Thursday, January 24, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - RH Relievers Pt. 2

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 needed to break them down into groups. Today, we look at the right-handed relief pitchers who had the best seasons pitching at either A level or in the rookie league for the organization.

The embedded chart shows the pitchers ranged from low to high in terms of WHIP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played. I limited inclusion on the list to those who pitched a minimum of 25 innings.

As I noted before, Chia-Jen Lo will likely start the season at AA and move up quickly if he continues to show that his comeback from TJ surgery is complete. In addition, Carlos Quevedo, who started the season at Lexington, and Andrew Robinson, who dominated most of the season after a mostly dreadful April, are both good candidates for promotion.

Cameron Lamb is new to the organization after being selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft from the Giants organization. He has the lowest strikeout rate of the group, but one of the highest groundball out rates.

Mike Hauschild has Lamb beat, though, in terms of his groundball rate with an incredible 5.20 GO/AO ratio to go with a very impressive 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Jordan Jankowski's 14.8 strikeouts per nine is the best among right-handed relievers in the Astros minor league system. Hauschild, Jankowski, Travis Ballew, Michael Dimock and Erick Gonzalez (community college) were all drafted in 2012 out of college and were expected to do well at the lower levels. They will now need to prove that they can do so at the higher levels.

Murilo Gouvea was a workhouse for Lexington, making 50 appearances out of the bullpen. Gouvea also played for Team Brazil in the WBC Qualifiers in November and was instrumental in Brazil's upset of the host Panamanian team.

I had to draw the line somewhere on this list, but there are a few other pitchers I will be keeping my eye on in 2013. John Neely had a somewhat uneven season, but finished very strongly. Another pitcher who intrigues me is Christian Garcia due to reports that his fastball sits in the low 90's and tops out in the mid-90's. He was frequently used in longer relief outings with mixed results. Both Neely and Garcia were lower round draft picks in 2012 and will need to set themselves apart in Spring Training. Jamaine Cotton was outstanding early in his season at Tri-City, but faltered down the stretch.

The most noteworthy candidate to follow, though, will be Jack Armstrong, the Astros 2011 third round pick, as he comes back from TJ surgery.

The fact of life in the minor leagues is that a right-handed relief pitcher, particularly at the lower levels, is at the bottom of the food chain. They have the toughest time of all in establishing themselves and are given the slimmest chance to re-establish themselves if they struggle. Each and every one of them will have to continue to prove themselves time after time after time, level after level after level. This post really just reflects a moment in time as we look at the relief corps because predicting the road ahead for any of these pitchers would be difficult at best.

Monday: Starting RHP for Full Season Clubs
Tuesday: Starting RHP for Short Season Clubs
Wednesday: RH Relievers at AA and AAA

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