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December 22, 2006

by Fabian

George Kontos, RHP, 21
Previously Ranked: N/R
What Others Say: Pinstripes Plus 29th, Baseball America N/A, John Sickels 7th (B-)

Physical Ability: George Kontos is your prototypical current Yankee prospect. That means he’s big, 6’3’’ and 215 pounds, throws right-handed, and has a good fastball, regularly hitting anywhere from 90-94. In addition to that, and strange for a Yankee prospect given their organizational emphasis the past few years, Kontos also throws a pretty good slider. When not tossing a slider or a fastball, Kontos can be found fooling around with a curveball or a changeup. Scouts like Kontos’ stuff when he’s got consistent mechanics going. When he doesn’t do that he gives up walks and hits and is amongst the nation’s leaders in losses while playing for a good Northwestern team.

What Happened in ’06: As hinted, Kontos had a very poor college season prior to the Yankees drafting him in the 5th round. He played well in the previous year’s summer leagues so while it would have been nice for him to do something positive with his performance, scouts were able to surmise that he would likely improve against wood bats. The 2006 New York Penn-League would validate this belief as he turned out to be arguably the league’s best pitcher. Kontos piled up the strikeouts and had about twice as many groundballs as flyballs while limiting everything else. The only identifiable performance flaw he had as a professional was trouble with left-handed batters. This is a similar situation to Tim Norton in that it is the result of a lack of depth in his arsenal. Hopefully this will improve with experience.

What Lies Ahead: George Kontos seems like a good bet for the 2007 Tampa rotation where Tim Norton will once again join him. These two are very similar pitchers in terms of build and stuff, except you replace Kontos’ slider with Norton’s splitter. So, just like Norton and almost every other pitcher, I expect a good Florida State League performance. Another similarity between he and Norton is that there is some thought to placing him in the bullpen. Hopefully, that will be a last resort.

Grade: I like both Norton and Kontos. They are guys where, to this point, it seems the Yankee scouts really did their job, as neither had college track records that screamed “draft me”. I like Kontos just a bit more than Norton for three reasons. One, and this bears watching, he had a superior groundball rate. Two, he is about 2 years younger than Norton. Three, I feel that his secondary pitch, the slider, is more consistent than Norton’s though I believe Norton’s to be more devastating. Despite being a college product, Kontos is somewhat raw and will need to be consistent mechanically in 2007. If his walks are in check, he’ll be fine, if not…we’ll see. I feel that Kontos has the ceiling of a #2/3 type of pitcher, whether that will be reached remains to be seen. Even if he does struggle in that role, he has the type of stuff that allows for an easy switch to the bullpen and so there is some safety in him as a prospect. C+

Steven White #18