Edwardo Sierra - To set the record straight right off the bat, there is no one in the Yankee farm system that has a better arm than Edwardo Sierra. Sierra can crank his heater up to 97-98 MPH, and pitching easily in the 93-96 MPH range. But, the velocity and the raw stuff is no the problem. It is his control, or lack there of. To put it in perspective just how about much raw stuff and upside the lanky righthander has, imagine posting an ERA of under 4 while walking over 8 batters per nine innings pitched. It nearly defies all laws we've come to know about pitching. But, the fact is, Sierra's control can be downright atrocious at times. And, that isn't a great thing when you are trying to close out a ball game. If he can keep his high strung emotions under control though, he can be as dominating as they come out of the bullpen with two devastating pitches, a fastball and a splitter.
Jesse Hoover - Prior to his back injury this spring, Jesse Hoover was slated to begin the season as a part of the Charleston RiverDogs starting rotation. But, after this severe setback, things could drastically change. The fact that he was starting was a mere experiment. Hoover was drafted as a reliever and shows true dominance as a reliever. So, no matter what they try to convert him to, he appears to be headed for a relief role down the road. But, as a member of the bullpen, the big righthander could be even more dominating. With a blazing fastball to go along with a good hook, he has the potential to be not just a good reliever, but an elite one at that.
Closest To the Majors
Colter Bean - Why not call him the pitching version of Andy Phillips. Colter Bean has put up outstanding numbers two years in a row for AAA Columbus and has really nothing to show for it except yet another year at AAA in 2005. The 6' 6" righty doesn't blow anyone away with his fastball or any of his stuff for that matter and the organization and scouts would call him a "trick" pitcher because of his funky delivery. But, results are results and you can't deny his mastery of the AAA level. All he needs is a legitimate chance
Ben Julianel - Pound for pound, you may be reading about the Yankees' best relief pitching prospect of them all. He does not have the pure power arm of a Jesse Hoover or Edwardo Sierra, but the man can pitch. A southpaw, Julianel is equally tough on lefties and righties that come to the plate. Armed with a devastating changeup and a rapidly improving slider, the 25 year old lefty will begin the season as one of the primary set up men in AA Trenton. With a good start, he could be sent to AAA Columbus by mid-season. Julianel is not a real hard thrower, hovering around 90 MPH, but with his great secondary stuff, he is going strike out a lot in short relief stints. Look for this lefthander to be a potentially vital part of a Major League bullpen in the future.
Jose Tadeo - Considering all the prominent pitching draftees for the Yankees in 2004, no one really paid much attention to a relief pitcher named Jose Tadeo. As a 20th round pick, he is an ideal sleeper, but his teammates were more than impressed with his stuff in the Gulf Coast League in 2004. Raving about his great cut fastball that is anywhere from 85-88 MPH, he was projected to be an excellent future MLB closer. Although he was sent to extended spring training to start the 2005 season, that doesn't mean he still can't be a large factor down the road.
Mike Martinez - Perhaps the most polished one of the bunch, Mike Martinez brings a crafty presence to the bullpen scene. He had a strong season with Staten Island after being drafted out of Cal State Fullerton in the 8th round of the 2004 draft. With one of the top three changeups in the Yankee farm system, Martinez is a Keith Foulke type of closer. If he performs well in the closer role with Charleston this season, he will become one of the top, if not the top relief pitching prospect by next season.
Jury Is Still Out
Sean Henn - The reason that the jury is still out on Sean Henn is simple. He hasn't even done any relief pitching yet. It has been reported that he will spend half of his time in the bullpen in 2005 with AA Trenton, easing his way into his new role. But, despite what you would assume about his performance considering his live fastball coming out of the pen, we still need to see his performances before making any judgments on him. But, the move to the bullpen certainly appears to be the the right move for the highly touted lefthander.
Need To Make Their Move
Josh Smith - Even after an outstanding second half to the 2004 season, it is apparent that Josh Smith still has some impressions to make. He spent the majority of his spring training with the Tampa Yankees before being demoted to low A Charleston, where he will begin his 2005 campaign. He'll need to prove he can improve his command and throw consistent strikes before the organization places him any higher on the minor leaguer ladder.
Brad Blackwell - Stuck in short season ball for two years, it is time that Brad Blackwell showed his stuff in full season ball. He broke spring training camp as a member of the Charleston RiverDogs bullpen, but he'll need to pitch well to stick with the team. He brings a bulldog mentality to the mound with him, possessing a good fastball and a complimentary breaking ball. If he performs well, the 2003 draftee could become one of the better relief prospects in a hurry. But, right now, he needs to prove he can perform in full season baseball.