Baseball America recently had this to say about some Yankees pitching prospects in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League:
Joba Chamberlain, rhp, West Oahu (Yankees)
Like the Arizona Fall League, teams were hesitant to send top pitching prospects to HWB, but because Chamberlain signed late, the Yankees wanted him to get more innings. The 2006 supplemental first-rounder from Nebraska didn’t disappoint. He pitched at 93-95 mph with his fastball while touching 97. While he’s shown a plus slider in the past, his breaking ball lacked definition in HWB and was somewhere between a slider and a curve, thrown in the low-to-mid 70s. Chamberlain already has a solid-average changeup at 81-82 mph with some fade. He can pound the zone with his fastball and boasted an astounding 42-3 strikeout-walk ratio. He was the only pitcher in the league to show true top-of-the-rotation potential.
Jeff Marquez, rhp, West Oahu (Yankees)
Though his ERA hovered around 7.00 for much of the HWB season, Marquez showed an impressive arsenal. He has a 92-94 mph two-seam fastball with late life that induces a ton of ground balls. His changeup is above-average, but his breaking ball is fringy and needs to be tightened, and his command within the zone needs refinement. He seemed to have difficulty avoiding the big inning, but his ability to pitch off of his fastball stands out, and his knack for getting ground balls portends well for his future.
Ian Kennedy, rhp, West Oahu (Yankees)
Like Chamberlain, the Yankees wanted to get Kennedy some innings this winter after he signed late. Even though he was taken ahead of Chamberlain and got a bigger bonus, he stuff was clearly lagging behind. He has good command of an 88-92 mph fastball that he complements with a curveball that has good depth and a changeup with late-downward action. Just 6-feet-tall, Kennedy pitches on a flat plane and his stuff is not overwhelming. He has good feel for pitching and a simple repeatable delivery that should allow him to be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter.
It will be interesting to see how these three do in 2007 – and whether or not any of them have their reports go up or down. Still, at best, you won’t see these guys in the Bronx until 2009, at best. So much can happen in that amount of time.