Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Poll: Trip Aces

The trio of young guns each have their own package of heightened expectations to cope with in 2008 and beyond. In an attempt to better understand the hopes of Yankees fans for each piece of generation trey, the poll asked which of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy would have the "best" season.

Not surprisingly, Ike received the least of the votes with only 16% of BL visitors believing the USC control artist would outdo Phil and Joba. This is to be expected, not to suggest Kennedy is an unworthy candidate, but because he does not have Chamberlain's blazing fastball or Hughes' pedigree. With that said, it would not be shocking if Kennedy - who is the most polished of the three - had the best year as a starter.

Though my vote goes to Hughes, who showed guile pitching in the second half without nearly his best stuff, a quarter of BL voters chose Chamberlain. Should Joba put forth a similar type of performance out of the bullpen this year as he did in 2007, his probable workload as a starter may be an afterthought.

That's a lot to ask of the youngster, but I still expect Chamberlain to fall somewhere between the very good setup man [Scot Shields] and his unhittable prowess last season. Whether he can be nearly as dominant in the starting role is the question for the ages. But it is one that must be answered before simply relegating him to the bullpen. [Remember, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and K-Rod all failed as starters before becoming lockdown closers]

The number one vote-getter was Hughes with nearly 60%. Hughes is somewhere between Ike and Joba in terms of "polish." He is also somewhere between the other two when comparing "stuff." Hughes is also a hybrid in terms of pitching IQ and experience, as the 21 year-old has been a more proven starter than Chamberlain but yet to eat as many innings as Kennedy.

Should the Hughes fastball return to previous levels - one that sits 92-95mph and touches 97 - to compliment his laser-like command, the Franchise is capable of having one hell of a year. The development of his changeup is another key as his curveball seems to be back at Hughesian levels. Forecasting a season in which Hughes wins 15 games with an ERA under 4.00 along with 145 strikeouts in 170 innings is fathomable.

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