Friday, April 30, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Pitchers

Eastern League hitters are proving no match for Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg entered last June’s draft as, arguably, the best pitcher ever drafted. When Washington signed him at the deadline for the largest draft signing bonus it only heaped additional expectations on what already was a mountainous set. So one would be forgiven if they believed Strasburg would have difficulty meeting those expectations this season. After Tuesday’s stint of five-inning no-hit ball, all we can say is that if he is going to struggle, it isn’t happening yet. If there is a problem with Strasburg, it is the fact that he supposedly started his professional career in the Minors instead of the Majors because he had work to do in holding runners on and pitching from the stretch. Unfortunately, through four starts Strasburg has only faced 14 batters with a runner on base. We aren’t sure how much work he’s getting in on this at AA. It looks like Strasburg will make one more start in the Eastern League (ESL) this weekend, and then will likely be promoted to AAA next week for at least a couple of starts. At the moment there doesn’t appear anyway that he remains in the minors into June, and all this makes him our Hottest Pitcher of the week.

Hot Pitchers

1) Stephen Strasburg, RHP, WSN

We are not sure exactly what more to say about Strasburg, as he is the best pitching prospect to come along in at least the last decade. Over the last two weeks he has 12.3 shutout innings, where he has allowed 3 hits and has a 15:1 K:BB ratio. We’ll likely have to wait until June to see him really challenged.

2) Aneury Rodriguez, RHP, TBR

After being traded to the Rays at the beginning of 2009 Rodriguez put a lot of pressure on himself and struggled to a disappointing season. He seems to have put all of that behind him now and is trying to squeeze his way onto an already packed Tampa pitching staff. A 0.45 ERA, 0.600 WHIP and a 14:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, leaves him with a 1.13 ERA on the year, and opposing hitters are batting a mere .169 against him.

3) Jake Arrieta, RHP, BAL

Arrieta was never given any real consideration for breaking camp with the team this Spring, but he is showing why Brad Bergesen’s days as a starter are numbered. A 0.45 ERA, 0.800 WHIP and a 21:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves him with a 0.36 ERA on the year.

4) Jaime Garcia, LHP, STL

In case there was any doubt, Garcia is all of the way back from his elbow surgery. He nailed down the fifth starter spot with an excellent performance this Spring, and has been even better since the season has officially begun. A 0.90 ERA, 0.900 WHIP and a 12:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves Garcia 1.04 ERA on the year. While he lacks the stuff of a true top of the order stud, Garcia should become one of the better 2/3 starters in the League in a couple of years.

5) Simon Castro, RHP, SDP

The Padres challenged Castro by skipping him over Hi-A this Spring, but the Texas League (TL) hitters are proving to be of little more challenge than were Midwest League (MWL) hitters last season. Over his last three starts, Castro has posted a 0.93 ERA, a 0.776 WHIP and a 12:4 K:BB ratio. Only 22yo, Castro is a big powerful righty that looks to be on track for a debut in San Diego before season’s end.

6) Andrew Cashner, RHP, CHN

Cashner’s 2010 beginning will become the poster child for power arms that need to develop their secondary offerings. Now showing both an improved slider and change, that offset his mid-90s heat, Cashner has rewarded the Cubs stubborn belief that he is starter material. Over his last three starts Cashner has posted a 2.70 ERA, a 0.900 WHIP and a 19:5 K:BB ratio. For the year, he has fanned 29 batters in 24 innings.

7) Jay Jackson, RHP, CHN

After a 2009 season in which discipline issues forced Jackson to be demoted for part of the season, the 22yo is knocking on the Major League door with a stellar debut in the PCL. A 1.50 ERA, 0.778 WHIP and a 12:5 K:BB ratio leaves him with 2.35 ERA on the year. Opposing batters are hitting only .177 against him.

8) Tanner Scheppers, RHP, TEX

Many who saw him pitch in Arizona this Spring felt that his stuff was Major League ready. Given his injury history and a loaded Ranger pitching staff, Texas started him in the Texas League (TXL) in a relief role. His ability is clearly above this level, as the only run he has allowed all year was a home run on 4/13. On the year he has a 0.273 WHIP and an amazing 19:0 K:BB ratio in 11 innings. There will always be a concern as to how many pitches remain in that shoulder, but the Rangers would be wise to not waste too many on AA hitters.

9) Juan Oramas, LHP, SDP

Oramas has been Padres’ property for a couple of seasons now, but in 2009 he was on loan to the Mexican League, where the then 19yo was one of the circuit’s better hurlers. After dominating the MWL in five outings with very strict pitch counts, to open up 2010; where he posted a 1.20 ERA, a 0.800 WHIP, and a jaw-dropping 25:3 K:BB ratio; San Diego has promoted him to the California League (CAL), where he becomes one of the League’s youngest pitchers. This isn’t a guy with front of the rotation stuff, but he looks like a potential mid-rotation starter.

10) Manuel Rivera, LHP, BOS

After two solid, yet unspectacular seasons in the DSL, Rivera drew attention with his 2009 GCL performance that saw him fan nearly a batter per inning. In 2010, he is stating his case for true prospect status. Over his last three starts, Rivera has posted a 0.64 ERA, a 0.571 WHIP and a 17:1 K:BB ratio in the South Atlantic League. Only 20yo, this is a possible breakout season in the making.

The Nots

1) Daniel Hudson, RHP, CHA

This season Hudson is falling just as fast as last season’s meteoric rise. While many thought he had a shot at the #5 rotation spot enter spring, thus far he is making his AAA placement seem questionable. Over his last three starts, Hudson has posted a 13.50 ERA, and a 2.719 WHIP. Home Runs are apparently his bane, as he has allowed 6 of them in 16 innings this season. While the 23yo has plenty of time to right the ship, he is making many—including us, question his lofty pre-season ranking.

2) Cole Rohrbough, LHP, ATL

After the Braves made Rohrbough a 2006 draft and follow, he turned heads with a spectacular 2007 debut. Control issues have plagued him ever since, and it is about time to start doubting that he ever gets it figured out. Over his last three starts, the 23yo, Rohrbough, has posted a 13.06 ERA and a 2.710 WHIP. On the year he has walked 9 batters in 13 innings, with opposing hitters teeing him up to the tune of a .417 average against.

3) Tyler Kehrer, LHP, ANA

A supplemental first round pick by the Angels last June, Kehrer looked poised to become the next in a long list of unsung draftees that the Halos seem so adept in discovering. He started 2010 with a solid three inning debut, but has been horrendous ever since. Over his last three starts, the 22yo has been torched by MWL hitters to the tune of a 11.81 ERA, a 2.719 WHIP and a 7:14 K:BB ratio.

4) Troy Patton, LHP, BAL

For a good part of 2009, Patton looked to be the comeback story of the year following his 2008 shoulder surgery. It is now looking like he will become just more evidence as to why, in this day of advanced medicine, labrum issues sill essentially sound a death knell for Major League pitchers. Once one of the top pitching prospects in the game, the 24yo Patton has posted a 9.95 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP over his last three starts and is falling further behind what is looking like a future solid Oriole pitching depth chart.

5) Brad Bergesen, RHP, BAL

Speaking of Orioles’ hurlers that are tumbling down the depth chart, Bergesen, who shocked us with his stellar 2009 MLB debut, seems to be returning to earth in 2010. Over his last three starts, he has posted a 7.82 ERA and a 1.974 WHIP. His three Major League starts produced an ERA over 12.00. While the Orioles’ best pitching years appear to be in the future, Bergesen is clearly behind Matusz, Guthrie, Hernandez, Tillman and Arrieta in the longer term plans.

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