The Yankees youth movement has hit a bit of a bump in the road. Phil Hughes is hurt again and Ian Kennedy has been sent down to regain his confidence. Both have been not just mediocre but horrible. For comparison sake, Jeff Weaver had one of the worst seasons by a starting pitcher I have ever witnessed in 2003 with a 5.99 era and 1.62 Whip - both are significantly better then Hughes (9.00 Era, 2.14Whip) and Kennedy (8.37 Era and 2.03 Whip). Phil's and Ian's Eras are good for 149th and 152nd best in baseball with pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched (154 total pitchers). Those two have also failed to go 5 innings in 8 out of their 12 appearances. Ugly.
If you take look at the other two youngsters Lester and Buchholz) in the center of the AL pennant race, the results have been much much better. Both have sub 4 eras (3.94 for Lester and 3.71 for Bucholtz). Also, Lester has gone 5+ in 6 out of 8 starts and Buchholz in 5 out of 6 starts. Lester's whip is an OK 1.43, but Buchholtz' is a little better at 1.33 and he is averaging almost a k per inning. Throw in one superb spot start by Justin Masterson (6ip 2hits 1run), Ellsbury's .415 OBP and 11 steals in 11 attempts, Brandon Moss' 2 late homers, and Jed Lowrie filling in nicely, and Boston could not have asked for more out of their kids. Manny Delcarmen has been horrible - 7.30 era but that is a small speed bump overall for the Red Sox.
The question is what is the difference? Is it the pressure that Ian and Phil were under? Are the Boston prospects just better?
I have long thought the failure of most of the Yankees pitching imports was due to the intense pressure they were under. Weaver, Contreras, Vasquez all proved to be better elsewhere then when they pitched here. I assumed, and maybe so did the Yankees, that the kids brought through the system would be immune to the pressure. The success of Cano and Wang helped create that perception, but really - when was the last time a top prospect succeeded with the Yankees? How about a pitching prospect that became even a serviceable major leaguer? Maybe the attention and pressure is just too great for a position like starting pitcher where so much is dependent on confidence and approach. The bullpen, where a pitcher can simply throw, might be another story - but the rotation seems too much to ask. In recent memory the only starters produced by the Yankees came in with little fan fare; Lilly, and Wang. Darell Rasner kind of fits this mold; very little expectations and no fan fare.
I know its early and by July things could completely change, but the impact of the pressure on top prospects in NY bears watching. Time will tell if is going to have the same affect it did on the Yankees high priced imports.