Baseball BeatAugust 22, 2006
Screening for Pitching Prospects - Part Two
By Rich Lederer

On the heels of yesterday's article, I continue my efforts to identify some of the top pitching prospects in the minors by screening the Class-A Leagues. In order to qualify, the pitchers, who are ranked by K/9, need to have thrown at least 50 innings with 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.

As noted in the comments section on Monday, these screens are not intended to identify "the top 5 pitching prospects" in each league. Importantly, I don't think you can do that without establishing a more comprehensive statistical formula, taking into consideration scouting reports, and paying attention to age relative to the level of competition. Instead, I am simply trying to uncover pitchers who have high K/9 and relatively low HR/9 rates. I am pleased with the results as the lists yesterday and today include several high-profile prospects as well as some lesser-known pitchers.


California League

PITCHER              TEAM  W-L   ERA  WHIP    K/9
Jose Arredondo    RCQ/LAA  5-6  2.30  1.08  11.50
Samuel Deduno     MOD/COL  5-7  4.13  1.38  10.76
Franklin Morales  MOD/COL  8-9  3.81  1.41  10.51
John Bannister    BAK/TEX  5-8  5.87  1.68  10.20
Edwin Vera        BAK/TEX  0-8  5.65  1.79   9.81

As good as Jose Arredondo was at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, he has been just as bad at Double-A Arkansas (2-2, 7.03 ERA, 1.73 WHIP). His hit and home run rates have skyrocketed at the higher level. The RHP out of the Dominican Republic has gone from unknown position player in 2004 to a project with a good arm in 2005 to a top-flight prospect in May 2006 to a head scratcher in August 2006. At 22, he is still young and has time to regroup. Arredondo may be one level ahead of Nick Adenhart, but the latter still ranks as the Angels #1 pitching prospect.

A special nod goes to Jesse Ingram (BAK/TEX), a relief pitcher with a 6-0 record, a 2.43 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and an eye-opening 14.47 K/9 rate (95 Ks/22 BB in 59.1 IP). At 24, he was a bit old for "A" ball. However, Ingram has since been promoted to Double-A Frisco of the Texas League (3-0, 4.40 ERA with 4 SV in 14.1 IP).

Carolina League

PITCHER              TEAM  W-L   ERA  WHIP    K/9
Radhames Liz      FRD/BAL  6-5  2.82  1.22  10.30
Scott Lewis       KIN/CLE  3-2  1.59  0.97  10.06
Troy Patton       SAL/HOU  7-7  2.93  1.27   9.08
Garrett Olson     FRD/BAL  4-4  2.77  1.23   8.55
Charles Lofgren   KIN/CLE 15-5  2.46  1.17   8.23

The story of Radhames Liz isn't all that different from Arredondo's. The 23-year-old right-hander had his way at Single-A Frederick before getting knocked around at Double-A Bowie (2-1, 5.60 ERA, 1.58 WHIP). His season is somewhat reminiscent of last year when he dominated the NYPL (A-), then found his match in the South Atlantic League (A). Liz pitched for the World in the Futures Game in July, striking out one of the two batters he faced. He has a live arm but needs to command the strike zone better as evidenced by his BB/9 rates (44 BB/83 IP in "A" and 19/35.1 in "AA").

Florida State League

PITCHER              TEAM  W-L   ERA  WHIP    K/9
Mark Rogers       BRE/MIL  1-2  5.07  1.70  12.17
Yovani Gallarado  BRE/MIL  6-3  2.09  0.99  12.01
Scott Elbert      VER/LAD  5-5  2.37  1.17  10.49
Manuel Parra      BRE/MIL  1-3  2.96  1.45  10.13
Homer Bailey      SAR/CIN  3-5  3.31  1.00  10.13

Mark Rogers was a first-round draft pick (5th overall) in 2004 out of Mount Ararat HS (Orr's Island, ME). His MiL career numbers tell you everything you need to know: 200.1 IP, 139 BB, and 245 SO. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has electric stuff but lacks command and control. Rogers has had stretches of greatness (such as earlier this season when he allowed only five hits and eight walks while striking out 29 over 20 2/3 innings covering three starts). He went on the DL in July with tendinitis in his shoulder and has made three rehab appearances for the AZL Brewers (Rookie League). At 20, Rogers has a huge ceiling but still needs a few coats of polish in order to reach his potential.


Midwest League

PITCHER              TEAM  W-L   ERA  WHIP    K/9
Alexander Smit    BEL/MIN  7-1  3.15  1.24  11.48
Jacob McGee       SWM/TAM  7-9  3.07  1.28  11.21
Mark McCormick     QC/STL  2-4  3.78  1.45  10.88
Eduardo Morlan    BEL/MIN  5-5  2.52  1.12  10.68
Donald Veal       PEO/CHC  5-3  2.69  1.15  10.57

Since joining the rotation in late June, Alexander Smit is 5-0 with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 11 starts and 60 innings. The 6-foot-4 southpaw has allowed only 38 hits during this stretch and has struck out 77 batters against 26 walks. A native of the Netherlands, Smit had back-to-back starts earlier this month with 12 Ks in 6 IP and 11 Ks in 7 IP. He turns 21 in October and is just one of many outstanding pitching prospects in the Minnesota Twins organization.

South Atlantic League

PITCHER              TEAM  W-L   ERA  WHIP    K/9
Brent Leach       COL/LAD  4-2  3.27  1.38  11.57
Noe Rodriguez     KAN/CWS  0-6  3.48  1.40  10.81
William Inman     WVA/MIL  9-1  1.38  0.90  10.78
Brandon Erbe      DEL/BAL  5-9  3.53  1.18  10.62
Clay Buchholz     GRE/BOS  9-4  2.62  1.04  10.22

Brent Leach started 10 times at Columbus and was promoted to Vero Beach where he has pitched 27 games--all in relief. The 6-foot-5 lefty's combined numbers include 119 Ks and only 2 HR in 96 2/3 IP.

Given that the focus here is on starting pitchers, I would be remiss in not highlighting Will Inman. The 6-foot RHP has not allowed a home run all season in 91 innings of work. The third-round draft pick in 2005 has punched out 109 batters while giving up only 22 free passes. Unlike a lot of MiL pitchers, Inman's run average (1.48) is almost identical to his earned run average (1.38). Oh yes, the kid doesn't turn 20 until February 2007.


Rich, I'm a little surprised you missed out on Michael Bowden compared to Noe Rodriguez. Michael turns 20 next month compared to Noe's 22. Bowden's stats are the following: 3.43 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.29 K/9. I'm not including records since Bowden mostly only pitches 5 innings/game (once he pitched 6) and Rodriguez plays for a team that really struggles.

I don't know if I *missed out* on Bowden as these lists were created based on the criteria included in each of the two articles. I didn't allow myself any subjectivity here.

Bowden failed to make the list in the South Atlantic League because his K/9 rate (9.86) didn't place him in the top five. His numbers (9-6, 3.51 ERA, 107.2 IP, 91 H, 9 HR, 31 BB, 118 SO) are impressive and he very well could be one of the top five pitching prospects in that league.

You're right. I was looking at the wrong info. I used for my stats and it now seems as though I should have used Whoops.

As far as single A goes, (Florida State League) I feel Anthony Swarzak should be in the discussion, especially since you already listed Bailey in your AA list. Swarzak currently leads the league in K's and is 3rd in ERA. he has given up a couple more walks than some of the other "elite" pitchers in the league however. He's in a great proven system for young pitchers (Lirian, Santana, Garza, Slowey, etc). What are your thoughts on him?

Swarzak's strikeout rate (8.28 per 9 IP)--while xlnt--is quite a bit below the leaders in the FSL. He has put up good numbers (9-6, 3.26 ERA, 132.2 IP, 120 H, 7 HR, 53 BB, 122 SO) but his place among league leaders is partly a function of pitching at this level all year long.

After exhibiting outstanding control in his prior stops, Swarzak's walk rate is up this year. Other than that, it's pretty tough to find any faults in his track record. He looks like a solid pitching prospect to me.

I'm not that high on Swarzak. But Kevin Slowey is not on any list, and that is a problem. Part of it could be that he spent half the year in A ball and half in AA. When he wasn't on the Eastern League list, I thought for sure he's be on the Florida State League list. He started the All-Star game and put up historically good numbers there. He's one of the top three or four prospects below AAA IMHO. And apparently the US Olympic Committee agrees cause he will be one of the starters for that team's qualifying tournament.

That said, thanks for all the great work Rich.

Thanks, CMathewson. I like Slowey better than Swarzak, too. I mean, what's not to like? Kevin may not be Greg Maddux as his biggest supporters claim, but he looks to be no worse than Brad Radke to me.

Slowey had the sixth-highest K/9 rate (9.97) in the FSL and, therefore, just missed out on being listed. As you know, his numbers in "A" ball (4-2, 1.01 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 89.1 IP, 52 H, 2 HR, 9 BB, 99 SO) were beyond terrific. On an "apples to apples" basis, Slowey beats Swarzak up and down and around.

Kevin's "AA" stats (4-3, 3.19 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 59.1 IP, 50 H, 6 HR, 13 BB, 52 SO) are more solid than spectacular. The H, HR, and BB rates are up and his K rate is down but all are within the boundaries of what I believe makes for a good pitching prospect at that level.