Sizing Up The Starting Pitchers - Part Two

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.

The "Sleepers"

LHP, Jeremy Bleich: Normally most first-round picks, even supplemental ones, don't fall into the sleeper category. But considering he gets overlooked by many because of his average big league velocity [89-92 MPH] and because he doesn't project to throw harder down the road, Bleich is a definite sleeper. His changeup and curveball are both above average to plus pitches and his command is absolutely stellar. Throw in his pitch-ability and prowess to miss bats, he's got a lot more game than some folks down on his velocity realize.

RHP, Noel Castillo: Signed later than most, the 25-year old often gets overlooked because of his advanced age. He has barely made his way into the high-A level, but while he has pitched older for his levels, he does have some really good stuff. He sits 91-93 MPH and tops out at 95, and there are some who believe that could go up if he was ever transitioned to the bullpen as a short reliever. But his changeup is a legitimate big league pitch. If he could develop his slider in similar fashion, he could surprise some folks as a starter.

LHP, Wilkins De La Rosa: Like Castillo, De La Rosa offers the organization a ton of upside as a future reliever because of his raw arm strength. He is able to hit 97 MPH at times, although his command is better at the 91-94 MPH range. He's been so unbelievably effective on the mound thus far - posting a 2.20 career ERA - that some might not see him as a real 'sleeper'. But considering his slider and changeup are both a work in progress, even though his ceiling is quite high, he is a bit raw as a potential big league starter right now since he's already on the 40-man roster.

GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES: O'Brien's smaller size could keep him under the radar. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Mikey O'Brien: O'Brien is sure to be dismissed by some in the coming years for two reasons - he was drafted in the ninth round and because he's a smaller stature pitcher [5-foot-11]. Despite his size, however, he can throw quite hard. He's topped out at 97 MPH at an early age and he has two secondary pitches [curveball and changeup] that have plus potential. He'll get overshadowed by other pitchers, but he has some significant upside of his own.

RHP, Lance Pendleton: One of the more unheralded success stories in the Yankees farm system last year was the successful return of the 2005 fourth-round pick. Pendleton posted a solid 3.52 ERA in his first year back from Tommy John surgery and struck out 119 batters in 128 innings for the Charleston Riverdogs. At 25 years old he gets a bit overlooked, but he has a very good curveball-fastball combination and the changeup is coming along. He doesn't have the highest upside around, but he's potentially more than the organizational filler some view him as.

RHP, Matt Ricardson: Like his buddy Mikey O'Brien, Richardson has some potential to him. As a former shortstop he hasn't been pitching nearly as long and that makes him a bit more raw at the current time. He has an above average fastball, sitting 91-93 MPH, and he has a solid curveball too. Developing his changeup further and ironing out his mechanics will be the keys to tapping his potential, but the foundation is very strong to surprise some folks down the road.

LHP, Nik Turley: A very strong argument could be made to put Turely in the 'highest ceiling' category because he has a lot going for him - size [he's 6-foot-6], he throws hard [89-92 MPH], and he's developed his curveball and changeup [two pretty non-existent pitches when he signed] into pitches with plus potential. He also has very good command and the type of frame that could get stronger in time, but being drafted in the 50th round will allow him to fly under the radar.

Need To Make Their Move

RHP, Adam Olbrychowski: The 2007 fifth round pick could be a ton better than he has shown thus far and that makes him a bit of a 'sleeper'. He has a big league fastball-changeup combination already, but his breaking pitches [both his slider and curveball] are considerably raw for a former college pitcher with a full-season of A-ball under his belt. There's no doubting the big league arm, but he needs to show more consistent breaking pitches soon to continue fending off the higher-ceiling arms coming up behind him.

WHERE'S THE POWER?: Finding his old velocity would make Pope a 'sleeper'. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Ryan Pope: Like Olbrychowski, Pope has some essentials to his game to make him a bit of a 'sleeper'. He has some of the best command and pitch-ability in the organization, and his curveball-changeup combination has come a long way in a short period of time. However, he hasn't come close to matching his 90-93 MPH velocity he reportedly had in college and he'll need either that or a fourth pitch [he is working on a slider] to hold his place in the organization.

RHP, Jason Stephens: The six-year veteran is very much like Pope in a lot of ways. Like Pope, he utilizes his plus command and pitch-ability to keep batters guessing at the plate. And like Pope, his lack of velocity [he's in the 87-91 MPH range] limits his chances as a potential reliever. Time is running out to see a Hacker-like boost in velocity and take a spot from higher-ceiling pitchers on the 40-man roster.

The Jury Is Still Out

RHP, Manny Barreda: Barreda, who is like O'Brien and Richardson as a shorter stature hurler with a power arm, was seemingly coming into his own before Tommy John surgery put him on the shelf. He had virtually no opportunity to showcase his improved changeup and slider last year, and the jury is still out if the changes will still be in-place when he returns.

RHP, Brandon Braboy: Last year's 18th-round pick has the potential to be a real 'sleeper' in due time, thanks in large part to his lightening-quick arm, even quicker release, and ability to hit 95 MPH. To make that next step, however, he'll need to improve his secondary pitches. Until he does that though, the jury is still out on him.

RHP, David Phelps: The former Notre Dame product is quite polished with his big league fastball-changeup combination and his command, but the mechanics still needs some work and his breaking ball isn't there yet. He lacks a true plus pitch in his arsenal right now though and that limits his upside. He has the pitch-ability to allow him the time to develop his stuff further.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nThe \"Sleepers\"
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\r\nLHP, Jeremy Bleich: Normally most first-round picks, even supplemental ones, don't fall into the sleeper category. But considering he gets overlooked by many because of his average big league velocity [89-92 MPH] and because he doesn't project to throw harder down the road, Bleich is a definite sleeper. His changeup and curveball are both above average to plus pitches and his command is absolutely stellar. Throw in his pitch-ability and prowess to miss bats, he's got a lot more game than some folks down on his velocity realize.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Noel Castillo: Signed later than most, the 25-year old often gets overlooked because of his advanced age. He has barely made his way into the high-A level, but while he has pitched older for his levels, he does have some really good stuff. He sits 91-93 MPH and tops out at 95, and there are some who believe that could go up if he was ever transitioned to the bullpen as a short reliever. But his changeup is a legitimate big league pitch. If he could develop his slider in similar fashion, he could surprise some folks as a starter.
\r\n
\r\nLHP, Wilkins De La Rosa: Like Castillo, De La Rosa offers the organization a ton of upside as a future reliever because of his raw arm strength. He is able to hit 97 MPH at times, although his command is better at the 91-94 MPH range. He's been so unbelievably effective on the mound thus far - posting a 2.20 career ERA - that some might not see him as a real 'sleeper'. But considering his slider and changeup are both a work in progress, even though his ceiling is quite high, he is a bit raw as a potential big league starter right now since he's already on the 40-man roster.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES: O'Brien's smaller size could keep him under the radar. (Photo: Mark LoMoglio/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Mikey O'Brien: O'Brien is sure to be dismissed by some in the coming years for two reasons - he was drafted in the ninth round and because he's a smaller stature pitcher [5-foot-11]. Despite his size, however, he can throw quite hard. He's topped out at 97 MPH at an early age and he has two secondary pitches [curveball and changeup] that have plus potential. He'll get overshadowed by other pitchers, but he has some significant upside of his own.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Lance Pendleton: One of the more unheralded success stories in the Yankees farm system last year was the successful return of the 2005 fourth-round pick. Pendleton posted a solid 3.52 ERA in his first year back from Tommy John surgery and struck out 119 batters in 128 innings for the Charleston Riverdogs. At 25 years old he gets a bit overlooked, but he has a very good curveball-fastball combination and the changeup is coming along. He doesn't have the highest upside around, but he's potentially more than the organizational filler some view him as.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Matt Ricardson: Like his buddy Mikey O'Brien, Richardson has some potential to him. As a former shortstop he hasn't been pitching nearly as long and that makes him a bit more raw at the current time. He has an above average fastball, sitting 91-93 MPH, and he has a solid curveball too. Developing his changeup further and ironing out his mechanics will be the keys to tapping his potential, but the foundation is very strong to surprise some folks down the road.
\r\n
\r\nLHP, Nik Turley: A very strong argument could be made to put Turely in the 'highest ceiling' category because he has a lot going for him - size [he's 6-foot-6], he throws hard [89-92 MPH], and he's developed his curveball and changeup [two pretty non-existent pitches when he signed] into pitches with plus potential. He also has very good command and the type of frame that could get stronger in time, but being drafted in the 50th round will allow him to fly under the radar.
\r\n
\r\nNeed To Make Their Move
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Adam Olbrychowski: The 2007 fifth round pick could be a ton better than he has shown thus far and that makes him a bit of a 'sleeper'. He has a big league fastball-changeup combination already, but his breaking pitches [both his slider and curveball] are considerably raw for a former college pitcher with a full-season of A-ball under his belt. There's no doubting the big league arm, but he needs to show more consistent breaking pitches soon to continue fending off the higher-ceiling arms coming up behind him.
\r\n
\r\n\r\n
WHERE'S THE POWER?: Finding his old velocity would make Pope a 'sleeper'. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Ryan Pope: Like Olbrychowski, Pope has some essentials to his game to make him a bit of a 'sleeper'. He has some of the best command and pitch-ability in the organization, and his curveball-changeup combination has come a long way in a short period of time. However, he hasn't come close to matching his 90-93 MPH velocity he reportedly had in college and he'll need either that or a fourth pitch [he is working on a slider] to hold his place in the organization.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Jason Stephens: The six-year veteran is very much like Pope in a lot of ways. Like Pope, he utilizes his plus command and pitch-ability to keep batters guessing at the plate. And like Pope, his lack of velocity [he's in the 87-91 MPH range] limits his chances as a potential reliever. Time is running out to see a Hacker-like boost in velocity and take a spot from higher-ceiling pitchers on the 40-man roster.
\r\n
\r\nThe Jury Is Still Out
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Manny Barreda: Barreda, who is like O'Brien and Richardson as a shorter stature hurler with a power arm, was seemingly coming into his own before Tommy John surgery put him on the shelf. He had virtually no opportunity to showcase his improved changeup and slider last year, and the jury is still out if the changes will still be in-place when he returns.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, Brandon Braboy: Last year's 18th-round pick has the potential to be a real 'sleeper' in due time, thanks in large part to his lightening-quick arm, even quicker release, and ability to hit 95 MPH. To make that next step, however, he'll need to improve his secondary pitches. Until he does that though, the jury is still out on him.
\r\n
\r\nRHP, David Phelps: The former Notre Dame product is quite polished with his big league fastball-changeup combination and his command, but the mechanics still needs some work and his breaking ball isn't there yet. He lacks a true plus pitch in his arsenal right now though and that limits his upside. He has the pitch-ability to allow him the time to develop his stuff further.
\r\n
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