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Talking Prospects: Learning From Mistakes

This is what can happen when teams rush their prospects. Will the Yankees learn from their mistakes?
This is what can happen when teams rush their prospects. Will the Yankees learn from their mistakes?

In the middle of the last decade, the Yankees had two top ten pitching prospects by the names of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. They now have two new top pitching prospects, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.

I believe the Yankees did their best with Hughes. Injuries happen, and none of those injuries were to his arm. It's hard to fault the Yankees on that one. However, I do find fault in their development of Joba.

Joba spent one season in the minor leagues, 2007, tossing 88 1/3 innings over three different levels. He dominated, but his brilliance blinded the Yankees. He needed to build up his innings in order to be an effective starter, but the Yankees and their win now mentality got in the way of his overall development. 

Joba then got called up and tossed 24 innings in the regular season, plus another 3 2/3 in the postseason, giving him 116 innings on the year. It was an exceptional first professional season.

But then they kept him on the major league roster instead of sending him to Triple-A or Double-A to work on his changeup and curveball, and to build up his innings. They started him in the bullpen, transitioned him to the rotation with increasing pitch counts, and he eventually hurt his shoulder. He then didn't make a rehab assignment and pitched out of the bullpen for the remainder of the year. He only threw 100 innings.

In 2009, they attempted to increae Joba's workload, and after throwing only 100 innings in 2008, Joba tossed 163 1/3 innings, far more than what his arm was used to. The Verducci Effect was written all over it. He struggled down the stretch with the "Joba Rules," and was sent back to the bullpen in time for the playoffs. After losing a Spring Training competition to Phil Hughes, Chamberlain hasn't started since.

I do think Joba was handled poorly, and I think his masive increase in innings from 2008 to 2009 may have had an impact on his elbow, which is currently on the mend after Tommy John surgery.

This little travel through time brings me to the present. The Yankees know what it is like to have elite pitching prospects get away. With two more top prospects waiting and developing, we can only hope that the Yankees have learned from their mistakes.

They have carefully monitored their innings this season, 129 2/3 for Banuelos, 126 1/3 for Betances. They will be ready for an increase next season, with their likely starting spots at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. 

Let's hope they stay healthy, and let's hope the Yankees do not rush their development. If the Yankees take a look back into their recent history, they'll see exactly what rushing a prospect can do.