Monday, January 21, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Starting RHP 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 look at the right-handed starting pitchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012 and played on full season clubs.

Ross Seaton - June 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

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 am including Edgar Gonzalez as he was taken off of the 40-man roster and will likely start the season with AAA. His stats are a combination of his minor league and Mexican League numbers.

Asher Wojciechowski, obtained in the Blue Jays 10-player trade in July, and Matt Heidenreich, obtained in the Brett Myers trade, both started their seasons with the Hi-A affiliate of their respective organizations. Heidenreich had already been promoted to AA at the time of his trade, but Wojo was only promoted when he came into the Houston organization. Their stats on the above chart include their time at the lower level, but they both had great success in their somewhat limited time at AA Corpus Christi. Look for both to start the season at AA.

Ross Seaton had the break-through season that I had been waiting for, and he generally got stronger as the season progressed. Seeing him pitch the first week of June and again during the first week of September was like seeing two different pitchers. I would like to see him start the season at AAA and, frankly, I believe that will be the case.

Bobby Doran started the season at Hi-A Lancaster, but pitched 10 starts at AA Corpus where he definitely held his own. He is an innings-eater who pitches to contact. He should start the season at AA where he can refine his command and build on his 2012 success.

Jarred Cosart and Jose Cisnero both had great seasons at Corpus leading to their September promotions to AAA. Cosart adapted better than Cisnero to the level, but I think that both need more time at AAA before making their major league debuts. Although he came a long way in 2012, Cosart still needs to fine-tune his command and his mental approach to the game. I think working with Roger Clemens will help him with both immensely. Cisnero's walk rate ticked up and his strikeout rate ticked down at AAA, but I think that will correct itself given more time and experience at the level.

At the lower levels, you have David Martinez, whose numbers may not look all that impressive until you consider that he is the only one on this list who pitched the entire season in the very tough environs of the California League. Nick Tropeano started the season at Lexington, but spent his second half at Lancaster as well. His ERA and WHIP were slightly higher at the Hangar, but he more than held his own after the promotion. I believe Tropeano will start the season at AA. It will be difficult for Martinez to get a promotion to start the season, though, simply because the upper levels are starting to get crowded with talent. However, I can see him being one of the first to be promoted if someone struggles or is injured. Alternatively, he may be moved to the bullpen.

Mike Foltynewicz, of course, dominated the Sally League in many categories and won the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. Personally, I would like to see him skip Lancaster and go straight to Corpus Christi, but the Astros are going to have to do some juggling to find room for all of the pitchers that need to see action at AA and AAA. Finally, Chris Devenski didn't see as much time as a starter as these other pitchers, having pitched out of the bullpen for a substantial part of the season before he came over in the Myers trade. That is the only reason I can see him starting the season at Quad Cities instead of Lancaster, but I think he will be promoted quickly if he can sustain the success he showed after the trade. Much may depend on his Spring Training performance.

There are many more pitchers to keep an eye on in 2013, including Kyle Weiland and Paul Clemens. Weiland is still rehabbing and trying to get his strength back from his surgery last spring. Clemens struggled at AAA most of the season, but was successful in his final seven starts back at AA Corpus. He was too highly regarded a prospect coming in to the 2012 season to simply give up on him. He is another pitcher who I think would benefit from working with Clemens.

Another couple of pitchers that I will be watching closely are Tyson Perez and R.J. Alaniz. Perez got promoted in 2012 from extended Spring Training directly to Lancaster after making only 13 starts in rookie league Greeneville in his first season in 2011. His season numbers weren't great, but he got stronger as the season progressed and he was extremely good in the post-season. And R.J. Alaniz was having a solid season before his year ended early due to injury. I believe that both will repeat at Lancaster.

Coming Tuesday: Right-handed starters in short season leagues


  1. It appears that the Astros have more SPs than slots for them in the MLB, AAA and AA. A nice problem for Luhnow to have.

  2. And this doesn't even include the lefties!