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Alan Horne and Pitcher Prospect Status

At the start of last season I picked Alan Horne as the player most likely to pull a Joba- starting in the minors for most of season before solidifying the bullpen for a playoff run.

Injuries derailed both Horne and the Yankees.

Horne has been impressive at times.  After collegiate Tommy John surgery, he led the University of Florida to the 2005 College World Series Finals before signing with the Yanks.

As a college arm from an elite program, he moved fast, especially considering the Yanks usually over-cautiousness with young pitchers.

He threw 123 innings at high-A Tampa in 2006, then 153.1 IP at AA Trenton in 2007, earning AA Pitcher of the Year laurels.  At both levels he had fewer hits than innings pitched, he had more K's than hits, and a better than 3:1 K:BB ratio.  As a starter, his stuff wasn't Phil Hughes-elite, but he looked like a potential innings-eating starter and a sure fire reliever.

He opened last season at 5th on BA's Yankee Top Ten, and at AAA Scranton.

But Horne's 2008 would see only 32 ugly innings in Scranton (22BB+35H/32IP) and 7 truly hideous rehab innings back in Tampa (6BB+22H!).

2009 will be Alan Horne's age 26 season, long in the tooth for a prospect.  As he enters baseball prime, Horne is off the BA top 10 and doesn't fit among their top tools list or their projected 2012 lineup; at our SBN sister-site, minorleagueball, John Sickles ranked 21 players in his top 20, only slipping in Horne in the honorable mention category.

But I still believe in Alan Horne, and I'll be following him this season.  Where he was once the subject to a ton of trade speculation, he's now obviously most useful to the Yankees if he succeeds and pushes himself back up the depth chart.

Although Horne's set to start the season on the DL, Chad Jennings reports that's basically a ploy to get him some more spring training innings before turning him loose. 

And I expect big things.  He's still got 3 plus pitches, his low 90's fastball, a tick slower 4 seamer with late break, and nice 3 plane curveball.  His slider was more inconsistent and his change needs to take a step forward or get scrapped.

But at 26, can I still call Horne a prospect when I talk about him?  Does his short pro baseball career (considering time in college+ injury recovery) reduce his "baseball age" the way some have argued Canadian players like Larry Walker and Jason Bay need longer to develop?  Does his repertoire count for more than his birth date?