• The Big Three

    Posted by on February 15th, 2008 · Comments (9)

    No, we’re not talking about Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy here. Instead, we’re going back to 1987. And, we’re going to revisit Al Leiter, Brad Arnsberg and Bill Fulton.

    Some people like to say that the Yankees have never had three blue-chip pitching prospects at the big league level, all so young, at the same time – as they do now with Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy.

    Those people forget 1987 – when Leiter, Arnsberg, and Fulton all pitched for the Yankees in the Bronx. At that time, Al Leiter was 21. And, both Brad Arnsberg and Bill Fulton were 23.

    “Yes, but, were those three hot-shot prospects at the time, like Phil Franchise, Joba and IPK?” some are probably quick to ask.

    Well, here’s the skinny on that:

    Arnsberg was drafted by the Yankees in the 1st round of the Secondary Phase of 1983 amateur draft. And he was the 9th overall pick in that draft. Prior to that, he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1st round (20th pick) of the 1982 amateur draft (Secondary Phase), drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1st round (25th pick) of the 1982 amateur draft (Secondary Phase), and drafted by the California Angels in the 1st round (6th pick) of the 1983 amateur draft (Secondary Phase) – but, he did not sign with those teams.

    Fulton was drafted by the Yankees in the 2nd round of the Secondary Phase of 1983 amateur draft. Five months earlier, he drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1st round of the 1983 amateur draft – the 25th overall pick in that draft – but did not sign with the O’s.

    Leiter was drafted by the Yankees in the 2nd round of the 1984 amateur draft. He was the 50th overall selection in the draft that year.

    Clearly, based on where they were drafted – by the Yankees and teams before the Yankees – Al Leiter, Brad Arnsberg and Bill Fulton were hot-shot pitching prospects back in their time.

    Granted, Leiter, Arnsberg, and Fulton did not rip through the minor leagues like Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy (have now). So, there is that difference to be noted here.

    However, it’s worth looking back at them today to recognize this is not the first time in Yankees history that three, young, heralded pitching prospects were all in the Bronx at the same time. It happened back in 1987 too.

    At the least, maybe we should start calling Phil Franchise, Joba and IPK “The Second Big Three”?

    Comments on The Big Three

    1. Sonny M
      February 15th, 2008 | 5:02 pm

      I thought the big 3, was that year with wade taylor, jeff johnson and scott Kaminecki (I know that is spelled wrong), I also think Bob Wickman might have been part of that.

      I also remember the hype with chuck cary.

      I like these 3 guys we got now, though, If we can get 3 guys like al leiter, I’ll be happy.

      I can’t believe we traded him for jesse barfield.

    2. Tex Antoine
      February 15th, 2008 | 5:48 pm

      This is ridiculous. I’ve been a Yankee fan since 1976 and I was following the club on a day-to-day basis in 1987. I can honestly say this post is the first time I can ever recall seeing the name “Bill Fulton.” To call him a big-time pitching prospect on the order of Hughes, Chamberlain, or even Kennedy is sheer idiocy. As for Arnsberg, he was a middling prospect, which everyone knew at the time. It makes no difference where he was drafted. No one thought that highly of any of these guys except for Leiter. Leiter was supposed to be the second coming of Ron Guidry.

    3. McGatman
      February 15th, 2008 | 7:50 pm

      He never had his chance to be the next Guidry. Too bad for Al Leiter there weren’t any “Al Rules” back in 1988. He had that one outing in ’89 where Dallas Green left him in for 163 pitches. 163 in April! Of course he broke down on Toronto, but I always felt bad for him.

    4. February 15th, 2008 | 8:59 pm

      ~~~I can honestly say this post is the first time I can ever recall seeing the name “Bill Fulton.” ~~~

      It was a different time back in 1987. Today, every Yankee fan who spends ten minutes on the Internet knows who Andrew Backman is – and he’s never thrown a pro-pitch yet.

      Back then, there were no Top “Whatever” prospects lists published. Heck, back then, there was no internet. You had “Yankees Magazine” and “The Sporting News” and that was about it. No one heard about 1st rounders, etc., when they signed or after.

      The teams knew the prospects but very few fans knew. Don’t feel bad that you never heard of Bill.

      Sure, guys like Mickey Mantle, those you heard about. But, it probably wasn’t until around 1991 that you really started to hear about who was drafted where, for how much, and how great they were, etc.

    5. February 15th, 2008 | 10:30 pm

      This is, also, in my opinion an invalid comparison. Bill Fulton just didn’t have the same numbers as IPK, Joba or Phil. He spent four years in the Minors before reaching the Bronx, and his career MiLB K/9 IP was under 6. Kennedy, meanwhile, reached the Bronx after fewer than 150 MiLB innings and a K/9 IP of 9.97 and pinpoint control. Arnsberg’s numbers were similarly unimpressively.

      The Big Three hype has absolutely nothing to do with the presence or prevalence of the Internet and Yankee blogs. It’s not unwarranted. Particularly at River Ave. Blues, we’ve looked at the numbers and haven’t come up with a comp yet. These three guys — all of whom had MiLB K/9 IP under 7 — just don’t approach the potential of the Big Three now and didn’t in 1987 either.

    6. unger
      February 15th, 2008 | 10:37 pm

      You are comparing apples to oranges. You simply can’t compare the “Big 3″ with prior minor league prospects (for purposes of projection/prognostication) unless the prior prospects to whom you are comparing the “Big 3″ also had a taste of the big leagues with some success. At this point, the primary reason for the high hopes for Hughes, Joba and IPK is the success they had in getting big league hitters out last year – not their minor league stats. If you want to make an apt comparision, then point out some former prospects who blew through the minors and then came up and had great initial success for a month or two in MLB, and then flamed out.

    7. Yu Hsing Chen
      February 16th, 2008 | 12:14 am

      Al Lieter won 8 less games (and played for much worse teams during most of his career) and had a career ERA+ 7 points lower then the Gator. their career difference wasn’t THAT big in reality.

      Gator was clearly more dominant obviously, but Lieter’s overall productivity is fairly close. and he was part of 3 amazing playoff runs (the 92-93 Jays, the 97 Marlins and the 00 Mets, do you remember that he started game 7 in the WS against the Indians and Jaret Wright in 97? that was probably the most thrilling post strike WS game so far)

      I’d wager that Al stays on the ballot for a few years at least. which would essentially group him in the same catagory as Gator… borderline hall of famer.

    8. February 16th, 2008 | 12:31 am

      Unger brings up another valid point. Hughes, Joba and IPK have gotten out Major League hitters already. Fulton and Arnsberg just couldn’t do that.

    9. February 16th, 2008 | 8:07 am

      ~~~Bill Fulton just didn’t have the same numbers as IPK, Joba or Phil. He spent four years in the Minors before reaching the Bronx~~~

      This why I wrote: Granted, Leiter, Arnsberg, and Fulton did not rip through the minor leagues like Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy (have now). So, there is that difference to be noted here.

      As far as the getting batters out already at the MLB level, I’ll have an entry on that today.

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