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March 22, 2005

by Fabian

SG's Season Simulations

Jesse Hoover, 23, RHP

Jesse Hoover is the first of a few Yankee ’04 draftees who will be appearing on this list. Something that I emphasize a lot in my ranking of players is age versus level of competition. The older a guy is compared to his peer groups the more he has to dominate to impress me. This, of course, is not set in stone as it may be augmented by the past experiences of the player in question. In the case of Hoover, coming from a lesser profile college program, relatively unheralded, and being sent to the NYPL which is about age-appropriate for your typical college draftee, a solid or good campaign would have been enough for me to take slight notice. Instead, I was forced to take huge notice.

Over the span of 55.2 NYPL innings, Jesse Hoover went from draft-day afterthought to one of the most talked about prospects in the Yankees system, at least amongst Yankee minor league observers. Those who attended the games spoke of how hard the ball popped the catcher’s mitt on those occasional 97 MPH fastballs or how foolish he could make hitters look with his curveball. The 6’3’’ and 210 lb. Hoover also drew raves for his mound presence and general “look”. Those who keenly observed his stat sheet couldn’t help but smile at the 14.6 K/9, as each of his outings would produce a ridiculous strikeout total, or 4.5 H/9, as batters could barely safely put the ball in play when they did make contact, or 0 HR allowed, since both putting the ball in play safely and doing so with authority was nigh impossible.

Aside from all that scouting and statistical positivity, I still have my reservations about Hoover as a prospect. Sure, he struck out a bunch of guys and did not give up many hits, but he did have strike zone troubles as he gave up 4.2 BB/9. This is not an overly troublesome walk rate, but still something to keep an eye on. In addition, it gives me reason to wonder whether the hit and strikeout rates will become more realistic once Hoover has a better idea of where the ball will be going. There is also the issue of his repertoire. Standard Yankee organizational procedure at the moment is to start new pitchers in the system off by only allowing them to work their fastball, curveball, and change-up, regardless of what they have been successful with in the past. Most of Hoover’s ’04 success was attributable to the fastball and curveball, but as he moves up the ladder he is going to have to quickly develop his changeup or another pitch to keep more experienced hitter’s balanced or else he will return to the place where he began his ’04 work, the bullpen. Lastly, Hoover’s accomplishments should be viewed in the light that the NYPL was the worst hitting league in minor league baseball last season and his SI home ballpark is about middle of the road for offense.

It appears the Yankee organization, buoyed by Jesse’s performance, is going to give the right-hander a chance to establish himself as a starting pitching prospect with the Tampa affiliate. A performance similar to what Matt DeSalvo did at the level in ’04 is not out of the question, in fact, considering how much room he has to regress from his ’04 performance it is hard to envision Hoover having a bad ’05 and he should be expected to be up quite a few spots from his current ranking when next year’s list comes around.

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