Yankees Scouting Report: Jesse Hoover

Yankees Scouting Report: Jesse Hoover

The New York Yankees selected RHP Jesse Hoover in the 5th round of the 2004 draft out of Indiana Tech and he immediately became one of the top pitching prospects in the organization with a dominating performance in Staten Island that same year. Sidelined with a back injury for two years after that, he finally proved he could stay healthy in 2007 with a solid performance in Charleston.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jesse Hoover
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: January 8, 1982
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I thought it was okay," Hoover said of his 2007 season. "Numbers-wise I would have liked to have a little bit better [season] but I stayed healthy so I can't complain. I was happy I stayed healthy."

Missing a little more than two full seasons after posting a 1.78 ERA and striking out nearly fifteen batters per nine innings with the Staten Island Yankees in 2004, he went 3-2 with 3.92 ERA and not even one strikeout per inning with the Charleston Riverdogs this past season.

Missing that much time however, numbers weren't necessarily the barometer the organization was looking towards, it was whether or not his back would hold up to years of rehabilitation.

"As much as I said before the injury about not caring about the numbers, as an athlete or a competitor it's hard to get that out of your mind when you're not putting up the numbers you want.

"I was definitely happy to stay healthy the whole time. I didn't miss any outings because of my back and it went according to schedule, and according to what Nardi [Contreras, the minor league pitching coordinator] wanted innings-wise. He wanted me to get forty innings and I think I got just over that. It's good to be out on the field again."

Accustomed to overpowering batters with a mid-90's fastball and a devastating curveball in his debut season, he had to learn to be a completely different pitcher on the hill upon his return.

"I guess it was inconsistent," he said of his stuff. "There were times where I felt very comfortable and everything seemed to flow and I was in a rhythm. There were times I had command of my fastball and curveball and then there were times I'd go out there and I couldn't find it, it was tough.

"Overall there times I was very happy but it's something that repetition-wise it's going to come slowly back over the next year or so. That's one thing you take for granted being gone for that long is just having a feel for your pitches."

Such a long layoff from competitive baseball and dealing with the natural physical limitations of a back injury left him with less than Hoover-like stuff, sitting mostly in the low-90's with his fastball and giving him less bite on his once plus curveball.

"There were so many games where I felt it was coming back and I was feeling good. It seemed like I put together two or three good ones and then have a couple of bad outings and wondered what happened," he admitted. "Definitely by the end of the year I felt I had better grip on my curveball as far as me throwing it and not thinking so much.

"I think that's the main thing I had to get over and that was thinking. Definitely by the end of the year I was throwing my changeup more and the curveball was better. Velocity-wise I think I stayed about the same the whole year."

Just feeling his way through his first season back in a lot of ways, he knows that there exists the realistic possibility his once power stuff may never fully return to form, even as he stretches himself out in the coming seasons and lets loose a bit more.

"As far as how confident I am in getting it back, or banking on it coming back to where it used to be - I'm not looking at that as a terrible thing if it doesn't come back because I realize a lot of guys pitch 89-92 MPH and are very effective - I'm looking at it that I've got to have command of both sides of the plate and so if that velocity comes back it will just be a bonus.

"At this point I think it will come back a little bit more but I'm not sure it's ever going to be quite what it was before. I think there will be flashes where it's close but I'm not counting on being consistently around that 94 MPH range."

Totally prepared to continue his career with a different arsenal and completely confident he can be nearly as effective as he once was, Hoover is excited that his career has resumed once again - and it even has just begun in a lot of ways.

"My goal for next year, and I know this sounds like a cliche, but it's to be in the best possible shape," said the soon to be 26-year old. "That's easier said than done when you've had that much time off but I'm getting close to where I once was physically.

"My goal is to give myself the best chance physically that I can since this is really my first offseason as far as I won't be rehabbing and I'll be doing weights and running again. I can't cheat myself, I've got to be in as good shape as possible."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2007

Charleston

3-2

1

44.1

37

23

38

3.92

2004

Staten Island

2-1

1

55.2

28

26

90

1.78



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Averaging 93-95 MPH and topping out around 97 MPH with his fastball back in 2004, the negative effects of more than a two-year layoff with a back injury saw him sit mostly in the 89-92 MPH range with his fastball this past season. He overcame his lesser velocity with a bit more command of his fastball and that will the prevailing mantra of his future development if he's never able to rediscover his old power arm.

Other Pitches. Where Hoover has actually been hurt more with less power in his arm is with his once plus curveball. Once throwing it in the 77-82 MPH range with great biting and downward sinking action, he hasn't been able to generate the same movement after returning the mound. It was a very promising swinging strikeout pitch for him in his younger days and he'll now need to learn to throw it more for called strikes if he can't regain the same biting action he once had. The long rehab process has helped give him a once non-existent changeup to a solid one, but he could stand to use it a bit more in his pitch selection.

Pitching. Even without the once blazing fastball he had, Hoover pitches with a fearless attitude on the mound and dealing with the back injury to the point where it seemed like his career could have been over at various points has given him an even more carefree demeanor, which is perfect for a reliever. While the back problems have zapped him of some of his power, he is still incredibly strong from a stamina standpoint and that allows him to be very reliable and an innings-eater. He still has some work to do commanding both sides of the plate with his fastball and his curveball command could also be better. If he could ever get back to throwing with more power, and that's not entirely out of the question considering his long layoff, he could be even better than he was before if he could utilize his current time improving his command.

Projection. If Hoover was to never realize his old power stuff, he would project to be a solid middle reliever perfect for the fifth and sixth innings with his excellent makeup - of course a lot of that would have to depend on his ability to remain injury-free for the foreseeable future and that is certainly not a given with the delicate nature of back injuries. His back issues notwithstanding, he is actually in very good physical shape and is naturally strong, holding out hope he could gain his old velocity. If he were able to do that at some point, his projection would then change to a possible setup man or even a closer. His ultimate role solely lies in his ability to remain healthy from this point forward and if he can regain his power arm.

ETA. 2009. Hoover proved he could stay healthy for nearly an entire season last year and that should now allow him to move up a bit quicker given his advanced age. He should open up the 2008 season in the Tampa bullpen and he should see ample time in Double-A if all goes well. Should it play out that way, he could see the big leagues at some point the following year.

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