Midseason 2014 Performance Analysis: Minor League Starting Pitchers

Midseason performance results of Houston's A ball starting pitchers as determined using my statistical evaluation system were presented in this recent Fanpost, and since then I have processed the data of AAA and AA hurlers. In this post, I will first share the overall midseason results of full-season affiliate starters who have faced at least 100 batters and then shine the spotlight on the AA and AAA clubs.



Every pitcher in the league gets charged with the number of runs shown in the table for each such event they have allowed in 2014 (after correcting for ballpark/stringer-related biases in event type determinations; the value corresponds to the number of runs that said event is typically worth in league play). And then each starting pitcher in the league gets ranked from best to worst at runs avoided per batter faced; that amounts to their Performance Rating.


That process can be repeated looking only at batted balls to compute a Batted Ball Rating that quantifies how well the pitcher avoided the batted ball types that are most frequently associated with run generation. A Control Rating (references BB+HBP%) and a Strikeout Rating (references K%) are also computed to quantify how well they rate versus league starting peers on those skills. Lastly, a Youth vs Level Rating is computed to measure how young the pitcher was versus other league starters. Each rating will be expressed on a percentile scale where the percentile amounts to the percentage of league peers who were beaten or equaled on the parameter.



A (Quad Cities) and A+ (Lancaster) data was compiled through games of June 15, whereas AA (Corpus Christi) and AAA (Oklahoma City) data was compiled through games of June 25. Green text denotes a rating that was at least a standard deviation better than league-average or a positive 2013 to 2014 change in rating of at least 25%; red text denotes a rating that was at least a standard deviation worse than league-average or a negative 2013 to 2014 change in rating of at least 25%. Asterisks denote lefthanded throwers. Using the control and + (or -) buttons may help with viewing the associated tables.


Full-Season Starters Who Have Faced at Least 100 Batters

There were 33 such qualifiers, and these grade out as the top 17 of them.


Oberholtzer definitely looks the part of a pitcher with little left to prove in AAA. Shirley stands to be the breakout performer of 2014, with positive strides forward in strikeouts and batted ball outcomes pushing him into elite overall performance territory. Smith has improved at all 3 sub-components of performance, and particularly on batted balls. Rollins' control has improved in his injury-shortened campaign but he remains otherwise very similar to his 2013 self. Buchanan has gone from good to great on batted balls, with a corresponding trade-off in strikeouts. Late-rounder Jankowski has performed remarkably well in a swingman role in both seasons. Devenski displays the largest performance improvement of these 33 qualifiers versus 2013. Martinez just continues to perform well on these sorts of metrics, and unceremoniously so. Gustave is another big 2014 riser and has essentially traded some small measure of strikeout ability for much better control and improved batted ball outcomes. Hauschild has made a leap forward in strikeouts, which is an impressive accomplishment for a groundballer. Feliz' performance has improved over the last month though his control and batted ball ratings still lag well behind the 2013 marks. Westwood, Velasquez, and Foltynewicz have performed similarly to how they did in 2013. Tropeano's 2014 ratings are nearly identical to the 2013 ones. Emanuel pitched only briefly as a pro in 2013 and in the transitional Gulf Coast League at that.

Note that while the following are technically the bottom 16 performers of the 33, only six of them have a below-league-average Performance Rating. That in itself is a testament to how well the organization is doing at the combination of acquiring and developing pitching talent.


Rodgers' recent rough stretch has dragged his 2014 Performance Rating down accordingly. Holmes and Cruz have each seen their performance impacted negatively by adverse trends in batted balls. Premium prospect McCullers' poor control wasn't so much of a concern in 2013 in that his batted ball outcomes were more than good enough to offset that weakness; his poorer 2014 batted ball outcomes now brings each of those parameters under more prospective scrutiny. Lee has seen all of his ratings go south by a decent amount in making the jump from Greeneville to Davenport (the same one made by the much improved and generally considered rawer Gustave, curiously).

Mark Appel only crossed the 100 batters faced threshold in the last handful of days, so his data doesn't appear here (but does in the prior Fanpost).


Corpus Christi Hooks

Shirley maintains the #1 Performance Rating among the 52 qualified Texas League starters with Smith ranking 3rd, Rollins 4th, swingman Jankowski 6th, and Hauschild 12th (2013 #1 overall pick candidate Jon Gray is 13th with an 82% Performance Rating).


The very young Smith's overall showing here in his first taste of AA ball is rather impressive, even with some expected movement backward in his Batted Ball Rating versus the California League mark. Rollins has excelled around a stint of being sidelined by a side. Like Smith, Hauschild has handled an in-season promotion to AA very well. West and Cain (for the most part) haven't thrown in AA since April. Heidenreich was recently demoted to Lancaster though even there he remains young by league standards (73% Youth vs Level Rating).


Shirley currently sports an exceptionally favorable batted ball profile that features lots of grounders, a decent percentage of popups, and few aerial pulls. More pulled groundballs versus less pulled fly balls would help Smith looking forward. Relative to his April marks, Rodgers' groundball percentage has declined from 61% to 49% while his K% dropped from 21% to 17%. Cruz, too, would stand to benefit from more groundballs and fewer aerial pulls.


Oklahoma City RedHawks

Oberholtzer places 8th on Performance Rating among the 113 league qualifiers with Buchanan 12th, Martinez 14th, Foltynewicz 17th, and Tropeano 18th.


The batted ball performances of Clemens, Buchanan, and Martinez grade out among the most elite of the Pacific Coast League. Clemens seems an unlikely candidate to maintain such a lofty Batted Ball Rating over a larger future sample of batters faced. Buchanan's rating, on the other hand, is rooted in a heaping helping of groundballs and thus seems more credible. Martinez' mark is driven mostly by popups and the avoidance of pulled outfield flies. Foltynewicz continues to grade out well on batted balls and that helps offset his weakness in the control column. Owens is for the most part a control artist by league standards. Doran is struggling to avoid bats and the sweet spots thereof. Wojciechowski has only recently returned to the squad after spring midsection issues.



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