One of the things I find helpful when looking at prospects is a quick sheet to peek at overall skills. For several years, I have created a matrix for drafting closers that I have published at Fanball (RIP) and Baseball Prospectus in recent years, as a quick guide to review when deciding between relievers to target. While there are many metrics to review pitchers, there are several key stats that I consider when drafting any kind of pitcher.
Strikeout to walk ratio: If you made me choose one stat to take with me to a deserted island, this would be the one. A pitcher can escape bad fortune with help from BABIP or LOB%, but if a pitcher has a bad K/BB rate, they are their own worst enemy.
HR/9: Can they keep the ball in the yard? There are some year to year variances with pitchers--and in the minor leagues, park effects must be taken into consideration--but if a pitcher cannot limit home runs in the minors, his odds of doing so at the major league level are not very strong.
Groundball rate: The best way to limit home runs is to keep the ball down. If a prospect has a low groundball rate, then other skills have to step up and it helps when that prospect is going somewhere like Petco Park or Safeco Field.
Contact rate: How often are opposing batters making contact with the pitcher's pitches? There can be some insane rates at the lower levels, but context is key with this stat.
Strikeout rate: The less balls in play, the less likely a bad result can happen.
Walk rate: Never help the opposition score. Free passes only help the run expectancy in a given inning.
Splits: This can also have some year to year variance, but more so for hitters than for pitchers. If a pitcher has a rather large split in his OPS against lefties and righties, it speaks to a need for a better tertiary offering. It can also speak to a potential future in the bullpen for a starting pitching prospect.
With that in mind, here is a quick matrix for all of the pitchers that Bernie and I ranked and discussed in the Top 100 piece from two weeks ago.
Keep in mind, these are cumulative totals for the pitchers from the 2011 season and that each level and individual league in the minors has different league averages. According to MinorLeagueCentral.com, the league average rate for pitchers and their Contact rate (Con%) last season in the California League was 59 percent. In the Southern League, that rate jumped to 66 percent.
A couple of lines to look at from the worksheet:
Matt Moore had the highest K% amongst all starting pitchers last season, but look who was right behind him: James Paxton. Paxton whiffed 34 percent of the hitters he faced and he was equally effective against righties and lefties while producing a lot of groundballs. That, and his left-handedness in Safeco is one of the reasons I am very high on him.
Neil Ramirezhad one of the best K% on this list at 29 percent, but he also had one of the highest contact rates on the list at 75 percent. Bernie's write-up on him said he has a knee-buckling curve along with an average fastball and changeup so there is a good chance that putaway curve was a factor in that strikeout rate.
Despite his struggles with command, Chris Archer was equally effective against righties and lefties last year, which is why it is too early to put him to the bullpen just yet. That said, it is tough to envision him as a starting pitcher when his walk rate is the highest on this entire list and has been for a few seasons.
Julio Teheranhas a ton of promise; that .267 split in his OPS seems more like an outlier given the quality of his stuff.
Sort the worksheet by BB% from smallest to largest. I could walk out of a dynasty draft with those first 10 names and be thrilled as those are my types of guys.
Next week, we will look at the hitters under this approach. What skills would you like to see shown for them?