Sizing Up The Starting Pitching Prospects - Part I

Phil Hughes Has Pinpoint Control

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' starting pitching prospects. Which prospects are the ones that have the highest ceilings? Which are the ones that are closest to the Major Leagues? These questions are answered in Part One of our two part series on the Yankees' starting pitching prospects.

Highest Ceiling

Phil Hughes: Despite having just five professional innings to his credit and only a few months removed from high school, Phil Hughes already has one of the highest ceilings among the starting pitching prospects in the Yankees' farm system after being selectd in the first round of the 2004 MLB Draft. The name of Phil's game is control, as evident when he threw a perfect game in his senior year of high school last season. He uses a bulldog mentality to challenge hitters and uses pinpoint control to throw his pitches where ever he wants. Hughes has drawn comparisons to Rogers Clemens and Curt Schilling not only for his pitching ability, but for his huge physical presence on the mound.

Hughes has a Major League fastball that averages 92-94 MPH and he can bring it as fast as 97 MPH at times. As good as his fastball and control is, Hughes' best trait may be his ability to learn. Armed with one of the best sliders in the entire 2004 MLB Draft, Hughes has been told to put it on the back burner and develop his other secondary pitchs. Despite not having a curveball in high school, Hughes has already incorporated one into his repertoire and it has been deemed a decent curveball by scouts already. He has already made marked improvements in his curveball and changeup, and he has yet to pitch an inning above the rookie leagues! Don't forget he has a plus slider that he'll add back to his repertoire once he reaches the upper levels of the minor leagues. Hughes has ace potential and should be a stalwart on the mound for the Yankees for many, many years.

Christian Garcia: While Hughes has a dominating fastball and Marquez has a dominating changeup, Garcia has one of the nastiest curveballs going. In fact, it is the #1 rated curveball in the Yankees' farm system. It is more of a power, knuckle-curveball that he'll throw to any hitter, in any count, in any situation. His curveball is arguably Major League ready right now. Garcia compliments his curveball with a plus fastball.

He throws just as hard as Phil Hughes, averaging 92-94 MPH with his heater and touching 97 MPH at times. The difference between Hughes' fastball and Garcia's is control. Garcia, who grew up primarily as a catcher in the high school ranks, has not yet developed the same control with his fastball that Hughes possesses. Like all Yankee pitching prospects, Garcia throws a changeup that he's still developing. He also has a fantastic splitter that he's been told to put on the shelf for now. Garcia, who already has a world of talent on the mound, still has a lot of catching up to do on the mound since he's finally pitching full-time - that is the scary part.

Jeff Marquez: A supplemental first round pick in the 2004 draft, Marquez is equipped with one of the more devasting changeups in the Yankees' system. Marquez is not a power pitcher by any means, but he's still able to throw a Major League fastball, averaging in the low 90s with his heater. He uses an excellent combination of a two-seam fastball and a plus changeup to keep pitches down in the strike zone where opposing batters have a hard time driving the ball. Marquez is not your prototypical strikeout pitcher. He keeps hitters off balance and forces batters to hit his pitches.

He added a four-seam fastball to his repertoire in the minicamp last fall and that should only help him further down the road. Once he has mastered that pitch, he'll be able to pitch to all four quadrants of the plate and keep the hitters guessing even more. Still just 20 years old, Marquez may not project to be the ideal #1 pitcher down the road, but he's got the talent to be a solid #2 someday.

Tyler Clippard: Clippard is like Phil Hughes in that he boasts some of the very best control with his pitches. Despite not having one of the premiere fastballs in the Yankees' system, Clippard makes up for it with an outstanding changeup and good curveball. He can bring his fastball between 88-91 MPH with regularity and he is at his absolute best when he's able to throw his fastball for strikes. Clippard averages better than one strikeout per inning pitched and still just 20 years old, he's got the chance to throw for a little more power as he fills out his thin frame. An ace in the minors, Clippard projects to be a wonderful middle-of-the-rotation starter at the Major League level.

Steven White: White is a throwback pitcher that forces batters to beat him with his fastball. He throws a plus fastball, averaging 91-94 MPH with good location. He won't try and paint the corners either. White goes right after the hitters. He throws a "slurve", curveball/slider, that has late breaking action to it and he only really began to throw a changeup this past offseason. If White can develop the changeup like most Yankees' officials believe he can, he's got the chance to be a true innings eater at the Major League level. White, who gets stronger as the game goes on, projects to anchor the middle of the rotation for the Yankees someday.

Abel Gomez: Gomez is a hard throwing lefty from the Dominican Republic. Blessed with such a 'live' arm, Gomez averages 91-93 MPH on his fastball and it appears to come in quicker to the batters as he's able to hide the ball a bit longer than most pitchers. Opposing hitters have a hard time picking up his fastball, but he runs into trouble at times with his location. His batting average against is fantastic but his walk totals (73 walks in 142.2 innings in 2004) are somewhat alarming. Gomez has good control of his changeup and curveball however, so he's able to keep hitters at bay. He just turned 20 years old this past offseason and is slated to be in high-A Tampa as one of the younger pitchers in the league. He projects to be another strong candidate for the middle of the rotation down the road, especially if he can add some muscle mass to his 6'0" & 170 lbs frame.

Closest to the Majors

Matthew DeSalvo: DeSalvo is a cerebral pitcher cut in the same mold as Greg Maddux. He has an extensive repertoire as well, boasting a fastball that averages 91-93 MPH on the gun with good movement, an excellent 12-6 curveball, a slider, a forkball, and a fantastic changeup that acts more like a screwball that breaks down and away from left-handed batters. Like Maddux, DeSalvo does not favor any one of his pitches over the other and feels comfortable throwing any pitch at any time. The undrafted free agent signing out of a Division III school is a strikeout pitcher like Maddux in that he's able to make the batters miss despite not having the overpowering stuff of a power pitcher. He got hurt in AA-Trenton last season and could see significant time at the AAA level in 2005.

Chien-Ming Wang: Unlike DeSalvo, the international free agent out of Taiwan, Chien-Ming Wang, is the epitome of a power pitcher. Wang consistently brings his heater in the 92-95 MPH range and seemingly gets stronger as the games goes on. He possesses a decent slider and a good changeup, but uses his splitter as his secondary out pitch. Wang has good control for being a power pitcher, averaging just a shade over two walks per nine innings and has a career 1.20 WHIP ratio (walks + hits per innings pitched) at the minor league level. He had a decent showing at the AA level in 2004 but opened some eyes in a short stint at AAA-Columbus to finish out the season. The 25-year old right hander should open the season in Columbus to start the 2005 season and be the first call up to the Bronx should the need for a starter arise...much in the same manner Brad Halsey did last season.

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