Q&A with Jeff Karstens

Karstens Compares Himself to Clement

Tampa pitcher Jeff Karstens sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a Q&A session to give us some information on his high school and college experiences, what he's been working on since being a Yankee farmhand, who he thinks are the high ceiling Yankee prospects, what his repertoire is like, and much more!

PinstripesPlus: Tell us a little bit about your baseball career prior to coming to the Yankees organization. You know, your high school days, college, stats, stuff like that.

Jeff Karstens: I played three years on the varsity team at Mt. Miguel High School in California. I was a pitcher, but also played a few other positions. I was a shortstop my sophomore year, played right field my junior year, and was a catcher as a senior. I was First-Team All Conference as a pitcher but was drafted in the 45th round in 2000 as a catcher by the Expos. I went to junior college at Grossmont Junior College in El Cajon and was like 16-4 with a 2.90 ERA in my two years there. I was Conference Pitcher of the Year my second year and our team won back-to-back Conference Champions my two years there. I went to Texas Tech for my junior year of college in 2003 and I was a spot starter and closer. I would start one game and close games on Friday, that type of thing. I led the team in wins and saves that year.

PinstripesPlus.com: Tell what it was like to be drafted by the Yankees. Were you thinking you would be drafted by the Yankees, or go higher in the draft?

Karstens: I didn't think I would go very high in the draft and it was somewhat of a shock that the Yankees took me in the 19th round. Teams like the Rockies, Red Sox, and Orioles seemed to have more interest but the Yankees wanted to give me an opportunity to play so I took it.

PinstripesPlus.com: So after being drafted, you went to Staten Island to make your professional debut. What was that like?

Karstens: It was definitely different. The stadium was great and we would always have like 5,000 fans at the games, which was a little weird having so many fans there. The fans were a little more talkative and a little more blunt. I enjoyed myself a lot, but the biggest adjustment was what minor league baseball was like, taking the buses and stuff like that.

PinstripesPlus.com: What was your 2004 season like in Tampa?

Karstens: It went well. Greg Pavlick is a great pitching coach and he helped me learn how to keep the ball down. I wasn't expecting to go to Tampa right away, but in Extended Spring Training I used the word "tight" instead of "sore" and they decided to hold me back a while and rest me. My arm got tired real quickly after the minicamps and stuff. But when I was ready to go they kept me in Tampa. I had dead arm periods in the middle of the season and towards the end of the year, but overall I think I had a good year.

PinstripesPlus.com: Tell us a little bit about your repertoire. Give us a scouting report on your stuff.

Karstens: I throw a 2-seam and 4-seam fastball. My 4-seamer is about 88-91 MPH and can top it off in the mid-90's, around 94 MPH. I can throw my 2-seamer as fast as 92-93 MPH. I have a curveball that I throw to lefties more as my get over pitch and that pitch is about 75-76 MPH. My slider, which is on and off at times, is about 80-83 MPH. It used to be my out pitch. I also have a changeup in the 78-81 MPH range. I set up my breaking stuff with my fastball, usually looking to get a first pitch strike with my fastball to righties.

PinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is your strongest part of your game?

Karstens: Definitely my consistency in throwing strikes. I let the batters put the ball in play. I guess I'd say I am usually around the plate all the time.

PinstripesPlus.com: Okay, what would you say is the thing you need to work on the most?

Karstens: Before minicamp I'd say my lack of consistency hitting the outside corners to righties with my fastball. I used to leave it out a lot more over the plate. I learned a lot at the minicamp with "Pav" and Nardi. I stuck with their program and it worked out really well. I'm able to hit that outside corner now with more consistency.

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you have any specific goals for yourself in 2005? Do you know where you'll be starting next year?

Karstens: Just to try and do better than I did last year. I don't really know where I'll be starting the year next season. That is really something out of my control. I would like to be in AA by the end of the year. I guess that's my goal.

PinstripesPlus.com: Of the positional players you've played with in the Yankees' system, which player do you think has the highest upside?

Karstens: (laughing) I'd like to have Gabe Lopez's glove and Eric Duncan's bat. But if I had to choose one guy it would be Duncan. He's got great talent but it is just the way he works so hard. His work ethic is great. He works so hard everyday. He's always in the cages early, watching video on his swing, stuff like that. I know a lot of people talk about it, and I think he knows it himself, that he needs to work on his defense. He works really hard on his defense, but I think he'll probably wind up being a first baseman.

PinstripesPlus.com: Of the pitchers in the system that you've gotten to play with, which do you think has the highest upside?

Karstens: I guess I'd have to say Steven White. He is really good and he made a lot of progress . He went to minicamp to work on his changeup. As long as he has that pitch working for him, he has a lot of upside.

PinstripesPlus.com: Who do you think you resemble at the Major League level, pitching wise? Who would you compare your game to?

Karstens: I'd say Matt Clement but I don't have as much sink on my 2-seam fastball as he does. Maybe Jake Peavy. I have a loose arm and effortless motion like Jake Peavy does.

PinstripesPlus.com would like to thank Jeff Karstens for taking the time to check in with us this offseason. Be sure to check back with us throughout the 2005 season as we'll get more updates from Jeff this coming season.

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