Chase Wright: Clearly not the best option

Yankees X, Athletics X+1
Down on the Farm

Ben, Mike, and I have made no attempt to hide our sincere opinion that Phil Hughes should be called up in the wake of the Yankees recent pitching injuries. Over the course of the season, they will face even more injuries and find that certain pitchers — I won’t even sugar coat it: I’m talking about Igawa — aren’t going to be consistently effective. Therefore, if called up now, Hughes should manage to stay in the rotation for the remainder of the season. People claim that he still has stuff to learn in the minors, but he can learn all of that in the majors. And he’ll learn it against bona fide competition, not the retreads that fill AAA rosters.

Yet, the Yankees decided to call up Chase Wright as a temporary replacement. The reasoning: he impressed them in the spring, and he’s had two dominant outings so far in AA. All of which, of course, means that he’s a better option than the guy with the most talent. At least that’s how the Yankees brass — and many fans — are assessing the situation.

People often cite psychology as a reason to not promote Hughes. He’s not ready, they say — though I wholeheartedly contest that. If you bring him up now and he gets rocked (they say), you can mess up his head and ruin our blue chip prospect. However, if we’re going to talk psychology — which is often an exercise in futility — we have to bring up the damage the Yankees are doing to him right now. First was Spring Training, when they flat out told him he wouldn’t make the team. And now we have him passed over promotion by Chase Wright. How do you think he feels now? At least if he got the call and got smacked around, he could make a learning experience of it.

He says he’s ready, the scouts say he’s ready, but for some reason, the Yankees organization is obsessed with babying its pitchers. Yeah, you don’t want to see your blue chipper bust, but holding him back is going to have adverse effects at some point. He’s mentally ready, and his stuff is ready (and if I hear that he needs a dominating changeup one more time, I’m going to put a fist through my freakin’ wall). Call him up and let him help this team. Keeping him on pitch counts in AAA isn’t doing him any good — or at least compared to the good that can come from a stint in the majors.

I digress, though. My objective wasn’t to campaign for Phil Hughes — again. If management is going to be set in their ways, I’m doing nothing but wasting breath. My objective is to debunk this Chase Wright myth. Even if they are refusing to call up Hughes, there are four other options in the Scranton rotation that are better than Wright.

Let’s take a quick look at Chase. And by quick look, I don’t mean cherry picking one-liners from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America. Yes, BP said that he “has a great curve and little else.” (Thanks, Steve, for pointing to his player card). The little tidbit at the end, though, reads: “He’s bullpen bound.” So if we are to believe one, we must believe the other right? Great curveball, headed for the bullpen. We’re not starting out on a good foot here. And, if we’re going to make mention of Baseball Prospectus, we should also mention that their prospect guru, Kevin Goldstein, makes no mention of Wright in his AA preview.

Ah, but let’s look towards a source that is dedicated solely to the analysis of prospects. From Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook:

…and could play better if he could [learn to use] the same arm slot for his curve as he does for his other pitches.

So we have one source, with a one-liner and nothing else on Chase, saying that he has a great curve (and nothing else, by the way). We have another source — which has written a comprehensive report on the pitcher — saying that he doesn’t use the same arm slot for said curve. He’s going to be using this arm slot against the Indians, who know a thing or two about exploiting the weaknesses of a pitcher.

However, the BP comment could be a typo. They could have meant “great changeup,” because that’s what the BA guys are talking about. Well, one guy from BA mentioned it, in his blog, in passing (another hat tip to Steve):

Chase Wright has one of the better changeups in the minors.

One line in one blog entry. Yet, the guy paid to write the player evaluations in a highly acclaimed book wrote that Chase’s stuff is “just solid.” Solid does not mean “one of the better changeups in the minors.” Solid means just above average. And that’s what Chase Wright has: three average to above-average pitches. And he has yet to use those to dominate above the A+ level.

Wait, you say. He dominated in his first two starts for Trenton this season: 14 innings, 19 strikeouts, and no runs. This guy is awesome!

Let me add a caveat or two to Chase’s first two outings. First is that of the small sample size, which we should all be aware of. Two starts don’t mean much, which is why I haven’t really started dumping on Kei Igawa yet (it’s coming, though).

The second is level of competition. If Igawa went out and dominated the Nationals, many fans would say, “yeah, that’s nice, but it’s the Nationals. Igawa just did what 110 other pitchers will do this year.” And those fans would be right. Nearly any pitcher can handle the Nats, but that doesn’t much matter when he’s getting bombed by the Blue Jays.

In Chase Wright’s two outings, he has faced the AA affiliates of the Orioles and the Nationals. These organizations rank 17 and 30, respectively. Hell, I’d be tempted to take Trenton over the Nationals Major League roster. Anyway, how many future major leaguers did Chase face in those two outings? One: Bill Rowell of the Orioles. This is not surprising, considering the Nationals’ second best position player prospect is older than me — which really doesn’t make him a prospect at all. But hey, Baseball America has to name 30 prospects for each team, so sometimes they have to stretch the definition.

Yet, despite all of this readily available information, the Yankees have decided to go with Wright, and many fans have followed suit. In fact, one fan went so far as to compare him to Erik Bedard (sorry, Steve, for piling it on). Before I even launch into an analytical debunking of this terribly misconceived comparison, let’s just point out one thing: Erik Bedard would be safely at the top of the Yankees rotation.

Steve points to the following to justify his comparison: size, handedness, types of pitches thrown, speed, and experience level met before first big league game. So let’s run through those really quick.

Bedard Wright
Height 6’1″ 6’2″
Weight 190 205
Handedness Left Left

Pitches thrown:
Bedard: plus fastball (92-94 m.p.h.), plus plus change, plus curve
Wright: average fastball (88-90 m.p.h.), plus change (and that’s being generous), average curve

Experience before first big league start
Bedard: spent parts of five seasons in the minors. Never really got rolling because of injuries (topped out at 111 innings in his 2000 season). Dominated AA over 12 starts in 2002 (injury-shortened season). Missed most of 2003 with injuries. Debuted in 2004 to a 4.59 ERA over 137.1 innings.

Wright: Entering his eighth season in the minors. Didn’t break 100 innings until 2005 because he was always placed in short-season leagues (though I’m not sure of his injury history). Managed a decent season despite very bad peripherals in 2005 (not even a 2:1 K:BB ratio). Dominated A+ ball as a 23-year-old for 14 starts.

No, no, no. These guys aren’t comparable at all. Bedard has three plus or plus plus pitches (and his fastball really is plus plus for a lefty), and Wright has three average or slightly above average pitches. Bedard had tons of talent that was marred in the minors by injury, which is why he never climbed the ranks before his big league debut. Wright has marginal talent and never climbed the ranks because he simply wasn’t good enough to do so.

As is perfectly clear, I am very frustrated over this move. I can’t help but think back to Sean Henn in 2005. Before being called up early that season, he started four games for Trenton, allowing just two home runs, striking out 21 and walking nine in 25.1 innings. And we all know what he did for the Yanks. (Warning: I’m not sure if he made all four starts in AA before his initial call up, though I think he did. He was sent back to Columbus, where he also pitched well: 3.23 ERA in 86.1 innings, with 64 strikeouts and 27 walks). And you know what? Henn was also 24 at the time.

So, before we start comparing Chase Wright to a top of the rotation starter, let’s step back and look at the Yankees prior misdoings. I would certainly compare him to Sean Henn before I compared him to Erik Bedard (even though Henn, as well, has — or had — better stuff than Wright).

Of course, I’m still hoping for the best. I may say, “I hope the Yanks get crushed” out of frustration, but I obviously want them to win as many games as possible, even if that means me eating crow. I just don’t have a good feeling about Tuesday…

Photo: Mark LoMoglio,

Yankees X, Athletics X+1
Down on the Farm
  • EJ

    Wow Joe. Talk about effort.

    My chief concern for calling up Hughes is that he is not looking sharp so far this year. His usual velocity and control are not present yet. I believe that Hughes deserves a call up, but only once he’s in mid-season form, which he clearly lacks right now. We’re looking at a one-start fix right now since both Karstens and Wang will be back very soon, and since Mussina and Pavano aren’t expected to miss much more than their 15 days. I think you’d have a greater point if Hughes didn’t get killed in his last start.

    Not to mention, I’m not crazy about Hughes starting in sub-freezing temperatures in Yankee Stadium this week. Isn’t it supposed to get in the 20s?

  • Joseph P.

    I can’t say I totally disagree with you, EJ. If I did, I would have focused more on Hughes than on Chase.

    Regardless, the team still has Jackson, Ohlendorf, Clippard, and DeSalvo as better options. If you’re rewarding spring training and early season performance, Mighty Matt deserves the call much more.

  • nr

    Boston vs Angels. Beckett plunk Vlad.
    The Intimidation factor and Cockiness from Redsox showed from their starting pitchers has comeback and returned to Boston like Pedro who hits guys left and right when things goes wrong. Boston lacks class and sportsmanship to Opposing teams. Redsox players think their are so great now after few good signings this offseason…

    Did you guys watched Angels vs. Redsox when Josh “Fake Tough Guy” Beckett plunked Vlad in the hand and Vlad left the game ?

    What are your thoughts? How do you Redsox Players feel when They get hit by the pitch and react from it?

  • Danny

    I think they went with Wright for a couple of reasons. He is only coming up for a start or two, and the don’t want to mess with Hughes development(not a good reason). Wright is also already on the 40 man and noone has to be cut(A little better reason). If Hughes had been dominant he might of gotten the call up, but he hasn’t been.

  • EJ

    Also, to continue playing devil’s advocate, if you apply the TINSAAP theory to Hughes, couldn’t you apply the same to Wright? Chase Wright has an ERA well under 2.00 in his last 140 innings. His peripherals are strong, and he’s finally found himself a breaking pitch.

  • ShawnT

    they deffinatley shold have piked hughes to start, felix hernandez pitched as a 18 year old in the major, and look how he turned out, torre and cashman need to take a long look at what theyr doing. becuzz if they dont tink that hughes is getting aggitated that hes not getting a chance to pitch theyr crazy

    ps. why is delin b. starting in the short season league
    they could have atleast put himin charlston

  • Sean McNally

    Listen guys, not throw cold water on the parade here but: It’s freakin’ April.

    When you calls Hughes up, its going to be for good so whats the harm in letting him try to carve up some IL lineups first? If you bring him up at he gives up 6 runs in 6 innings, in the eyes of the media, etc it’s a nightmare, it’s a disaster, the Yankee farm system is a travashamockery!

    If Wright comes up and does the same thing – he’s kept the offense in the game more or less and everyone goes to bed happy.

    Sometimes a short-term defeat is needed to sustain longer-term success.

    Is Wright the optimum choice – probably not, but given the options I say what the hell, throw some sh*t on the wall and see if it sticks.

  • Malcard89

    I agree with Sean, this is not “who’s the better pitcher”, but who can fill in for one start. Why call up Hughes and send him down immediately when he’s not even scheduled to pitch that day? If Chase Wright loses, which is a probable considering Cleveland’s offense, it’s one game in April that he just has to keep us in the ballgame.

    If anything, Joseph P’s suggestion is unfair to Hughes. Even if he pitches great, he has to be sent down anyway once (in order) Wang, Karstens, Mussina, and Pavano come back. How is that fair to him? When he comes up, let him be able to call Yankee Stadium “home” for the rest of his career, not just for a few days.

  • Mike A.

    Not to nitpick, the one future major leaguer on The O’s AA squad was Nolan Reimold, not Bill Rowell.Easily confused, I understand. I’m pretty sure they’re the O’s 1-2 prospect punch too…

  • Joseph P.

    My contention early in the article, though, was that Hughes wouldn’t have to be sent down. There have been plenty of rotation injuries, and they surely won’t end with the return of Wang, Karstens, Mussina, and Pavano. Plus you have the wild card, Igawa, who may not be very effective.

    For what it’s worth, Hughes would be pitching on normal rest Tuesday. He tossed last Thursday.

  • jt

    Minors: Chase Wright on BA’s Hot Sheet

    Baseball America has released its first Hot Sheet of 2007, and Yankees Lhp Pitcher Chase Wright ranks second overall

    BA writes of Wright

    Chase Wright, rhp, Double-A Trenton (Yankees)
    19 strikeouts in 14 innings has Wright poised for a callup before Philip Hughes

    Editor’s Note: RAB comments are based on HTML. Learn it.

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  • Brian

    Just face it man, Hughes hasn’t looked sharp yet this year. In fact, he has looked pretty bad. Meanwhile, Wright has conisstently looked very impressive. Hughes is probably the better pitcher in the long run. But it makes complete sense that Chase Wright is being called up now, for this start.

  • Rajah of Rehab

    Not 100% sure, but would early/extra service time in the MLB put Phil’s free agency at 2013 instead of 2014?

  • Joseph P.

    Rajah: I’m not sure the free agency issue matters so much. I’m also not sure how calling him up now would change things. When I find motivation to read the CBA, I’ll let you know. It’s certainly an interesting notion, though.

    Brian: Have you seen Hughes pitch this year? Or are you merely looking at the box scores? I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m asking a legitimate question. Because while he may not be his sharpest, he certainly hasn’t looked bad.

    And, once again, I point to the part in the article that references Wright’s pathetic competition thus far.

  • b

    It’s not about whether or not Hughes is ready. They want to limit his IP total for the year so that he does not have a drastic increase over what he did last year. They can do this more effectively if they hold him back in the minors to a strict pitch/inning count and gradually stretch him out as the year goes on (i.e. if they bring him up later in the year, he’ll be on a shorter leash).

    Could he learn what he needs to learn in the majors just as well as he could learn it in AAA? Sure, but in the majors, you don’t want a starter who you are basically forcing out of the game after 5 innings no matter what.

    As for Wright, we know why he’s getting the call: he’s on the 40 man and he’s on a bit of a hot streak. Much like Pavano starting opening day, this isn’t a matter of applying the best short term solution, but rather a matter of not making any moves that could effect the entire season (i.e. starting Andy or Moose on short rest or cutting someone to make room for one of the AAA guys) on the basis of one start in the first half of April

  • b

    sorry, longer leash