Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Starting 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 starting 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 Dallas Keuchel as he spent a significant portion of 2012 at the major league level.

One thing stands out for me when looking at this list. Only three pitchers (Wes Musick, Brett Oberholtzer and Luis Cruz) pitched for the Houston organization before 2012. Cruz is the only one who played in the system before 2011. Except for Edwin Villarroel, a 17-year old NDFA signed from Venezuela prior to the season, the rest were either drafted in 2012 or traded for in 2012. It's easy to see why GM Jeff Luhnow was aggressively pursuing left-handed starters in deadline trades last year.

Brian Holmes, a 13th round draft pick in 2012, is easily one of my favorites from the 2012 draft. He held hitters to a .165 batting average and flirted with no-hitters a couple of times during the short season. At the other end of the list is Joe Bircher, the Astros 2012 10th round pick. Bircher had an uneven freshman season, but I look for him to be more consistent in 2013.

The Astros super-sized their lefty ranks by trading little lefty Wandy Rodriguez for Rudy Owens (6'3" 230#) and Colton Cain (6'3" 255#) in July. Cain struggled somewhat at Lancaster after the trade, but he only turns 22 today so he has time to work that out. Owens, on the other hand, did well in his time at Oklahoma City after the trade and will be headed to Spring Training to challenge Erik Bedard for a job with the big club.

Another pitcher who will be headed to Spring Training to challenge Bedard is Brett Oberholtzer. I am higher on Oberholtzer than some of the other bloggers. He finished the season at Oklahoma City very strongly; he's a workhorse who pitched the second most innings in the Astros minor league system (37 more innings than Bedard in 2012); and he is highly motivated.

David Rollins (Blue Jays trade) and Blair Walters (Brett Myers trade) were also obtained in 2012 deadline deals. Rollins only made six starts for Lexington after the trade but handled the transition well. Walters struggled after his in-season promotion to High A for the White Sox and then for Houston. Look for him to start the season back at Lancaster.

Luis Cruz, one of the longest tenured Astros farm hands, was drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2008. He just turned 22 in September. Edwin Villarroel caught my eye with what he was able to accomplish at only 17 even before Luhnow mentioned that Villarroel stood out in Luhnow's recent visit to the Dominican Republic. Luhnow was impressed by Villarroel's "stuff" but was equally impressed by the command he showed at such a young age.

Wes Musick started the season at Lancaster, stopped at Corpus Christi briefly and ended up in Oklahoma City where he last pitched June 19th before injury derailed his season. Kyle Hallock, the Astros 10th round pick in 2011, also had his season cut short as he had surgery to remove loose bodies in his elbow. He had an excellent freshman season in 2011. I will be eager to see what he can do in 2013 when he is once again healthy.

Coming Wednesday: LH Relief Pitchers

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