Screening for Pitching Prospects
I screened all of the minor league statistics to determine the top five starting pitchers in each league, sorted by K/9 with 50 or more IP and a HR/9 rate of less than 0.9 (or one home run per ten innings pitched).
The stats have not been adjusted to normalize league and home ballpark context. I have also not attempted to combine MiLB totals for those pitchers who have appeared at more than one level.
Pacific Coast League
PITCHER TEAM W-L ERA WHIP K/9 Rich Hill IOW/CHC 7-1 1.80 0.83 12.15 Jered Weaver SLC/LAA 6-1 2.10 0.95 10.87 Chad Billingsley LVG/LAD 6-3 3.95 1.26 10.00 Dana Eveland NAS/MIL 4-4 2.32 1.05 9.90 Edinson Volquez OKL/TEX 6-6 3.21 1.31 9.73
Rich Hill's minor league stats look like Sandy Koufax's run from 1962-1966. But his career major league numbers (3-7, 7.68 ERA, 1.69 WHIP) tell a different story. He strung together a couple of excellent starts vs. Arizona and Pittsburgh earlier this month, then got lit up in Colorado in his next outing. After holding Houston scoreless in a two-inning relief appearance last week, Dusty Baker is giving the 6-foot-5 southpaw another chance to start tonight against Philadelphia. At the age of 26, he is neither too young to look the other way or too old to write off. A change of scenery--or a new manager--might be the best medicine for one of baseball's biggest enigmas.
PITCHER TEAM W-L ERA WHIP K/9 Marty McLeary IND/PIT 2-4 2.88 1.25 10.02 Jamie Shields DUR/TAM 3-2 2.64 1.08 9.43 Dustin McGowan SYR/TOR 4-5 4.73 1.44 9.23 Hyang-Nam Choi BUF/CLE 8-5 2.50 1.22 8.81 Boof Bonser ROC/MIN 6-4 2.81 1.19 8.68
Marty McLeary is not a prospect in the true sense of the word. First of all, he is 31 years old. Secondly, the 6-foot-5 right-hander has been around since 1998. Thirdly, he has thrown 99.5% of his professional innings in the minors. His MLB experience consists of 3 2/3 IP with San Diego in 2004. Correction, 3 2/3 awful IP. In other words, there is nothing in McLeary's background that would suggest he has what it takes to pitch at the big league level. At best, the journeyman is a "AAAA" pitcher, a veteran to keep around just in case the need arises to recall him if no other options exist.
PITCHER TEAM W-L ERA WHIP K/9 Humberto Sanchez ERI/DET 5-3 1.76 1.03 10.87 Matt Garza NBR/MIN 6-2 2.51 0.94 10.72 Philip Hughes TRE/NYY 8-3 2.46 0.96 10.53 Mike Pelfrey BIN/NYM 4-2 2.71 1.30 10.48 J.A. Happ REA/PHI 6-2 2.47 1.21 10.30
Humberto Sanchez was the starting pitcher for the World in the Futures Game last month. He retired the side in order while striking out two batters. The 6-foot-6 right-hander has major-league stuff but still lacks a bit of polish. However, at 23, Sanchez is still young enough to improve his command. Humberto's weight raises concerns longer term. His tender elbow raises concerns shorter term. He was promoted to Triple-A Toledo in June but hasn't pitched in nearly three weeks.
PITCHER TEAM W-L ERA WHIP K/9 Dan Smith MIS/ATL 3-6 2.98 1.23 13.31 Carlos Marmol WTN/CHC 3-2 2.33 1.16 10.40 Homer Bailey CHA/CIN 5-0 1.26 1.09 10.26 T.J. Nall JAX/LAD 9-6 2.98 1.07 10.23 Yovani Gallardo HUN/MIL 4-2 1.44 0.99 10.00
Dan Smith is a reliever-turned-starter who has been extremely effective in his new role this month. After striking out six in two scoreless innings of relief on July 28, the 6-foot-5 left-hander has thrown 21 2/3 frames over four starts while allowing just 13 hits, eight walks, and two earned runs (0.83 ERA). Smith has K'd 93 batters in 62 1/3 IP on the year (split between High-A and Double-A), giving up just three HR. An undrafted free agent, the soon-to-be 23-year-old was signed by the Braves in 2003 and has worked his way through the system almost exclusively in relief until getting a chance to start three weeks ago.
PITCHER TEAM W-L ERA WHIP K/9 Ubaldo Jimenez TUL/COL 9-2 2.45 1.21 10.59 Mitch Talbot COR/HOU 6-4 3.39 1.36 9.59 Juan Morillo TUL/COL 10-8 4.70 1.54 8.35 Paul Kometani FRI/TEX 5-5 5.60 1.56 7.95 Matt Albers COR/HOU 10-2 2.17 1.23 7.37
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched so well in Double-A early on that he was promoted to Triple-A at the end of June. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has struggled at Colorado Springs (3-2, 6.07 ERA, 1.58 WHIP). To his credit, Jimenez has continued to keep the ball in the high-altitude park (5 HR in 59 1/3 IP) but his strikeout and walk numbers (1.36 K/BB ratio) have suffered. It's way too early to give up on the 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic although he will need to exhibit better command before getting a shot at the big leagues.
We'll take a similar look at the Class-A Leagues tomorrow (while skipping the short-season Class-A and rookie leagues). In the meantime, feel free to discuss any of the above pitchers as well as those who may not have made today's screens in the comments section below.