Pitchers on the rise
Pitching in the big leagues is one of the most fluid situations in baseball.
Harold Reynolds of ESPN's Baseball Tonight brought up a stat that initially
surprised me, but upon reflection made sense. Over the last three years,
an average of 175 pitchers went on the DL per year. That's nearly 6
pitchers per team, or roughly half of every staff in the majors. Granted,
a lot of those are just 15-day stays on the DL for a minor strain or bruise,
but that's still a pretty amazing statistic.
What it means is that there are plenty of opportunities for pitchers in
the minors to get a shot at impressing someone on the big league club and
perhaps extending their stay for longer than just 15 days. From a fantasy
standpoint, this can be incredibly useful info because it allows one to both
replenish an injury depleted staff and/or trade off pitching for improved
hitting because quality can be bought and replaced relatively cheaply.
So I went through the numbers at AAA and here are some likely candidates
TEAM W-L SV ERA G GS CG SHO GF AB TBF IP
H R ER BB IB SO HR HB WP
Bere, Jason CLE 1-0
0 0.61 3 3 0 0 0 50 53 14.2
9 1 1 3 1 17 0 0 0
*Stanford, Jason CLE 5-0 0 2.79 7
7 0 0 0 162 176 42.0 45 18 13 12 1 42
2 1 0
Gonzalez, Jeremi TB 1-0 0 2.53 7
6 0 0 1 119 127 32.0 24 11 9 6
0 33 2 1 2
Rauch, Jon CHW 2-1
0 3.15 8 8 0 0 0 164 181 45.2 39
18 16 12 0 36 7 1 0
*Porzio, Mike CHW 4-1 0 3.21
8 8 0 0 0 166 190 47.2 41 18 17 14
1 40 5 2 1
*Dubose, Eric BAL 4-2 0 3.61
8 8 0 0 0 181 197 47.1 50 20 19 10
1 42 3 3 1
Rupe, Ryan BOS 3-1
0 1.91 7 6 0 0 0 123 130 33.0 26
12 7 4 0 30 1 0 1
Seanez, Rudy BOS 1-0 1
4.05 7 0 0 0 2 26 29
6.2 5 3 3 3 0 9 0 0 1
Glynn, Ryan ATL 4-3
0 2.96 9 9 0 0 0 176 198 48.2 41
16 16 18 2 42 4 2 1
Madson, Ryan PHI 4-2 0
3.73 7 7 0 0 0 155 169 41.0 41
17 17 7 0 31 1 2 4
Manon, Julio MON 1-0 10
0.77 18 0 0 0 18 86 98 23.1 15 4
2 12 0 30 0 0 1
Williams, Jerome SF 3-1 0 2.35
8 8 1 0 0 173 192 46.0 40 13 12 13
0 30 1 4 1
*Alvarez, Wilson LA 4-0 0 0.96
5 5 0 0 0 96 100 28.0 15 3
3 3 0 22 1 1 0
Benoit, Joaquin TEX 2-1 0 4.03 5
5 0 0 0 109 120 29.0 26 16 13 9
0 24 2 2 1
Duchscherer, Justin OAK 3-1 0 1.77 7 7
0 0 0 169 175 45.2 36 12 9 3 0
38 1 0 1
Harang, Aaron OAK 7-2 0 2.38
9 9 0 0 0 202 217 53.0 48 17 14 13
0 46 3 1 1
Harden, Rich OAK 4-1 0
3.98 6 5 0 0 0 115 129 31.2 26
14 14 12 0 34 3 1 2
Soriano, Rafael SEA 2-2 0 3.25
7 6 0 0 0 129 141 36.0 24 14 13 8
0 35 1 4 0
Falkenborg, Brian SEA 2-1 0 2.29 7
7 0 0 0 146 162 39.1 30 11 10 14 0 30
3 1 2
A couple of these guys were recently called-up, but I included them to show
what they had done as a reference for what to expect. For example, Joaquin
Benoit has not pitched as well in Texas as he did in Oklahoma City, but it's
easy to spot the similarities between what he's doing now and what he was
doing in the minors. The ERA and WHIP will be slightly higher, but
the effect is roughly the same.
My criteria was pretty simple: choose starters (with a couple of exceptions)
because those are the guys who will likely be the most influential. I
included a couple of relievers - Seanez and Manon - because they have legitimate
chances of getting closing opportunities this season. I chose pitchers
who had good strikeout rates, solid K/BB ratios and for the most part allowed
fewer hits than innings pitched. There are a couple of exceptions but
for the most part, if a guy can't keep minor league hitters from getting to
him, he really doesn't have any chance against major league hitters. The
exceptions to the rule are guys who are in organizations who need help in
their major league rotations.
Jason Bere is here because he's been such a wild card during his career.
Some years he's been decent, other years, he's just been plain awful.
Based on these early AAA numbers, this might be one of those years
he's decent. Like Esteban Loaiza, he's always had pretty good stuff
and can dominate for an outing or two. Consistency has been a big bugaboo
with him and this small sample does not satisfy that concern. However,
he's definitely worth a flyer because these numbers are outstanding..
Jason Stanford is 26 and this year is probably his last chance to avoid
the tag of "organizational pitcher". He's been pretty good the last
year and a half, but nothing spectacular. What he has working in his
favor is that he's a lefty so he may get a longer look than some of the other
guys in Cleveland.
Jeremi Gonzalez has already been called up by Pinella and the D-Rays, and
will probably be one of the better options they have on the staff. He
was developing into a fine starter for the Cubs before workloads cost him
several surgeries and two full seasons. On the plus side, there shouldn't
be any further concerns about workload as he's now 28 and past his injuries.
Jon Rauch and Mike Porzio will probably get opportunities to start this
year on Chicago's South Side. Only Colon and Loaiza have pitched well
to this point and the Sox will need much better starting pitching if they
hope to stay within earshot of the Twins. Rauch is already the tallest
pitcher to ever appear in the majors - he's 6'11" - and has posted spectacular
numbers at several levels when he's had his mechanics in order. Porzio
has kicked around several organizations in his 11 year pro career and may
have finally found an opening in Chicago.
Eric Dubose has a good curve ball and a good feel for pitching. He
was called up for one start earlier this season and pitched well enough to
get a win. Unfortunately, the O's were shut out so he ended up with
a loss. Still, with the exceptions of Jason Johnson and Sidney Ponson,
the O's starting rotation has been pretty dreadful so a change should be
in the offing soon and Dubose will get a longer look.
Ryan Rupe isn't a prospect. In fact, he's been in the majors the last
4 years. But pitching for the Devil Rays hasn't exactly been ideal
for showing off one's talents. Now he's with the Red Sox, and with
Pedro Martinez hurting and John Burkett getting pummeled consistently, Rupe
should have a good chance to start a few games in Boston. This time,
however, he'll have good run support and a passable defense behind him so
we should see a much improved Rupe.
With all the troubles the Red Sox have had with their bullpen to date -
regardless whether it's perceived or actual - Rudy Seanez might be intriguing
enough to get a few save opportunities. He still throws plenty hard
and has a good recent history of success in Atlanta and San Diego. He's
definitely worth a flyer if you're looking for saves.
Only 2 NL teams have walked more batters than the Atlanta Braves this season
and the Braves are currently 11th in the NL in total strikeouts and 9th
in home runs allowed. That's a very dangerous combination, one that
could catch up to them in a hurry. Someone who might help is journeyman
Ryan Glynn, who's pitching well for them in AAA. In fact, this is
the best Glynn has pitched since 1998 when he was in his first full season
in AA. He's not a keeper, but should be useful down the stretch.
Ryan Madson is a legitimate prospect and as such will probably spend most
of this season right where he is. Think Brandon Duckworth with a better
fastball. Again, he probably won't see any significant time this season
in Philly, but he's a good name to stash away on a reserve roster for next
Although Rocky Biddle is the closer for now, there's no question that Julio
Manon could do the job if the Expos were to trade him. Last year in
AA, Manon struck out 51 in 39 innings, while only walking 4. He's not
young - he'll be 30 this year - but that doesn't count against him as a closer.
Given that no one in the Expo bullpen has been dominant so far, he might
already be their best option in the ninth inning.
The Giants seem to be satisfied with the results they are getting from Kurt
Ainsworth and Jesse Foppert, but should either of them struggle, Jerome (I'm
told by CreativeSports' Lawr Michaels that his name is pronounced Jeromy)
Williams should be more than capable of replacing them. There has been
considerable discussion as to whether Foppert or Williams has the higher upside.
We'll know for sure soon enough.
I included Wilson Alvarez on this list because I like the guy. I was
in attendance when he threw his no-hitter against Baltimore and have rooted
for him to do well since. I doubt very seriously he will see any time
in LA this season, especially in their rotation. However, if he keeps
pitching as well as he is now in that hitters park, he'll be a nice sleeper
for next year because some team will give him a shot at their rotation. He
may also have some trade value this year if the Dodgers go after a hitter
at the deadline.
Oakland has a trio of good starters to replace John Halama when that experiment
ends. The most celebrated is Rich Harden, who opened the season by pitching
13 perfect innings in AA, striking out 17 in the process. The hitters
in AAA have proved to be a little more challenging, but he's still the one
with the most upside. Justin Duchscherer would have been better served
had the Rangers not traded him to Oakland last year, but the A's are known
for trading arms to get what they need and Duchscherer should be on a short
list of guys they can move. If he does get traded, there's a good chance
he'll get 2 un-interrupted months of big-league exposure to show what he can
do. The same is true for Aaron Harang.
And finally, Rafael Soriano and Brian Falkenborg are pitching extremely
well for Seattle's Tacoma club and one of them will get a chance this year
to start for the major league club. With Freddie Garcia struggling
and Ryan Franklin defying the odds, it's only a matter of time until one
of these two gets the call. Soriano is the true prospect of the two,
so he may get stuck in AAA because the M's don't want to jerk him around
too much. Falkenborg is slightly older, and in the grand scheme of
things, probably less valuable, so he may get the first extended opportunity,
probably by helping in the bullpen.