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April 2, 2005

by Fabian

2005 RLYW Staff Predictions

Matt DeSalvo, 24, RHP

Usually, a 24-year-old pitcher with only 27.1 innings of mediocre AA performance accounting for his upper level experience would not rank this highly. Due to a combination of the Yankee system being weak on players with ANY upper minors experience and DeSalvo’s track record, he does.

The Yankees were able to pick DeSalvo up as undrafted free agent despite his Division III college career concluding with him as the all-time NCAA leader in wins and strikeouts. Dominant performance was not enough to overcome scout skepticism given to smallish right-handers. Standing 6’0’’ and 170 pounds, DeSalvo is one of those. DeSalvo also does not have an overpowering fastball as most reports have him sitting in the 87-91 range with the ability to touch as high as 94. Yet another concern with DeSalvo from a scout’s point of view is that in the past his delivery has seemed stressful due to a Kevin Brown type spin before he delivers the ball to the plate. It seems this may have caught up to him last year as he ended the year on the disabled list with back problems.

Though I keep all of those scouting concerns in regards to DeSalvo in mind, I’m still very excited about him because of his performance in spite of those doubts. After dominating at the college level, DeSalvo has dominated during his minor league stints. Overall, he has a career 2.28 minor league ERA with ratios of 6.84 H/9, 0.31 HR/9, 3.32 BB/9, and 9.17 K/9. This includes his 27.1 innings of AA where all of those ratios, other than the walk rate, were worse. Some may look at this as a sign of the scouting concerns catching up with DeSalvo’s performance, but I would surmise that it was more a result of his injuries derailing him. During DeSalvo’s starts at the AA level he was noticeably uncomfortable on the mound and consistently missed his spots within the strike zone, which led to him giving up as many homers in AA, 3, as he had in his entire minor league career to that point. While some slippage in performance in comparison to how successful DeSalvo has been to this point is expected, I think he should be able to pitch well enough at AA and earn a promotion to AAA. Despite a deep repertoire that includes a 2-seam fastball, 4-seam fastball, curveball, forkball, change-up, and slider, DeSalvo’s ceiling is likely not that of a number 1 starter. His smallish size will also prevent many from looking at him as a future workhorse, but since I can’t find much fault with his performance to this point DeSalvo would seem to conservatively have solid middle of the rotation potential.

If he can hold up to the stress of a full minor league season in ’05 and continue to put hitters away with ease, DeSalvo’s ceiling will look much more impressive since AA is seen as the level where command of a deep arsenal, DeSalvo’s greatest strength, is put to the test by “real” hitters.

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