Before 2009: Hovis came to the Yankees after a run at North Carolina. All he’s done since is get people out. A reliever, Hovis started his pro career at Short Season-A Staten Island in 2006. In 25 appearancs, he went 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA in 25 games. It’s been the only season of his four-year pro career in which he hasn’t recorded a save.
In 2007, Hovis was sent to Low-A Charleston, where he again was lights out. The righty went 4-5 with a 1.69 ERA in 55 games, and led the South Atlantic League with 30 saves. He walked just 11 batters in 64 innings of work, and his BB/9 ratio was second best in the SAL amongst relievers.
Hovis continued his logical progression in 2008, spending the season at High-A Tampa. Although he was shut down in late July, he still managed to post outstanding numbers, going 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 21 appearances, collecting 10 saves along the way.
2009: Trenton Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps mentioned Hovis by name on media day last year, saying that Hovis was strong in spring training and that he made an impression on him. So it was odd that the then-25-year-old would make only two appearances at the Double-A level, instead spending the majority of his 2009 campaign repeating Tampa.
For the second time in his short career, Hovis would lead his league in saves, this time the Florida State League. He successfully closed out 22 games for Tampa, or exactly half of his 44 appearances. He went 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA for the T-Yanks, and his service with them was interrputed only by his mid-May callup to Mercer County.
After 2009: I knew Hovis and Thunder manager Tony Franklin would get along when Hovis was clad in a hat with a golf club company’s logo on it upon his arrival in Trenton. Hovis and Eric Wordekemper seem pretty similar to me. Prospects that are lightly regarded by the organization and many who follow it, but guys who go out there and get people out with little fanfare.
I’d be very surprised if Hovis didn’t start 2010 in Trenton. I literally only got to see him once, but I liked what I saw, and I’ll be curious to see what he can do over the course of at least half of a season. Having turned 26 just two days after Christmas, the clock is very much so ticking considering he, for all intents and purposes, has yet to reach Double-A.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com