The position players at Casper are more exciting, so this will serve as a tease to get you ready for that report later this afternoon/evening.
Performances at Casper are difficult to gauge, but a general rule of thumb is that if a player does well before their 20th birthday, take note. For those 20 and older, more information needs to be processed. Sorting out pitching prospects in particular at this level is a big mess, as park and league and small sample effects make for mostly meaningless statistical analysis. So we're left just looking for clues in the numbers on what might come about without any real sure direction. One decent clue is to try and get a sense of how the team overall stacks up when compared to Casper franchises in the past. If it's at the bottom end, it would probably be easy to write off most of the pitchers as minor league fills and not really worthy of our attention. Let's see how it looks compared to last year in one important category, K/IP:
654 IP/ 552 K
635 IP/684 K
Alright, writing these pitchers off might not be the best idea. 2008 was the first time since 2004 and only the second time in franchise history that the Rockies Casper affiliate has recorded better than one K/IP. That 2004 squad featured Franklin Morales and Samuel Deduno in the rotation but also had Shane Lindsay, Josh Newman and Matt Daley in relief and in retrospect looks a lot deeper in pitching talent than it did at the time. Similarly, I believe the pitching talent on this season's Ghosts squad is deeper than it appears and is capable of producing more than one MLB caliber pitcher. It's just a matter of determining who are the most likely suspects, which is a task I'm sort of dreading.
Since we're talking about strikeouts, I'm going to start with those that have shown some punchout ability and a K/IP greater than 1.00. This strips away everything except the pitcher's ability to get out of trouble on their own, and the Ghosts had a few who relied on this ability for over a third of their outs, one for over half:
- Kurt Yacko (20) 1.633
- Adam Jorgenson (22) 1.483
- Isaiah Froneberger (19) 1.430
- Chad Rose (20) 1.391
- Kyle Walker (21) 1.333
- Alan Deratt (22) 1.314
- Edwar Cabrera (20) 1.266
- Andres Marrero (19) 1.143
- Jeff Fischer (22) 1.020
- Marco Duarte (21) 1.015
The pitchers' ages are important, particularly for the three 22-year olds on this list, but being that old is not necessarily a deal breaker. Daley and Newman were also 22 when they pitched for Casper in 2004, and one of that pair has made the Rockies while the other is on the verge of doing so in AAA. I think the age does point to a somewhat low limit in the ceiling of these three pitchers, however, but I would throw every pitcher at Casper this season into a low ceiling category. Yacko's K rate jumps out here, and he's young enough to be put on the radar.
Next, I'll be taking a look at how pitchers have avoided the least desirable outcomes, homeruns and walks, and I'll also include the pitchers' groundball percentages. First for the starters:
Jeff Fischer: 7% HR/Air 4.3% BB 45% GB
Dan Houston 10% HR 6.8% BB 51% GB
Ethan Hollingsworth 9% HR 6% BB 61%
Marco Duarte 8% HR 4% BB 48% GB
Matt Baugh 8% HR 3.8% BB 50% GB
Edwar Cabrera 13% HR 10.4% 41% GB
There were two outliers in these numbers among Casper's starters. On the good end, you have Hollingsworth's very high GB rate with some pretty decent control for that kind of sink, which means many of his struggles may well dissipate in less extreme environments and with higher quality defenders. On the negative side you have Edwar Cabrera having the highest HR and walk rates as well as the lowest GB% among Casper starters. This reveals that his K rate was probably so high because he wasn't getting outs any other way. Cabrera was simply phenomenal as a man among boys in the DSL, but he flubbed his domestic debut pretty badly. If he's given a second shot, he'll have to comeback with something more in line with the dominance he showed in the Dominican. The other four showed pretty impressive command numbers (I don't know if the Rockies have ever before had just one Casper starter with a greater than 10% BB rate) but they get muddled together. Baugh is left handed, which would usually be a tie-breaker, but I'm leaning to Houston because he's nine months younger.
With the relievers, I'll stick to just the seven on the above K list, as the other pitchers to appear for Casper this season have a lot of obstacles to overcome yet to get on the radar.
Yacko 15% 7.6% 47%
Deratt 2% 10.4% 41%
Jorgenson 0% 3.7% 46%
Froneberger 3% 13.4% 46%
Rose 7% 12.2% 43%
Marrero 5% 6.5% 44%
Walker 7% 14.1% 51%
The ability of Marrero and Jorgenson in controlling their mistakes this season has been impressive, and looking closely, I think Marrero should join Hollingsworth in the category of Ghosts pitchers who were most hurt by their defensive environment and/or bad luck. When you add in that he just turned 20, he makes for a pretty decent reliever to put on a watchlist. Yacko's high HR rate is something to take note of, 12 of his 25 hits allowed went for extra bases, a percentage that seems to indicate that his mistake pitches are fat, flat and served on a platter. I'm going to give him some benefit of doubt right now due to the Pioneer League and small sample size making things fuzzy, but I definitely want to see some improvement in this in 2009. Walker vs Froneberger might be an interesting dual to watch for future bullpen lefty, but right now neither are displaying enough skill to make them solid bets for MLB play. I'm pencilling Deratt into a sleeper category, there's just a pretty good combination in his line that leads me to think he could follow a Ryan Speier/Matt Daley sort of trajectory to MLB play but he needs to cut a bit back on the walks.
So my top five pitching prospects from Casper break down this way:
- Ethan Hollingsworth
- Kurt Yacko
- Adam Jorgenson
- Andres Marrero
- Dan Houston
Given Hollingsworth's collegiate career, his draft position, scouting reports, his high GB% and low walk rate, he's going to top my list of pitching prospects at this level. I think the surface WHIP and ERA numbers are hiding a fairly solid prospect. After that, I think you've got to look at the bullpen. I'm going to give Yacko the second spot thanks to that K rate and his age, followed by Jorgenson and Marrero, and then Houston.