Name: Kyler Newby
Position: Relief Pitcher
Weight: 225 lbs
The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Kyler Newby in the 2004 draft's 50th round out of Mesa Community College. At the time, most people viewed it as a meaningless homer pick, but it has turned out to be worth so much more.
Kyler's first two seasons of professional baseball have been nothing short of breathtaking. He averages 13.75 strikeouts per nine innings to just 3.5 walks. Overall, he has gone 7-1 with 13 saves and a 2.12 ERA. In over 85 innings of work, Newby has allowed just one home run.
Newby continued his success this fall in the Hawaii Winter League, fanning 27 batters in 18.1 innings. The only snag was a minor injury to his pitching elbow in mid-November, an injury that will force Newby to begin his second straight April in extended spring training.
Newby throws a split-fingered fastball, a pitch well-known to cause arm problems for young pitchers. Yet he maintains that the splitter was not the cause of the injury.
One reason Newby doesn't blame the splitter for his elbow discomfort is the fact that the splitter isn't a pitch he goes to terribly often. However, it was a pitch he specifically worked on in Hawaii, along with his straight change, so throwing it more than he was used to might have been the culprit.
In the regular season, Newby considers himself a fastball-dominant pitcher. "I like throwing fastballs, I like going after hitters," he told us. "I don't want to sit back and try to throw junk."
It may seem like an odd attitude to have for a pitcher who doesn't throw particularly hard. But Newby is a pitcher who realizes that a well-located 91 MPH fastball can be more effective than an erratic 96-MPH heater.
He also realizes that the mere threat of secondary pitches makes the fastball that much more useful. Many youngsters try to "pitch backwards" and use the fastball as a sort of changeup off of their breaking pitches. But Newby, who has a plus curveball, knows better, and his numbers show that his philosophy is the correct one.
Prediction: If Newby's splitter and changeup continue to improve at the rate they're going, he'll have four quality pitches with which to attack batters. That will make it tempting to at least give him a shot as a starter. On the other hand, it's difficult to tinker with a recipe that tastes so good. If Newby continues to put up dominant numbers as a closer, the Diamondbacks should allow him to be that fastball dominant pitcher that he wants to be.
Major League Clone: Danny Graves
ETA: Once Newby has satisfactorily completed his rehab, he should begin his season at Hi-A ball. It's difficult to predict exactly how fast he'll plow through the system, since he's still quite young and hasn't dealt with much adversity yet. The earliest possible date that he could arrive on the big league scene would be September of 2008. And if Newby isn't in a major league uniform by 2010, it would mean that these little nagging injuries he's had were in fact more serious than they seemed.
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Read more from Keith Glab at BaseballEvolution.com