Prospect Profile: Nik Turley

The Obligatory Ronnie Mustelier Post
A trip down prospect memory lane
(Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

Nik Turley | LHP

Background
Hailing from North Hollywood, Turley attended Harvard-Westlake High School and was committed to Brigham Young University. He comes from a family of athletes, as both parents and three brothers all played sports at the collegiate level. His father pitched at BYU once upon a time.

Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Turley as the 83rd best prospect in California prior to the 2008 draft, but because he’s a Mormon, teams expected him to follow through on his college commitment and go on a two-year mission. The Yankees rolled the dice and selected him in the 50th round with the 1,502nd overall pick, making him the third-to-last player chosen in the entire draft. Turley wound up signing relatively quickly for a well-above-slot $150k bonus.

Pro Career
Assigned to the rookie level Gulf Coast League after signing, Turley allowed one run in eight innings across one start and three relief appearances after turning pro. The Yankees held him back in Extended Spring Training the following season before returning him to the GCL when the season started in June, where he posted a 2.82 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 54.1 innings. Turley repeated Extended Spring Training in 2010, but after three more appearances with the GCL squad in June, he was bumped up to Short Season Staten Island. He pitched to a 4.38 ERA (3.18 FIP) in 61.2 innings for the Baby Bombers.

The Yankees finally turned Turley loose in 2011. He was assigned to Low-A Charleston to open the season, but was bumped up to High-A Tampa after posting a 2.51 ERA (3.53 FIP) with 8.96 K/9 (23.9 K%) and 2.30 BB/9 (6.1 BB%) in 82.1 innings across 15 starts for the River Dogs. Turley made two starts with Tampa (eight runs in 7.1 innings) before a line drive broke his pitching hand and ended his season in early-July. The Yankees sent him back to Tampa to open the 2012 season and he spent most of the year there, pitching to a 2.89 ERA (3.36 FIP) with 9.32 K/9 (24.8 K%) and 3.54 BB/9 (9.4 BB%) in 112 innings. The team promoted him to Double-A Trenton for one start at the end of the regular season as well as the playoffs. A few weeks ago, Baseball America ranked Turley as the 18th best prospect in the High-A Florida State League.

Scouting Report
First things first, Turley is physically huge at a listed 6-foot-6 and 230 lbs. His fastball sat in the mid-80s in high school but has since jumped a bit in pro ball, so he now sits in the 88-92 range with the occasional 94. Turley’s best secondary pitch is a big overhand curveball he can throw for strikes or bury in the dirt, but if you catch him on the right day, his fading changeup will be the better offspeed pitch. The change is much more inconsistent though.

Between his size and his over-the-top delivery, Turley excels at driving the ball downhill and pounding the bottom of the zone. He’s still learning how to keep his long limbs in check during his delivery, but doesn’t have any trouble throwing the strikes. In fact, he might be the system’s most aggressive starter when it comes to attacking hitters. Turley needs to work on things like holding runners and fielding his position. There’s a good amount of video available on YouTube.

2013 Outlook
The Yankees added Turley to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, which was not a surprise even though it’s unlikely he would have been able to stick on an active 25-man roster all of next season. He’ll return to Double-A Trenton to start 2013 and I believe there’s a better chance of him spending the entire season with the Thunder than there is of him getting a midseason promotion.

My Take
If you’re a fan of long shot “projection” pitching prospects, Turley is the guy for you. The Yankees banked on his size and athleticism and have been rewarded with a strong but not elite pitching prospect. I like him mostly because he’s a three-pitch lefty who can definitely remain in the rotation long-term, something the team has been unable to develop these last 15 years or so despite their long history of left-handed hurlers. You’ve probably already seen (and will continue to see) Turley compared to Andy Pettitte, but that’s based primarily on size and handedness. It’s not fair at all. When Pettitte was Turley’s age (23), he was already in the big leagues and in New York’s rotation for good. Let the kid make his own name for himself.

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The Obligatory Ronnie Mustelier Post
A trip down prospect memory lane
  • Jacob

    Great piece, love these. Hopefully Turley can pick up some of the slack left from the disappointments that were Banuelos, Betances, Pineda, and Jose Campos last season.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Or maybe Pineda and Campos can pick up their own slack, since they’re still alive, last I checked, and were effective when healthy.

      • Ted Nelson

        And Banuelos can then pick up his in 2014, since TJS is not the death sentence so many seem to be making it out to be…

        Heck… even Betances could offer a lot of value, even if it’s in the pen.

    • Joe

      Yes…hopefully….we are all living on HOPE lately

      • Ted Nelson

        What else do you live on when looking towards the future?

    • Jacob

      Get a new handle you stole my shit man!

      • Havok9120

        Oh, God. Not this again.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Good write-up. Manage your expectations and there’s a lot to like here. Nice to see a name we read at the bottom of a lot of DOTF’s starting to really become something. Hopefully he develops to the point that 2nd half of 2014 becomes a possibility.

    • Jim Is Bored

      If there’s one thing baseball fans are good at, it’s managing expectations.

    • JU

      I’m having a hard time managing expectations with Turley since I saw him pitch in Trenton this year. I sat behind the net – 3 rows back (for $12 incidentally) and I fell in love with this kid. He looked polished, consistent, def kept the ball sinking down in the lower half of the zone. His CB was devastating and he even elevated his FB to play off that. The Pettite comps were inevitable, but if you watched him pitch that night, I think you’d agree with them. Early Pettite, when he was FB, cb, ChUp – before the cutter became his bread and butter. I think this kid is going to be a solid #4. And yes I realize what that sounds like

  • TrollHunter

    If he starts strong with the Thunder I’d like to see what he could do with SWB the second half of 2013 with a chance at the bigs in $189. (sorry I mean 2014)

  • neo

    Seems that most minor league watchers consider age in level as a key issue, and by that isn’t Turley a bit old?

    But way back in the ’70s, before sabermetrics, I remember a “truism” that left handers developed later than right handers. I remember Guidry’s first big season in 1977 when he was 26 was held up as an example.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing Turley to Guidry.

    But I am curious. Is that old truism in any way correct? Guidry is just one guy who matured late and as stated Pettitte was a lefty who was in the big leagues at 23.

    I haven’t thought about the left hander thing for years, and I have no clue if anyone ever did a SABR study of development for right handers vs. left handers? Or is that truism just something some announcer said that stuck with me and is as stupid as when I believed RBIs and Wins were good measures of a players value?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      23’s not a guy who rockets up the system but, rather, a guy who makes a stop at every level along the way, but it’s not necessarily “old.”

      I think it’s more typical of a not-elite prospect to go through this progression. David Phelps, for example…

      • Robinson Tilapia

        That really only responds to half your point, though, and probably was a better reply to trr below.

        I’m actually curious as well as to lefty versus righty development. Hadn’t given it much thought.

        What microscope a pitcher like Gator was under is a completely different planet than what we see now. There was no Keith Law, DOTF, etc. There were the couple of names that showed up on the “On the Way Up” section of the team yearbook.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Turley just turned 23 at the end of the season. He’s been pretty much right at the expected age for each level.

      I don’t remember seeing anything about lefties taking longer to develop. I have seen that about catchers, but not southpaws. Could be true though, plenty of examples (Guidry, Cliff Lee, etc.).

    • Joe

      neo…you are right . Sandy Koufax didn’t come into his own until he was in his late 20’s

    • Steve (different one)

      I have certainly heard that about lefties, but have never seen anything to back it other than anecdotal evidence. There does seem to be a bunch of examples though. And it also seems true that lefties with good control can pitch much longer once their stuff diminishes with age. I feel like Andy Pettitte could roll off 2-3 more seasons like 2010 if he feels like it. But a righty goosing Andy’s fastball to the plate would get destroyed.

      So it doesn’t seem odd to me that it might take some guys longer to learn to “pitch” vs “throw”, and those guys survive longer, coloring our perceptions.

      And yes, it is also possible that I am talking out of my ass.

    • Laz

      Interesting. Could be that rhp have it easier because they face more rhb, isn’t there higher proportion rhp in hs/college than mlb?
      Or that more people are rh so pitching coaches have easier time.

      • Now Batting

        As a lefty who pitched in high school, all I can say it’s really hard to learn grips or mechanics from a lot of coaches who are righties. You basically have to take the mirror image of technique from all the righties and try to apply it. Also in high school as a lefty you have an advantage over most righties because they aren’t used to seeing the ball come from that angle. This advatage is not only negated but swings the other way in MLB. I think these two things could impact a lefty pitcher’s development.

    • Mike HC

      Bumgarner broke into the majors successfully at 20. Liriano dominated at 22 before injuries. Kershaw at 20. Hamels at 22. Price at 23. CC at 20.

      My guess is that there is little to no difference between the time it takes to develop a lefty vs righty starter. Just my guess.

  • trr

    At his age, and still at least 2 years away, not a real prospect for us, but could be a throw-in, if we ever make a deal…

    • Jim Is Bored

      I’ve never understood this logic.

      Even if a guy takes an extra 2 years to develop, why is he not a prospect? Especially if he started older.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Because it’s taking the correct point on a guy like Mustelier and extrapolating it to where it’s no longer necessarily a valid comp.

      • Ted Nelson

        There is no logic to understand in that comment.

    • Havok9120

      23 in AA really isn’t all that old.

      I think our expectations have been thrown off a bit by the likes of Hughes, Joba, Pettitte, even Nova. Not everybody skips levels, and that really isn’t a mark against them.

      • jjyank

        And like Mike said above, he just turned 23. With a good performance, he could be 23 in AAA by late summer, and that’s hardly old.

  • Alex H

    In my opinion Nik Turley would be a very good adition the Yankees bullpen if they were to use him this year. The Yankees could use some middle relief and if he is not fully devolped to make a start in the majors then they should try and get him work in a non presure situation. If he was to start the season in double A than he could be in triple A by mid season and most likely be a September call up.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Wow…..I could not disagree more with that. I don’t think the team is so hard-pressed for middle relief help that they need to pull Nik Turley barely out of AA to fill that role. They’ve got at least three guys in AAA right now who will be ready for that jump by mid-season, one even on the 40-man already.

      Turley’s on the 40-man because they wanted to protect him, probably not because they think he’s ready.

      Let him work on becoming an actual rotation option in the next couple of years.

      • Laz

        Agree, especially since they do have Montgomery midseason if they need another reliever.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Montgomery, Whitley, Cedeno, Betances, Cabral, whatever other assorted fodder they pick up. I imagine they all get the call first.

    • Havok9120

      Whoa. No. Keep him starting. We are not desperate for bullpen help and, even if we were, there are better guys in the system from which we could get it.

    • jjyank

      Instead of repeating what was said above me, I’ll just go with the old “yeeeeeaaahhhhh……no.”

    • Laz

      No need. Bullpen should be fine and they have MM if they need help midseason, etc. Starters are more valuable, so it makes sense to keep him as a starter until he can’t handle it. It’s harder to go back, just because relievers don’t work on their offspeed stuff as much and aren’t stretched out.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      would still love to see him get a september call up, and if he doesn’t suck, get to throw in a few games, maybe even multiple innings.

  • Flyer7

    Lefties almost always come late has been a baseball truism for decades

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Well that settles it.

      She also told me she was 18.

  • http://www.bronxbaseballdaily.com Greg Corcoran

    Turley actually has an excellent pickoff move. He also has above average secondary stuff. The great pickoff, similar velocity, and size are probably the three reasons he gets the comps to Andy Pettitte. I do agree with you that it’s otherwise unwarranted though.

    I think he projects as a mid rotation starter at this point with still a little bit of room to add velocity and refine his secondary offerings. A mid-rotation lefty has huge value, so I’m more excited about Turley than most.

    • Laz

      If they can turn a 50th round pick into a decent 3rd starter I would be thrilled. Not every prospect needs to be an ace, there is value in young cheap mid-end rotation guys. Keeps them from having to spend $7M on guys like Liriano, Blanton, Guthrie, etc.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        If they can turn a 50th round pick into a decent 3rd starter I would be thrilled.

        that’s huge.

  • Gonzo

    Mike, do you think he is innings/GS’d restriction free? If not, where do you think he’ll end up at the end of the year? Barring injury of course.

    • Havok9120

      It looks like they’ve jumped him about 20-30 innings per year as he’s advanced through the system, and last season he threw ~117 innings. Call it 140-150 as a cap unless they suddenly break from what they’ve been doing with pitching prospects lately.

      • Laz

        Verducci Effect.

        Funny, because last year Pineda just crossed it, and what do you know…

  • craig

    I think there is a lot to like about Turley. He is a lefty with a good body who has 2 good pitches and is working on refining the 3rd pitch. He throws strikes, misses bats and doesn’t give up a lot of home runs.

    This is precisely the type of guy who can fly under the radar and continue to develop. If he does well in AA, all of the Klaw’s and BA’s of the world will start mentioning him.

    Turley is one of several guys that I think very highly of in the system that a lot of “established” analysts kick to the curb.

  • pat

    Mark Newman mentioned in an interview that one of his brothers is actually a Navy SEAL.

  • Bo Knows

    I don’t know Mike, Andy might be a decent comp with Turley. We all know andy made his debut with the Yankees at 23, if Turley somehow manages to be consistent this year, he has a chance to debut and possibly stick at 24.

    That said, They both seem to have similar overhand deliveries, similar body types, and even similar stuff. Also didn’t Andy in his early years use the curveball as his primary breaking pitch before eventually switching to the cutter and slider?

    Not saying he’ll have Andy’s career or even reach The Show(though we could definitely hope however unlikely) but he seems to be closest the thing to an Andy clone as you could get without a cloning lab built.

  • Wayne

    Yankees are fools if they put him in the bullpen now. Keep him in the rotation while he is in the minora and let him develop there for the next 2 years. Then give him a chance to stay in the rotation when he comes up. We have plenty of minor leaguers is right to fill in the reliever role at aaa. If we put him in the bullpen we are going to end up doing the same thing we did to joba chamberlain. Don’t use David phelps as example we went back and forth with him the whole year. We were very fortunate. Common sense says to keep Turley as a starter. He throws the ball hard enough at 88-92 six ft six 230 lbs and he is still very young with a nice delivery and is lefty. Just because he is not in the big leagues yet doesn’t mean he won’t turn out as good as petitte or maybe even better or good enough to be a key starter in our rotation. You want to do it the joba way and blow out his arm and take away a potential starter for us into the playoffs instead of relying on injury prone nova and hughes be my freaking guest!

    • Steve (different one)

      No one (aside from a poster above) said anything about moving him to the bullpen.

    • Ted Nelson

      Joba was the first SP prospect ever to be used as a reliever in MLB…

  • Greg

    maybe we can trade him for Trout?

  • Brian S.

    Fuck he’s a Mormon? Trade him then.

  • Jacob The OG (formerly Jacob)

    Sounds like as pretty solid player, fingers crossed!

  • george coffey

    Give the kid a chance.He is about to face his first big test,He will faceAA hitters in cold weather,If he succeeds.take him seriosly.

  • ClusterDuck

    And of course there was a guy named Bullet Bob Turley. Won 21 games for the Yanks once.