By Joe Auriemma
Don’t give up on the young arms just yet Yankees fans. I know that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy did little to convince everyone that they had the stuff to be good Major League pitchers last season, but I still think they need more time. Jim Kaat has always said that pitchers need at least 50 to 75 starts of game experience in the Minors before they are fully developed for the Major League level. This is definitely something I agree with.
Now I know some pitchers have made the leap to the Majors and done quite well with a lack of Minor League experience, but for most pitchers it takes that extra time to develop that devastating out pitch, the confidence to get Major League hitters out and build up enough arm strength to be able to go a full season.
In one year, the opinion of the Yankees Minor League system has gone from a top-tier system with many quality arms to one that most critics are calling an overrated group. I have been covering the Yankees Minor League system with our Down on the Farm features for the last three seasons and the one thing that I can safely say is that these pitchers are still the quality arms everyone thought they were just one year ago.
Was Kennedy ready for the Major League spotlight last season? No, definitely not. Does he still have good stuff? Absolutely. Will Hughes bounce back? Given the chance I think he will mature and be a very solid, if not very good pitcher for the Yankees for years to come. Am I the crazy person that not only asks himself questions, but also answers them? Apparently.
It’s not just Kennedy and Hughes. The Yankees are also very impressed with Mark Melancon, who they could actually be lining up as the closer of the future. Melancon has a good four-seam fastball that has hit 96 on occasion and a wicked curveball. He also has a changeup and is starting to open some eyes down in Tampa.
Phil Coke and David Robertson were pretty effective out of the bullpen last season. Coke has the versatility to be both a starter and reliever and the good thing about him is he’s a lefty. He also has terrific composure and could become a very nice option out of the bullpen this season. As for Robertson, he came on strong in the Majors last season going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his first 11 games and then faded in his last 14 games with a 2-0 record and an 8.00 ERA, but all-in-all he was pretty effective.
Andrew Brackman is another name that you are going to hear about in the near future. This 6-foot-10 giant certainly has the stuff to be effective with the big club, but control is something that needs to be worked on down on the farm.
Dellin Betances is another big time prospect and I mean that in every sense of the word. He is another tall pitcher at 6-8 and has the stuff to be a quality pitcher with the Yankees for many years to come. Again, control is an issue, but that is what the Minors are all about.
Humberto Sanchez, Zach McAllister and Christian Garcia are also pitchers that are definitely on the Yankees’ radar, so please don’t give up on the pitchers down in the Yankees Minor League system just yet. Let them develop and give them a chance.
The Journal News‘ Peter Abraham shared some notes in his daily Yankees camp wrap. Chien-Ming Wang told Abraham his foot feels no discomfort and he’s throwing all of his pitches. I’ve been asked if Wang will be (or should be) between Sabathia and Burnett in the rotation. That’s very possible.
Andrew Brackman, the Yankees’ first-round pick (30th overall in 2007), has looked good, but don’t expect him in the Majors until at least the end of 2010. Remember that he had Tommy John surgery in August of ’07.