Every season, for every team, there are always a couple prospects who get called up and make a significant impact with the big club. It never fails. It's one of the many beautiful things about the game. The transition between generations that can be so clearly perceived - the talented young guys coming in and providing energy, the resistant veterans showing diminishing skill sets and slowly fading away.
The most common pathway to the majors for young pitchers is in the bullpen. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are the prime examples, but even last year 24 year-olds David Robertson (43 innings, 2-1, 3.30 ERA) and Mark Melancon (16 innings, 3.86 ERA) had positive impacts out of the pen. While Alfredo Aceves, a 27 year-old who bounced around Mexico for a little while, showed that he can pitch effectively in the big leagues.
Keeping that in mind, there are several young pitchers that are already opening eyes in camp. Over the next few days I'm going to be taking a close look at the young guns that could possibly make an impact this season. Let's start with a guy you've seen already.
Mark Melancon - Drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. Underwent Tommy John surgery in November of 2006 and subsequently missed the entire 2007 campaign. He resurfaced in 2008 and quickly worked his way from High-A Tampa all the way to Triple-A Scranton, posting great numbers and re-establishing himself as a promising prospect every step of the way. Has shown excellent control in the minors, issuing only 35 walks in 155 2/3 career minor league innings. Appeared in 13 games in the majors last season, posting a 3.86 ERA, .217 BAA, striking out 10 and allowing 13 hits and 10 walks in 16 1/3 innings. His normally good control failed him during his brief time with the Yankees (he also hit four batters on top of the 10 walks) and it seemed like he was being too careful and trying to paint corners, which is typical of a pitcher in his first stint in the majors. Melancon possesses a mid-90s fastball, a devastating curve, a slider and a change up. His pitches have a distinct downward movement, which induces a lot of grounders and keeps the ball in the park. He has allowed only nine home runs in 172 career innings. He also gives righties fits, holding them to a .161 batting average with no extra-base hits in the majors and a .180 mark in the minors. Has the stuff and the makeup to succeed. The Yankees are counting on his arm out of the bullpen and he has the chance to have a huge impact, he could end up being called upon in high leverage late inning situations.
Mark Melancon Statistics