Categorizing Minor League Pitchers: Part Two - Low-A
Yesterday's Categorizing Minor League Pitchers focused on starters at all levels other than Rookie and Short Season. Today's article is the first of four follow-ups, covering more than 300 pitchers who performed in Low-A (also referred sometimes as A- or even A) last year.
The graph below includes strikeout and groundball data for every pitcher in the Midwest and South Atlantic Leagues with 50 or more innings. The x-axis is strikeouts per batter faced (K/BF) and the y-axis is groundball percentage (GB%). There are four quadrants with the mid-point equal to the average K/BF of 19.92% and the average GB% of 47.71% and for relievers.
The following table shows the breakdown by strikeout and groundball rates from Low-A all the way up to Major League Baseball. The MiLB GB percentages are slightly understated due to the fact that bunted balls were included in the balls in play totals. If bunted balls were excluded, the GB% would be approximately 1-2% higher across the board.
Not surprisingly, the K/BF and GB% generally decline as the competition stiffens. Hitters at advanced levels put the ball in play more often and tend to get greater lift by hitting more line drives and flyballs.
Low-A 19.92% 47.71%
High-A 19.10 45.79
Double-A 19.13 45.32
Triple-A 17.91 44.61
MLB 16.83 43.63
I found it interesting that the strikeout and groundball rates flatten out between High-A and Double-A, whereas they drop by approximately one percentage point at each of the other jumps.
A total of 73 pitchers ranked in the northeast quadrant. The list below includes those in the top half, ranked by K/BF.
NORTHEAST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG K AND GB RATES)
PITCHER TEAM LG K/BF GB%
Todd Doolittle FLA SAL 34.96% 48.48%
Michael Zagurski PHI SAL 33.19% 48.48%
Dave Davidson PIT SAL 32.43% 54.55%
Brent Leach LAD SAL 32.06% 51.75%
Andrew Barb PHI SAL 29.82% 48.18%
Ricky Steik DET MDW 29.30% 47.83%
Matt Davis CLE SAL 29.26% 48.92%
Johnny Cueto CIN MDW 28.57% 52.36%
Mark McCormick STL MDW 28.51% 53.72%
Blake Jones FLA SAL 28.45% 47.86%
Jo-Jo Reyes ATL SAL 27.91% 49.23%
Wade Davis TB MDW 27.82% 48.25%
Justin Vaclavik PIT SAL 27.70% 48.18%
Matthew Trent STL MDW 27.62% 51.41%
Noe Rodriguez CWS SAL 27.31% 47.74%
Michael Bowden BOS SAL 27.09% 51.10%
David Patton COL SAL 26.99% 53.97%
Greg Dupas TB MDW 25.99% 50.00%
Chi-Hung Cheng TOR MDW 25.84% 49.48%
Anthony Claggett DET MDW 25.78% 49.32%
Jaime Garcia STL MDW 25.72% 60.37%
Brandon Nall NYM SAL 25.70% 61.90%
Aaron Walker TB MDW 25.53% 48.68%
Joey Newby OAK MDW 25.24% 59.85%
Carlos Carrasco PHI SAL 25.21% 48.23%
Jose Marte TEX MDW 25.00% 47.98%
Ronald Hill PHI SAL 24.89% 55.41%
Jonathon Niese NYM SAL 24.67% 48.84%
Cory Wade LAD SAL 24.35% 53.15%
Kraig Schambough KC MDW 23.92% 55.81%
Nick Adenhart LAA MDW 23.80% 50.85%
Kevin Guyette BOS SAL 23.72% 52.03%
Russ Savickas TOR MDW 23.68% 61.90%
Eduardo Baeza ARI MDW 23.66% 50.96%
Thomas Fairchild HOU SAL 23.61% 58.69%
Eddie De La Cruz TB MDW 23.36% 49.46%
Ryan Tucker FLA SAL 23.33% 47.99%
Other than Brent Leach (who started all 11 of his games at Low-A before becoming a full-time reliever at High-A), no starting pitcher had a K/BF rate over 30%. Four starters (Johnny Cueto, Mark McCormick, Michael Bowden, and Jaime Garcia) qualified for the 25-50 club. The 5-foot-11, 174-pound Cueto, 21, was a combined 15-3, 3.00 with 143 SO and 38 BB in 138 IP in the MDW (A-) and FSL (A+). McCormick, a 23-year-old hard-throwing RHP out of Baylor, has walked 72 batters in 105 innings the past two seasons. Bowden (20, RHP, 6'3", 215) had the sixth-highest K/BF rate among all starting pitchers in the minors with above-average GB results. As I noted in the comments section yesterday, Garcia, a 20-year-old LHP, put up sensational stats in Low-A but wasn't quite as special once he moved up to High-A (15.76%/58.65%).
Baseball America named Nick Adenhart, 20, as the top pitcher in the Midwest League and Carlos Carrasco, 20, as the top pitcher in the South Atlantic League. Garcia and Wade Davis, 21, also ranked among the top 10 players in the MDW. Although not shown, Sean West (20.82%/50.70%), a 21-year-old LHP, placed in the top 10 in the SAL.
Jo-Jo Reyes, 22, had a combined 12-5 record with a 3.51 ERA in Low-A and High-A but his K and GB rates declined after his promotion. The 43rd overall pick in 2003, Reyes had Tommy John surgery in 2004, tore his ACL in 2005, and bounced back to become the starting pitcher in the SAL All-Star Game in 2006. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound lefthander has a Sid Fernandez-type body and a deceptive delivery to boot.
Chi-Hung Cheng, who turns 22 in June, pitched for Lansing in the Midwest League for the second consecutive season. The lefthander from Taiwan tore his labrum and underwent surgery during the off-season. He isn't scheduled to pitch again until the middle of the year. Cheng, who has struck out more than a batter per inning at each stop in his minor league career, throws a plus curveball but lacks command of an average fastball. His road to the majors may be as a reliever.
A total of 81 pitchers ranked in the southeast quadrant. The list below includes those in the top half, ranked by K/BF.
SOUTHEAST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG K AND BELOW-AVG GB RATES)
PITCHER TEAM LG K/BF GB%
Ryan Aldridge LAA MDW 36.32% 43.80%
Osiris Matos SF SAL 35.06% 38.19%
Will Inman MIL SAL 32.06% 40.98%
Alexander Smit MIN MDW 31.97% 33.46%
Jacob McGee TB MDW 30.92% 41.49%
Brad Kilby OAK MDW 30.67% 46.53%
Ryan Doherty ARI MDW 30.04% 41.10%
Donald Veal CHC MDW 29.55% 34.52%
Brandon Erbe BAL SAL 29.42% 35.25%
Eduardo Morlan MIN MDW 29.41% 34.47%
Clay Buchholz BOS SAL 29.40% 44.23%
Matt Avery CHC MDW 27.84% 45.35%
Scott Mitchinson PHI SAL 27.78% 42.96%
Ruben Flores SEA MDW 27.60% 38.89%
David Quinowski SF SAL 27.54% 36.11%
Kevin Lynn TB MDW 27.51% 45.03%
Samuel Gervacio HOU SAL 27.50% 36.62%
Jason Rice CWS SAL 26.88% 35.19%
Raymar Diaz HOU SAL 26.82% 37.93%
Hunter Jones BOS SAL 26.81% 40.77%
Yohan Pino MIN MDW 26.76% 42.58%
Derek Miller MIL SAL 26.52% 38.49%
Paul Moviel CWS SAL 26.50% 47.12%
Harold Williams SEA MDW 26.41% 41.99%
Justin Rayborn CHC MDW 26.37% 47.28%
German Marte NYM SAL 26.18% 43.87%
Billy Carnline TOR MDW 26.09% 43.26%
Matthew Maloney PHI SAL 25.97% 44.64%
Chris Nicoll KC MDW 25.93% 34.82%
Joshua Outman PHI SAL 25.43% 45.59%
Ismael Casillas BOS SAL 25.14% 35.32%
James McDonald LAD SAL 25.00% 44.33%
Jason Ray OAK MDW 25.00% 41.95%
Thomas Cowley CLE SAL 24.90% 38.17%
David Hernandez BAL SAL 24.72% 36.88%
Sean Stidfole TOR MDW 24.45% 45.31%
Donald Julio ARI MDW 24.36% 43.37%
Sergio Romo SF SAL 24.03% 36.07%
Marlon Arias LAD SAL 23.85% 43.45%
Jeff Kamrath TB MDW 23.73% 39.84%
Daniel Griffin SF SAL 23.72% 37.50%
Ryan Aldridge, a 23-year-old righthanded reliever, had the highest K/BF rate of any pitcher with 50 or more innings at Low-A. He recorded 24 saves while limiting opponents to a .169 BAA.
Will Inman, 20; Alexander Smit, 21; and Jacob McGee, 20, had K/BF rates over 30%. All three pitchers were featured in yesterday's article.
Baseball America named Inman and Brandon Erbe, 19, among the top ten players in the SAL, and McGee and Donald Veal, 22, among the top ten in the MDW. Although not shown, Matthew Walker (20.24%/47.41%), a 20-year-old RHP, placed in the top ten in the MDW.
Other notables include Ryan Doherty, a 7-foot-1, 255-pound relief pitcher from Notre Dame. An intimidating force on the mound, the 23-year-old righthander won 9 games out of the bullpen while posting a 2.59 ERA with 5 saves and 76 SO in 62.2 IP. Eduardo Morlan, 21, was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his final four starts (22 IP, 12 H, 6 BB, 26 SO) and could be a sleeper for 2007.
Clay Buchholz, 22, had a combined record of 11-4 with a 2.42 ERA in the SAL and CAR, striking out 140 batters in 119 innings, including 23 in 16 frames at the more advanced High-A level. Matthew Maloney, 23, was the SAL Pitcher of the Year. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound southpaw led the league in W (16-9), IP (168.2), and SO (180), and was second in ERA (2.03).
A total of 81 pitchers ranked in the northwest quadrant. The list below includes those in the top quartile, ranked by GB%.
NORTHWEST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG GB AND BELOW-AVG K RATES)
PITCHER TEAM LG K/BF GB%
F. Jimenez Angulo CHC MDW 14.48% 68.27%
Garrett Patterson NYY SAL 17.26% 65.16%
Blake Maxwell BOS SAL 16.21% 64.56%
Justin Blaine PHI SAL 14.40% 63.30%
Brad James HOU SAL 13.86% 63.27%
Jean Garavito PIT SAL 17.47% 62.90%
Eric Brown NYM SAL 17.81% 62.22%
Ryan Shaver SF SAL 14.23% 61.32%
Anthony Cupps ARI MDW 12.59% 61.21%
Jeramy Simmons NYM SAL 18.88% 61.05%
Chris Hayes KC MDW 16.14% 60.19%
Kyle Waldrop MIN MDW 14.06% 59.67%
Burke Badenhop DET MDW 18.13% 59.59%
Jake Stevens ATL SAL 18.82% 59.26%
Chris Volstad FLA SAL 15.58% 59.15%
Dane Renkert MIL SAL 19.68% 58.30%
Jason Cairns STL MDW 16.23% 58.21%
Julian Cordero TEX MDW 17.01% 57.94%
Brok Butcher LAA MDW 13.11% 57.92%
Cory Meacham STL MDW 12.91% 57.72%
The Cubs acquired Fabian Jimenez Angulo and Joel Santo (who had the second-lowest K/BF ranking in the dreaded southwest quadrant) from the Padres for Scott Williamson last July. Although Angulo has been a groundball machine, the 20-year-old lefthander from Columbia has allowed 336 hits in 284 minor league innings while surrendering 163 walks vs. 154 strikeouts.
Chris Volstad, who I covered in more detail yesterday, is the most highly regarded prospect in the northwest quadrant. The 20-year-old righthander was listed among the top two pitchers and top ten players in the SAL by Baseball America.
A total of 70 pitchers ranked in the southwest quadrant. The list below includes the bottom six in terms of K/BF, sorted in ascending order.
SOUTHWEST QUADRANT (BELOW-AVG GB AND K RATES)
PITCHER TEAM LG K/BF GB%
Zachary Simons COL SAL 11.82% 37.59%
Joel Santo CHC MDW 11.95% 44.14%
Ryan Rote CWS SAL 11.96% 47.03%
Ryan Schreppel ARI MDW 12.00% 38.87%
Scott Taylor CHC MDW 12.48% 35.95%
Waner Mateo NYM SAL 12.60% 45.16%
The six pitchers in the above table would be better labeled as suspects than prospects. I'm not sure how Scott Taylor and Waner Mateo pulled off ERAs in the 3s but the other four all had ERAs in the 5s and 6s.
I will continue my five-part series tomorrow, breaking down the 2006 K and GB rates for High-A pitchers, followed by Double-A on Thursday, and Triple-A on Friday.
Once again, I extend a special thanks to Jeff Sackmann of Minor League Splits for gathering the raw data and David Appelman of FanGraphs for providing the graphs.