Scouting Report: Derek Varnadore

Varnadore has some role flexibility

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher Derek Varnadore in the 9th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Auburn University. He posted solid numbers in his debut season but it was the quick learning about the professional game and surprising stuff that has some intrigued about his long-term potential.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Derek Varnadore
Position: Pitcher
DOB: July 10, 1990
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I loved it up there in New York, it's a totally different world," he said. "Pitching-wise I was happy with how I did but I can always do better.

"I was glad that when I struggled that I turned it around and I was learning as much as anything up there as far as how pro ball works, and how everybody can hit a fastball up there so it's not all about the fastball anymore."

He went 3-5 with a solid 3.55 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees, limited batters to just a .227 average, and allowed just twelve walks in 58 1/3 innings.

Known for his power fastball in college, one that would sit in the 91-95 mph range, Varnadore changed his fastball approach from college and went to work on his secondary pitches in particular in the New York Penn League.

"I felt better about [my secondary pitches] up there in New York than I did in college," he admitted. "Especially when I started starting [games], I felt like I had a lot more control over all three pitches than when I was in college.

"That came with having the kind of coaching that I had up there and have at my disposal now. I felt like I had better control over my secondary stuff than I ever have."

He abandoned his overpowering ways in college in favor of pitching more to contact earlier in counts. He began to understand that professional pitching is much different than attacking college hitters.

"I was always more favorable to my slider but there in Staten Island I started throwing the changeup more," he said. "I figured out there how useful that pitch is.

"I didn't used to like it and I used to baby it [in college], and I'd get in trouble with it. I'd hang on and it'd get hammered. I felt like I learned more how to use it and when to use it [in Staten Island]. I felt much better with it.

"I like the change of speed and then it just faded down. I had it in college but I never really threw it much, it was more of a 'show-me' pitch just to get you thinking about something other than the fastball. When I got Carlos [Chantres] to help me out I got much better use out of it."

No longer a power four-seam pitcher, Varnadore used his sinking fastball-changeup mix a lot more in a designed plan to keep hitters from barreling the baseball. He got his feet wet and experienced some success getting ahead in counts, and now he's ready to build on his first-season success.

"I think I need to work on my slider as an out-pitch," he self analyzed. "I felt good about getting to two strikes and then I need that out-pitch, that whatever it is.

"I'm excited about the coaching that I'm about to get. I was pumped about what I got in Staten Island because it just opened my eyes, but I know when I get down to Tampa [for Spring Training] I know I'm going to get a plethora.

"I think if I can get an out-pitch it's going to help my game out a lot, to get a better out-pitch."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

Staten Island

3-5

0

58.1

50

12

42

3.55



Repertoire. Fastball, Changeup, Slider.

Fastball. Varnadore gets lost in the shuffle of the power arms in the Yankee organization but the fact is he can throw very hard. More of a four-seam pitcher in college, one that would sit 92-95 mph with it and top out at 96 mph, he began using his sinking two-seamer more at the professional level. And it's not like that is a soft pitch either, sitting mostly in the 91-93 mph range with good biting action inside to right-handers.

Other Pitches. Varnadore's best secondary pitch right now is an average big league changeup that, like his sinker, dives down and in to right-handed batters and he shows good control over it. It's because of his diving action that the changeup does have some above average potential to it. His slider, which sits in the low-80s right now, isn't a very sharp breaking ball at the current time. It's more of a slurvy pitch than a true slider.

Pitching: Varnadore has reinvented himself on the mound since his college days. His plan is to attack batters with sinkers on the inner-half of the plate to right-handers, and then beat them on the outer half of the plate with a plus four-seamer. He has good control over his two main pitches, but the slider does lack the swing and miss potential it needs to keep hitters honest more often. The good news is he has proven to be very coachable in the early going, refining his mechanics in quick fashion and changing his approach in a rapid manner too.

Projection. Varnadore's projection is a bit muddied at this point. He has the solid fastball-changeup combination to project as a potential back-end of the rotation type starting pitcher, but he will need a much improved slider for that projection to be more likely. And because he doesn't have that kind of swing and miss breaking ball right now, he doesn't really project to be a big league bullpen option either. He could fill either a middle relief or number five starting pitcher someday, but both roles hinge on the further development of his slider and/or the introduction of a quality curveball. Stay tuned.

ETA. N/A. Varnadore should carve himself a bullpen role or a potential spot starter type of gig with low-A Charleston in 2013. From there how quickly he moves will depend on the further development of a swing and miss out-pitch.

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