Thursday, March 6, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Right-Handed Relief Pitchers, Part 2

[4/13/14 UPDATE: Justin Hess, Zach Dando, Charles Basford, Erick Gonzalez and Ryan Connolly are no longer in the organization.]

In my ongoing series on the Astros minor league depth, this week we're looking at right-handed relief pitchers. Earlier this week, I covered those relievers who finished the season at Advanced A or higher. Today, we'll address those who finished the season at Low A Quad Cities or on one of the short season teams. Each player's 2013 stats follow. I am sorting the players by WHIP, low to high.

First off, I should note that I did trim this very long list just a tiny bit by excluding any reliever who hadn't pitched at least 10 innings or appeared in at least 10 games. Of that group, the one who will probably be the most interesting to watch is Devonte German, the 2013 11th round draft pick. It is also likely that he will be working in a rotation in the 2014 season, but the 19-year old Nevadan is still very, very raw. In addition, Brazilian righty Murilo Gouvea and 2011 third round pick Jack Armstrong did not pitch in 2013 due to injuries. Armstrong has yet to pitch in a professional game and I do not know his status.

Because the list is so lengthy, I won't be commenting on every pitcher, but I will try to hit the high points.

Topping this list is Gonzalo Sanudo, but Sanudo is unlikely to stay on this list for long as he will reportedly be moved to the rotation in the new season. Obtained in a spring 2013 trade with the Twins for Astros 2010 supplemental first rounder Mike Kvasnicka, Sanudo was completely dominant at first Greeneville and then Tri-City. After his mid-August promotion to Tri-City, Sanudo collected eight saves in his nine regular season appearances while putting up a 0.00 ERA and a 0.308 WHIP. For the season, he held hitters to a .149 average and only walked four batters in 38+ innings while striking out 51. His 19 season saves were second only to Travis Ballew. He also factored heavily into the post season as Tri-City won the New York-Penn League Championship. The recent Prospect Handbook from Baseball America has him at #26 in the Astros system.

Gonzalo Sanundo - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

There were several other pitchers, in addition to Sanudo, who received late season promotions to Tri-City. Tyler Brunnemann, the 40th round draft pick in 2013, was promoted from Greeneville in early August and put up a 0.90 ERA and a 0.500 WHIP in his final nine regular season appearances. Chris Munnelly, a 2013 non-drafted free agent, only got to Tri-City at the end of August, but was impressive in stops at three clubs, holding batters to a .162 batting average and striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings. Zach Dando was another August call-up who fared well at Tri-City. He did not allow a run in his five appearances (10 innings) after the promotion.

Chris Munnelly - August 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

These openings at Tri-City were due in large part to pitchers from that club getting promoted to Quad Cities. The first to be promoted to Quad Cities was Patrick Christensen, the Astros 2013 27th round pick. Christensen had a 12.67 strikeout to walk rate, barely behind system leader Gonzalo Sanudo who had a 12.75 SO/BB ratio. After Christensen's early August promotion to Quad Cities, he managed a 1.29 ERA and a 1.143 WHIP in his nine appearances to end the season.

Next up to take the trip to Quad Cities was Zach Morton, a 32nd rounder from 2013. Morton did make four starts at Tri-City, but only one in his final eight games at Quad Cities so I'm making a judgement call by including him on this list. Morton is an extreme groundball pitcher who didn't allow a single home run in 51+ innings pitched. Morton had a 1.45 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP after the promotion to Quad Cities.

Andrew Walter, a non-drafted free agent signed by the Astros in 2011, didn't get the nod until mid-August. In six games at Quad Cities, he had three saves, a 0.00 ERA and a 0.632 WHIP. For the season, he walked only five batters while striking out 36 in 38 innings and held hitters to a .169 batting average. The final addition to Tri-City was 2010 39th round pick Krishawn Holley who pitched in five games for the ValleyCats at the end of the season.

Andrew Walter - July 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

2010 15th round draft pick Jamaine Cotton spent his entire season at Quad Cities and was coming on strong at the end of the season. He had a 0.72 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP in his final 10 games of the regular season. He also had a very successful winter pitching in the Liga Paralela in Venezuela.

Austin Chrismon, the Astros 26th round pick in 2013, had a very solid first professional season at Greeneville. Raul Rivera, drafted in the 37th round in 2009, had a 2.14 ERA and a 0.905 WHIP in 12 games at Greeneville. In 21 innings in the Appy League, he walked one and struck out 21.

Two of the Dominican pitchers who appeared with the Dominican Summer League team in 2013 had very nice seasons. Joselo Pinales, who just turned 19 in November, is likely being groomed to be a starter. He had one start and several long relief appearances. Angel Heredia is 21, but 2013 was only his second year pitching. He was originally a shortstop in the Pirates organization.

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