Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Relief LHP

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position. Today, we look at the left-handed relief pitchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012.

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 not including Xavier Cedeno as he spent a significant portion of 2012 at the major league level.

I know that Kenny Long's stats are based on a small sample size, but holding opposing batters to a 0.99 batting average while leading the system in strikeout rate (15.3 SO/9) over 29 appearances was wow-worthy nonetheless. After being drafted in the 22nd round in 2012, Long made 17 appearances at short-season Tri-City before skipping Lexington altogether and landing at Hi-A Lancaster for his final 12 appearances of the season.

Mitch Lambson has intrigued me for a while and I like him even better after his 2012 season in which he showed me that he can be just as effective against right-handed batters as he is against lefties. Jeremiah Meiners has also been someone I find interesting. It is note-worthy, however, that he's only made it as far as short-season A in his third season in the organization. I was hoping to have seen him challenged at a higher level in 2012.

Theron Geith came to the Houston organization (after the minor league season was over) as the PTBNL in the Ben Francisco trade to Tampa. He spent his second season in professional ball with Hi-A Port Charlotte in the Florida State League. He more than held his own vs. right-handed batters with a 0.975 WHIP and .227 batting average against righties.

Thomas Shirley, the 2010 9th round draft pick, put up good numbers after sitting out most of 2011 due to injury. If he can stay healthy again in 2013, he should start moving up through the system.

Javier Saucedo spent his second season in the organization repeating in the Dominican Summer League. He frequently pitched in long relief and had one spot start toward the end of the 2012 season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him stretched out to get additional starts in 2013. I assume that he will make the transition to the Gulf Coast League this season. If he can cut down on his walks, he could be an interesting prospect to watch in the coming year.

Pat Urckfitz has pitched parts of four seasons at Lancaster. He struggled to be effective at the higher levels for portions of the 2011 season and ended up spending the entire 2012 season back at Lancaster. He will need to prove that he can consistently succeed at the higher levels. 2013 could be make or break for him. Another pitcher I will be watching closely in 2013 is Evan Grills. Grills struggled during the second half of his season at Lexington, but at only 20, it is far too early to give up on him.

Kevin Chapman got into a groove in the 2012 season as he thrived in the 8th inning set up role. Chapman teamed up with closer Jason Stoffel to provide a very effective one-two punch out of the bullpen for Corpus Christi.

Alex Sogard's numbers don't look very impressive at first glance, but they are skewed by a rough month after his promotion to Corpus Christi. In 24 appearances from June forward, he had a 2.63 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP. That the Astros front office thought enough of him to send him to play in the Arizona Fall League after last season should tell you something as well.

Tuesday: Lefty Starters
Coming Thursday: Catchers

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