Sizing Up The Starting Pitchers - Part Two

D.J. Mitchell is better than many folks realize

PinstripesPlus.com analyzes the Yankees' starting pitching prospects. Which ones are the sleepers? Which ones are too early to call? And, which ones need to make a move? These questions are answered in Part Two of our two part series on the Yankees starting pitching prospects.

The "Sleepers"

RHP, Sean Black: Black has the basic foundation in place to be a pretty good starter long-term: command, a good sinking fastball, and a quality changeup. His curveball wasn't a reliable pitch in Staten Island but he displayed a harder one with better break during Instructs. Showing that same kind of curveball going forward could make him a big-time sleeper.

RHP, Jairo Heredia: Any 20-year old with his kind of command and tremendous curveball has a really high ceiling, but missing most of the 2009 season and still showing just average fastball velocity has pundits overlooking his true upside. His changeup is only now starting to show the same plus potential as his curveball and there's a chance he could throw harder down the road as he gets bigger. Should those two aspects of his game come together, watch out!

RHP, D.J. Mitchell: For whatever reason, most pitchers drafted out of college have a particular label that follows them through their minor league career. It's as if most critics rely on their scouting reports from their amateur days and nowhere is it more evident than with Mitchell. A tenth round pick in 2008, Mitchell not only put up dominating first-year numbers last season, his stuff really came around. His curveball is big-time and his changeup isn't that far behind, giving him underrated upside these days.

THE COMPLETE PACKAGE: Noesi doesn't really have a weakness in his game. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Hector Noesi: Noesi is one of the better kept pitching secrets on the national scene despite owning plus-plus command of three above average to plus pitches. He always had good arm strength but a series of injuries put him behind schedule developing his other pitches. He finally showed a plus curveball and an above average changeup in '09. Now a member of the 40-man roster, most people don't realize just how complete a pitcher he already is.

RHP, Kelvin Perez: If there's a prime candidate for the 2010 version of Noesi it's Perez. Known more for his arm strength and injury history than anything else, he finally developed a plus curveball last season and he also has a big league changeup. He now has three big league above average to plus pitches and he has good command of all three. Sound familiar?

RHP, David Phelps: Like Mitchell, Phelps was a later-round pick [drafted in the 14th round] who has really seen an uptick in his stuff at the professional level. And he too gets naturally underrated anyway being predominantly a sinker-ball pitcher. However, he developed his inconsistent breaking ball into a plus slider last season and now he has some put-away stuff. He can't shake the 'limited ceiling' tag he had when he was drafted though and that makes him a real good 'sleeper'.

LHP, Francisco Rondon: Rondon has the look of potentially being a real good pitching prospect someday, thanks in large part to developing a plus slider to go along with a fastball that comfortably sits 91-94 mph. His changeup, however, is truly a work in progress and that has some believing his long-term future is in the bullpen. But in fairness to Rondon, it wasn't all that ago that his slider was a below average slurve so it's quite possible he could see similar improvement with his changeup down the road. If that happens, he'll be one to watch.

RHP, Adam Warren: Warren is yet another case of a college pitcher who can't seem to shed his college scouting report. In fact, Warren, who was drafted as a senior, didn't start showing his above average to plus velocity until later in his final year of school. With three other big league pitches in his repertoire and good command to boot, he has the kind of polish to move quickly and surprise some folks.

Need To Make Their Move

RHP, Charlyn Garcia: The 23-year old was a late signing and despite showing a big league arm with three plus pitches, he has spent his first three seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He has below average command and he lacks a killer instinct on the mound. Guys with his stuff should be dominating though and time is running out for him to make his mark.

LAGGING BEHIND: Gil has some nice overall ability but some better arms are starting to pass him on the depth chart. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)
RHP, Daniel Gil: One of the key International signings back in 2005, Gil hasn't exactly set the prospect world ablaze yet. His numbers [3.59 ERA and a better than three to one strikeout-to-walk ratio] aren't bad, but he hasn't gotten out of the rookie leagues yet and now he's facing some stiff competition against guys with better arms. He needs to force his way back into the Yankees long-term plans and he needs to do it real soon.

LHP, Juan Heredia: Like Garcia, Heredia was a later signing and that is part of the reason for his slower development. However, despite posting some ridiculous numbers to date [including a 0.32 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .179 average last season], he just hasn't shown the kind of arm strength needed to get out of the Dominican Summer League. He needs to throw harder than his 86 mph average and at 21 years old now, he has an uphill battle ahead of him.

RHP, Alan Horne: Horne is the poster boy for health being the absolute biggest component in a pitching prospect, even more so than his overall stuff. Once one of the better pitching prospects in the organization, he has spent the better parts of the last two years rehabbing his way back from shoulder surgery. This upcoming season will be a huge year to see if his stuff can come back to his 2007 form.

RHP, Lance Pendleton: The 26-year old had a very good season last year, including leading the farm system with 130 strikeouts. He also boasts a very good curveball and a big league average fastball. In fact, if not for his advanced age and with higher-ceiling pitchers starting to catch up to him level-wise, he would make for a very good 'sleeper' prospect. Securing a minor league rotation spot in 2010 is kind of pertinent to garner any long-term organizational plans.

RHP, Ryan Pope: The 2007 third round pick has a nice blend of pitch-ability and average stuff, and he showed a slight uptick in fastball velocity towards the end of the 2009 season. He'll need to show that more consistently in 2010, however, because better power arms are coming up behind him and he just doesn't have the kind of arm to compete when the stats aren't there either. He needs a big season soon.

LHP, Erick Tapia: There's nothing wrong with his arm. In fact, he can routinely hit [not sit in] the mid-90's and that's a bit of a rarity for a left-hander. At 22-years old though and spending his first three professional seasons in the Dominican Summer League, time is running out for him to finally develop that much needed breaking ball to go with the power he shows. He has some 'sleeper' ability but he too needs a big season in 2010.

RHP, Ryan Zink: The soon-to-be 25-year old has some ability overall, showing decent command of some pretty good stuff, but he finds himself more as a 'tweener' these days. He doesn't really profile as a long-term starter and the stuff isn't exactly tailor-made for the back-end of a big league bullpen either. He is a guy who needs to keep posting some numbers and the bad news is he's coming off a 5.07 ERA last year.

The Jury Is Still Out

RHP, Chris Cabrera: Last year's top International signing on the mound has the look of being a potential Arodys Vizcaino type, showing a fastball with plus potential and an advanced feel for a potentially plus curveball too. At 17-years old, however, and without pitching a professional inning yet, he has a lot of work to do to start tapping his immense potential.

RHP, Mariel Checo: Last year's 41st round pick has a big league arm and he'll pitch the 2010 season as a 20-year old. He shows an above average fastball velocity-wise and a breaking ball with plus potential, but the mechanics and changeup both need a lot of work at this point. He has some serious upside though.

RHP, Caleb Cotham: This designation seems more temporary than anything since he reportedly has great stuff across the board and one of the better ceilings already. However, the jury is somewhat still out until he can show more than he did in the eight innings he pitched in last season. He just needs an opportunity to have more people see his top-shelf talent.

LHP, Evan DeLuca: Like Checo, DeLuca was a later-round draft pick out of high school last year and has a pretty high ceiling overall. However, he hasn't logged a professional inning outside of Instructs this offseason and there's some work to be done on his mechanics and arm slot. He has real good stuff though but it remains to be seen how well he takes to the overhauled delivery.

RHP, Brett Gerritse: Gerritse is another in a long line of pitchers drafted out of high school who has some significant ability and also has some immediate question marks. Like DeLuca, Gerritse has to iron out his mechanics and arm slot, but the fastball-curveball combination looks enticing already. For now the Yankees will take it slow with him.

LHP, Juan Marcano: The numbers this 19-year old has posted in his first three years in the Dominican Summer League have been nothing short of breathtaking [2.24 ERA, 138 strikeouts in just 100.2 innings pitched while allowing just 59 hits]. However, while the curveball is advanced for the lower levels, he only recently has gotten his fastball velocity up to the big league average range and his changeup still needs work.

RHP, Bryan Mitchell: Like Cotham, Mitchell's assignment in this category is just temporary because by all reports his upside is tremendous. He reportedly has a plus fastball-plus curveball combination coming out of high school and shows good mechanics. The changeup allegedly needs some work though and he hasn't pitched in an official minor league game yet.

RHP, Mikey O'Brien: Two straight seasons of 5.00+ ERA's in the Gulf Coast League belies his overall stuff. He actually has three pitches that show plus potential but the command of them has been inconsistent thus far. He has good overall ability but the progress in bringing it all together has been more slow than steady at this point.

RHP, Yobanny Reyes: The 21-year old is one year away from joining the Garcia-Heredia-Tapia group of Dominican Summer League pitchers who need to make their mark, but for now his plus fastball and slider-changeup combination that also has plus potential gets a little more time to see if it all comes together.

RHP, Matt Richardson: Drafted out of high school in 2008, Richardson has a three-pitch repertoire with good command on any given day. However, only his curveball is a plus pitch and his changeup command can evade him a bit too often. He's on the cusp of becoming one of the better pitching prospects but he still needs a little more seasoning.

LHP, Nik Turley: Turley is a left-handed version of Richardson in that he can look oh-so dominating on any given day, showing command of three big league pitches, but consistency has been a problem to date. He too needs more time to improve his consistency, but keep in mind there's a significant ceiling here.

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