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Prospect Retro: Andy Pettitte

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Andy Pettitte's rookie card

Per long-standing reader request, a Prospect Retro for Andy Pettitte

Pettitte was drafted in the 22nd round in 1990, out of high school in Deer Park, Texas. A "draft-and-follow" pick, he went to junior college for a year, then signed with the Yanks in May of '91. He made his pro debut that year, going 4-1, 0.98 in six starts in the Gulf Coast League, then 2-2, 2.18 in six starts for Oneonta in the New York-Penn League. His K/BB was a combined 83/24 in 70 innings. At this point, he'd rate as a Grade C+ prospect, promising but needing to show what he could do at higher levels.

Pettitte had an excellent 1992 season, going 10-4, 2.20 in 27 starts for Greensboro in the Sally League, posting a 130/55 K/BB in 168 innings, allowing 141 hits. Strong numbers across the board. He ranked second in the Sally League in ERA, but surprisingly he was left off Baseball America's Top 10 prospects list for that circuit. His command was impressive and he pitched well, but his velocity and stuff were just average. Using my current standards, I'd probably have rated him a Grade B- prospect, pending exposure to better hitters.

Promoted to Prince William in the Carolina League for '93, Pettitte had another solid year, going 11-9, 3.04 in 26 starts, 129/47 K/BB in 160 innings, 146 hits allowed. His control was excellent, but his strikeout rate wasn't super-impressive, and once again he was left off the Top 10 league prospects list. His grade would stay around B-, and I probably would have written something like "Pettitte is a good control pitcher but will have to prove he can pass the Double-A test."

He did that just fine in '94, going 7-2, 2.71 in 11 starts for Double-A Albany, then 7-2, 2.98 in 16 starts for Triple-A Columbus, combining for a 111/39 K/BB in 170 innings. His walk rate got even better, but his K/IP was below average. Still, he showed that he could get advanced minor league hitters out. I likely would have promoted him to Grade B, but his below average K/IP would have kept him from a B+ rating.

Pettitte entered the Yankees rotation in '95, going 12-9, 4.17 in 26 starts. He won 21 games in '96 thanks to good run support. Overall, he's been a very effective starting pitcher, if erratic on occasion. His ERA has crept into the 4.00s several times and he's been lucky to have a strong supporting cast in New York and Houston. He's 13-8 in his post-season career, with a 4.05 ERA.

Pettitte is a very good pitcher, but in some ways his reputation has been a product of his environment due to all the post-season exposure. He was never better than a Grade B prospect in the minors, but he's been able to show the same skills against major league hitters that he showed against minor league ones: throw strikes, change speeds, keep guys off balance. Many pitchers who show similar skills in the minors have trouble doing it in the majors, as they lose the balance between "hitting your spots" and "nibbling."

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