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Whitley, Yanks rookies chase their potential

Chase Whitley and the Yankees are 20-8 in games started by rookies in 2014. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

When Wally Matthews and I worked on our minor league series this winter, we spoke to a lot of people about the Yankees' farm system. From people inside the organization to others outside the Yankees, not one, to my memory, mentioned Chase Whitley.

This is not an indictment of anyone; it just shows how fickle farm system ratings can be. Whitley, who turns 26 on Saturday, brings a 1-0 record and a 2.42 ERA into his start Thursday night in Seattle. A recently converted reliever, he even gave the Yankees some length his last time out, going seven innings and picking up his first win in Kansas City.

Led by the indispensable Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees are 20-8 in games started by rookies in 2014.

Yes, that's 11-2 in Tanaka's starts. Still, Whitley (4-1) and Vidal Nuno (5-5) have held their own. The trio's ERA is 2.86.

Tanaka came with the hype, while Whitley and Nuno did not.

In the bullpen, Dellin Betances had the hype and then lost it. Now, he is a potential rookie All-Star setup man as he strikes out everyone in his path.

So what's the point?

The point is that between all the analysis about the draft and the coming hubbub about the Yankees' international signings come July 1, no one knows who will make it and who will not.

In writing about the lack of guarantees of a farm system, the New York Times' Tyler Kepner made some very good points in his column Thursday about the Mets.

The Mets’ most dependable starting pitcher was a seventh-round draft choice from an Ohio high school who was not considered a top prospect as he clawed through the minor leagues. That pitcher, Jon Niese, cannot relate to the expectations that stalk so many others in the organization.

“I really don’t know how I would have been able to handle the hype, if there was any,” said Niese, who takes his 2.68 earned run average to the mound against Milwaukee on Thursday. “I think it kind of creates monsters.”

Whitley wasn't a hype master, and perhaps he has just gotten lucky. His first three starts were against National League teams in their parks, including one against the Mets and one against the Cubs. His other two were versus AL Central clubs.

Or perhaps Whitley will have a long career as a starter. No one knows, which is the point. When you say the Yankees' farm system is no good, it can change quickly and often without warning. Whitley could be one of the signs of change.