Padres Prospect Scouting Report: Vern Sterry

Vern Sterry

Coming out of the ACC, Vern Sterry has seen his fair share of top notch talent. Playing against some of the big dogs, Georgia Tech, Miami and Florida State, who were all ranked in the top 25 to end the year, Sterry was not threatened during his inaugural season in the San Diego Padres' system.

Despite playing against some of the best competition in the country, there are always lingering doubts about prospects. It is the nature of the beast in a game where one player a year for a given team is lucky to get called up to the Majors.

"When you see these guys coming out of college and into pro ball, until you get them out there, you don't really know what you have," said Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller.

When Sterry got out there for his first start as a member of the Eugene Emeralds, he went into the eighth inning with a no-hitter before surrendering a double. The hitter was consequently thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. Understandably, Sterry came out of the game after his 7.2 inning gem.

Did we mention that was his first start of the year?

"The guy has the ability to make pitches," Waller said in awe of his accomplishments. "That is the best way to say it."

Sterry has an attitude on the mound. He thrives on his ability to make the right pitches, generally on his terms. He believes that if he chooses a pitch to throw that the onus should be on him rather than the catcher. Therefore, he can be quite frustrating to work with for some catchers.

Colt Morton knows a thing or two about Vern Sterry. He caught for him when the two were playing ball at NC State and again became his battery mate with the Emeralds in the Northwest League.

"Vern can get away with a lot of stuff other pitchers can't get away with," Morton said. "That is something you have to let him run with. He gets guys out a lot of times based on his confidence in a certain pitch and he is going to throw that pitch and he is not going to let the batter hit it just because he is that stubborn. He is one of the toughest competitors I have ever seen on the field. When he gets out there he is not going to let you get a hit. If you get a hit off him, he is very upset."

He held the opposition to a .184 average over the first five innings of games while with the Ems. It was the sixth inning that proved difficult as he was smoked for a .545 average in that inning. Ten of his 22 earned runs allowed came in the pivotal sixth inning.

On a team that struggled to push runs across the plate, Sterry had a 2-3 record with a 3.96 ERA before moving up to Fort Wayne.

His numbers through five innings were eerily similar with the Wizards. He limited opponents to a .208 average through five but in the sixth he was tagged at a .333 clip. Four of his seven earned runs came in the sixth inning or later.

Sterry's numbers did improve with Fort Wayne. He was 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA.

"In the little bit that we saw of him, I was pretty impressed," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom conveyed. "He moved the ball around well. He has a good fastball. Didn't get deep into games, but certainly was a plus. He has a pretty strong upside. Seeing how he does with a little more arm strength – and the expectations for him may have changed a little bit."

"Even when he went up to Fort Wayne, he pitched in some big ball games for us and helped that team get into the playoffs," Waller said. "That shows us a lot as far as his makeup and ability to compete and not be in awe of that next level.

"That shows a lot of confidence in his stuff and hopefully he will take from this and be the better for it next year."

Sterry set the bar pretty high for himself after getting drafted in the eighth round of the 2004 draft. He has a demeanor on the mound that portrays success.

Sterry doesn't walk a lot of batters and considers that one of his strengths. He nearly had a 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio, despite stuff that isn't overpowering. His key to success is location and when he misses he generally is down in the zone.

"Four seam fastball, between 88-90. I try and throw a hard breaking ball and a palm ball for a changeup," Sterry explains of his repertoire. "I am not going to over power you with a 99 mile per hour fastball."

And he has proved he doesn't need to. His heightened mental awareness and success at a higher level gives him an advantage heading into next year. That history should bode well for his future as a Padre prospect.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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