Baseball BeatJanuary 31, 2007
Categorizing Minor League Pitchers: Part Three - High-A
By Rich Lederer

Part One: The Starters
Part Two: Low-A

Continuing our tour of the minor leagues categorizing pitchers by strikeout and groundball rates, we focus on High-A (also known as A+) today. High-A comprises three leagues: California, Carolina, and Florida State.

According to Mike Hollman of Inside the Warehouse, the 2006 pitching means for the three leagues were as follows:

                  STARTERS                       RELIEVERS
         ERA    K/9    BB/9    HR/9  |   ERA    K/9    BB/9    HR/9
CAL     4.81   7.36    3.32    0.87     4.40   8.06    3.97    0.75
CAR     4.13   6.58    3.41    0.72     3.90   7.46    3.94    0.64
FSL     3.82   7.04    3.05    0.68     3.82   8.07    3.12    0.69

The ERAs in the Florida State League are lower than the Carolina and California Leagues. The latter has the highest ERAs and HR/9 rates. Relief pitchers, not surprisingly, had lower ERAs and HR/9 rates as well as a higher K/9 across the board. The key takeaway is that the CAL is more of a hitter's paradise and is not as pitcher friendly as the CAR and FSL.

The graph below includes strikeout and groundball data for every pitcher in High-A with 50 or more innings. The x-axis is strikeouts per batter faced (K/BF) and the y-axis is groundball percentage (GB%). The graph is divided into four quadrants with the mid-point equal to the average K/BF of 19.10% and the average GB% of 45.79%.

As a reminder, the northeast quadrant is comprised of pitchers with above-average strikeout and groundball rates; the southeast quadrant encompasses pitchers with above-average strikeout and below-average groundball rates; the northwest quadrant is made up of pitchers with above-average groundball and below-average strikeout rates; and the southwest quadrant is the home for pitchers with below-average strikeout and groundball rates.


There were 64 pitchers (out of 317 qualified) that landed in the northeast quadrant. The following table lists the top half, sorted by K/BF.


PITCHER            TEAM   LG    K/BF     GB%
Jesse Ingram       TEX    CAL   41.13%   49.14%
Mike Sillman       STL    FSL   38.22%   57.63%
Yovani Gallardo    MIL    FSL   34.56%   55.06%
Mark Rogers        MIL    FSL   29.91%   51.41%
Daniel Herrera     TEX    CAL   29.61%   70.68%
Fernando Hernandez CWS    CAR   29.35%   53.05%
Franklin Morales   COL    CAL   27.37%   53.18%
Daniel Powers      MIN    FSL   26.84%   49.36%
J. P. Martinez     MIN    FSL   26.67%   51.01%
Manny Parra        MIL    FSL   26.29%   48.95%
Samuel Deduno      COL    CAL   26.18%   60.26%
Sean Gallagher     CHN    FSL   25.89%   53.70%
Joseph Bisenius    PHI    FSL   25.31%   51.52%
John Bannister     TEX    CAL   25.06%   49.64%
Justin Thomas      SEA    CAL   24.89%   48.47%
Aaron Trolia       SEA    CAL   24.69%   55.56%
Nick Pereira       SF     CAL   24.68%   53.60%
Kevin Lynch        LAA    CAL   23.56%   47.10%
Reid Santos        CLE    CAR   23.43%   49.49%
Rodrigo Escobar    HOU    CAR   23.10%   47.19%
Joshua Schmidt     NYY    FSL   23.02%   51.03%
Nick Debarr        TB     CAL   22.76%   50.51%
Robert Rohrbaugh   SEA    CAL   22.60%   48.72%
Ryan Schroyer      BOS    CAR   22.58%   51.97%
Zachary Hammes     LAD    FSL   22.56%   47.19%
Jonathan Barratt   TB     CAL   22.52%   47.76%
Jesse Litsch       TOR    FSL   22.50%   59.34%
Jose Garcia        FLA    FSL   22.44%   60.22%
Paul Kometani      TEX    CAL   22.05%   47.06%
Billy Buckner      KC     CAL   22.02%   54.96%
Jimmy Barthmaier   HOU    CAR   21.93%   50.49%
Edwin Vera         TEX    CAL   21.83%   46.55%

As detailed in the opening article on starters, Yovani Gallardo, Franklin Morales, Samuel Deduno, and Sean Gallagher all qualified for the 25-50 club (25% K/BF and 50% GB rate). Mark Rogers, who turned 21 yesterday, also made the 25-50 club. The fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft has a high ceiling but one that may never be reached. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound RHP underwent shoulder surgery in January and will miss the 2007 season.

John Bannister (25.06%/49.64%) and Justin Thomas (24.89%/48.47%), both 23, barely missed as did Nick Pereira (24.68%/53.60%), 24, who succeeded at A+ (7-1, 2.06) but was overmatched upon his promotion to AA where his K and GB rates dropped and his H, HR, and BB skyrocketed.

Although Jesse Ingram dominated CAL opponents (6-0, 2.43), the 24-year-old reliever didn't fare nearly as well after he received the phone call to join AA Frisco in the Texas League (3-2, 5.21) and was horrible in the Arizona Fall League (0-0, 12.41 with 19 H, 17 ER, 7 BB, and 6 SO in 12.1 IP).

Mike Sillman went 4-3 and recorded 35 saves with a 1.10 ERA. Keep in mind, however, that the former Cornhusker turned 25 in December and has not pitched a single inning above A+. It's difficult to say how well the righthanded submariner will perform against better competition as he advances through the Cardinals' system.

Kent Bonham wrote a guest column last October on Danny Ray Herrera. The diminutive (5'8", 145) LHP pitcher out of New Mexico had a phenomenal season last year as a junior in college and in his professional debut in the Arizona and California Leagues. Herrera had a 2.86 ground outs/air outs ratio at the University of New Mexico, then had the highest GB rate (70.68%) in A+ after he signed with the Texas Rangers. Oh, the 45th-round draft pick recorded a MiLB ERA of 1.45 over 62 IP without allowing a single home run.

Seventy-nine pitchers fell into the southeast quadrant. The top 40 are listed in the following table.


PITCHER            TEAM   LG    K/BF     GB%
Justin Hedrick     SF     CAL   34.16%   32.64%
Jose Arredondo     LAA    CAL   32.95%   37.75%
Brian Anderson     SF     CAL   32.57%   38.51%
Matthew Scherer    STL    FSL   32.05%   37.21%
Kevin Whelan       NYY    FSL   31.94%   34.43%
Juan Ovalles       WAS    CAR   30.65%   40.13%
Kevin Slowey       MIN    FSL   30.28%   41.18%
Harvey Garcia      FLA    FSL   29.86%   34.34%
Jose Mijares       MIN    FSL   29.73%   37.74%
Jarod Plummer      KC     CAL   29.23%   30.30%
Dennis Dove        STL    FSL   29.17%   40.15%
Scott Elbert       LAD    FSL   28.87%   44.83%
Radhames Liz       BAL    CAR   28.44%   40.61%
Bo Hall            MIL    FSL   28.25%   40.17%
Donald Veal        CHN    FSL   28.21%   37.84%
Homer Bailey       CIN    FSL   27.92%   43.48%
Scott Lewis        CLE    CAR   27.83%   41.02%
Kyle Wilson        LAD    FSL   27.57%   39.74%
Elvys Quezada      NYY    FSL   26.98%   40.54%
Adalberto Mendez   CHN    FSL   26.89%   33.33%
Milton Tavarez     TOR    FSL   26.86%   36.24%
Matt Daley         COL    CAL   26.78%   45.13%
Ricky Romero       TOR    FSL   26.75%   39.24%
Daniel Core        TOR    FSL   25.89%   39.53%
Michael Megrew     LAD    FSL   25.83%   30.00%
Brett Wayne        TB     CAL   25.54%   36.11%
Robert Hinton      MIL    FSL   25.54%   44.19%
Eric Hurley        TEX    CAL   25.48%   39.58%
Jim Henderson      WAS    CAR   25.45%   32.88%
Alberto Bastardo   LAD    FSL   25.42%   40.22%
Matt Farnum        TEX    CAL   25.35%   40.14%
James Happ         PHI    FSL   24.84%   42.53%
Johnny Cueto       CIN    FSL   24.70%   35.76%
Alexander Hinshaw  SF     CAL   24.68%   45.60%
Kyle Stutes        SD     CAL   24.17%   44.16%
Troy Patton        HOU    CAR   24.17%   42.27%
Ben Stanczyk       MIL    FSL   24.12%   38.21%
Chris Schutt       MIN    FSL   23.97%   45.61%
Garrett Olson      BAL    CAR   23.77%   43.22%
Alan Horne         NYY    FSL   23.55%   42.37%

Jose Arredondo and Kevin Slowey, both of whom turn 23 this spring, struck out over 30% of the batters they faced in A+. Arredondo (6'0", 170) impressed in the hitter friendly CAL League (2.30 ERA w/ 11.5 K/9, 6.2 H/9, and 0.40 HR/9) but got lit up at AA Arkansas in the Texas League (6.53 ERA, 1.68 WHIP). The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Slowey is as polished as they come. He has plus-plus major league command of his fastball. If you believe in the power of stats, then you have to love the pride of Winthrop University. The RHP has pitched 220.2 minor league innings with a 1.96 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and a 7.8:1 K/BB ratio.

Other notables include Scott Elbert, Radhames Liz, Donald Veal, Homer Bailey, and Scott Lewis. Elbert, 21, held Florida State and Southern League opponents to 6 H/9 in 146 combined IP while whiffing 173. However, the 6-2, 190-pound LHP gave up 9 HR in 32.1 IP at home in Jacksonville. He needs to improve his control (MiL career 4.99 BB/9) to reach his full potential.

Liz, who turns 24 in June, will likely start at AA again after struggling upon a mid-season promotion for the second year in a row. The 6-2, 170-pound RHP with a mid-90s fastball, may wind up as a reliever if he doesn't "learn" how to pitch.

The 22-year-old Veal made a smooth transition from Low-A (29.55%/34.52%) to High-A (28.21%/37.84%) when he was called up last summer. The 6-4, 215 LHP was 11-5 with a 2.16 ERA, 174 SO, 82 BB, and 7 HR in 154.1 combined IP.

Bailey, who turns 21 in May, was one of the few pitchers who actually improved his K and GB rates upon a mid-season promotion. His 96-97 mph fastball and plus curveball translated well at the higher minor league level and his stuff should earn him a trip to Cincinnati at some point during the 2007 season.

Lewis, 23, led the minors with a 1.48 ERA. The southpaw had a monster April and May when he threw 41 IP with only 2 ER while striking out 56 against just 4 BB. Lewis, who was kept on a strict pitch count all year, has excellent command of a below-average fastball coupled with an outstanding 12-to-6 curve.

Ricky Romero, Eric Hurley, J.A. Happ, and Troy Patton are also prized prospects. Romero, the first pitcher taken in the 2005 draft, pitched well in High-A (2-1, 2.47 ERA w/ 9.46 K/9) but struggled in Double-A (2-7, 5.08 ERA w/ 5.51 K/9). However, the lefty finished the year strong, including a four-game stretch covering 23 IP where he gave up only four ER. Hurley was promoted to AA before he turned 21. The RHP's ERA was more than two runs better in the TEX League even though his K, BB, and GB data were about the same at both levels. The 6-6, 200-pound Happ jumped from A+ to AA to AAA in the same year while averaging a strikeout per inning. Patton, 21, went 7-7 with a 2.93 ERA in High-A, then regressed to 2-5, 4.37 with a 7.35 K/9 in Double-A.

There were 85 pitchers who placed in the northwest quadrant. The table below includes the top quartile, as determined by GB rates.


PITCHER            TEAM   LG    K/BF     GB%
Connor Falkenbach  TOR    FSL   18.35%   66.47%
Dallas Trahern     DET    FSL   14.70%   64.13%
Rommie Lewis Jr.   BAL    CAR   17.22%   63.58%
Justin Berg        CHN    FSL   16.21%   61.84%
Tim Lahey          MIN    FSL   18.57%   60.70%
Travis Hope        NYM    FSL    9.92%   59.46%
Wesley Whisler     CWS    CAR   11.59%   59.45%
Jaime Garcia       STL    FSL   15.76%   58.65%
Adam Russell       CWS    CAR   16.05%   58.54%
Richie Daigle      SD     CAL   12.81%   58.22%
Thomas King        SF     CAL   18.80%   58.09%
Mark Rosen         ARI    CAL   18.91%   57.67%
Evan Englebrook    HOU    CAR   18.22%   57.62%
Abe Woody          CIN    FSL   17.26%   57.62%
Jeff Hahn          DET    FSL   15.63%   56.47%
Jacob Marceaux     FLA    FSL   15.97%   56.46%
Nick Webber        STL    FSL   10.94%   56.45%
Douglas Mathis     TEX    CAL   17.33%   56.39%
Eric Haberer       STL    FSL   16.00%   56.39%
Casey Cahill       BAL    CAR   13.95%   55.74%
Adam Bright        COL    CAL   14.06%   55.74%

Dallas Trahern was profiled on Monday. Adam Russell, 24, has come a long way from his days at Ohio University. The 6-8, 250-pound groundball specialist had a better ERA at High-A than Double-A but his K and BB rates improved materially upon his promotion last summer. Russell's upside may be higher than his more renowned teammate Lance Broadway.

I'm not particularly interested in minor league pitchers with below-average strikeout and groundball rates. There wasn't much to pick from the 78 hurlers who placed in the least desirable quadrant although I chose to include the worst half dozen as ranked by K/BF.


PITCHER            TEAM   LG    K/BF     GB%
Cody Evans         ARI    CAL    8.96%   36.97%
Luis Atilano       ATL    CAR    9.41%   44.07%
Tyler Adamczyk     STL    FSL   10.07%   43.23%
A. J. Shappi       ARI    CAL   11.03%   40.22%
Brian Allen        TB     CAL   11.44%   39.53%
Jim Paduch         CIN    FSL   11.85%   45.29%

If a pitcher can't whiff at least 10% of the batters faced, he better have a good excuse like working on a new set of pitches or an injury. Otherwise, I would suggest that such pitchers go back to school, earn their degrees, and get real jobs.

The five-part series will continue tomorrow (Double-A) and conclude on Friday (Triple-A).


Hey Rich,

Still great stuff, I have one request, though. Would it be possible for you to put the ages of the pitchers back up their like you did for the first part?

Thanks, Jeff. I gathered all the ages manually and included them for all of the top starting pitchers but chose not to look up every relief pitcher or even many of the mediocre starters. However, as you can see, I added the ages in the text when I highlighted the better pitchers in each of the quadrants and will continue to do so for the AA and AAA articles.

I will try to get the ages (or, more likely, birth dates) for all pitchers the next time around.

If you're having to input all of those manually then don't even worry about it, that's way too much work. I thought maybe the ages were included in the data you were receiving and you just stopped posting it or something. I can look that stuff up myself pretty easily so there's no need for you to go to all that extra trouble. Thanks again.

What were Tim Lincecum's percentages? I'm pretty sure he was a flyball pitcher, but his K rate had to be off the charts.

Nevermind.. answered my own question.

Tim Lincecum: K/BF of 44.4%, GB% of 52.1%.

Surprisingly, despite the HR allowed he was a groundball pitcher.

And those rates would put him at the very top of the Northeast Quadrant.