|What if Joba Chamberlain came back and threw like he did in 2007? (Getty Images)|
Remember Joba Chamberlain in 2007?
He was a phenom. One of the most highly touted prospects in baseball, as Baseball America pegged him as baseball's third-best prospect before the 2008 season.
The stat-line in 2007 was sick. In 24 innings, Chamberlain allowed only 12 hits, six walks (0.75 WHIP), an earned run (0.38 ERA) and stranded 96.6 percent of the baserunners he faced. He struck out 34.
Since then, Chamberlain's been shuttled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, lost velocity, been disappointing on the hill and then suffered two serious injuries.
He was entering this season in recovery from Tommy John surgery, and then suffered a severe ankle injury -- which needed surgery -- in March.
Chamberlain is now on a minor-league rehab assignment, and there appears hope for a return to form. Tuesday, Chamberlain threw a spotless inning with two strikeouts in a rookie ball game. In three appearances, he's worked four innings. He has six strikeouts with a 0.00 ERA and 0.00 WHIP.
Next up, he'll throw two innings in Class A on Friday (nypost.com).
Obviously, the stat-line in the Gulf Coast League isn't really something we should read much into. After all, Chamberlain skipped Rookie Ball altogether when he was 21. His velocity, on the other hand, is something that matters. According to nypost.com, Chamberlain averaged "95 to 96" miles per hour with his fastball, even hitting 98.
He hasn't averaged more than 95 miles per hour on his fastball since 2007. Last season, before injury, Chamberlain was averaging 94.3 miles per hour. If he's fully healed and can throw in the 96-97 mph-range, all of a sudden he's a completely different pitcher than the guy we saw from 2008-2011. There's little reason to believe it can't happen. His elbow ligament is stronger after the surgery, and Chamberlain is still only 26 years old.
And if a true return to form happens, the Yankees would have a scary back-end of the bullpen -- with Joba slotting in the seventh inning,