For the Yankees organization, the 2008 draft did not begin well.Their first and second round picks both saw the August 15th deadline pass without signing with the club.
The Yankees selected Gerrit Cole, a flamethrowing prepster out of California, with the first round pick, only to be left at the altar when he inexplicably chose to attend UCLA over a multi million dollar contract from the team he had said was his favorite growing up.
Scott Bittle, the Yankees’ second rounder, had shoulder issues serious enough that team doctors strongly advised against his signing.
“Sandwiched” between Cole and Bittle was the under-the-radar selection of Jeremy Bleich, drafted 44th overall. Bleich, though flagged with elbow issues during the season and labeled a “reach” where the Yankees picked him, appears to be a solid signing as the Stanford southpaw looks like a polished college arm who could move rapidly through the Yankees system.
However, Bleich has very little projection left in his game – essentially what you see is what you get – going against the trademark of Yankees draft selections in recent years, namely the dedication to high risk/reward athletes with their top draft choices.
For the Yankees, the saving grace of the ’08 draft likely hinges upon the path of their sixth round pick and the prepster’s powerful right arm. Brett Marshall, an 18 year-old prototypical Texan power pitcher, does not have the sky-high ceiling of a Gerrit Cole or Andrew Brackman, but there is plenty of upside to his game.
Marshall had basically gone unheralded as a high school product until his mid-90’s fastball fell into scouts’ laps his senior year. He had previously worked in the low-90s exclusively, but saw a bump in velocity which allowed him to hit 96 on the gun, quickly drawing a great deal of attention from major league clubs and their amateur scouting departments.
In a recent interview with NoMaas.org, Marshall described the experience:
I threw the first two innings, and my first fastballs were 94, 95, 96 [mph]. The scouts were like “what the?! Who is this kid?” They were flipping out, and even I didn’t believe it. I said “96? What?”
Marshall then detailed how the Yankees completely reworked what many termed to be his violent or max-effort delivery. His pitching repertoire was also drastically altered as Marshall’s hard slider (85-87mph) was scrapped for a hard curveball that is regularly 77-78 mph.
The changes came under the direction of Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, who often teaches the curve and shelves the slider with top prep arms. (He did the same when Phil Hughes was signed out of high school)
I only have 4-seam, changeup, and curveball now. They took away my slider and 2-seam at instructs; they’re in my back pocket for now. Whenever I get up to Tampa and high-A ball I’ll be able to pull them back out. They just want me to spot my fastball and command three pitches, and right now it’s going really well (smiles). My mechanics have changed so much.
Marshall also shelved his two-seam fastball to focus on his changeup, a pitch which he considers a strength.
[M]y changeup has always been my go-to pitch, and now I think it’s dirtier than ever, I’m not going to lie. It’s almost my best pitch.
In addition, the Yankees raised Marshall’s armslot, another mechanical change the organization enlisted during Hughes’ development.
I’m feeling so much better about myself and my arm angle changing to more over the top now, it’s just going to give me more confidence. I’m a lot smoother.
Since the extensive amount of work put into his new delivery, Marshall quoted Contreras as saying his mechanics were “almost perfect.” Going into his first full professional season, the changes seem to have only increased the confidence level of a pitcher already instilled with an abundance of poise.
He’ll take that self-assurance onto the mound when he begins facing wooden bats for the first time.
I’m not worried about little flare hits when I get all in the handle because now I’ll break their bat. I have a feeling I’ll break a lot of bats because I love staying inside. That’s me: throwing mid-ninety on the inside corner. There’s some good hitters, don’t get me wrong. They’re all good hitters, and as you go up a level they’ll still hit, but I’ve got confidence on the mound, and I’m not going to change that.
Last year, over six innings with the GCL Yankees, Marshall struck out eight, allowed two hits, zero runs and walked two.
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