In the second round of the 2015 First-Year-Player Draft with the 57th overall pick the New York Yankees selected left-handed pitcher Jeff Degano out of Indiana State. He had previously pitched in the 2005 Little League World Series. Jeff sat out all of the 2014 season thanks to Tommy John surgery but returned this year with success going 8-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 126 strikeouts over 99 innings. He started all 15 games he played.
In his first professional season Jeff saw time with both the Gulf Coast Yankees and Staten Island Yankees, appearing in 10 games during the regular season where he earned an 0-4 record with a 3.80 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched during the regular season. In the post-season he appeared in 2 more games out of the bullpen where he had a 3.86 ERA in 2 1/3 innings of work. We were able to talk with him prior to him reporting to Tampa for the start of minor league spring training.
Tell us about your road to the draft. Did you know the Yankees had as much interested that they did? What was your reaction when they called your name in the fifth round? Where were you when you found out? How did you find out?
“My road to the draft was definitely an exciting one. Not being so much on the radar in the beginning to popping up and getting some attention definitely made the draft much more enjoyable. Missing my 2014 season I was able to really concentrate on bring up my game not only physically but mentally also. When I was going through the whole draft process I had some idea that the Yankees had interest in me. When they called my name in the second round it was a dream come true. I was with my family in Canada and we were watching the draft on TV. I got a call from my agent who told me that the Yankees were having interest in me and he would call me back and let me know what they say. I waited anxiously and before he called me back my name was called.”
Did your experience pitching in the Little League WS for team Canada help him adjust to pitching in the playoff spotlight for Staten Island?
“Pitching in the little league world series helped me not only in Staten Island but also in many of the big games that I have had to pitch in my career. The atmosphere and fan base that is brought with that event is like none other. While doing it at such a young age really helps you adjust to all that comes along with having a large number of fans.”
You underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013, missing the entire 2014 season due and came back strong in 2015 with one of the best college performances in the country. How are you feeling? Do you feel you are back to 100%?
“I am feeling great. I was able to work on a few aspects of my game this off season. I am excited to bring them into my game for the 2016 season. I feel the best I have ever felt and hope that I can keep improving.”
You started your career with the Gulf Coast Yankees, throwing 10.2 innings over 6 games in the Rookie-league before being promoted to Staten Island. Talk about your experience in Tampa? What was it like for you to make your professional debut down there? Did you feel like you were able to shake off any rust you had before being promoted to Staten Island?
“Tampa was a very humbling experience. Being new to professional baseball it is hard to realize how much preparation is put into getting ready for the games. During my time in Tampa games started at noon so you had to get to the field much earlier In order to prepare yourself for the game to come. I was able to work with many great coaches there, who were able to pass on some of their knowledge. It was also very vital to shake off some of the rust you get from the waiting period for the draft.”
With Staten Island you threw 10.2 innings in the regular season, the first 3 games you played were in the rotation and the last 2 during the regular season appearances came out of the bullpen behind first round pick to James Kaprielian. What was that experience like for you? Was it difficult to make the adjustment to the bullpen towards the end of the season?
“The experience of coming out of the pen was a good one. It was a change in certain aspects such as warm up preparation and making sure that you are 100% ready. James always did a great job setting the tone of the game which made it much easier to come in after him and do the job that I needed to do.“
Talk about your experience in the post season this past season. How important to your development was it that you got to experience the playoff atmosphere in your first professional season?
“The post season in Staten Island was a lot of fun. Being my first year of professional baseball it was a great experience that will help me with years to come. Winning is very infectious so being able to experience it early will help me strive for more in years to come.”
What was the biggest improvement you made since you made your professional debut?
“My biggest improvement that I have made in my debut is preparation. A lot of preparation is needed pre game in order to be ready to throw in the game.”
Can you give us a little bit of a self-scouting report for the readers who haven’t seen you pitch? What pitches do you throw? Velocity? What is your approach on the mound?
“I am a left-handed pitcher with a two-seam and four-seam both 90-91. I have a curve ball that I change the shape and velocity of ranging from 76-81. Lastly a changeup anywhere from 81-83. I just attack the hitter and use my defense.”
What have you been working on this off-season? Have the Yankees or yourself set any goals for you to achieve during the off season?
“This off-season I have been working on developing my changeup more. My goal was to be able to throw it in any count.”
Have the Yankees indicted that they will have an innings or pitch limit for you this upcoming season? Will you be working as a starter or reliever in 2016?
“I am going to be a starter this upcoming season. A pitch limit is undetermined.”
What is your outlook for 2016? What goals do you have for the season? What improvements do you want to see? Where do you want to see yourself in September?
“My outlook for the 2016 season is to do whatever I can to help my team make it to a championship. The improvement I want to see in my self is being able to command the zone and throw all my pitches whenever I need to. In September I want to see myself and my team competing for a championship.”