Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - RH Relievers Pt. 1

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Because of the sheer number of pitchers in the organization, I really needed to break them down into groups. Today, we're doing something a little different because I was a bit shocked when I realized this and I wanted to share.

The embedded chart shows ALL of the right-handed relief pitchers in the organization who finished their seasons at AA or AAA who remain in the Astros organization. ALL OF THEM PLUS TWO. Chuckie Fick (who apparently now goes by C.J.) and Jose Valdez actually ended their seasons in Houston, but neither is on the 40-man roster currently so I'm including them on this list.  Hector Ambriz was also used in relief at AAA in 2012, but remains on the 40-man roster after finishing his season in Houston so I'm not including him.

Where did everyone go, you ask? Arcenio Leon and Brian Sanches were lost to free agency and five others who pitched in relief at those levels in 2012 are unsigned free agents - Erick Abreu, Henry Villar, Adalberto Flores, Sergio Perez and Enerio Del Rosario.

I suppose that bodes well for Carlos Quevedo and Andrew Robinson from Lancaster. And Chia-Jen Lo will probably start the season at AA with the intent of moving him quickly, but it's still pretty slim on available, experienced arms.

Which brings me back to something I noted earlier this week about how crowded AA and AAA are likely to get in the way of starting pitchers. I really think that we will see some of our starters converted to the bullpen.  I can see David Martinez and Jose Cisnero converted to relievers (although I know of no plans to do so) and the possibility of Jarred Cosart as a closer has been bandied about for the last couple of years. And you'll note that I included Jake Buchanan as a relief pitcher as he was used out of the bullpen in the latter part of the season, despite being used exclusively in a starting role previously.

With that said, who exactly are the few, the proud, the brave? Jason Stoffel had a terrific season and led the Astros organization in saves with 27, and he managed to maintain a sub-1.00 WHIP over his 55 appearances. Jose Valdez numbers are inflated by the struggles he encountered mid-season before being placed on the DL. He was second in saves in 2012. [Note on Valdez: Mike at Farmstros astutely observed that Valdez is no longer shown as a non-roster invitee and has an option in his contract that may land him in Japan. If that happens, the depth of experienced relievers at AA and AAA dwindles even further.]

Josh Zeid has good stuff, but in my opinion he lacks confidence. He had a Jekyll and Hyde season and it was often difficult to know which Zeid would be showing up. His last few regular season appearances in August and September were excellent, though. Zeid is another pitcher who I think will benefit from working with Roger Clemens on his mental approach.

Mark Hamburger started the season with the Rangers, then was claimed off waivers by the Padres and then finally claimed by Houston. He struggled with the Rangers and Padres, but pitched closer to his 2011 AAA form in his 17 appearances at Oklahoma City.

Monday: Starting RHP for Full Season Clubs
Tuesday: Starting RHP for Short Season Clubs
Coming Thursday: RH Relievers - A and below

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