Stoneburner’s sophomore year at Clemson was a mix of good and bad. He went 6-5, posting an ERA of 5.55. Stoneburner started to turn things around in the Cape Cod League that summer, where he played for the Hyannis Mets. He continued to show improvement his junior year, when he went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA, making seven starts and thirteen appearances out of the bullpen. He struck out 71 hitters and only walked 19 over 64 innings. He signed with the Yankees late in the season and made his Minor League debut in Staten Island, pitching one scoreless inning.
While his road to professional baseball started shaky, he has been solid since joining the Yankees. He split his time between the Charleston RiverDogs and then the Tampa Yankees in 2010. In seven games in Charleston, Stoneburner had a 2.08 ERA, striking out 44, issuing just ten walks and giving up just two homers. He continued to put up strong number in Tampa, where he went 8-5 in nineteen starts, with a 2.53 ERA. Over 103 innings with Tampa, Stoneburner gave up just four longballs and continued to strike out hitters, getting 93 Ks and walking only 24 hitters.
The Yankees tapped Stoneburner to start in Trenton this season, where he has continued to climb his way towards the Bronx. Unfortunately, he has been on the DL since April 22 with a stiff neck. In his first three games, however, he has a 1.69 ERA, giving up just three runs and no homers. He should be back in Trenton shortly, and is a guy to keep your eye on.
I think John Sickels nailed it when he commented “I don’t understand why this guy doesn’t get more attention. Good stuff, good performance.” He does seem to be relatively ignored despite his consistent performance so far. My guess is this has a lot to do with the wealth of pitching in the Yankees farm system, along with Stoneburner’s injury history and the fact that he only has one season of pro ball under his belt.
Stoneburner is known for working hard, and spent most of 2010 working on his delivery, slider and his changeup. His fastball is rated as a plus big league pitch. He has a power sinker that seems to sit in the 92-95 range, but his four-seamer can reach 96. He has good command of both pitches and his delivery on his sinker fools a lot of batters.
His secondary pitches are what Stoneburner needs to continue to hone in the minors, if he is going to become a major league starter. He has a slider that can be a big strikeout pitch when it is on, but it has had a tendency to disappear on him. The same goes for his changeup, which also has strikeout potential when he has it moving. Stoneburner can get a lot of groundballs, but he has shown the mentality of a true strikeout power pitcher. He gets ahead in the count and really goes after batters when he needs to get the K.
If Stoneburner can stay healthy and continues to work his way through the minors, it would not be surprising to see him in the Majors by the end of 2012, though 2013 is probably more likely. It will be interesting to see is where he will end up pitching. He has done a great job as a starter during his minor league career, but he projects as a setup/closer type. If he can get his slider and changeup to work consistently, Stoneburner may make a good case for a starter, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is another Joba-like starter vs. reliever argument in waiting.