Astros Minor League Review: Legends RHP Michael Foltynewicz

Bob Levey - Getty Images

Mike Foltynewicz re-established himself as one of the Astros top pitching prospects by turning in a solid season with the Lexington Legends this year.

Mike Foltynewicz had a disappointing first season in pro ball for the Legends in which he posted a 4.97 ERA and averaged 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings which earned him a second stint in the Sal league. TCB's Subber10 (Astros minor league guru) constantly reminded us that he was a cold weather pitcher and to have patience with the young right-hander. That patience seemed to have paid off as he had a much more impressive season with the Legends this time around. His ERA dropped to 3.14 though his FIP was higher at 3.80, and his strikeout rate climbed to 7.54 K/9 though you would still expect it to be a little higher given his stuff. Let's take a look at just how well he performed this season.

As mentioned above Folty did take a step forward this season compared to last season, but he still has room for improvement. He finished second in the Sal league in innings pitched with 152, fourth in ERA with his 3.14, and sixth in strikeouts with 125.

His 7.54 K/9 rate was slightly below the Sal league average (7.71), his walk rate of 3.65 BB/9 was slightly above league average (3.6), and his groundball percentage of 46.50% was slightly better than the league average of 44.20%. While his ERA of 3.16 was well above the league average of 4.26 his SIERA was a much higher 4.09 which was again right at league average. He was very solid for the first three months of the season and posted a 1.98 ERA in April, a 2.50 ERA in May, and a 2.70 ERA in June though he outpitched his FIP each month. This was evidenced in the month of July when he posted a 5.33 ERA but an FIP of 4.03 which was more consistent with his performance during the previous months. He had a good month in August and posted a 3.82 FIP while striking out 29 batters in 20.2 innings pitched.

When Folty struggled this year it was primarily against left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .270/.360/.420 aganist him while righties only hit .230/.290/350. This amounted to a 4.69 FIP against left-handed hitters versus a 3.01 FIP against right-handed hitters. He also walked 36 batters in 62.1 innings pitched against lefties, and only allowed 24 walks in 85.2 innings pitched against righties.

I have not been able to find too many scouting reports on Foltynewicz this year, but the biggest improvement that he has made in regards to stuff is that his fastball is more consistent both in velocity and location than it was last year. He seems to like to establish his fastball early in the game, usually the first time through the order, and then start mixing in his off-speed stuff the second and third times through the batting lineup. Here is the most detailed scouting report that I could find on the progress of his pitches this season, by Baseball Prospect Nation. The takeaway:

Fastball:

Velocity is consistently in the low-90s as opposed to the upper-80s I saw him sitting at last year. Good angle to the plate along with good sink. Can get weak contact and swing and miss with just FB. Quality plus pitch right now with some projection – both velocity and movement – remaining.

Curveball:

Still a work in progress. Generally consistently below average but will flash an average one at times, particularly when he lets it fly and trusts the pitch. Gets around the pitch too often, flattening it out and softening the bite in the pitch. At its best, CB has hard 11-5 movement with tight spin and can induce ground balls. Maxes out as an average pitch for me but should be a usable breaking ball.

Changeup:

Very good feel for pitch. Trusts his circle-change grip and maintains his arm speed, throwing it with the same vigor and from the same arm slot as his FB. Very good sink and some fade on the pitch. Can be lethal against LHHs and he will use it against RHHs as well.

Outlook

The Astros front office has indicated to Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle that it’s likely that Folty will skip a level and start next season with the Corpus Christi Hooks. The move would spare Folty the headaches of pitching in the Offensively-oriented Cal league environment. Hopefully Folty is ready for the jump and at just 21-years old he could really improve his stock with a good showing in the Texas league.

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