Last week, we took a look at the hitters, so this week we shall dive headfirst into the pitchers. This must be framed within a small sample size alert because nobody has thrown more than 34 innings in the minors yet this season, but we do already have quite a few potent potables (I got it right this time!) happening down on the farm.
Any discussion about pitching must start with young phenom, Dylan Bundy. Bundy is in Delmarva and has pitched 13 innings of no-hit baseball so far. He has allowed just one baserunner to reach and that was via the walk while striking out 21 during that time. 21 strikeouts, one walk, and no hits in his first 13 innings of baseball. This is a high school pitcher that walked off the graduation platform and quickly passed short-season baseball by for full season work. He is dominating in the same manner that Josh Beckett (who he is often compared to) did at a similar age. So far, the results match the hype.
Former high school stunner Tyler Skaggs, is off to a confident start as well as he works in Double-A Mobile for the Diamondbacks organization. He has 34 strikeouts and just five walks in 23 innings of work. He turns 21 later this summer and has a 4.24 ERA thanks in part to four home runs, but a 1.03 WHIP and that kind of strikeout rate as a 20 year old kid in Double-A is very impressive.
His organizational mate Trevor Bauer is stealing all of the attention after recently being promoted to Triple-A Reno. Bauer forced the promotion by winning all five of his starts in Double-A Mobile with a 1.26 ERA and only allowing 18 hits in 28.2 innings of work while striking out 37. The .184 opponents batting average is excellent, but 17 walks in that timeframe has to improve. Pitching in the PCL and Reno can humble a man, so Bauer has his work cut out for him, but he is not likely to stay there too long as the big league club could use him.
Another high profile name that many would like to see in the big leagues sooner rather than later is having similar issues. Seattle’s James Paxton has struck out 31 in 23 innings of work and has allowed just 18 hits—but he has also walked 16 batters while pitching in Double-A. Seattle is more likely to give Iwakuma a rotation spot than they are to rush either Paxton or Danny Hultzen. Hultzen has allowed just nine hits in 21 innings, but has walked 11 while striking out 26.
Boston’s Matt Barnes was the 19th overall pick out of the past draft out of the University of Connecticut. The right-hander is showing his collegiate polish off in the South Atlantic League as he has struck out 34 batters while walking only four in 21 innings of work, all the while permitting only nine base hits and prohibiting anyone from scoring. The Low A and High A affiliates for Boston are not that far apart and Barnes could very well be making that scoot up the Carolina backroads soon enough to Salem, VA.
Tyler Thornburg has picked up where he left off last season striking out 33 while walking just seven in 28 innings of work. He has permitted just 17 hits and two home runs while working in the Double-A affiliate of the Brewers in the Southern League. He even flashed some hitting prowess hitting a three-run bomb in his last start to give himself the run support he needed for a win.
It is also tough to overlook what Jose Fernandez is doing in Greensboro in the Sally League. Newbridge Bank Park is not a great park for pitchers as its dimensions are rather cozy but Fernandez has yet to allow a home run in 23 innings of work with limiting the opposition to nine hits, eight walks, and striking out 33 batters.
Speaking of cozy parks, the Dodgers Zach Lee is getting a taste of life in the California League. While he has struck out 30 batters and walked only four in 27 innings so far this season, he has also given up 13 runs thanks to leading A ball in home runs allowed with six. Only journeyman Chris Seddon of Colorado Springs has permitted more home runs in the minors this season as he has coughed up eight in 19 innings of work.
A reminder that all statistics must be taken into context comes from Atlanta’s Yohan Flande. Flande pitched in Triple-A Gwinnett last season and gave up 155 innings in 137 innings while striking out 104 batters. This season, he has allowed a mere five hits in 16 innings of work while striking out 16 batters. Go figure.
Yesterday, the Tigers sent down Andy Wilk but recalled Bryan Villareal rather than prospect Andy Oliver. Why? Oliver has made four starts and pitched just 20.1 innings. The good news is that he has allowed only 14 hits and has struck out 22. The bad news: he has allowed 15 runs and has walked 21 batters. Matt Harvey of the Mets could see his timetable slowed by the fact he has allowed 14 runs in 26 innings, has more hits allowed than innings pitched, and has 11 walks on the season. The good news is he 24 punchouts and just one home run allowed on the season.
Cody Buckel is giving Rangers fans yet another prospect to be excited about, at least with results. He does not have the electric arms like others in the system, but last season in the Sally League, he struck out 120 while walking 27 in 97 innings of work. This season while pitching at the cozy Myrtle Beach park, Buckel is off to a scorching hot start with 29 strikeouts and eight walks while allowing just seven hits in 21 innings of work. Big fastball or no big fastball, his results continue to impress at every stop.
Edwar Cabrera of the Rockies is a similar pitcher who gets big results mainly off a nasty change-up. His stat line is a bit odd in that he has allowed 14 hits in 26 innings and has 22 strikeouts with only three walks. Yet, six of his 14 hits have been home runs and they are the only runs he has allowed all season in Double-A Tulsa.
Few were surprised that the Rays sent Alex Cobb down to start the season, but he has had a rather indifferent year in Durham thus far. He has not yet won a game which is mainly due to the poor hitting of the Bulls this season. However, he has also uncharacteristically walked 10 batters in 20 innings of work. The positives are that he has less hits than innings pitched and has not allowed any home runs while striking out 22. The negative is that there continues to be no clear path for him at the major league level until someone gets injured.