Scouting Yankee Prospect #25: Jeff Karstens

The Yankees selected Jeff Karstens in the 19th round of the 2003 draft. Karstens has a loose, quick arm action and has a live arm. Not to mention, he has the golden ability to throw consistent strikes. It's these reasons that Karstens is our Yankee's prospect #25. (Free Preview!)

Vital Statistics
Name: Jeff Karstens
Position: Pitcher
DOB: September 24, 1982
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 175
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
College: Texas Tech

When the Yankees selected Jeff Karstens in the 19th round of the 2004, they were looking more at his 2003 and 2002 seasons in junior college than his 2004 statistics at Texas Tech. Even though he was effective at Texas Tech in his one season there, his two seasons before that were flat out dominating at Grossmont Junior College. However, Karstens did not begin his career as a pitcher. An interesting side note is that Jeff was selected in the 45th round by the Montreal Expos as a catcher in 2000 out of high school. However, he seemed to make the smart choice by attending junior college where he became a pitcher. In his two seasons at Grossmont, the righthander went 16-4 with a 2.90 ERA. Not to mention, he was Conference Player of the Year in 2002. But, for his junior year, Karstens would move on to Texas Tech University. He served a smaller role there though, acting as a spot starter and part time closer. He still managed to lead the team in wins and saves, however. Even though it was not a dazzling season with his 4+ ERA, the Yankees were impressed with the live armed righthander and picked him in the 2003 draft.

"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," Karstens told PinstripesPlus.com. "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." The Yankees had obviously been more than impressed with his junior college performance. It is also widely thought that Karstens may have been a steal in that the Yankees were able to look beyond his less than gaudy statistics at Texas Tech. After getting off on the right foot in 2003 with Staten Island in his pro debut, Karstens didn't miss a beat in 2004 as the Yankees skipped the 22 year old over a level, straight to High A Tampa. He had a superb year but his numbers don't look quite as dazzling as they would have, considering the fact that Karstens wore down at the end of the season. But, this can be expected for a guy in his first full season, logging 138.2 innings. "My arm got tired real quickly after the mini-camps and stuff," the 22 year old told PinstripesPlus.com. "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."

As for the 2005 season, Jeff Karstens seemed to have more than earned himself a spot in the Trenton rotation. Not to mention, he has earned high esteem from the organization. "Karstens, he is really good," Pitching Coordinator, Nardi Contreras told PinstripesPlus.com. "He did a very nice job in Tampa this year and showed he could eat up a lot of innings for them. Karstens is another older guy so he should be in the Trenton rotation also. I'm not sure if he's a sleeper either but he is very, very good. He has shown really good stuff and we think he can pitch well in Trenton in 2005. He has a very good curveball and a pretty good fastball so he could be one our best pitching prospects once he just shows his stuff in AA." The Yankees see Karstens as a a wait and see prospect, referring to waiting to see how he fares in AA. If he does well there, he is going to fly up the charts and become an elite pitching prospect in the system.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2003 Staten Island 4-2 0 67.1 63 16 53 2.54
2004 Tampa 6-9 0 138.2 151 31 116 4.02

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider

Fastball. Jeff Karstens does not qualify as a flame thrower, but he does have about an average major league fastball. It ranges anywhere from 88-92 MPH, topping out around 94 MPH. However, his coaches seem to think that if he can get a little stronger physically, he could add a couple MPH on that heater. However, if he does or not, the righty has outstanding movement on his fastball. He throws a heavy, sinking fastball with good bite to it. Because of this, he is able to use his fastball quite often. But, his best attribute is the command of this pitch. He can spot his four seam and two seam fastball anywhere in the strike zone and even tease a batter with pitches just out of the strike zone. With his good two seam fastball, Karstens induces a lot of groundballs over the course of a season.

Other Pitches. Other than his fastball, Jeff Karstens possesses a show me curveball, a changeup and a slider. His curveball is his self proclaimed "get it over" pitch to help him combat left handed hitters. It may be something he wants to improve upon as he faces better lefty hitters though. Otherwise, it may hamper his ability to become a top of the rotation type of starter. But, Jeff does have a very good changeup and his best pitch is his slider, although he actually struggled to find consistency with his best pitch in 2004. Here is what Karstens had to say about his repertoire. "I have a curveball that I throw to lefties more as my get over pitch and that pitch is about 75-76 MPH," said Karstens. "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."

Pitching. Karstens is a groundball pitcher who can pick up a fair amount of strikeouts. But, one thing he won't do very often is walk a batter. That is the primary reason that the Yankees think so highly of him. He is able to hit spots very well and he is highly mechanically advanced. He has perhaps the loosest arm action of any Yankee pitching prospect. He comes over the top with a loose arm and the ball jumps towards home plate. This is something that batters would describe as late pop or "sneaky fast." However, one thing he will need to do is regain his consistency with his good slider when he faces AA hitters in 2005. Also, he may want to tighten up his breaking ball or he may get rocked by more advanced hitters. But, let us not forget that Nardi Contreras, speaking earlier, said he had made great strides with that pitch in mini-camp. Command of his average stuff with a a live, moving fastball is what will carry this 22 year old righthander.

Projection. At the speed he looks to be moving in the Yankees Farm System, Jeff Karstens may be the best prospect no one has ever heard of. With that being said, Karstens looks to be a future big league starter in only a couple years.

ETA. Late 2006. Next season should have Jeff Karstens starting off in AA Trenton right in the middle of their starting rotation. Then, as a 24 year old, he should be headed for AAA Columbus in 2006. Late in the season, the tall righty could be ripe for a September callup.