Categorizing Minor League Pitchers: Part Three - High-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.
NORTHEAST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG K AND GB RATES)
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.
SOUTHEAST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG K AND BELOW-AVG GB RATES)
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.
NORTHWEST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG GB AND BELOW-AVG K 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.
SOUTHWEST QUADRANT (BELOW-AVG GB AND K RATES)
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).