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In Some Depth: NL Pitchers Under the Radar

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli

Carson Cistulli writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


Last week, in this space, I endeavored to scour the minor leagues for The Next Juan Nicasio -- that is, to find the minor league pitchers who're most likely to get the call from the parent club in the event that a starter at the major-league level falls prey to injury or ineffectiveness.

To do so, I looked at the three top-performing starters from all the American League organization. In what follows, I give the same treatment to the National League.

One note on the statistics you see here. Minor-league stats, as you can imagine, pose some difficulties. In addition to the various park factors like one finds in the the majors, there's also the question of different levels (Triple-A, Double-A, etc.), leagues (International versus Pacific Coast League, for example, at Triple-A), and more widely varying levels of ability among the player pool.

To control some of these variables, I like to use tRA and tRA+ from StatCorner.

Per StatCorner tRA is an ERA estimator calculated by "assigning run and out values to all events under a pitcher's control and coming up with an expected number of runs allowed and outs generated in a defense and park neutral environment. [It's] on a R/9 scale." It's been show to more accurately predict future ERA than ERA itself. Also, that it's park-adjusted is very helpful.

tRA+ is a player's tRA relative to the rest of the league, such that over 100 is good; under, bad.

All numbers are said pitcher's stats as a starter only. Walks are only uninentional walks.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Pitcher: Charles Brewer, RHP, 23
Numbers: 38.2 IP, 32 K, 9 BB, 44.4% GB, 137 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Not considered a prospect, but also a 23-year-old pitching decently at Double-A -- which, that has value. Strikeout rates have been higher before this year.

Pitcher: Patrick Corbin, LHP, 21
Numbers: 64.2 IP, 56 K, 15 BB, 49.3% GB, 119 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: No. 9 prospect in org, per Baseball America. Part of deal that sent Dan Haren other way to Angels. More Ks would be ideal, maybe, but K:BB combined with ground-ball percentage combined with age is promising.

Pitcher: Tom Layne, LHP, 26
Numbers: 23.0 IP, 11 K, 8 BB, 53.1% GB, 118 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Has also worked 25.2 IP in relief, but numbers worse: 15 K, 18 BB, 53.9%, 20 tRA+. Probably means nothing... or maybe everything!


ATLANTA BRAVES

Pitcher: Mike Minor, LHP, 23
Numbers: 52.2 IP, 54 K, 13 BB, 47.6% GB, 130 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: This -- along with the Julio Teheran entry below -- is cheatingcheatingcheating, as both have already pitched at the major-league level this season already. Still, that's because Atlanta has a lot of starting-pitching depth,

Pitcher: Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, 22
Numbers: 68.0 IP, 56 K, 14 BB, 39.4% GB, 116 tRA+
Notes: Ranked ninth in system by BA before season. Profile is a bit vanilla, but that can also mean "solid."

Pitcher: Julio Teheran, RHP, 20
Numbers: 55.2, IP, 46 K, 17 BB, 40.7% GB, 126 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Was named No. 1 prospect in Braves system, and No. 5 in all of baseball, before season. Has excellent change and is putting up above-average numbers as 20-year-old in Triple-A.


CHICAGO CUBS

Pitcher: Trey McNutt, RHP, 21
Numbers: 36.2 IP, 22 K, 8 BB, 47.9% GB, 140 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: No. 2 prospect in Chicago system with Chris Archer gone. Strikeout rate doesn't match 10.6 K/9 he posted between Low- and High-A last year. Currently on DL with bruised ribs, but not considered serious, it seems.

Pitcher: Ramon Ortiz, RHP, 38
Numbers: 68.1 IP, 59 K, 16 BB, 47.5% GB, 115 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Not an answer -- either for Cubs or fantasy owners -- but Cubs have started Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez this season, so...

Pitcher: Chris Rusin, LHP, 24
Numbers: 53.0 IP, 34 BB, 11 BB, 50.8% GB, 107 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Has never posted below-average tRA+, but has also been oldish for levels. Numbers suggest control, lefty-type. Ground-ball numebrs consistently above-average, which makes starting a possibility, probably.


CINCINNATI REDS

Pitcher: Kyle McCulloch, RHP, 26
Numbers: 23.0 IP, 15 K, 6 BB, 42.5% GB, 111 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Emblematic of lack of options for Reds in upper minors currently. Showings for McCulloch have been unimpressive. Also, kinda old for level.

Pitcher: Daryl Thompson, RHP, 25
Numbers: 46.2 IP, 41 K, 17 BB, 33.3% GB, 106 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Has also pitched at Triple-A and in majors this season, inlcuding 6 K, 5 IP performance at Triple-A. Has had numerous injury problems, but Reds seem intent on using as starter for time being.

Pitcher: Dontrelle Willis, LHP, 29
Numbers: 43.0 IP, 37 K, 14 BB, 53.0% GB, 134 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: By far, most encouraging performance for Willis in some time. Unfortunately, has made start since May 21st, owing to groin and ankle injuries.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Pitcher: Billy Buckner, RHP, 28
Numbers: 36.0 IP, 24 K, 18 BB, 43.3% GB, 111 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Has looked, at times, like he could be decent major-leaguer -- which is to say that, even though his MLB ERA is high (6.25), he's done things like strike batters out and not walk them and induce ground balls, so's that you'd think he might be good.

Pitcher: Alan Johnson, RHP, 27
Numbers: 47.1 IP, 35 K, 14 BB, 57.6% GB, 135 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Has already made one start at major-league level this season. Like many pitchers on this list, strikeout rate would translate poorly to majors, probably.

Pitcher: Juan Nicasio, RHP, 24
Numbers: 56.2 IP, 63 K, 9 BB, 41.9% GB, 158 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: This is mostly for reference -- as Nicasio's in the majors right now. As you can see, his tRA+ is better than almost everyone else's on this list -- with the exception of Brad Peakcock's, of course. LET THE PEACOCK FLY!!!


FLORIDA MARLINS

Pitcher: Jose Alvarez, LHP, 22
Numbers: 63.0 IP, 58 K, 11 BB, 46.2% GB, 133 tRA+ (High-A)
Notes: On list because Marlins have basically nothing in Triple- or Double-A. Arrived in Florida as part of Jeremy Hermida trade.

Pitcher: Matthew Montgomery, RHP, 23
Numbers: 67.2, 41 K, 7 BB, 57.8% GB, 128 tRA+ (High-A)
Notes: A type of pitcher that exists pretty abundantly in the minors: good walks rate, good ground-ball rate, strikeout rate -- not so much.

Pitcher: Omar Poveda, RHP, 23
Numbers: 60.2 IP, 37 K, 18 BB, 52.0% GB, 108 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Missed all of 2010 while recovering from Tommy John. Low K rate doesn't bode well for major leagues. With Jay Buente gone, is only pitcher with decent numbers in upper levels of minor leagues.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Pitcher: Xavier Cedeno, LHP, 24
Numbers: 62.2 IP, 50 K, 21 BB, 57.1% GB, 111 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Ground-ball numbers have been good through minors. Control has been problem, but this year's 3.59 BB/9 would be second-best mark of career -- and only had 4.56 K/9 in that season, as opposed to current 7.18 K/9.

Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel, LHP, 23
Numbers: 62.0 IP, 29 K, 16 BB, 55.6% GB, 114 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Command-type lefty. Has posted more impressive K:BB in past, but ground-ball rate gives him some leeway. Had concussion in early May, but has returned from it.

Pitcher: Fernando Nieve, RHP, 28
Numbers: 15.1 IP, 17 K, 5 BB, 31.5% GB, 140 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Nieve has the most weighted runs among starting pitchers for Houston's Triple-A team -- and he's been playing in South Korea since late-April. Just to give you an idea of how the org is doing.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, 21
Numbers: 50.1 IP, 58 K, 21 BB, 48.5% GB, 136 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Might be someone to watch. Has high velocity fastball (ca 93-96 mph, per BA) but has had problems with secondary pitched. The strikeout rate (compated to last year's, at High-A, of just 6.14) suggests something might be going well.

Pitcher: Dana Eveland, LHP, 27
Numbers: 67.0 IP, 47 K, 28 BB/9, 53.6% GB, 118 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Numbers suggest he's (a) still Dana Eveland, (b) Dana Eveland is better than a lot of minor-league starters, but (c) not as good as most major-league starters.

Pitcher: Allen Webster, RHP, 21
Numbers: 54.0 IP, 62 K, 21 BB, 50.4% GB, 133 tRA+ (High-A)
Notes: No. 5 prospect in system, per BA. Just recently promoted to Double-A. Changeup is best secondary pitch, according to BA, meaning he'll likely remain a starter.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Pitcher: Michael Fiers, RHP, 26
Numbers: 55.1, IP, 40 K, 21 BB, 43.5% GB, 107 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: I saw him pitch once at spring training and he struck some guys out, is what I can say about Michael Fiers.

Pitcher: Dan Merklinger, LHP, 25
Numbers: 55.1 IP, 40 K, 21 BB, 43.5% GB, 107 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Being average for his level distinguishes Merklinger from many other Brewer minor-league pitchers.

Pitcher: Wily Peralta, RHP, 22
Numbers: 57.2 IP, 60 K, 23 BB, 54.5% GB, 122 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Ranked No. 3 in org by Baseball America. Strikeout rate back up after dropping to 6.4 K/9 last year. ground-ball rates actually seem to've improved through minors. Best thing in upper minors for Brewers at moment.


NEW YORK METS

Pitcher: Brandon Moore, RHP, 25
Numbers: 52.1 IP, 42 K, 15 BB, 46.2% GB, 122 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Combination of age/level/numbers uninspiring.

Pitcher: Dylan Owen, RHP, 24
Numbers: 22.0 IP, 21 K, 5 BB, 42.2% GB, 128 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Has pitched at multiple levels (Double- and Triple-A) and roles (starting, relieving) already this season, with best numbers coming as starter at Triple-A. Same thing happened last year. Is likely small-sample noise, but still notable.

Pitcher: Chris Schwinden, RHP, 24
Numbers: 50.1 IP, 44 K, 17 BB, 33.3% GB, 136 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Was leading candidate to replace R.A. Dickey when the latter had foot in late-May. Few, if any, appearances on prospect lists. Ground-ball rate low (34.1%) last season, as well, in large sample.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Pitcher: Eddie Bonine, RHP, 30
Numbers: 44.1 IP, 43 K, 7 BB, 50.3%, 128 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Pitched each of the last three seasons for the Detroit Tigers, posting a decent 2.72 BB/9 and 49.8% ground-ball rate over that time -- but with a strikeout rate (3.77 K/9) that made him very hittable. For reasons that aren't immediately clear, his strikeout rate is much higher than that so far this season -- and much higher than his career minor-league strikeout rate of 6.3 K/9.

Pitcher: Brian Gordon, RHP, 32
Numbers: 38.2 IP, 33 K, 4 BB, 41.3% GB, 144 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Despite his age, Gordon has no stats available before 2007 -- or, no pitching stats, at least. That's because he converted from the outfield. He's generally worked from the bullpen (156 G, 13 GS through 2010), but seven of his 10 appearances this season have been starts, and the results have been pretty good.

Pitcher: Austin Hyatt, RHP, 25
Numbers: 60.0 IP, 64 K, 23 BB, 34.1% GB, 115 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Hyatt doesn't appear on any prospect lists, but a strikeout rate of 11.3 K/9 over 265.1 minor-league innings certainly suggests he's doing something well. That "thing" is likely his changeup, although there are questions about how the rest of his repertoire will play at the majors.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Pitcher: Brad Lincoln, RHP, 26
Numbers: 64.1 IP, 55 K, 11 BB, 43.1% GB, 121 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Former first-rounder, has had problems with health. Minor league 3.9 K:BB is impressive, but hasn't translated to majors (25:15 in 52.1 IP).

Pitcher: Rudy Owens, LHP, 23
Numbers: 56.1 IP, 29 K, 11 BB, 40.5% GB, 106 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Similar to Tom Milone (below, of Washington), except a bit less impressive in every way. Had 144 tRA+ last season as 22-year-old at Double-A. Lack of Ks this season might support notion that he lacks outpitch.

Pitcher: Aaron Thompson, LHP, 24
Numbers: 55.0 IP, 36 K, 12 BB, 40.3% GB, 108 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Claimed off waivers from Washington this past offseason. Control guy who doesn't get above-average number of grounders. In other words, prone to danger.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Pitcher: Will Inman, RHP, 24
Numbers: 59.2 IP, 72 K, 24 BB, 41.6% GB, 138 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Is striking out batters at highest rate since 2007 in High-A. Hasn't otherwise been considered prospect. K rate and fly-balling tendencies would play well in PETCO.

Pitcher: Casey Kelly, RHP, 21
Numbers: 66.1 IP, 53 K, 20 BB, 56.5%, 114 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: No. 1 prospect in system, per BA. Was included as the centerpiece of the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston. Performance is particularly encouraging given lack of experience -- having played both ways up till last season.

Pitcher: Wade LeBlanc, LHP, 28
Numbers: 61.2 IP, 54 K, 17 BB, 43.1% GB, 137 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Already has 221.2 innings as major-leaguer. Pitched 146.0 last season alone. Main weapon, a curve, plays better at minor-league level, whereas major leaguers are less apt to be deceived by it.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Pitcher: Andrew Kown, RHP, 28
Numbers: 62.0 IP, 45 K, 27 BB, 42.9% GB, 125 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Has 139 starts and 867.2 innings in minors and zero of both in majors. His 0.73 HR/9 is pretty good for PCL.

Pitcher: Doug Mathis, RHP, 28
Numbers: 57.2 IP, 49 K, 20 BB, 51.4% GB, 131 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Has 87.1 IP as major-leaguer: 44 K, 35 BB, 47.0% GB. Like Kown, has been weirdly effective.

Pitcher: Matt Yourkin, LHP, 29
Numbers: 60.2 IP, 56 K, 17 BB, 31.4% GB, 127 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Different method, similar results to above pair. More Ks, fewer BBs, but with rather low ground-ball percentage. Like above, has little (read: none) major-league experience.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Pitcher: Nicholas Additon, LHP, 23
Numbers: 41.0 IP, 32 K, 4 BB, 28.8% GB, 142 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Was promoted to Triple-A in early, where he's posted a 114 tRA+ in 17.1 IP as starter. The ground-ball percentage is (a) similar to those posted in previous years and (b) a bit scary.

Pitcher: Maikel Cleto, RHP, 22
Numbers: 23.0 IP, 24 K, 9 BB, 46.0% GB, 131 tRA+ (High-A)
Notes: Started season in High-A, where he posted a 136 tRA+ in 29.0 IP. Made one, diasatrous appearance in majors, too. Apparently has crazy, 98-100 mph fastball. Might be viewed more as reliever.

Pitcher: Kevin Thomas, RHP, 24
Numbers: 45.1 IP, 27 K, 14 BB, 63.5% GB, 119 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Meh. Ground-ball rate is impressive, but lack of strikeouts doesn't bode well.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Pitcher: Brad Meyers, RHP, 25
Numbers: 36.1, IP, 38 K, 0 BB, 43.6% GB, 157 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: Those numbers you see are accurate: Meyers issued exactly zero unintentional walks in Double-A. Promoted to Triple-A in early May. Numbers from that: 28.1 IP, 21 K, 2 BB, 44.0% GB, 111 tRA+.

Pitcher: Tom Milone, LHP, 24
Numbers: 57.0 IP, 59 K, 4 BB, 42.3% GB, 154 tRA+ (Triple-A)
Notes: Posting almost exact same rates as last year at Double-A. Not much in way of velocity or stuff, but has some of most impressive numbers in all of Triple-A.

Pitcher: Brad Peacock, RHP, 23
Numbers: 50.2 IP, 70 K, 11 BB, 41.1% GB, 173 tRA+ (Double-A)
Notes: LET THE PEACOCK FLY!!! Before the season, per BA, Peacock was known for an excellent fastball and curve, but with a below-average change that might make him vulnerable to lefties. There are few reports on the quality of his change now, but his numbers against lefties (31.1 IP, 41 K, 7 BB, 1 HR) are almost identical to those against righties (30.2 IP, 41 K, 6 BB, 1 HR).

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