Prospect Profile: Graham Stoneburner

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Graham Stoneburner | RHP

Stoneburner grew up in Richmond, Virginia, not far from the talent hotbed that produced players like Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Justin Verlander, and The Uptons in recent years. He lettered in baseball all four years at Mills E. Godwin High School, though he didn’t explode onto the prospect scene until his junior year, when he posted a 0.21 ERA with 74 strikeouts in just 43 innings, not to mention three homers and a .313 batting average. Stoneburner was named First Team All-Metro and Second Team All-District as a junior, and was expected to garner consideration for the top two rounds of the 2006 draft with a strong senior season.

Stoneburner never got a chance to pitch as a senior, because a stress fracture in his back kept him off the mound and ultimately off draft boards. No one took a chance on a pitcher with a fractured vertebra even though Baseball America ranked him as the 71st best draft prospect in the nation, so Stoneburner followed through on his commitment to Clemson. Expected to compete for a weekend rotation spot as a freshman, Stoneburner tore his ACL during a January workout and had to take a medical redshirt.

Finally healthy, Stoneburner was able to take the mound and pitch competitively for the first time in almost two years as a redshirt freshman in 2008.  He led the Tigers in starts (14, he also made two relief appearances) and wins (6) despite a 5.55 ERA and allowing 78 hits and 21 walks in 71.1 innings, with just 52 strikeouts. Stoneburner two-hit N.C. State early in the season for Clemson’s first complete game shutout in four years, and was named ACC Pitcher of the Week for his effort. After the season, Stoneburner headed to the prestigious Cape Cod League for the summer, where he put up a 2.93 ERA and a 30-12 K/BB ratio in 30.2 innings covering seven starts for the Hyannis Mets.

Following his strong showing on the Cape, Baseball America ranked Stoneburner as the 58th best college prospect overall for the 2009 draft, and many expected him to be one of the Tigers’ top starters as a redshirt sophomore. Instead, he bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen on a deep staff that featured 13 pitchers with sub-4.00 ERA’s. In seven starts and 13 relief appearances, Stoneburner struck out 71 and walked just 19 in 64 innings, good for a 3.52 ERA and a team leading seven wins. He appeared in two of the team’s six postseason games, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings of relief against Tennessee Tech to get a win in the Regionals, then taking the loss after allowing three runs in two innings of relief against Arizona State in the Super Regionals. Clemson’s season ended with a loss the next day.

Baseball America ranked Stoneburner as the the seventh best prospect in the state and 180th best prospect overall just before the draft. Because he had added leverage as a draft-eligible sophomore (even as a redshirt), Stoneburner fell to the 14th round of the 2009 draft, at which point the Yankees made him the 435th overall pick with their 13th selection. He didn’t agree to a deal until the day before the August 17th signing deadline, when he received a well-above slot $675,000 bonus.

Pro Debut
Stoneburner appeared in just one game after signing late, allowing one hit while striking out two in a one inning stint with Short Season Staten Island in early September. He participated in Fall Instructional League after the season, where he reportedly turned lots of heads with his showing.

Scouting Report
Despite being somewhat undersized at 6′-1″ and 190 lbs, Stoneburner offers premium arm strength and life on his fastball. He’s shown the ability to sit at 94 with boring action in on righties with his heater, and can ramp it up even more when working in relief. His two secondary pitches – slider and a straight change – are average at best, though the changeup shows potential of being better. The biggest problem is consistency, as Stoneburner will pound the bottom of the zone relentlessly one day, then struggle to put the ball over the plate the next. After losing two crucial years of development due to injury, it’s just a matter of getting reps with pro instruction.

Stoneburner’s delivery is simple, easy to repeat,  and somewhat deliberate, which bodes well for future arm health. The arm action is just a bit long in the back, which will always hinder his command somewhat, but nothing extreme. He’s a very good athlete who ran track all throughout high school, and it allows him to field his position well and make adjustments mid-game. Other nuances like holding runners are things that will improve with experience.

You can see Stoneburner’s scouting video here.

2010 Outlook
Depending on what the Yankees long-term plan is for Stoneburner, they could opt to send him to Low-A Charleston to work as a starter, or be aggressive and have him work in relief with High-A Tampa. If they do the latter, a David Robertson-like ascent up the ladder isn’t out of the question.

My Take
I remember Stoneburner from the 2006 draft, when he was rail-thin and sitting high-80’s with his fastball. He was an interesting guy to keep an eye on until the back injury knocked him out, however he added some weight and picked up some big time velocity in college and became an impressive prospect. Stoneburner has one of the best pure arms from the Yanks’ most recent draft haul, if not the best. Had he been about four inches taller, he would have garnered much more early round consideration. He doesn’t quite have the arm slot for it, but there’s a chance the Yanks’ will tinker with it and try to teach him a Nardi Contreras curveball. If he picks that up to give him a second pitch he’s comfortable throwing at any time in any count, then holy cow, who knows how good he could be. You can’t teach arm strength, folks.

Photo Credit: Mark Crammer

The 10 biggest hits of the 2009 regular season
Can Derek Jeter aim his hits?
  • the artist formerly known as (sic)

    yeesh in re: that picture. that’s some serious “showing the ball to CF” action.

  • Drew

    That delivery is sick. It looks like he was siting high 80’s but I’m not sure if he was throwing at 100%.

  • mkl

    Ridiculously off topic. Stop.

    • pat

      This is useless, off topic, and nobody cares.

      • Tom Zig

        Agreed, but we shouldn’t respond to these characters, even though it is so tempting to. Just let one of Mike, Ben, or Joe delete them.

    • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Glenn Beck Complex

      Totally off-topic. Please refrain from adding information or news pieces that are irrelevant to the topic at hand. Beside, what you included isn’t even an interesting tidbit. Complete Mets (read: fail).

  • pat

    Yanks love them some Cape Cod performers.

  • Do Not Feed The Trolls!

    Stoneburner+Gardner for Hanley

    • Chip

      Too much, Gardner is the next Bernie and Stoneburner is our Rivera replacement. Get with the program man

      • Thomas

        Plus we already have the next Hanley, his name is Carmen Angelini. Learn it well.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Are you semi-serious about this Angelini guy, because I’ve never heard of him. If so, info please.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada


            You’ve never heard of him because, after that lofty start, he shit the bed not once, but twice, and he’s now a non-prospect. The only thing he has left going for him is his youth. He still has time to get shit figured out, but he looks pretty lost and has a long, long road ahead of him.

            I’m 99.99% positive Thomas was joking.

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              Okay, thank you.

            • RollingWave

              Angelini was epically bad last year, if he salvage any sort of a major league career at all it be a miracle.

          • pat

            If you’ve never heard of Angelini you must be new to the game.

  • Salty Buggah

    Oh, a Prospect Profile. I always forget they’re on Wednesdays and get all excited when I see one posted.

    With Mike praising him in the draft chats/posts, Stoneburner has become of my favorite prospects (though almost every prospect with good upside becomes a personal favorite of mine) so I’m kinda expecting good things out of him. He, along with J-Ram, are one of my favorite young pitching prospects (whoever does better will replace Arodys as my favorite).

    And he has a cool name so I’d like to see him succeed.

    • ColoYank

      Stenibrenner is Stoneburner in German. No lie.

  • Chip

    I’m really excited to see what Stoneburner could do in Charleston this year. Starters who sit at 94 don’t come along very often and he’s a breaking ball away from being Roy Oswalt with less control (optimistic, I know)

  • Johnny

    Love the name.

    • JGS

      I believe it’s the anglicized version of Steinbrenner, so he’s got that going for him too

  • A.D.

    0.21 ERA with 74 strikeouts in just 43 innings

    Not too shabby

    Hopefully the Yanks let him fail as a starter first.

    • Salty Buggah

      They will. They almost always do.

  • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Glenn Beck Complex

    Mike, even if he were to pick up a good second pitch he could throw in any count, would he still profile well as starter or more likely a very good reliever?

    • Mike Axisa

      Probably a reliever. He’s more of a mid-rotation guy, at best.

      • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Glenn Beck Complex

        Gotcha, thanks.

  • Dude

    Hey Mike, do you know what the difference between a normal curveball and a “Nardi Contreras curveball” is? I’ve noticed you write that several times so I’m just wondering.

    • Mike Axisa

      No difference, it’s just a slang term. Nardi has a ridiculously good track record of teaching curveballs.

      • Tom Zig

        If only AJ Burnett could teach everyone his curveball

        • Chip

          If only AJ Burnett could teach everyone his arm strength

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

            If only A.J. Burnett could teach everybody his consisten…oh yeah, never mind.

            /Couldn’t help it’d

  • SamVa

    Just do you know.. He went to GODWIN High School… not “goodwin”

    I know it doesn’t really matter, but that high school is pretty close to my house.

    • SamVa

      Just SO you know… not do.. my bad.

      • pete

        well there goes you’re credibility

        /eric von stein’d

    • Mike Axisa

      Thanks, fixed.

  • MikeD

    Had he been about four inches taller, he would have garnered much more early round consideration.

    Mike, curious, why would being four inches taller drive more early round consideration? Does a drafting team value a 21-year-old 6’5″ pitcher who throws 94 more than a 21-year-old, 6’1″ 190 pitcher who throws 94? Isn’t it the arm strength that’s of importance? In fact, there seems to be some evidence that taller pitchers have more control issues early on in their careers, so all else being equal, maybe the 6′-ish pitcher might be better.

    Lincecum is listed at 5’11”, 160. Pretty good pitcher, throws pretty hard. Ron Guidry is listed at the same height and weight, and probably threw a tick harder at his peak. Pedro, 5’10”; Maddux, 6′ (probably shorter). Seaver and Ryan were both about 6’1″, although I think Seaver was actually 6′.

    What’s the thinking of scouts on this? I remember reading in Baseball America that one scout wasn’t sure Maddux would be drafted today. Frightening thought.

    • Mike Axisa

      6’4″ – 6’5″ has historically been viewed as the ideal size for a pitcher. Big enough that you project durability, but not too big that it’ll hinder athleticism and stuff. Phil Hughes has a perfect pitcher’s body.

      Whether or not that’s true is a different story. The old school scouts would have been a lot more intrigued if he was a bit bigger.

      • DSFC

        Also, isn’t part of the appeal for bigger pitching prospects the idea that a bigger kid might have more potential to develop more velocity, where a shorter kid won’t?

        • Mike Axisa

          Yep. It also has to do with the downward plane on the ball.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Phil Hughes has a perfect pitcher’s body.

        If only he was Chinese…

        • Steve H

          or Casey Kelly.

      • Colorado Yankee

        Also, take into account “precieved velocity”, whereas the ball has less distance to travel to home plate and creates less reaction time and less velocity lost.

    • Steve H

      Those guys for the most part are the exception, not the rule. Lincecum for instance, has an extremely unique delivery. Pedro wasn’t a beacon of health throughout his career, and also had extremely long fingers that helped him throw the pitches he could. Maddux had absolutely ridiculsou control (as did Pedro). The other 3 guys are, hate to sound like alex gonzalez, from a different era. They are more the outliers. Linecum, despite being 5’11 was a top 10 pick, so it’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. At some point the cream, despite size, will rise to the top.

      • MikeD

        Steve H, agreed on the outliers comment. I actually meant to add a line to that very point in my first note. The names I listed don’t make the rule. And, obviously, someone like Ryan was an outlier on many levels.

        While a Phil Hughes/6’5 pitcher might be ideal, most are not that tall, instead falling in the 6’2 to 6’4 range. I’d be curious, though, to see a listing of pitcher height tied to success.

  • DSFC

    Huh, Stoneburner went to my sister’s high school. Go figure. Godwin had some hellacious teams for a few years there.

    • SamVa

      You live in Va?
      I’m right around Godwin haha

      • DSFC

        Nope, not anymore, grew up there though. My parents live right by Godwin in Keswick and my sister was Godwin ’03. I moved away in 2001.

  • A.D.

    With Stoneburner’s secondary stuff is it quality, consistency, or both that need to be improved to really be considered a starting candidate & MLB rotation capable?

    • Mike Axisa


  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Great write up, Mike. I’m excited to see him throw this spring training. I know that Tampa is already starting to have an influx of players reporting for pre-training. I’m getting pumped.

  • JohnC

    With a name like Stoneburner, how can he not make it?

  • Bo

    fearless prediction: He’ll pitch in the Bronx before Brackman. Joba’s kid too.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada
    • Steve H

      Tyra Banks circa the Webber years, yes.

  • Tseng

    Glad to see a profile of a fellow Tiger.

  • rbizzler

    Man, he does have a smooth delivery. I like how Cash just continues to replenish the system with mid-rotation starter types who at least have the skill set to contribute out of the ‘pen.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      or be awesome trade bait. either way its a contribution.

  • Joseph DelGrippo

    Nice, easy motion and if he lengthened his stride and remained balanced throughout, he could throw even harder.

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