24-year-old Chase Wright takes the mound at Yankee Stadium tonight for his first major league start, against Pronk, Sizemore and the tough Indians lineup. The lefty wasn't even in the mix for a potential starting spot in spring training, when the likes of Jeff Karstens and Darrell Rasner were jockeying for position, so who the hell is he?
The Yankees drafted Wright out of high school in 2001 with a third-round pick, and the 6'2" Texan has worked his way up through the franchise's low-level minor leagues since. He pitched for the Class A Tampa Yankees last year, going 12-3 with a 1.89 ERA. Wright struck out 100 in 119 innings, with a 1.16 WHIP. His career minor league ERA is 3.85 in six seasons.
Baseball Prospectus forecasts a 5.51 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 2007, applied to the major league level. Needless to say, Wright is not considered a top prospect. He is only getting a shot due to two factors: the team's inexplicable refusal to call up Phil Hughes before he's "ready," and sheer desperation born of injuries.
According to the man himself, he throws a "2-seam fastball in the 87-91 MPH range, sometimes hitting 93-94 MPH, but that's pretty rare. I throw mostly 2-seamers but every once in a while I mix in a 4-seamer. I throw two different curveballs. One is around 70-72 MPH and I throw a harder one around 77-82 MPH...I also throw a changeup around 78-82 MPH."
Wright is off to a hot start at AA Trenton this year (small sample size, blah blah blah), and Pending Pinstripes argues that the Yankees shouldn't call him up because such a move would impede his progress as a pitcher. I don't buy that. The Yankees need innings, they need healthy bodies, and most importantly, they need wins. Such an attitude may be short-sighted, but this isn't Felix Hernandez or Phil Hughes we'd be potentially screwing up. It's Chase Wright. Moreover, I haven't seen any evidence proving that calling pitchers up "too early" causes long-term problems.
Still, I agree that Wright shouldn't be called up. But only because I think Hughes should be the one starting tonight, spring struggles be damned.