Yankees' Investment In Stoneburner Pays Dividends





NEW YORK—Jake Westbrook with more life on his fastball.

That's how farm director Mark Newman described high Class A Tampa righthander Graham Stoneburner.

Considering Westbrook, who spent the 2000 season as a Yankees farmhand, has pitched in 233 big league games and has pocketed $46 million, that's not a bad place to start after one year in professional baseball.

"He has that kind of sink on his fastball," Newman said of Stoneburner, a 14th-round pick from Clemson in 2009 who signed for an above-slot $675,000. "Jake Westbrook with a little more power."

At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Stoneburner used that sink to help his 92-95 mph fastball play up a grade. According to Newman, the 23-year-old righthander's breaking ball and changeup are improving.

"He had been inconsistent in college with the fastball, even though it was at 96," Newman said. "He has really come on in the last year."

So much so that this past season with Tampa, Stoneburner went 8-5, 2.53 in 19 starts while fanning 93 and walking 24 in 103 innings. But as good as that ratio was, he allowed just 80 hits to really put the clamp on baserunners.

Stoneburner was equally effective in a tune-up with low Class A Charleston, where he struck out 44 and walked 10 in 39 innings.

"We took a flier on him because we liked what we saw in college," Newman said. "But he has been developing consistency. He had command issues early on, but that has improved."

As always with young pitchers, the topic of where Stoneburner can help the Yankees most has been discussed.

"There has been a lot of debate internally about him being a starter or being in the pen," Newman said. "Because of the developing changeup, we think he can do either one. It will probably depend what we need him to do at Double-A or Triple-A."

YANKEE DOODLES

• The Yankees completed a two-week mini-camp for top prospects in mid-October. The group went from there to the Dominican Republic to continue training. "It's for baseball purposes, but our kids also see that culture and experience team building," Newman said.

• Third baseman and Double-A Eastern League MVP Brandon Laird played left field in his first six Arizona Fall League appearances as he seeks to increase his versatility. He got off to an 8-for-25 (.320) start with a home run and two doubles.