball-slider guy.\"
\r\n
\r\nOnce having his pitch-ability questioned by his critics, those in charge with his development have firmly seen just how far his game has come and they believe he is now a dual threat for the Yankees role-wise.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's really developed a good looking curveball and the changeup is average now,\" said Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. \"He's learning how to use them. He knows how to use it and knows he needs them to be a starter at the next level.
\r\n
\r\n\"At the major league level he could always be a good reliever because he has the great slider, he can sink the ball, he's very aggressive, and he's got that kind of mindset. But he's got pitch-ability, he's got four pitches that he can throw strikes.
\r\n
\r\n\"Some days are better than others but he has learned and now he's got the mentality of pitching instead of just throwing the baseball. He's using his curveball and his changeup more now so he's becoming more of a pitcher.\"
\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 2008

\r\n

\r\n Trenton

\r\n

\r\n 6-11

\r\n

\r\n 151.2

\r\n

\r\n 134

\r\n

\r\n 57

\r\n

\r\n 152

\r\n

\r\n 3.68

\r\n

\r\n 2007

\r\n

\r\n Tampa

\r\n

\r\n 4-6

\r\n

\r\n 94.0

\r\n

\r\n 95

\r\n

\r\n 30

\r\n

\r\n 101

\r\n

\r\n 4.02

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Staten Island

\r\n

\r\n 7-3

\r\n

\r\n 78.1

\r\n

\r\n 64

\r\n

\r\n 19

\r\n

\r\n 82

\r\n

\r\n 2.64


\r\n
\r\nRepertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup, Curveball.
\r\n
\r\nFastball. He throws a heavy four-seam fastball and a sinking two-seam fastball with good movement, which runs in on righties and away from lefties. Kontos, who primarily had averaged anywhere from 91-94 MPH and topped out a tick or two higher with his fastball, saw his average dip down to the 89-92 MPH range for long stretches in 2008 as he focused more on throwing strikes and less on blowing it by batters. Scouts believe that now that he has learned to hone his delivery and command that his velocity could spike back up to his normal range.
\r\n
\r\nOther Pitches. While Kontos is not afraid to pitch up and in with his fastball, what makes him a very good strikeout pitcher is his plus slider. He gets a sharp break with it and it sits in the 83-86 MPH range, and he has the confidence to go to it in any count and in any situation. The fastball-slider combination was his staple for a number of years and now he has added a plus curveball into the mix. It was once just a get-me-over pitch and it has now developed into another legitimate strikeout pitch that allows him to keep left-handed batters off of his slider that dives in on them. Throw in the fact he has also added a big league average changeup into the mix - a pitch that is built more for contact than getting swing and misses - Kontos has become a four-pitch hurler.
\r\n
\r\nPitching. Kontos has come a long way from the days of trying to overpower every batter to now being able to keep batters off-balance by setting them up with an array of pitches. Even though his stuff has changed, his approach has not. He is still very much a bulldog on the mound who goes right after batters. He has a rare ability to both intimidate batters with his size, power stuff, and willingness to pitch inside quite often, and an ability to keep them guessing as well. Kontos, a workout junkie and fitness freak, has some of the best endurance and natural strength among the pitchers in the organization and that allows him to be an innings eater. He also works very quickly on the mound, often times getting into his wind-up before the batters have had a chance to get comfortable in the batter's box.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. He offers the organization a lot of flexibility role-wise. Once projecting best as a future setup man with his fastball-slider combination akin to a poor man's version of Joba Chamberlain, Kontos has developed his game into a potential big league starting pitcher as well now that he has added a plus curveball and a solid changeup. In fact, aside from not being able to hit triple digits on the radar gun, his game isn't all that far off from Chamberlain's. Like Chamberlain, Kontos has the size, strength, durability, and deep enough repertoire to be a good starting pitcher, and the fact he no longer relies on just his fastball and slider in big spots makes that possibility even more likely.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2009. Recent big league free agent signings by the Yankees have created unprecedented depth at the upper minor league levels and that could cause Kontos to possibly repeat the Double-A level in 2009. However, he should still see ample time in Triple-A next season and needing to be protected on the 40-man roster next offseason, a big league cup of coffee is not out of the question for him.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

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