Scouting Yankees Prospect #11: Nik Turley

Turley's stuff got better last season

The Yankees drafted left-handed pitcher Nik Turley in the 50th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Harvard-Westlake High School in California. Always considered a better prospect than his late-round selection, he had been putting up very good numbers for a few seasons but broke out in 2012 in a big way when he finally saw an uptick in his stuff.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Nik Turley
Position: Pitcher
DOB: September 11, 1989
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 215
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

He went 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA for the high-A Tampa Yankees in 2012 and struck out 116 batters in 112 innings before earning a late-season promotion to Double-A Trenton.

"I feel like it went real well," Turley said of his 2012 campaign. "I had a good time, it was fun. I was getting more consistent, especially with my secondary pitches, being able throw them for strikes more often."

He had always thrown both a curveball and a changeup that boasted some real long-term potential back in his younger days, but both were not nearly as consistent as they could be. That all changed last season, however, especially with his curveball.

"I think the more I threw it the better it got," he said. "I think that's how pitching just really is, the more you do something the better you get at it. I was also throwing harder [last] year than [in 2011] so it was a lot sharper and that helped too.

"I like [the curveball], I like it a lot now. It definitely got me a lot of the strikeouts this year. It's definitely a go-to [pitch] with two strikes."

The changeup got more consistent too and he also added a fourth pitch -- a slider -- into his repertoire for the first time. Just like his other secondary pitches though, the slider might take some time to master.

While the improvement from a consistency standpoint with his secondary pitches was obvious, arguably the bigger development was how the 6-foot-6 hurler began to finally throw a bit harder with his fastball last season.

"A better fastball does help," he admitted. "[In 2011] I topped out at 94 mph but I only hit it once though. [Last] year I hit it a bunch of times and I think when you can get the fastball up around there then you can use it a lot easier in any count.

"If you get behind you don't have to throw a changeup or something just to fool somebody, you can actually challenge somebody with your fastball. It's one of my better pitches now, one of my more effective pitches."

The increased velocity has only helped him since his pitch-ability had always been present. His mindset has not changed on the mound, he has simply gotten better.

In fact, had it not been for a nagging blister problem on the index finger of his throwing hand earlier in the season that cost him a few starts he might have gotten promoted to Double-A Trenton a bit sooner than he did.

He was able to get that late-season promotion to the Eastern League though and made one start for Trenton before season's end, and that allowed him to get a little taste of what the next step his development will be like.

"I definitely had to adjust," he admitted. "The first game it was easy to see that you had to change a couple of things. Like throwing a breaking ball in the dirt with two strikes and trying to get a swing and miss, they wouldn't chase as much.

"It seemed like everybody was spitting on my breaking ball in the dirt or my changeup in the dirt where as in Tampa they would swing over it. Guys wouldn't chase as much and they're definitely a lot more patient so it makes you pitch, it makes you learn how to pitch and get guys out instead of relying on throwing something in the dirt.

"I got a lot of strikeouts that way in Tampa and so my first game with the Thunder got a little bit frustrating because guys were just spitting on it. I feel like after that first game I made some adjustments and things started clicking, kind of the same way from Charleston to Tampa.

"I feel like at each level there are certain things you don't know about before you go out there, things that you don't think about.

"Obviously people can tell you that it's different and a little harder to pitch but once you actually get up there and pitch at that level you can't really change anything beforehand, you have to learn from experience. That's kind of how it's been at every level."

Throwing harder than ever before, seeing his curveball improve dramatically, and now incorporating a slider, all while continuing to put up numbers at every level he's pitched, Turley is confident he can take his game to the next level.

"I know I can pitch at Double-A for sure," he said confidently. "My last game, I gave up three runs but it didn't feel that way. All of my pitches were working and my stuff was swing and miss that day.

"I got a few starts in Double-A but each one I feel like I got better and better so I'm excited to see how things go next year. I'm excited to get back up there."

And has he has shown over the years, he is not done developing. As good as he has been he knows that he has just started to scratch the surface of his talent.

"I feel like there's always a lot of room for improvement. It's not just with how fast you can throw the ball, it's just the whole lot of different things.

"That's kind of how I've been going about things every year, what can I improve on, whether it's the mental aspect of the game or focusing in on hitting my spots in bullpens and trying to convert it into the game, there's a lot of room for improvement. I think that's exciting," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

Trenton

1-0

0

5.0

8

1

1

5.40

2012

Tampa

9-5

0

112.0

97

44

116

2.89

2011

Tampa

0-0

0

7.1

11

1

5

6.14

2011

Charleston

4-6

0

82.1

70

21

82

2.51

2010

Staten Island

4-4

0

61.0

57

29

47

4.38

2010

GCL Yankees

0-2

0

10.0

11

2

9

0.84

2009

GCL Yankees

2-3

0

54.1

45

23

46

2.82

2008

GCL Yankees

2-1

0

8.0

6

0

13

1.13



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Slider.

Fastball. For years Turley had thrown a big league average fastball that sat primarily around 88-90 mph but got by on stellar command of his great downward plane that allowed him to pound the lower-half of the strike zone. He bumped that velocity up to sitting in the 90-92 mph range and topped out at 95 mph routinely last year, and the command still remained impeccable. There is some thought too that he might not be done increasing velocity either because of his great size.

Other Pitches. Turley's best secondary pitch had been and still remains his above average changeup. It gets good fade and depth, and just like the fastball he can command it at will in the lower-half of the zone. His curveball had always flashed plus potential but it just lacked consistent command. That changed in a big way last year and his curveball was also harder, once topping out at 75 mph to now sitting 75-78 mph and topping out at 80 mph. It is an above average strikeout pitch with room to grow. He just began incorporating a slider into his game and like his curveball it flashes plus potential. It began sitting mostly in the 80-82 mph range but started sitting more around 84 mph by season's end.

Pitching. Turley's success is all about pounding the lower-half of the strike zone with all four of his pitches, getting ahead of batters in counts, and forcing them to swing at his pitches. Perhaps a bit more of a backwards pitcher in previous seasons, one who could get a little secondary pitch happy, he has become primarily more of a fastball pitcher these days, thanks in large part to the increased velocity. He has an excellent pickoff move to first base and he also fields his position well. While he has gotten better with it over the past year, the one negative in his game is he can still get a little rattled on the mound when a call doesn't go his way, but the bounce-back strike has come quicker recently.

Projection. Turley had always projected best as a middle to back-end big league starting pitcher even when his fastball was more average velocity-wise because he had the deep repertoire and overall feel for pitching. Now with the harder fastball, one that might not be done getting harder, that projection seems more likely than ever and his ceiling is even starting to tick up a notch or so. He is probably the closest thing to an Andy Pettitte type down on the farm, one who could pitch better than a middle of the rotation starting pitcher on any given day even though he doesn't profile as a real 'ace' overall.

ETA. 2014. Turley will pick up right where he left off, starting in the Trenton rotation in 2013. There's a chance he could see some time in Triple-A later in the year and right now he's on track to be big league ready by some point the following year.

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