This is the second installment of my starting pitching capsules from my trip down to the Florida State League to watch the High A Tampa Yankees play.
I saw quite a few games which included four of the five starting pitchers. The one starter I did not see pitch was Dellin Betances.
The first capsule can be seen here, and included right-handed pitcher Adam Warren and left-handed pitcher Manuel Banuelos. I like both those guys, and can see Warren (who reminds me of Greg Maddux) and Banuelos (who reminds me of Johan Santana with a better curve ball), getting to the Bronx by 2012.
Which reminds me, I am not saying these pitchers will have those types of careers, but they have similarities.
After my report on Warren, he was promoted to Double A Trenton where he has made two starts, and has a 2-0 record and 2.25 ERA. I saw him again in Trenton and we spoke a bit about his season. I mentioned to him that I saw Graham Stoneburner for Charleston, wrote a report, and then he was promoted to High A Tampa. I then saw Warren pitch in Tampa, wrote the report, and he was then promoted to Trenton.
I asked Warren who else does he want me to see so they can get promoted. He replied, "keep coming to my starts." He is very mild-mannered kid, and has a good sense of humor.
This capsule includes another left-handed/right-handed due, Shaeffer Hall and aforementioned Stoneburner. I saw both of these guys pitch for Low A Charleston in early May and again in Tampa.
Shaeffer Hall - LHP 6"0", 185 lbs.
Hall was the RiverDogs opening day starter, throwing six innings and allowing three hits, no walks while striking out four. Of the 13 other outs recorded, Hall generated nine ground outs, including one double play.
The first time I met Shaeffer Hall, he was in the Charleston clubhouse on their trip north to the Lakewood (NJ) Blue Claws.
Here was my first question:
Joseph DelGrippo: "Last year in college, Stephen Strasburg threw a no-hitter against the Air Force Academy. Do you know the other college pitcher who threw a no-hitter against Air Force last year?
Shaeffer Hall: Laughing out loud saying, "Yeah, you're looking at him, but I guess you already knew that."
Yes, I did. Hall threw an early season February nine inning no-hitter for the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks have a good baseball program but it is overlooked because of a great Kansas hoops team and other well-known Big 12 baseball programs such as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Later that season, Hall pitched a complete game shutout against Dartmouth in the NCAA tournament. He was the Jayhawks Friday night starter in 2009, indicating he was the ace of that staff.
However, he did not have a great season going 5-6 with a 4.18 ERA in 15 starts, but his walk rate of 0.97 per nine innings attracted the Yankees. New York likes to take college pitchers who they feel pitched well but were the victim of "metal bat syndrome."
Hall appears to fit into that category. He is also a hard worker, who worked to lose about 20 pounds from his college frame. I noticed the difference from his college photos to his body type in Lakewood.
Due to a slight shoulder strain, Hall only threw nine professional innings last season for short season Staten Island. The 2010 season is basically Hall's first full year in pro baseball.
It's funny, but Hall has had such a good season in his first full year in pro baseball, but in the two games I saw him pitch were his two worst outings of the year.
While I was "good luck" for Stoneburner and Warren, I am like a pariah of sorts for Hall.
Hall is a fastball, curveball, change-up guy who relies primarily on precise location to be effective. And based upon his results this season, he does have great control and command within the strike zone. He works quickly (a great trait) and can throw all three of his pitches for strikes.
He has an easy delivery, which he repeats well, and goes in a straight line toward the plate, something which helps with his control and command.
Hall needs to be precise because he does not throw that hard, mostly 87-89, barely touching 90 a few times, but has some fastballs hovering around the 85 range. His curve ball is a nice weapon (mostly around 74), but while it has good bite, it is not consistent with its depth. Shaeffer sometimes leaves this pitch up, especially to right-handed hitters.
Like almost all Yankee farm hand pitchers, Hall's out pitch is his change-up. It will arrive normally in the 76 range, and has decent bite, running slightly away from righties. It is not as good as Banuelos' on an every pitch basis but it does have the ability to get lot of weakly hit balls in play.
Hall needs to also have an umpire who has a liberal outlook on strikes. In the game I witnessed in May up in Lakewood, the umpire has a very tight zone and would not give Hall any pitches on the corner. It forced Hall to bring his pitches over the plate more, where they proceeded to get hit.
In speaking with Hall after that game, he did not blame the umpiring, but said the zone was a little "tighter" than the day before. "I wasn't getting many calls on the corners," Hall said. "But I still need to work around that and throw better pitches when guys got on base."
But that is what happens when a pitcher does not have "put away" stuff. Hall needs to work the strike zone in and out, down and away. If Hall does not get the pitches on the corner called strikes, the hitters will adjust to the tighter zone. And Hall can get hit hard when he brings the ball back over the outer and inner thirds of the plate.
In Tampa, it was more of the same. Lots of hits against Hall, who despite not walking anyone, was battered around. Some hits were dinks and dunks, but others were really belted. He seemed to not have command of his fastball. Around 88 with the fastball and similar as in Lakewood with the curve ball (74-75) and change-up (76).
Shaeffer Hall is a very nice pitcher, but is likely not going to be in any future Yankee plans. They just do not like that type of pitcher, a guy who doesn't have dominant stuff with "great upside."
Hall reminds me of former Yankee Chase Wright, but I expect Hall to get more than just a cursory major league look. Mark Buehrle and maybe Jamie Moyer would also be good comparisons to what type of pitcher Hall is stuff wise.
Hall might be best suited as a left-handed relief specialist, but deserves to progress as a starter for at least another season or two.
Hall is a great kid who really likes the Yankees organization. My time in Tampa was during the Cliff Lee trade scenarios and Hall, Stoneburner and Adam Warren were asking me about what I had heard.
All three pitchers would like to stay Yankees, but as there is only so many rooms at the major league inn, that may not be realistic for Hall and Warren.
Graham Stoneburner - RHP 6'1", 180 lbs
I also saw Stoneburner pitch a few times, both in Lakewood and in Tampa. He was great those games, and you can read about the Lakewood game here.
Stoneburner has a power fastball, above average to plus slider and a vastly improving change-up. When I saw him in Lakewood back in early May, I was told by one scout that Graham did not possess a good change. But his performance in that game, and other which followed proved that assessment incorrect.
The change-up was pretty good and he threw it quite often, generating lots of swings and misses. It had good downward bite to left handed hitters, his slider was tough on righties while his two-seam fastball having good movement in both directions.
When asked about the change-up, Stoneburner said, "I think my change-up is coming along really well. It was pretty good all spring and I have more confidence in throwing, even in some fastball counts. The more I throw it, the better I get a feel for it."
That is the important thing about the change-up. Some pitchers don't get a good feel for it, then they scrap it for long periods of time, which is a huge mistake.
It is a credit to Stoneburner that he continues to go with the pitch in different situations. He knows he needs that third pitch to move up to the higher levels.
Stoneburner has an explosive fastball which touched 96 MPH in the Lakewood start. In fact, in Stoneburner's 95th pitch against Blue Claws that day saw him bring a 95 MPH up and in fastball past the No. 5 hitter Darin Ruff.
Stoneburner is a power pitcher to the core. He goes right after hitters and doesn't mince his pitches as he throws strike after strike. He also has the rare ability to throw that hard and still command his arsenal within the strike zone.
His slider was consistently around 80-81 showing good, late break. Many people have talked about him needing to "tighten" up the slider, but I did not see any real need to alter that pitch as it appeared the same in the games I saw him.
With his really good fastball/slider combination, Stoneburner could become a power reliever as he moves further up the Yankee ladder. Maybe the Yankees would be wise to promote him to Trenton when they go into a playoff push and his innings continue to mount.
Stoneburner has already eclipsed 104 innings.
I spoke to him in July at a Tampa game and he feels he will be a 130-140 inning pitcher this year. It is a possibility, and I would like to see him challenged again this season. But the Yankees do not like to promote a pitcher two times in one season, and with this being Graham's first pro season, it is unlikely he will be moved to Trenton.
But with four pitches which he commands well, Stoneburner can be a real good starting pitcher. He has shown that this season in two levels, and owns one of the best WHIP's for a starting pitcher in the minor leagues with a 0.90.
Although he has a somewhat long arm action in the back, Stoneburner's delivery appears to be consistent, and the control numbers are good. He has issued only 26 walks in 104 IP (2.25 per 9 IP), a great number considering how hard Stoneburner throws.
He reminds me of Tim Hudson, a sinewy guy with a smallish frame who throws hard, with control, and has a good slider.
While the Yankees always trade away their fringy prospects, Stoneburner is much more than a fringe prospect and can be a vital member of the Yankees pitching staff as soon as 2012.
He should not be traded, but given every opportunity to continue up the ranks as a starting pitcher. But in the Yankee system over the long haul, I see him more a late inning power reliever.