Sizing Up The Starting Pitchers - Part Two

Nik Turley is about to jump on the national scene 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, Corey Black: It's tough to put any pitcher who clocks as high as 100 mph on the radar gun like Black does on a 'sleeper' list, but considering his 5-foot-11 stature projects him best as a long-term big league reliever he does qualify as a starting 'sleeper'. The secondary pitches -- slider/cutter, curveball, and changeup -- are all big league quality too, he just needs to show better stamina to pitch deeper into games and better consistency with his secondary pitches to remain a starting possibility.

LHP, Daniel Camarena: The recently turned 20-year old has the high level of pitch-ability, the plus secondary pitches, and the kind of great stats that don't exactly scream 'sleeper'. However, the arm strength hasn't exactly materialized yet, sitting mostly 88-90 mph, and at 6-foot-0 he doesn't have a whole lot of velocity projection in the tank. Should he bump up the average velocity to the low-90s though, he could really jump on to the national scene with his high pitching acumen.

LHP, Chaz Hebert: There are a lot of similarities between Camarena and Hebert; two above average to plus secondary pitches, innate strike-throwing ability, and a fastball that for the most part averages more in the high-80s than the low-90s right now. And to be fair, Hebert's secondary pitches have only recently ticked up to its current impressive combination form. Where Hebert might have a leg up, however, is in his rather projectable frame. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, he has room to fill out and he's shown he can sit in the low-90s for stretches already.

NOESI PART TWO?: Niebla compares favorably to former Yankee prospect Hector Noesi. (Photo: Patrick Teale/
RHP, Luis Niebla: A couple of years ago we had Hector Noesi in this very same category and Niebla resembles the current big league pitcher in that he doesn't have the one plus pitch, but nearly everything is above average; the fastball, the curveball, the changeup, and the strike-throwing ability. And like Noesi, Niebla needs to better pound the lower-half of the strike zone if he's to be successful in the long-term but the overall package is undervalued on the prospect map at the current time.

LHP, Evan Rutckyj: Many talent observers were waiting for the 6-foot-5 Canadian native to start throwing harder and he did just that in 2012, seeing his average velocity bump up to the 91-94 mph range. Throw in the fact that both his slider and changeup have improved over the past two seasons, stuff-wise everything is in place. However, he still walks a few too many guys and pitches a little too often behind in counts so if he could make improvements in those areas he would begin to jump on to the national prospect scene.

LHP, Matt Tracy: Tracy most likely will never get the attention he deserves because he's a former 24th round pick out of college, one who spent most of his college time as an outfielder. However, stuff-wise he's right up there with Rutckyj, shows better now pitch-ability, and throws strikes with a lot more regularity. He might not ever get the praise somebody with his kind of game should get but that only helps him to fly under the radar.

LHP, Nik Turley: Like Tracy, inside the Yankee organization Turley is far from a true 'sleeper' but he certainly is one in national circles despite boasting above average to plus stuff from the left side and putting up impressive numbers the past two seasons. Should he duplicate his A-ball success at the Double-A level in 2012, he most likely won't fit in the 'sleeper' category any longer.

Need To Make Their Move

LHP, Jeremy Bleich: The former first round pick made it back from shoulder surgery in 2010 to post a solid first year back in 2012, putting up some quality numbers and essentially rediscovering his once above average stuff across the board. However, he will turn 26 years old in 2013 and it remains to be see if he will be used as a starter or a reliever going forward. Whichever role he assumes though, he needs to push his way closer to the big leagues real soon.

MORE STRIKES: Greene has the stuff, he just needs to be more aggressive in the strike zone. (Photo: Patrick Teale/
RHP, Caleb Cotham: Like Bleich, Cotham's return from shoulder labrum surgery has been nothing short of miraculous when considering his stuff has returned to pre-surgery form. He too has above average stuff, throws strikes, and shows solid pitch-ability. However, like Bleich he's also getting a little long in the tooth. He just turned 25 years old this offseason but now is the time for him to put up some numbers at the Double-A level to hold off younger pitchers coming up behind him.

RHP, Shane Greene: One of the bigger enigmas on the mound for the Yankees, Greene has some of the best pure stuff around, including a fastball that tops out at 97 mph, a killer slider, and a changeup that is now a plus big league offering. However, the recently turned 24-year old still walks way too many batters and pitches behind in counts way too frequently. Part 'sleeper' because if he ever threw a lot more strikes he could be a real force, the fact is he needs to do it very, very soon before lagging behind younger pitchers on the depth chart coming up behind him.

RHP, Jairo Heredia: The Dominican native has some of the best pitch-ability in the entire organization, including boasting arguably one of the best curveball-changeup combinations around. However, he has been dealing with a shoulder injury for the past year and half and has yet to return to the mound. He just turned 23 years old in October though so he does have some time on his side, but he really has to come back and come back physically strong to resurrect his once promising stock.

RHP, Zach Nuding: Like Greene, Nuding could also fit into the 'sleeper' category because of his ability to crank up the fastball to the 98 mph range and both of his secondary pitches still have a lot of room for improvement. However, while both the slider and changeup have gotten better over the past two years, neither are the plus pitch they need to be for him to make that next step in his development. He will still only be 23 years old in 2013 so he time on his side, but ready for the Double-A level, now would be a good time to develop a strikeout secondary pitch.

RHP, Mikey O'Brien: The 22-year old continues to be one of the more unsung prospects in the organization despite boasting three big league pitches, showing advanced pitch-ability, and putting up numbers at every minor league level. It's because of those reasons the 5-foot-11 hurler is a bit of a 'sleeper', but the fact is he has some hard-charging youngsters with better stuff coming up right behind him.

The Jury Is Still Out

LHP, Rony Bautista: Like most of the other pitchers in this category, the 6-foot-7 southpaw could fit into either the 'Highest Ceiling' or 'Sleeper' categories, but has just enough question marks right now to keep him out. His mechanics smoothed out big-time in 2012 but at his height they'll always be something he needs to work on, and his once plus velocity fell down a bit into the more average range in the name of throwing more strikes. Should the mechanics become second nature and the plus fastball comes back, watch out!

RHP, Jose Campos: The Venezuelan native acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Jesus Montero trade a year ago could easily, and frankly should, fit into the 'Highest Ceiling' category given his plus fastball, plus curveball combination and a changeup that shows plus potential. However, he missed the majority of the 2012 season with an ailing elbow and now needs to prove he's 100 percent healthy in 2013 to become a more bankable prospect.

RHP, Jordan Cote: The former third round pick statistically had a phenomenal debut season in 2012 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees and did so even though he still has a ton of room for improvement. Not only is his fastball merely big league average, but the command of his fastball was spotty at best, often times up way too high in the strike zone. His curveball also needs a lot more consistency too. The changeup is there though and at 6-foot-5 and well built he also has a tremendous ceiling should his game continue to develop.

RHP, Rookie Davis: Davis, like Cote, had a very good statistical season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees but one that was cut short by illness and tendonitis. When he's going right though he has a big league average fastball and an above average curveball, and the changeup shows promise. And like Cote he also has some intriguing size to him that projects him to possibly add some velocity in the coming years.

LHP, Caleb Frare: An 11th round pick in 2012, Frare has some real upside to him after demonstrating above average arm strength and the potential to add more in the coming years. He also made huge strides with both his changeup and curveball in a short amount of time. However, he succumbed to Tommy John surgery this offseason and now his return, which will be at least a year away, is a wait and see proposition.

RHP, Brady Lail: The 19-year old has significant upside, so much so that it might not be long before he slides up into the 'Sleeper' or even the 'Highest Ceiling' categories at some point in the coming years. He has an intriguing sinker-curveball combination, and his changeup has come along in quick fashion. He also has the kind of body type that could put on useful muscles mass in the coming years, the kind of frame that could add velocity. Until that happens though, the jury is somewhat out on what he could eventually be someday.

RHP, Joey Maher: Like Lail, Maher has a very high ceiling of his own but just enough question marks to keep him on the outside looking in of the 'Highest Ceiling' hurlers for now. His sinking fastball gets wicked movement but the velocity is still merely big league average at this point and his curveball-changeup combination, which flashed plus potential by season's end, is still relatively in its infancy stage. Should he show more consistency with his secondary pitches and if his 6-foot-5 frame can add some velocity he could be one to watch closely in the coming years.

RHP, Taylor Morton: He had a disastrous 2012 campaign that saw his velocity dip to the mid-80s range and his normally advanced command falter to the tune of a 9.00-plus ERA with the Staten Island Yankees. It wasn't all that long ago, however, that he was sitting in the low-90s and boasted a plus changeup so the ceiling is still pretty vast. He just has to get his power back, work the lower half of the zone more, and further develop his slider. He has real comeback potential but he has to prove it on the field.

RHP, Cesar Vargas: The Mexican native is very much like Luis Niebla as three-pitch hurler who shows good pitch-ability, above average stuff, and throws strikes consistently. Like Niebla he is very much a 'sleeper' candidate too, but now 21 years old he needs to prove he can get long-season league hitters out after spending the better part of four years in the short-season leagues.

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