If you were to speculate that both of these pitchers were on my last Top 100 list, you would be correct. If you were to speculate that both were fireballers, you would be incorrect as the first pitcher is Washinton's Brad Peacock while the other is San Francisco's Erik Surkamp. They were two of the top of the class statistical pitchers in Double-A last year, but the two of them are not cut from the same cloth. Peacock does have the nasty stuff while Surkamp relies on location, changing speeds, and some deception. Both saw time late in the season in the majors and the significant bump in competition helped differentiate these two as most would have expected as Surkamp was hit quite hard then walked more than he struck out as experienced hitters were not chasing as the Double-A hitters did. As Surkamp goes to Triple-A, the test will be for him to miss more experienced bats while Peacock has shown the skills in both Double-A and Triple-A has positioned himself quite nicely for a spot on the 25-man roster sooner rather than later.
While Peacock and Surkamp were one and two in Double-A for FIP, there were other impressive pitchers including Matt Moore, Nathan Eovaldi, and Robbie Erlin who all had FIP's below 3.20 last season. Another interesting name in that bunch was Shairon Martis who was last seen in the major leagues in the 2009 season pitching for the Nationals at age 22. He is still in the organization, but he had the fifth best FIP at the level last season with a 9.7 K/9IP, and a 3.6 K/BB mark in 128 innings. Martis was able to parlay the work into a new minor league contract with Pittsburgh a few weeks ago giving him another opportunity with an organization that has less in his way than what the Nationals have coming up should this career turnaround continue. On the other side of the ledger, high upside arm Chris Archer with Tampa Bay had an up and down season. He had a 4.42 ERA and a 4.50 FIP in 134 innings in which he had the third-worst walk rate at the level with a 5.4 BB/9IP and opponents had a .374 OBP against him. It got worse later in the season as he walked 47 batters over his final 70 innings while striking out just 56. This was a step backwards for a guy that was a big part of the Matt Garza deal but if these command numbers do not improve, his future is diminished in a middle-relief role.
Some of the best strikeout-to-walk rates at the level included Erlin, Peacock, Moore, and Simon Castro. Some were a bit down on the Yankees' duo of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos but both were in the top 15 for strikeout rates in Double-A as Betances had a 9.8 K/9IP while Banuelos was right at 9.0. Betances. Betances tied for the third-lowest opponents' isolated power grade at just .090 with Matt Moore but both came behind Eovaldi at .078 and Surkamp at .073. Another impressive effort was put in by Garrett Richards with the Angels' organization who now gets to compete with Jerome Williams. Richards' strikeout rate was low at 6.5 K/9IP, but his walk rate was low as well and he was the toughest pitcher in Double-A to take out of the park when opposing batters made contact. While he gave up ten home runs in Double-A, just 0.6% of his balls in play went over the fence.
Speaking of the Angels, the acquisition of Albert Pujols takes a very crowded situation and makes it even worse which could likely seal Mike Trout's fate to start the season. We know that the team already has to play Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter on the corners with their massive contracts. Peter Bourjos and his defense are too valuable in center field for the team to turn into a reserve outfielder and Bobby Abreu is back thanks to a vested option in his deal. Kendrys Morales' future is in doubt with that ankle injury that he is still rehabbing and there is Mark Trumbo who nearly won the AL Rookie of the Year this past season. Pujols now pushes Trumbo as well as Trout into limbo status as there is not a logical spot for either on the depth chart right now which is when trades tend to happen. The Angels have their four horsemen in the rotation so they could put Williams or Richards in the fifth spot or trade one of the outfielders or first basemen to a team for a cost-controlled pitching option either in the bullpen or the starting rotation. Someone has to go somewhere which is going to create a job opportunity for some young player but block one for another prospect on one of the other 29 teams.
What we saw at the Winter Meetings this week was just the first step of a series of moves that we will see in the coming weeks as teams decide which players to tender or not tender and fill in the gaps that these first six weeks of free agency have not yet been able to fill.