Before 2009: Kontos was the Yankees fifth round draft pick in 2006 out of Northwestern. Assigned to Short Season-A Staten Island, he fared very well for himself in his first professional season, going 7-3 with a 2.64 ERA in 14 starts and helping lead the team to a New York-Penn League title. His seven wins were good for fourth best in the NYPL, and his 82 strikeouts were third best.
Kontos skipped Low-A Charleston and went straight to High-A Tampa in 2007, and struggled at times, ultimately finishing with a 4-6 record and an ERA a tick over four.
Kontos made Double-A Trenton in 2008, starting the season in the back end of the rotation. Plagued by inconsistency and a startling lack of run support in comparison to his rotation-mates, Kontos had another rough year by his standards, going 6-11 with a respectable 3.68 ERA in a career high 151.2 innings pitched. While he was in the top five in the Eastern League in losses, he was also third with 152 strikeouts and fourth with 27 starts.
2009: Kontos started the season determined to make it to Triple-A. I actually gained a lot of respect for Kontos at the beginning of the year…he made no secret of the fact that he felt like he belonged up there, and that was refreshing considering all the “you know, Mike, I’m just happy to be here and trying to help my team win no matter where I’m at” crap I tend to get fed. And after four starts in Trenton (1-1, 2.66), he got his wish.
That wish lasted all of nine starts. He had some pretty rough starts, and some pretty impressive ones as well…but with the lack of quality rotation depth in Scranton, he at the very least had positioned himself for an outside shot at a call-up to the Bronx. Unfortunately, that never happened. Kontos was shut down in late June, and ultimately needed Tommy John surgery.
After 2009: Kontos and I exchanged a few messages this off-season, and he’s very upbeat and positive about everything he’s had to deal with. While he will, most certainly, be back in 2010, it’s uncertain where that return will come. For the past two years now, Kontos has kind of been on the fringe of really establishing as a hot prospect in the organization. While the second half of 2009 and first half of 2010 will likely amount to one big lost year, a strong second half in 2010 at one of the upper level teams could go a long way towards establishing Kontos as one of the pitchers to watch in 2011. But I think it’s fair to say that expectations should be kept at a reasonable level for 2010.
Touching on the off the field stuff real quick, Kontos was an absolute pleasure to cover. I remember it was the day after he thought he’d been traded to the Pirates, and he didn’t exactly pitch well in his outing…and you could see that he didn’t really want to speak to the small group of reporters that had gathered by his locker, but he collected himself and waved us into his locker and answered every question. Probably one of the more easygoing guys on the team, would always give you a minute to chat.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com