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January 18, 2007

by Fabian

Joba Chamberlain, 21, RHP
Previously Ranked: N/R
What Others Say: Pinstripes Plus 11th, Baseball America 4th, John Sickels 4th (B)

Physical Ability: Joba Chamberlain is yet another big bodied Yankee hurler. Standing 6’3’’ and listed at 225, Joba has actually been considered too big at times. As you would hope with a guy his size, Joba also possesses a terrific fastball. Joba The Hutt typically pitches in the mid 90s with his fastball and can even get it up to the high 90s at times. In addition to throwing his fastball very hard, Joba has uncanny control and command of the pitch. His repertoire is rounded out with a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. At the moment, none of these pitches is anything to write home about. Fortunately, they aren’t terrible either. The slider has shown the most promise thus far. It will be interesting to see whether the Yankees let him be with that as his breaking ball of choice or try and push him towards the curveball as is the organizational preference. As I’ve alluded to, Chamberlain has struggled with his weight at times. Some feel that his struggles with a knee injury during college can be attributed to carrying too much weight. It remains to be seen how much of a problem that, as well as his triceps tendonitis of the past year, will be in the pros.

What Happened in '06: Like just about every other Yankee draft pick in 2006, Chamberlain was an early favorite to go in the first round. In fact, he was projected in the top 10. However, due to the aforementioned injury concerns, which led to poor performance, Joba fell on draft day. Unlike a guy such as Ian Kennedy, Joba did not have much, if any, track record to fall back on as he had only emerged as a legitimate prospect the year prior. Fortunately for Joba he has greater physical talent than Kennedy and once he was signed and allowed to play, he made teams begin to regret their decision to pass on him. Chamberlain’s pro debut was in the resurrected Hawaiian Baseball League where he was probably the league’s best pitcher. While his control wasn’t as good as the 46:3 K:BB ratio would indicate, it was still impressive. More impressive was his command, especially on the occasions where he would fall behind batters only to perfect place a pitch and get opposing hitters to turn hitter’s counts into outs.

What Lies Ahead: Chamberlain will most likely begin 2007 in Tampa. I don’t expect him to be long for Tampa. In fact, I hope/think his 2007 will look a lot like Phil Hughes’ 2006. Despite that, I think he’s further away at this point than Phil Hughes was a year ago. In terms of top pitching prospects, Joba is more Mike Pelfrey than Phil Hughes. In other words, he’s going to be able to get at least decent minor league results because he has an overpowering fastball. What will determine how quickly he can be ready is getting one of his secondary offerings, most likely the slider, to the point where he can give batters a different look. Developing those secondary pitches will help him have the means to get outs against quality left-handed batters.

Grade: While Clippard lacks stuff, Joba lacks a performance record. While Clippard has never missed a turn in the rotation (hey, more Barry Zito similarities), Joba has injury concerns. Overall, I think they’re fairly comparable pitching prospects and I’m going to err on the side of potential and “tools”. We’ll see how it turns out. Hopefully, Joba makes good on his ability and can give the Yankees some terrific years near the front of the rotation. B

Tyler Clippard #5