Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Introducing Your 2012 Charleston River Dogs. Part 2/3: The Relief Pitchers

It would stand to reason that the segment of this three part series that everyone is most looking forward to would be the hitters. In the interest of keeping everyone on the edge of their seat, in eager anticipation of the hitters post, I have decided to save the best for last. That said, the relief corps at Charleston this year will be very impressive and each significant piece of that bullpen deserves some ink. This is the list of relievers I believe will be pitching in Charleston this year, with a little bit of information on each. The official rosters haven't been submitted yet, so this is only a projection. A common theme for most of the players in this post is that they are all capable of becoming fast movers.This is for two reasons. First of all, the relievers the Yankees draft are often older, necessitating quicker movement through the system to get full value. Secondly, the Yankees tend to be less cautious with relievers. If they have the stuff, they will move up.

      Looks Happy!      
1. Branden Pinder, RH, CP: This is the most obvious choice. He's 23 years old. There's a strong possibility he's ready for Tampa, but the Yankees generally move their prospects one level at a time, with few exceptions. One advantage of this for Pinder is he will likely get to close for the River Dogs, where he might have to fight for saves with Mark Montgomery in Tampa. Look for Pinder to have a big year in Charleston, given that the level of competition isn't all that different from Staten Island. He's not huge but he's a big guy, at 6'3, 210 lbs. He owned batters over 31.0 IP in Staten Island this year with 38 strikeouts and a miniscule 1.16 ERA. Teams had to face him in the 9th inning, where he accrued 14 saves in his first season. He throws a fastball with an average velocity of 93 with a knockout slider that serves as his major strikeout pitch. His fastball can get up to 97 mph, and he has a sneaky delivery with great extension, much like David Robertson. He's working on a change up as well. Pinder's control of his fastball and slider are excellent, which is represented by his 5 walks in 31 IP. He may not last too long in Charleston, and I'd be surprised if we didn't see him pitching in Tampa before the end of the season.

  Smiling not allowed!
2. Philip Wetherell, RHP: Phil Wetherell is a very large man. He is very much in the mold of other recent draftees Kahnle and Burawa. He's 6'5, 225 lbs. His fastball ranges from 91-95 (reaching 96 mph), and he came to Staten Island already armed with a "fall off the table" splitter to complement his fastball. Drafted in the 8th round out of college, he will be 22 years old this season. He is also in the process of developing a slider. It's not a plus pitch yet, but it could become a pitch he uses to keep hitters honest. He is a true power pitcher, with all three of his pitches coming at you at above 87 mph. This year he used those tools to throw 30.0 IP with 41 K's. He did walk 15 batters though, and struggled with control at times. Overall his ERA was 2.40, and he had a successful first year in the minors. Wetherell, at his size, doesn't need a sneaky delivery to have a heavy fastball. He does need to work on his control though. He currently projects as a late inning reliever because of that "Philthy" splitter. If that slider develops into something more than a fringe pitch, we could be looking at a setup man, or even a closer in the future. He's another potential fast mover, especially if he can gain some control and make some progress with that slider.

Teeth show weakness
3. Zach Arneson, RHP: Another 23 year old, he's 6'2 and 190 lbs. He's a 9th round draft pick out of college, and sits at about 94 mph with the fastball that can get up to 97 mph. Arneson also throws a power slider in the upper 80's that generates a lot of swings and misses. Much like Pinder, he is working on a change up to keep batters honest. He's actually a very similar pitcher to Pinder, except he's a little bit smaller, and needs to work on his control. He walked 8 batters in 17.1 IP for Staten Island last year, while pitching to a 3.57 ERA and striking out 17 batters. The scouting report is better than the results so far, so if he puts it all together this year, he's going to move quickly. I can't imagine teams are going to be too thrilled about facing these three at the end of the game when Charleston is winning, and it speaks to the great job the Yankees have done drafting college pitchers who end up making excellent relievers. The funny thing is, these three don't even begin to demonstrate the depth of relief pitching at this level.

4. Robert "Ben" Paullus, RHP: This 22 year old, 6'1 190 lb hurler was a 19th round draft pick last year. His statistics were great, but he fell off towards the end of the season, but that was due in part to a 5 run outing late in the season. He finished the season with a 3.86 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 30.1 IP. He walked 12 batters in that span, and held hitters to a .186 average. When he was drafted, he was throwing a low 90's fastball that could hit the mid 90's, and an 80 mph curveball, as well as an 82 mph change up. Paullus had some good success with that repertoire year one, but he still needs significant work on his mechanics and his control. It may take Paullus a bit longer to develop than the guys above him on this list, but he's still a potential fast mover and he has great stuff that could allow him to really mow down hitters in Charleston and Tampa this year.

5. Caleb "Gotham City" Cotham, RHP: 24 year old Cotham saw his first action since shoulder surgery in 2011. Shoulder surgeries are tricky, but it would be easier to come back from that as a reliever than as a starter, and so far he has impressed. When he first came up, he was sitting at 90-93 mph, topping out at 95 mph. He also threw a change up and a curve ball. Surprisingly, he seems to have maintained his velocity in 2011, hitting 90-91 regularly. There's a chance that number will increase even more as he is let loose this year. He throws a sinker with late movement as well. He throws an 85 mph power slider that he had trouble commanding this year, but that command may come with time. His results were excellent in 2011, with 32 K's in 23 innings and a 1.96 ERA. He'll be one of the older guys in Charleston, and he's still got a lot to prove. He may be the biggest sleeper in this crop of bullpen players.

Some of the other players worth noting who may appear in Charleston this year or may not include the following: Brett Gerritse is a big, softer throwing RHP who is still young enough at 21 to add some MPH's to his fastball. Cory Cowsert was an independent league signing who saw some success last season in the GCL. Corey Maines is another guy who could see some significant innings for this team. Michael Recchia and John Brebbia also looked sharp in 2011 for Staten Island, although I don't know much about their scouting reports except that they will be 23 and 21 respectively this season. Both struck out greater than or equal to one batter per inning last season. Never sleep on a young prospect, that's what I always say.

Overall, we are looking at a very solid bullpen in Charleston this upcoming season. The one thing that is missing is a left handed pitcher, but who needs that when you have 5 relievers as good as the guys above with some others who have had plenty of success filling out the rest of the innings.

Up next, the ever-exciting hitters of Charleston. It's crazy to think that this team has a potential all star at every position in the field, except maybe catcher.

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