Scouting Yankee Prospect #25: Jeff Karstens

Karstens Has Great Command

The Yankees selected Jeff Karstens in the 19th round of the 2003 MLB Draft out of Texas Tech University. Karstens, despite not being a physically imposing figure or possessing plus stuff, has become one of the more solid pitching prospects in the Yankees' farm system. With an uncanny ability to throw consistent strikes, Karstens ranks #25 among the Top 50 Yankees' Prospects.


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

As previously mentioned, Jeff Karstens doesn't intimidate anybody with his rather slender build on the mound. He doesn't throw particularly hard nor does he have a plus pitch in his arsenal. But what he lacks in physical attributes he more than makes up with good command.

"Karstens has four average Major League pitches and he doesn't walk anybody," Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator Nardi Contreras said of Karstens. "He throws 90-91 MPH and he's over the plate all time, much more so than somebody like Matt DeSalvo. As long as he's commanding his pitches, he'll be fine."

Karstens, who finished the 2004 season with a 4.02 ERA with the Tampa Yankees, began his 2005 campaign posting an outstanding 2.77 ERA in his first ten starts at the AA level with the Trenton Thunder. But a mid-season swoon that saw him go just 3-7 with a 5.37 ERA in his following 12 starts marred what could have been a breakout year.

"It's not what I hoped for. I've had a few good outings but for the most part, I've had to battle," Karstens told us back in August. "It's good when you have to battle because it makes you better, but it's obviously not what I hoped for this season."

"Looking back at the middle of the season, I was giving up two runs or so late in games instead of one," Karstens told in a recent interview. "Late in games, I was out there grinding it out."

Battling, he does. One of the obvious side effects of his lanky build is a lack of stamina in games and over the course of a long season, a criticism that has caused scouts to wonder what his future role might be at the Major League level.

"He's not a big, strong man like some of the other guys," Contreras said of Karstens. "When he has been hit in his games, it is usually in the 5th or 6th inning. We've been working with him to try and add some weight to his small frame to make a little stronger so he can get into the 7th and 8th innings more."

61 of his 66 career games have come in a starting role, and while Karstens is prepared to pitch in any role the Yankees see fit, many inside the organization still believe his value is best served in a starting capacity.

"He's going to pitch in the big leagues for sure," said Contreras. "He doesn't back down from anybody. Hopefully we can help him develop a nasty pitch, one that he can use as his out pitch."

Jeff Karstens and the Yankee believe his changeup has the opportunity to develop into an out pitch for him, which could be the final obstacle in becoming one of the better starting pitching prospects in their farm system.

"I think I made a big improvement in my changeup this last year," said Karstens. "I got hit in the elbow on a line-drive comebacker in Spring Training and I knew then that my changeup wasn't where it should be. I made some big strides [with the changeup]."

While not many are endeared with his stuff or his physicality, Karstens' control separates him from the rest, an aspect of his game that doesn't go unnoticed by the Yankees.

"Karstens is going to be a 5th starter in the Major Leagues because he can throw strikes," Contreras added. "You know he's not going to walk the ball park."


























Staten Island







Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider.

Fastball. Jeff Karstens throws both a 2-seam and 4-seam fastball. He throws a heavy, sinking 2-seam fastball in the 87-89 MPH range with good bite to it. His control with his 2-seamer is impeccable. He can spot it anywhere in the strike zone and even tease a batter with pitches just out of the strike zone, which allows him to induce a lot of ground balls over the course of a season and keep left-handed hitters off-balance. He also throws a solid Major League 4-seam fastball that sits 88-92 MPH.

Other Pitches. Karstens sets up his fastball with solid secondary pitches. He uses a curveball in the 74-77 MPH range more as a 'get over' pitch to left-handed batters, and along with his 2-seam fastball, is a big reason why he's proven to be even more effective against them than against right-handed batters. His slider, which sits around 78-82 MPH, used to be his out pitch earlier in his career. Inconsistent command of his slider has forced him to develop his changeup over the last two years. His changeup, which also averages 78-82 MPH on the radar gun, has improved dramatically and it has become more of his go-to pitch than his slider.

Pitching. Karstens is a ground ball pitcher with great control who can pick up a fair amount of strikeouts. The fact that he challenges batters and forces them to swing at his pitches is the reason the Yankees are so high on him. He throws seemingly effortlessly and the looseness of his arm allows the ball to jump towards home plate. He is able to hit spots very well and he is highly mechanically advanced. A backwards pitcher, Karstens' solid secondary pitches allow his fastball to be deceptively quick. So while he may not throw hard, his fastball is as effective as most power pitchers.

Projection. As Nardi Contreras pointed out, Karstens' great command will allow him to be a back-end starter at the Major League level. The question will be, will he serve that role with the New York Yankees. A resurging corps of starting pitching prospects at the minor league level for the Yankees, combined with evident stamina issues, and pinpoint control, may force Karstens into the bullpen at the big league level. He projects to serve more in a Tanyon Sturtze role for the Yankees as a spot starter and reliever.

ETA. 2007. Karstens appears ticketed for AAA-Columbus in 2006 after a solid performance in AA-Trenton last year. Now a member of the 40-man roster, Karstens could see some limited action wiht the Yankees in 2006 as an emergency fill-in or a September call-up. However, he should be ready to contribute more in 2007.


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