With the 2015 minor league seasons completed, let’s take a look at the leaders in key statistical areas in the White Sox system. In this edition, we’re going to focus on starting pitchers. We’ll look at some classic core numbers like ERA and WHIP, but also some peripheral values like strikeout and walk rates that may better indicate where these players’ futures may lie.
A separate article on hitting was already published, and the final one covering relievers is coming next week.
Note: Statistical performance is not the same as prospect ranking or perceived future impact. In fact in many cases, these can be very different things. We’ll touch on that with some notes on each leader board below.
These numbers are from 2015, minor leagues, players still with the organization, with prospect status (hasn’t achieved MLB rookie status – Erik Johnson for example isn’t included), state-side affiliate games only. For starting pitchers there is a minimum of 20 IP working primarily as a starter. Though because there were some tandem arrangements we included some pitchers here who technically were not often starters…
EARNED RUN AVERAGE
|Zack Erwin*||Rk, A||40.1||1.34|
|Carson Fulmer||Rk, A+||23||1.96|
|Tanner Banks*||Rk, A||86.1||2.71|
|Matt Heidenreich||A+, AA||154.2||2.85|
|Spencer Adams||A, A+||129.2||2.99|
|Jordan Guerrero*||A, A+||149||3.08
The White Sox’ top two draft picks from June also top the ERA list, though in both cases their innings were limited. First rounder and 8th overall pick Carson Fulmer got a lot of attention and for good reason, and you will see his name on a number of the lists in this article. But 4th rounder Zach Erwin breezed through his brief pro debut as well, showing the polished arm the club was looking for.
The Dash were blessed with a very nice rotation throughout the season. Fulmer’s tandem slot mate, lefty Brian Clark, emerged as a significant prospect this year with not only intriguing scouting reports but also very good results in most categories. Former Sox draft pick and re-acquired righty Matt Heidenreich helped Winston-Salem early in the season, while in-season additions Spencer Adams and Jordan Guerrero aided the team’s big second half run.
Tanner Banks didn’t have much trouble with the Pioneer League, but he was also a 23-year old repeating rookie ball and struggled in his brief look at Kannapolis. Yosmer Solorzano was also in a rookie league, but at age 18 as he emerged as a potential prospect.
WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched)
|Zack Erwin*||Rk, A||40.1||0.97|
|Jordan Guerrero*||A, A+||149||1.04|
|Tanner Banks*||Rk, A||86.1||1.09|
|Yency Almonte||A, A+||137.1||1.15|
|Matt Heidenreich||A+, AA||98.1||1.16|
Not surprisingly, the list here is very similar to the one for ERA – fewer base runners tends to help. But Yency Almonte shows up here, as he had an emergent season across both levels of A-ball. Acquired in exchange for 2 months of Gordon Beckham‘s services in 2014, Almonte flashed a lot of potential and could break into the top 30 prospects list this offseason.
Terance Marin certainly has an interesting story, and he opened his AAA debut with an improbable 31.1 scoreless innings. Shortly after he was moved to the pen, where he struggled a bit before rebounding in that role as well. Chris Beck, James Dykstra and Brannon Easterling rode their stellar control onto this list. Beck’s season was cut short due to “elbow inflammation”, and hasn’t pitched since June.
|Carson Fulmer||Rk, A+||23||6.7|
|Zack Erwin*||Rk, A||40.1||7.1|
|Jordan Guerrero*||A, A+||149||7.5|
|Yency Almonte||A, A+||137.1||7.9|
This may be the most interesting list here, because of what it so closely parallels – prospect status. Nine of the ten names in lowest hits-allowed rate are either in team’s midseason top 30 prospects or likely will be this offseason. This was also true to a great extent last year, indicating there may be something to the idea that this is one of the better minor league stats to lean on as an indicator of current “stuff” (in so far as any stat in the minors is indicative).
Pitchers who appear here but perhaps not in the lists for core stats or walks may fit the profile of “unrefined” pitching prospects still working on command. Frankie Montas had a very good year in AA and is now with the big club, and he’s a prime example – his velocity is impressive, his pitches sometimes have wicked movement (especially when he doesn’t over-throw), but he struggles to locate and deliver pitches reliably. Another Baron, Myles Jaye had a nice rebound year in 2015 thanks to a re-tooled slider, but he did fade a bit down the stretch and may be destined for the bullpen.
Then there is the one name on this list who hasn’t been discussed as a prospect yet – 2015 16th round pick Brandon Quintero. Plucked from Division II Cal State Los Angeles and assigned to the AZL, this 21-year old puts himself among the top 10 in not only hit rate, but also strikeout and ground ball rates. We don’t have yet scouting information on Quintero, but we are seeking that out now via one of our writers who is taking in games at Instructs.
|Spencer Adams||A, A+||129.2||1.3|
|Zack Erwin*||Rk, A||40.1||1.6|
|Matt Heidenreich||A+, AA||154.2||1.7|
|Jordan Guerrero*||A, A+||149||1.9|
Walk rate is the direct result of control – but not necessarily command, and is much further from “stuff”. Nevertheless, throwing strikes is key to a pitcher’s success. Adams make an appearance here, which is significant in that he’s been on a program all year to refine his mechanics and approach. The fact that he continues to throw a ton of strikes even through all that is a positive indicator, even if his uneven velocity and movement on pitches has raised some concerns. Adams was much younger than his league cohorts at 19 years old, and there is still an awful lot to like.
Most of the rest of the list are names we have discussed. Easterling was the rock of the Voyagers’ rotation in 2015, but he was repeating rookie ball in his age 24/25 season.
|Carson Fulmer||Rk, A+||23||10.2|
|Jordan Guerrero*||A, A+||149||8.9|
|Matt Heidenreich||A+, AA||154.2||7.3|
Here is the biggest change from last year. On our 2014 list, there were six starters who struck out better than a batter an inning, and the rest of the list was all above 8.0 K/9. This year, just one was over 8.9, and Fulmer only threw 23 innings. Only four pitchers got over 8.0. Among last year’s top 10 in this category: Carlos Rodon, Chris Bassitt, Mike Recchia and Dane Stone are no longer in the system, while Jeffrey Wendelken and Andre Wheeler were moved to relief work. The struggles of Adams and Luis Martinez in their first full years added to the withdrawals from the list.
But there are some new names here. Matt Ball struggled overall in his third year of rookie ball (8.16 ERA), but he is still 20 years old and did miss plenty of bats. 2014 5th round pick Zach Thompson had his first year of full-season ball at 21 years old and showed some promise. Quintero, Brandon Magallones and Yeuris Guerrero all made their stateside pro debuts and puzzled some batters along the way.
The top four are names found all over these lists, with Guerrero making this and every list above it. Jordan showed promise in 2014, but really broke out this year thanks to a little more velocity on his fastball and further refinement of his very good change-up and work-in-progress curveball. In his age 20/21 season, the lefty cruised through South Atlantic League lineups, struggled briefly on promotion to Winston-Salem, then dialed it in at that level as well.
GROUND BALL RATE
|Zachary Thompson||A, A+||75||1.26|
This is a good opportunity to talk more about Clark. The big southpaw skipped Class A to go to A+, began the year in the bullpen, then ramped up his innings to grab some starts and eventually become a tandem partner with Fulmer. His K/9 and H/9 rates are positive indicators, and when he wasn’t missing bats he was forcing hitters to pound the ball into the dirt. Clark did not allow a home run the entire season thanks to his heavy stuff – he has allowed just one long ball in 137.1 career innings. The 22-year old has a low 90’s fastball that can touch mid-90s, a good slider and two more pitches, all of which he commands well (though no one of them stands out as plus at this point).
Tyler Danish shows up here for the first and only time in our statistical review – a reflection of his tough year in AA. For the first time in his career, Tyler reached a level where his stuff wasn’t enough – yet. As a 20-year old, he was one of the youngest pitchers in the Southern League. His sinking stuff did still generate plenty of ground balls, and he will repeat the level in 2016. Nothing to panic about here.
Quintero and Solorzano also displayed the ability to induce weak contact in their US debuts. Mark Blackmar had a decent season with Birmingham despite missing very few bats. Tony Bucciferro throws strikes and relies heavily on getting ground balls for outs. Finally, Jace Fry was having a nice start to his 2015 season, until he went down in June and then had his second Tommy John surgery.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Brandon Quintero, Brannon Easterling, Brian Clark, Carson Fulmer, Chris Beck, Frankie Montas, Jace Fry, James Dykstra, Jordan Guerrero, Luis Martinez, Mark Blackmar, Matt Ball, Matt Heidenreich, Myles Jaye, Spencer Adams, Tanner Banks, Terance Marin, Tony Bucciferro, Tyler Danish, Yency Almonte, Yeuris Guerrero, Yosmer Solorzano, Zach Thompson, Zack Erwin