Making it from Minor League Baseball to a Major League roster is a formidable task.
Making it to the Major Leagues after having been a 50th-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft is even more daunting.
Nik Turley, the New York Yankees' 2008 50th-round selection, projects to be a viable option as a Major League pitcher. The Yankees' 14th-ranked prospect is currently developing his repertoire and command at Double-A Trenton.
Turley is very tall and lean, at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds. That and the fact he is left-handed bode well for the California native.
In parts of six Minor League seasons so far, Turley has pitched at every level of the Yankees organization. He made a very good spot start at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, throwing six innings of two-hit baseball. He didn't get a decision in that game.
Like an increasing number of pitchers, Turley doesn't face the batter directly while standing on the mound. His body is tilted in a sideways position as he goes into his delivery. He does finish the pitch with good straight-forward extension of that long left arm.
Turley isn't overpowering or overly aggressive. What he does best is use his tall frame to pitch downhill and keep the ball low in the strike zone. He adds a bit of a cut to the pitch when needed. He has the ability to get sink on his 90-to 91-mph fastballs to induce ground balls. He also has the ability to miss bats. His approach is very reserved, but he's all business, with no wasted distractions in his mechanics.
In his recent start against the Detroit Tigers' Double-A Erie team, Turley struck out five of the first seven men he faced. In a typical sequence, he threw as many as six of seven pitches for strikes.
Turley also uses a big, looping curve ball to change batters' eyes and keep them off balance. He throws that pitch between 77 to 79 mph. His occasional changeup isn't as refined as the curveball, but it is a useful offering he spots as a potential "out" pitch.
Turley's effective over-the-top delivery is a factor that adds to his deception. He hides the ball well within the movement of his long arms and body, making life especially difficult for left-handed hitters.
He has to improve his approach and location against right-handed hitters to find sustained success. It's right-handed hitters that cause Turley the most trouble. Especially the second and third time the righty hitters see him in an outing.
Turley projects to be an effective Major League pitcher. Because he's so tough on lefties, I can see Turley converting to the bullpen at some point -- especially if he were needed by the Yankees as a situational left-handed specialist. He projects to succeed as either a starter or reliever.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.