Jan
20

Prospect Profile: Graham Stoneburner

By

Graham Stoneburner | RHP

Background
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

Categories : Prospect Profiles

62 Comments»

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

  2. Drew says:

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

  3. mkl says:

    Ridiculously off topic. Stop.

  4. pat says:

    Yanks love them some Cape Cod performers.

  5. Stoneburner+Gardner for Hanley

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    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.

  7. Chip says:

    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)

  8. Johnny says:

    Love the name.

  9. A.D. says:

    0.21 ERA with 74 strikeouts in just 43 innings

    Not too shabby

    Hopefully the Yanks let him fail as a starter first.

  10. JMK THE OVERSHARE's Glenn Beck Complex says:

    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?

  11. Dude says:

    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.

  12. SamVa says:

    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.

  13. MikeD says:

    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 says:

      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.

    • Steve H says:

      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 says:

        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.

  14. DSFC says:

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

  15. A.D. says:

    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?

  16. 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.

  17. JohnC says:

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

  18. Bo says:

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

  19. Tseng says:

    Glad to see a profile of a fellow Tiger.

  20. rbizzler says:

    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.

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

  22. [...] out a much-improved slider this year, along with well-above average command.” Back when I profiled Stoneburner during the offseason, reports indicated that he had an average at best slider and command that came [...]

  23. [...] After being picked in the 14th round of the 2009 draft out of Clemson, Stoneburner made short work of A ball in 2010, compiling a 2.41 ERA in 142 innings across Low A Charleston and High A Tampa.  Here are some (dated) scouting reports to give you an idea of what he’s working with.  First, from Mike Axisa of RAB: [...]

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