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2021 Minor League Recap Part 3: Pitchers who Impressed at A/A+

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Syndication: The Fayetteville Observer Andrew Craft via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Having already profiled some of the pitchers recently drafted like Alex Santos, and the “Super Young Guys” in early renditions, this part means to fill out the picture a bit. After no minor leagues in 2020, Fayetteville got in 120 games (55-65) and Asheville 116 (54-62). Records indicate that the teams weren’t embarrassments, but also weren’t stacked with talent. And pitching was hard to come by. Pitchers at the lower levels showed their rust by walking everyone.

In the High-A East division, where Asheville plays with 11 other teams, the lowest team ERA was 3.95 and the Tourists posted an 11th-best 5.68 ERA, with the worst WHIP and most walks in the league. Things weren’t much better in the Low-A East, where the ‘Peckers posted a 5.00 team ERA (8th out of 12) and issued 691 walks, 121 more than the 2nd worst team. On the bright side, when they threw strikes they got outs, as their BAA was only .226, 2nd in the league. Some profiles not to be lost:

FAYETTEVILLE

ALFREDI JIMENEZ is only 21 and pitched very well in Fayettteville, In over 50 IP he had a bb/k ratio of 14/55 and opponents only hit .234 against him. His success brought him a promotion to Asheville where he logged 45 innings with 10 walks and 41 Ks. He suffered some BABIP bad luck it appears, as players hit .297 against him. He throws in the mid-90s and the control bodes well. He’ll see Corpus next year.

BRAYAN DE PAULA from the DR turned 22 in June. In 7 glorious weeks for Fayetteville he 30.1 innings where opponents hit .126 against him. He K’d 40 in that time, and although he gave up 16 walks, his ERA was 1.78. He then got promoted, where he got hammered and (6.67 ERA in 28 IP) before heading to the IL on 8/25.

ELVIS GARCIA (19) should have been mentioned in Part II. He was okay in the FCL and then threw 23 IP in full-season ball. His WHIP was 1.04 and his bb/k wasn’t great (9/19) but he only yielded 1 HR, leading to a 1.96 ERA. That stat is a bit luck-driven, but to yield 3 fewer runs/9 than your average teammate who’s three years older than you is nothing to sneeze at.

MISAEL TAMAREZ (21) also toggled between A and A+ but threw 43 of his 76 IP in Fayetteville so we’ll profile him here. In those 43 IP, he K’d 34% of batters but also walked almost 15%. In the 33.2 IP in Asheville, he found his control (7.3% bb) but saw his K rate drop to 28.5%. Still, that’s moving up and keeping the success. Fangraphs was bullish on him in the pre-season rankings, slapping a 40FV on him and calling his changeup “precocious.” MLB.com ranks him 26th. I imagine the incoming talent may push him down when experts re-do these lists, but that speaks more to the talent than anything he failed to do.

HEITOR TOKAR (20) also faced some bad luck in 40 IP. His bb/k of 8/37 stands out. He only yielded 3 HR. His xFIP and FIP were both 1 run lower than his 4.73 ERA. He will have to miss more bats but that’s impressive control (4.7% walk rate) for a 20 year old on a team that gave out 691 free passes.

ASHEVILLE

JOSE BRAVO (24) won’t crack anyone’s top 50. The Mexican hurler was old for the league and posted a 5.37 ERA in 57 IP. But his 11.4 K/9 matched with 2.2 BB/9 scream misfortune. He could not keep the ball in the park (14 HRs; 24% HR/FB ratio) in a hitters’ league. If you believe in xFIP, there’s hope for Bravo. The Astros like guys who control the strike zone so expect him to get a chance in Corpus’s rotation in 2022.

DIOSMERKY TAVERAS (22) in his age-21 season impressed upon promotion. He couldn’t control the strike zone in 60.2 IP at Fayetteville, but sparkled in 17.2 IP in Asheville, giving up 9 hits, 6 walks, and striking out 23. Something clicked after getting bombed on July 20, and his next 6 outings in A ball were markedly different. Despite his age, he’s huge (248lbs) and has a big arm that can touch the upper 90s. If he continues to control the zone, I wouldn’t be shocked if injuries and fatigue give him a lane to debut in Houston next year as a bullpen guy.

JONATHAN SPRINKLE (23) signed to a minor league contract in 2020, Sprinkle’s great name and K-rate made him a fan favorite here. He pitched 3 years at Central Missouri and blew everyone away there too while keeping the walks in line. He showed some rust when he debuted in Fayetteville where he walked 9 in 11 IP. He only gave up 2 hits though and K’d 44% of hitters. In Asheville, he struck out 46% of hitters but still walked 15% across 22 IP. Things were much better in his final 10.1 IP in Corpus, where he only walked 7.7% but still K’d 30.8% of hitters. When you strike out 79 hitters in 44 IP it raises eyebrows. Nobody could catch him though, and he somehow yielded 29 wild pitches. I don’t know what they have in store for him and I’m surprised he didn’t start. I suspect they either give him a chance to start in 2022 or see if he can keep it in the zone more as a possible Bryan Abreu-type reliever.

A few other older guys like Devin Conn and Felipe Tejada were very impressive in A+ but logged a majority of their innings in Corpus so may get profiled later.

CONCLUSION: The relative dearth of arms who could throw strikes and get outs across two levels of A-ball is a data point for this being a bottom-10 farm system even if you believe in the potential of guys like Jeremy Pena and Pedro Leon.