Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Lefty Relievers, Part 1

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Eric Berger, Kenny Long and Blair Walters are no longer in the organization.]

In an ongoing series on the Astros minor league depth, this week we're going to take a look at the lefty relief corps. Today, we'll cover those lefty relievers who finished their seasons at Advanced A or higher. Their 2013 stats are ranked low to high in terms of WHIP.

Eric Berger had one of the more consistent seasons of this group culminating in an excellent August in which he had a 1.59 ERA and a 0.838 WHIP. Hitters managed only a .122 batting average off of him. He went on to have an excellent winter campaign in Venezuela in which he accumulated a 4-4 record, 3.04 ERA and a 1.278 WHIP in 10 starts. Berger has shown relatively even splits between left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters so I'm not seeing him as a lefty specialist. Berger is a six-year minor leaguer who came into the Astros system in an early April 2013 trade with Cleveland for C Chris Wallace and pitched at AAA Oklahoma City.

Pat Urckfitz, signed by Houston as a non-drafted free agent in 2008, has also toiled six seasons in the minor leagues. He spent the bulk of his season with AA Corpus Christi before getting the call to Oklahoma City in August. Urckfitz has the highest groundball rate of this group, but that is a somewhat newer development as he has been working to re-invent himself over the last couple of years. Another thing that has changed for him is his ability to retire lefties; they only hit .181 against him (.463 OPS) in 2013.

T.J. Geith was the PTBNL in the Ben Francisco trade with Tampa Bay. His first 31 appearances of the season for Advanced A Lancaster (2.86 ERA and 1.318 WHIP) went much better than his final 13 appearances in Corpus Christi (7.84 ERA and 1.694 WHIP). Geith had fairly even lefty/righty splits in 2013.

Theron "T.J." Geith - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Kenny Long, a 22nd round 2012 draft pick, had a tough season when it came to pitching at AA. After six games with Lancaster, Long was promoted to Corpus Christi in May. After 22 games in which he put up a 9.00 ERA and a 2.524 WHIP, Long returned to Lancaster for the remainder of the season. In a total of 23 games for Lancaster, he had a 2.89 ERA and a 1.014 WHIP. He walked four batters and struck out 27. Long definite profiles more as a lefty specialist, but he did not have quite the success in 2013 that he did in 2012. In 2012, lefties only hit .023 against him. In 2013, they hit .284 against him (.158 in Lancaster).

Kenny Long - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The Astros 2010 26th round pick, Alex Sogard, had an inconsistent season. In his first 10 games in Corpus Christi, he allowed only one earned run before he was promoted to Oklahoma City. He started out extremely well at the level but started struggling in mid-June and ended up back in Corpus Christi for his final six games of the season. While pitching with the RedHawks for 22 games, he allowed zero earned runs in 14 games, one earned run in three games and three+ runs in five games, which blew up his ERA to 9.39 at AAA. In his two stints for Corpus Christi, he had a 2.88 ERA and a 1.440 WHIP. Lefties only hit .214 against him, but Sogard actually did better against righties in 2011 and 2012. I've never really been able to get a handle on Sogard, but the front office thinks enough of him that they've sent him to the Arizona Fall League for the last two years.

Blair Walters, acquired from the White Sox in the July 2012 Brett Myers trade actually had a much better time of it as a starter than a reliever, but he was not used as a starter beyond mid-June except for a spot start at Oklahoma City to end the regular season. In six starts (five at Lancaster and one at Oklahoma City), he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.364 WHIP. On the other hand, he did do well out of the 'pen in July (4.15 ERA and a 1.154 WHIP in 8 games) before things blew up on him in August (20.45 ERA and 39.09 WHIP in 8 games). Lefties hit .277 off of him.

Blair Walters - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Later this week, we'll look at those lefty relievers who finished their seasons at Low A or on one of the short season teams.

No comments:

Post a Comment