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Who were some of the most notable performers in the minor league pitching ranks this season for Houston?
There were many notable pitching performances in the Astros minor league system in 2012 as the system as a whole improved dramatically. I think most of us expected a good season from a high profile prospect like Jarred Cosart who, although hampered by blister problems during the season, had good results and earned a promotion to AAA Oklahoma City. And Nick Tropeano did not disappoint in his sophomore season, working his way up through the ranks. Ross Seaton appears to have turned a corner in his development. And Mike Foltynewicz showed us why he was a first round pick in 2010 as he went from a 5-11 record with a 4.97 ERA and 1.493 WHIP in 2011 to a 14-4 record with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.362 WHIP in 2012. And before anyone starts ragging on him for repeating a level, keep in mind that he doesn't turn 21 until October.
But there were many notable performances coming from often unexpected quarters. Let's look at just a few.
Although I wasn't particularly surprised by the success of RHP David Martinez at Lancaster, I was surprised by the level of his success as well as his durability. As a predominantly ground ball pitcher, I felt he was well-suited to pitch at The Hangar, but I didn't expect him to pitch over 90 more innings than he had ever pitched before nor did I expect him to get stronger as the year progressed. Martinez pitched 160 and a third innings, the third most in the Astros minor league organization and ended the regular season with a 9-5 record, a 4.38 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP. However, in his last 10 outings, he was 7-1 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.293 WHIP and he won both of his post-season appearances as well.
Martinez' teammate RHP Tyson Perez was on Baseball America's list last year as a sleeper prospect so I've had my eye on him. What I didn't expect was for him to make the leap from the Rookie League Greeneville Astros in 2011 to Hi-A Lancaster in 2012. Perez equaled Martinez' record of 9-5 and had a 5.03 ERA and a 1.508 WHIP. In the post-season, he was 1-1 (the loss coming in a 1-0 shutout) with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP. Another big difference maker for the Lancaster staff was RHP Carlos Quevedo who joined the team late in the season when the JetHawks desperately needed middle relief. Quevedo did not disappoint as he put up 2.03 ERA and a 1.065 WHIP in 15 games for Lancaster, helping to keep them in wild card contention.
Corpus Christi's success in making it to the post-season was due in large part to the extremely effective one-two punch provided by LHP Kevin Chapman and RHP Jason Stoffel to close out games for Keith Bodie's Hooks. Chapman was 6-3 in 49 appearances with a 2.64 ERA and a 1.397 WHIP while Stoffel compiled 27 saves in 56 appearances, a 2.33 ERA and an outstanding 0.983 WHIP.
Another relief pitcher who opened a few eyes was RHP Mickey Storey. Other than Tim DeBlock I didn't hear too many in the blogosphere singing his praises earlier in the season, but by the time Storey made his major league debut for the Astros on August 3rd, he had everyone's attention after a very effective 38 appearances for Oklahoma City in which he went 7-4 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.169 WHIP, 10.0 SO/9 and 5.14 SO/BB rate.
One of the biggest surprises to me was the depth of the 2012 draft class. Third round pick RHP Brady Rodgers was expected to do well as a starter for Tri-City, and he did, but who expected 13th round pick LHP Brian Holmes and 17th round pick RHP Aaron West to put up such remarkable numbers as well. Holmes was 7-2 with a 2.56 ERA and a 0.960 WHIP in 13 appearances (12 starts) and flirted with no-hitters all season. West just edged out Holmes with a 0.957 WHIP to go with a 6-2 record and a remarkable 2.04 ERA in 12 starts.
And the relief pitching from the 2012 draft class was equally accomplished. 22nd round pick LHP Kenny Long quickly made his mark with Tri-City meriting a promotion to Lancaster. In 29 games, he had a combined 1.61 ERA, 0.627 WHIP, 15.3 SO/9 and a 5.43 SO/BB ratio. Long just barely inched out 34th round pick RHP Jordan Jankowski in his strikeout rate as Jankowski only had 14.8 SO/9 in 23 appearances with a 2.23 ERA and a 1.082 WHIP. 33rd round pick RHP Mike Hauschild had a 1.78 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, 11.6 SO/9, a 4.33 SO/BB rate and a ridiculous 5.25 GO/AO ratio. RHP Travis Ballew, the 23rd round pick, had a 1.62 ERA, 1.026 WHIP and recorded five wins in relief.
My favorite surprise, though, has to be RHP Bobby Doran. After being relegated to mostly relief duties in Lancaster in 2011 after battling injuries and a rough start to a season in which he went 1-3 with a 9.05 ERA and a 2.010 WHIP, Doran came back strong. In 27 starts between Lancaster and Corpus Christi, Doran tied Mike Foltynewicz for the organizational lead in wins with 14 and had a combined 4.00 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP.
There were other great performances during the season from RHP Chris Devenski's complete game no-hitter in his final start of the season at Lexington to a very good sophomore season from LHP Mitch Lambson to the dominance shown by 18-year old RHP Michael Feliz with the GCL Astros before his promotion to Greeneville, among others.
Again, you can argue whether or not you think some of these players will continue to progress and build on their terrific performances in 2012 but, to me, the results indicate that there is more depth and maturity of pitching in the Astros farm system than there has been in quite a while. I am extremely encouraged by the great contributions from players who aren't necessarily considered top prospects in the organization.