Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Right-Handed Relief Pitchers, Part 1

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Gera Sanchez is no longer in the organization.]

In my ongoing series on the Astros minor league depth, this week we'll be looking at right-handed relief pitchers. First up are those relievers who finished the season at Advanced A or higher. I've made a couple of judgement calls by including Jordan Jankowski and Tyson Perez as bullpen pitchers even though they both started the season as a part of a tandem rotation because: a) they both had better results in relief, and b) they both ended up pitching exclusively out of the bullpen later in the season. I am also not including Cameron Lamb and Carlos Quevedo as they are free agents who were not re-signed by the Astros. Each player's 2013 stats follow. I am sorting the players by WHIP, low to high.

Jordan Jankowski, the Astros 34th round pick in 2012, spent the majority of his season with Quad Cities until an August promotion sent him to Lancaster for his final 11 appearances of the regular season. Of this group, Jankowski has the highest strikeout to walk rate of 4.90 SO/BB. However, as a reliever, it's even better. Out of the bullpen, he struck out 60 while walking only nine in 51 innings in that role. That translates to a whopping 6.67 SO/BB rate. As a reliever, Jankowski was 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA, a 0.961 WHIP and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings with batters hitting only .219 against him.

Jordan Jankowski - September 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

In terms of WHIP for this group, Jankowski is followed by Michael Dimock, another pitcher who started the season in Quad Cities and finished it in Lancaster. However, the 2012 37th rounder only spent 10 games at Quad Cities before his promotion. In those 10 games, he was 5-0 with a 3.09 ERA and a 0.771 WHIP. As is often the case with relief pitchers, a rough July inflated his stats, but he ended the season strongly with a 1.23 ERA and a 0.886 WHIP in eight games in August.

The next two on the list, 12th round 2010 pick Andrew Robinson and ninth round 2011 pick Jonas Dufek, actually profile very similarly. They can both crank up to the mid-90's on their fastballs on a regular basis and use that pitch as a complement to plus offspeed offerings.

Robinson spent his entire season at Corpus Christi until he was called up to Oklahoma City to contribute a couple of scoreless innings in the post-season. As I have written before, Robinson's stats are a little deceptive. Corpus Christi had a very successful tandem rotation at the beginning of the 2013 season, leading to very sporadic work for the bullpen. Once Robinson shook off the rust, he was extremely effective, putting up a 1.69 ERA and a 0.991 WHIP in the final three months of the season.

Dufek started the season with Lancaster, but thrived in Corpus Christi after his late July call-up. Away from the rarefied air of Lancaster, Dufek was 7-0 with an 0.47 ERA and a 0.776 WHIP in his final 14 appearances. He only walked one batter in those final 19+ innings while striking out 20. In the Arizona Fall League, Dufek had a 2.89 ERA and a 1.071 WHIP in seven games.

Jonas Dufek - June 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jason Stoffel, obtained from San Francisco in the 2011 Jeff Keppinger trade, only pitched in seven games for Corpus Christi before heading north to Oklahoma City. Of this group, Stoffel allowed the lowest batting average and the lowest home run rate (which should be expected, given that he has a fairly high groundball out rate). Stoffel didn't have quite the excellent results in 2013 as he did in 2012. One of the reasons for that is that his dominance against lefties in 2012 (.127 batting average) seemed to evaporate in 2013 (.330 batting average).

Travis Ballew, the 2012 23rd round draft pick, leads this list in a couple of categories. He has the highest strikeout rate of the group (13.2 SO/9) and he also led the entire Astros organization with his 21 saves. He is also the youngest of the group; he will be 23 in May. Ballew spent his entire season with Lancaster. Ballew had one particularly bad outing in July that goes to show how volatile stats for a reliever can be. Back out that one outing and his ERA drops from 4.42 to 3.41 and his WHIP goes from 1.396 to 1.310.

Travis Ballew - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

A non-drafted free agent out of New Mexico who signed with the Astros in 2012, Gera Sanchez pitched all but his final six appearances for Quad Cities. In those six games for Lancaster, he had a 1.69 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP. For the season, he had a strikeout rate of 10.4 per nine innings. Similarly to Stoffel, Sanchez had a very tough time against lefties in 2013. They hit .357 against him.

17th round 2011 draft pick Tyson Perez didn't have the best overall season in 2013, but he was much more successful out of the bullpen. He had a 4.29 ERA and a 1.302 WHIP as a reliever, plus his SO/BB ratio improved dramatically.

Later this week, we'll look at the right-handed relievers who ended their seasons at Low A or on one of the short season teams.

1 comment:

  1. what about Michael Dimock going to Corpus Chrisi?