Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Age Analysis of all Nats Minor League Pitchers

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Despite being in our system for years, Ross Detwiler is still “really young” for AAA. Photo: Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

Following up on a previous post discussing the “age appropriateness” of pitchers in the minor leagues, I thought it would be interesting to look at the pitching staffs at the Nationals various affiliates and take a look at the ages.  NOTE: I did most of this analysis prior to the promotions of AJ Cole and Robbie Ray to Hagerstown.  I’ll put in notes about them in the appropriate section.

To review, based on dividing the ages of every pitcher in each league into quartiles, and then naming the quartiles, here’s our starting point:

AAA AA High-A Low-A
Really Young 25.22 or younger 24.11 or  younger 22.33 or younger 21.56 or younger
Young 25.22 – 26.61 24.11 – 25.05 22.33 – 23.50 21.56 – 22.52
Old 26.61 – 28.47 25.05 – 26.32 23.5 – 24.45 22.52 – 23.33
Really Old 28.47 or older 26.32 or older 24.45 or older 23.33 or older

Here’s an affiliate-by-affiliate look at the pitching staffs, their ages and how that age is “ranked.”  Syracuse first:

Syracuse Collin Balester 6/6/1986 24.91 Really Young
Syracuse Adam Carr 4/1/1984 27.09 Old
Syracuse Ross Detwiler 3/6/1986 25.17 Really Young
Syracuse Lee Hyde 2/14/1985 26.22 Young
Syracuse Cole Kimball 8/1/1985 25.76 Young
Syracuse Jeff Mandel 4/30/1985 26.02 Young
Syracuse J.D. Martin 1/2/1983 28.34 Old
Syracuse Yunesky Maya 8/28/1981 29.69 Really Old
Syracuse Brad Meyers 9/13/1985 25.64 Young
Syracuse Tom Milone 2/16/1987 24.22 Really Young
Syracuse Garrett Mock 4/25/1983 28.03 Old
Syracuse Craig Stammen 3/9/1984 27.16 Old
Syracuse Josh Wilkie 7/22/1984 26.79 Old

Not surprisingly, several names (Martin, Mock) are included as being “old” for the level.  Maya is a special case of course.  Ironically, a lot of these players are young or really young for the level.  Of note would be Tommy Milone, who is the 23rd youngest pitcher in the International league (out of 193 pitchers) and is holding his own in the rotation.  Ironically, Ross Detwiler “seems” to be much older than he really is, since his name has been in the minds of Nats fans for years, but he’s still quite young even for AAA.  Brad Meyers recent promotion counts him in the younger category as well, a good sign for our continued player development.

Trivia: The youngest pitcher in the International League was (at the time of this analysis) Julio Teheran, uber-Braves prospect who turned 20 in April and is seemingly ready for his MLB debut.  The rich get richer.  In fact, he did get promoted and made a start on Saturday 5/7 for Atlanta.  Meanwhile the oldest pitcher in the International league is Mark Hendrickson, who last appeared in a minor league game in 2003.  He didn’t make the Orioles’ roster out of spring and is trying to hang on.

Here’s Harrisburg:

Harrisburg Erik Arnesen 3/19/1984 27.13 Really Old
Harrisburg Luis Atilano 5/10/1985 25.99 Old
Harrisburg Jimmy Barthmaier 1/6/1984 27.33 Really Old
Harrisburg Matt Chico 6/10/1983 27.90 Really Old
Harrisburg Erik Davis 10/8/1986 24.57 Young
Harrisburg Carlos Martinez 3/30/1984 27.10 Really Old
Harrisburg Shairon Martis 3/30/1987 24.10 Really Young
Harrisburg Ryan Mattheus 11/10/1983 27.49 Really Old
Harrisburg Patrick McCoy 8/3/1988 22.75 Really Young
Harrisburg Brad Peacock 2/2/1988 23.26 Really Young
Harrisburg Hassan Pena 3/25/1985 26.11 Old
Harrisburg Ryan Tatusko 3/27/1985 26.11 Old
Harrisburg Cory VanAllen 12/24/1984 26.36 Really Old

What is concerning here is the number of “Really Old” pitchers we have on the staff in Harrisburg.  Luckily they’re all relievers, not considered key prospects going forward.  The best starter in AA (Brad Peacock) is quite young for the level (22nd youngest of 166 hurlers in the league).  Other starters in Harrisburg are on the “right side” of the median, including Davis and MartisTatusko is getting too old for the level (hence my prediction that he’d be promoted prior to the season), and probable rotation replacement member Arneson is definitely too old for the level to be considered a prospect.

Interesting trivia; the oldest pitcher in the Eastern league is one Kei Igawa, who also holds the distinction of being (in my opinion) the worst FA starting pitcher ever signed based on dollars per win for the life of his contract plus posting fee.  Meanwhile the youngest AA pitcher is Detroit Tiger’s 2009 1st round pick Jacob Turner, who is holding his own after getting drafted out of high school.

Here’s Potomac:

Potomac Evan Bronson 2/13/1987 24.22 Old
Potomac Mitchell Clegg 12/22/1986 24.37 Old
Potomac Paul Demny 8/3/1989 21.75 Really Young
Potomac Marcos Frias 12/19/1988 22.38 Young
Potomac Trevor Holder 1/8/1987 24.32 Old
Potomac Patrick Lehman 10/18/1986 24.55 Really Old
Potomac Adam Olbrychowski 9/7/1986 24.66 Really Old
Potomac Daniel Rosenbaum 10/10/1987 23.57 Old
Potomac Cameron Selik 8/25/1987 23.70 Old
Potomac Josh Smoker 11/26/1988 22.44 Young
Potomac Joe Testa 12/18/1985 25.38 Really Old
Potomac Dean Weaver 5/17/1988 22.97 Young
Potomac Rob Wort 2/7/1989 22.24 Young

By virtue of the number of college pitchers we’ve drafted in the past couple of  years, we have a stockpile of these guys who now make our Potomac roster seem relatively old.  Our ace in Potomac Danny Rosenbaum is almost exactly the median age of pitchers in his league (he’s listed as “old” but missed the cutoff by a few days).  Same with newly promoted Cameron Selik, who now pitches in a league where he’s almost exactly the average age.  Potomac’s 2nd most effective starter this season has been Paul Demny, who is the 15th youngest pitcher of a 112 in the league.  Its great to see such a youngster pitching so effectively.  Meanwhile Mitchell Clegg and Trevor Holder are relatively old for the level already and are struggling this year, a sign they may be moved to the bullpen or be defined as “non-prospects” sooner or later.

Lastly, here’s Hagerstown pre Cole and Ray:

Hagerstown Paul Applebee 5/17/1988 22.97 Old
Hagerstown Sam Brown 6/10/1987 23.90 Really Old
Hagerstown Wilson Eusebio 8/20/1988 22.71 Old
Hagerstown Matthew Grace 12/14/1988 22.39 Young
Hagerstown Ben Graham 11/23/1987 23.45 Really Old
Hagerstown Bobby Hansen 12/17/1989 21.38 Really Young
Hagerstown Neil Holland 8/14/1988 22.72 Old
Hagerstown Chad Jenkins 3/12/1988 23.15 Old
Hagerstown Taylor Jordan 1/17/1989 22.30 Young
Hagerstown Christopher Manno 11/4/1988 22.50 Young
Hagerstown Shane McCatty 5/18/1987 23.97 Really Old
Hagerstown Christopher McKenzie 12/6/1989 21.41 Really Young
Hagerstown Matt Swynenberg 2/16/1989 22.21 Young

All things considered, we’re fielding a relatively young-for-the-level pitching staff in Hagerstown.  The two youngest starters (Bobby Hansen and Chris McKenzie) are right at the 25th percentile cusp (so they’re still young for the league but not amazingly so).  That being said, Hansen is probably Hagerstown’s 2nd most effective starter after Taylor Jordan, and they’re both young for the league.  Even the two oldest starters in Hagerstown (Matt Grace and Paul Applebee) are both right around the median age for pitchers in the league.  Selik was very old for the league before earning his promotion, possibly a sign that his age allowed him to dominate younger guys.  Only the bullpen guys are “old” or “really old” for the league, and even they are not “overly” old.

AJ Cole and Robbie Ray, named to the team over the weekend, become the 3rd and 6th youngest pitchers in the league.  This is all the more interesting considering Ray’s sterling 5/9 debut.

Summary

The younger guys we have in Syracause are for the most part the prospects; the older guys are mostly organizational arms not likely to feature in the majors.  We are definitely “old” in both Harrisburg and Potomac, all the more concerning since both staffs are struggling.  I like how young we are in Hagerstown, considering just how well that team is playing (19-10, 1/2 game out of first having played a ton of away games so far).

14 Responses to 'Age Analysis of all Nats Minor League Pitchers'

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  1. I love the analysis. I’ve heard a lot about how “old” the farm system is so it’s nice to see some perspective (at least on the arms side, I still think the hitters are considerably) above average.

    I do think it would be better if there was a median or middle range. That way at least from a quick glance it would be easier to see where the line is (e.g. Danny Rosenbaum as “Old” is kind of misleading).

    TheYellowSlant

    10 May 11 at 3:00 pm

  2. I debated using a traditional statistical “standard deviations from the mean” instead of quartiles … but found that the data wasn’t quite as meaningful. For example; lets look at the low-A pitcher ages. Our staff’s low/high was 21.39 and 23.98. However, 10 of the 12 guys on our rotation fell within one standard deviation of the mean age for the whole league. Only Sam Brown and Shane McCatty were outside the 1 standard deviation boundary (which, to be fair, usually encompasses 66% of the league). I liked the quartiles better, as it lent it self to the four “classifications” (and was easier to calculate and sort by in Excel).

    I just re-did the Potomac staff: Rosenbaum is ranked 59th of 112 arms in terms of age. So absolutely “Old” is misleading, and I tried to make note of that fact where appropriate (i.e., when guys were a day older than the median and went from “young” to “old.”). I guess the best analysis would be to have 5 categories divided up into 5ths: really young, young, average, older, really old.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 11 at 3:27 pm

  3. This is great analysis. Thanks for doing it.

    I had a slightly different reaction than YellowSlant. I am not the biggest follower of the prospects, but I had the feeling that our pitching was looking much better. This analysis makes me feel like we have serious holes because of the oldish nature of High A and AA. It seems like that is where you really want to see your better prospects. Maybe when the trickle down (up?) effect of Ray and Cole are shown, and when Solis gets added, it looks a little better.

    But this suggests that maybe we should draft some prep pitchers, and sign some young kids from the Caribbean?

    Wally

    10 May 11 at 3:47 pm

  4. Wally: The analysis that Todd has done would probably have you feeling better if there was a corresponding column with something like “yrs Profesional” or their draft year. A number of pitchers at both high-A & low-A were drafted & signed in either 2009 or 2010, so are only in their 1st or 2nd year of professional baseball.

    BinM

    10 May 11 at 3:52 pm

  5. To elaborate a little on my 3:52 post – There is a tipping point for players at any given level that spells the difference between “prospect” and an Orginizational player; Sickels’ makes some adjustments for it in his player ratings, but there will never be a one rule fits all statement. Physical age, level of play and years of experience all factor into it, but there will always be an occaisional ‘late-bloomer’ as an outlier.

    That having been said, I look for the following keys…
    - A player who dominates (top-10 in league) at each level played, moves quickly through the system = Stud (the A grade players for Sickels).
    - A player who excels (top-30) at each level played, probably skipping levels along the way = Impact player (a A-/B+ grade from Sickels).
    - A player who posts good numbers at each level played, regardless of level, through end of pro year 5 / age 26-27 in AAA = Prospect (a B/C+ player from Sickels).
    - A player who posts good numbers at most levels played, but might repeat levels through end of pro year 5 / age 26 = borderline prospect (the C/C- players in Sickels’ system).
    - Players who post decent-to-league average numbers at each level, but stall out by the end of pro year 4 or age 26 = orginizational player.

    BinM

    10 May 11 at 6:43 pm

  6. I get the impression that the organization has felt rather “burned” by the high-end arms they’ve drafted in the past few drafts, and Rizzo has always favored college arms over HS arms. You definitely saw that in his 2009 draft. Look at the arms in 09: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AmkEIm1TLiXQdGhVRjRfNW81SG8xRlROQ1ZxZzNfbUE&hl=en#gid=0 . With the exception of Brandon King (a very odd 27th round HSer who signed) every arm is college. Now in 2010 they splurged and went WAY over slot to get Cole and Ray (and deservedly so since they’re already in low-A) but every other signed arm is HS as well.

    The real “hole” in the development track is the complete debacle that was the 2006 pitcher draft; not one guy has made the majors yet, only two even onto the 40-man.

    For me, we need to draft more hitters frankly. Look through our entire minor league hitter cache; http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/2011-organization-batting.shtml . There’s really not a ton of guys at .800 ops through out the minors. Outside of the major names we know (Lombardozzi, Hague, Kelso, Harper, Gilbert, Rhinehart) there’s not a ton of guys to get excited about.

    Todd Boss

    10 May 11 at 7:26 pm

  7. BinM – thanks, that does help. I guess a college guy who starts lower could be ok but needs to show quicker progress?

    Todd – I kind of feel like they should take the best prospect regardless of position. So if Rendon falls to us, I say grab him. But I know what you mean (i think), especially because, skill level being equal, position players add more value than pitchers because they play everyday and usually are lower injury risks. But doesn’t that cut against most organizational philosophies (including ours) that say draft pitching and buy hitters?

    The guy that I really want is Bundy, but I doubt they take him for the reasons you mention.

    Wally

    10 May 11 at 8:36 pm

  8. Do you guys have a rule of thumb on hit rate for prep prospects, particularly pitchers? Let’s say outside the top 10 but somewhere in the first 5 rounds. I have never seen any stats, but I am guessing that it is real low, like 25%? But the upside to that 25% seems very high?

    If that feeling is supported by results, doesn’t it mean that they should get over the burned feeling on guys like Smoker and McGeary and keep doing it, because it will be economic over a larger sample?

    Wally

    10 May 11 at 8:53 pm

  9. Now in 2010 they splurged and went WAY over slot to get Cole and Ray (and deservedly so since they’re already in low-A) but every other signed arm is HS as well.

    This likely happened due to the newly added influence of Roy Clark. Be interesting to see how many HS types vs. college are drafted this year. Pitching wise its pretty rich in both cases.

    The real “hole” in the development track is the complete debacle that was the 2006 pitcher draft; not one guy has made the majors yet, only two even onto the 40-man.

    Leather Pants – Segway Joy Rider draft. After this Rizzo becomes more involved.

    peric

    10 May 11 at 11:50 pm

  10. There’s really not a ton of guys at .800 ops through out the minors. Outside of the major names we know (Lombardozzi, Hague, Kelso, Harper, Gilbert, Rhinehart) there’s not a ton of guys to get excited about.

    There’s still a whole heck of a lot more than there used to be … and Destin Hood/JP Ramirez are still in the mix. As are Marerro and Corey Brown. There’s the groovin’ Aruban and Kobernus as well. And don’t forget Tyler Moore. And more could be coming from the GCL/Auburn X-ST mix.

    Albert Pujols: drafted in the 13th round.
    Peter Bourjous: drafted in the 10th round.
    Jason Bay: drafted in the 22nd round by the Expos.
    Vladimir Guerrero : amateur free agent.

    I think you get the picture? Harper looks to be a rare exception as was Zim but where you draft hitters too often doesn’t appear to mean as much as with pitchers and pitching. Even Marerro now appears to be a rare exception as well!

    It takes longer to developer a hitter and compared to what it takes to bring pitchers to the majors its like comparing a 400 yard dash or sprint to a marathon you draft hitters.

    However, just looking at what is currently in Hagerstown … and comparing that with who they have in Potomac … the quality of the scouting has been significantly upgraded … and not just when it comes to pitching. In 2 years Potomac -> Harrisburg and even Syracuse should being to look radically different and younger. All that is really left is to get the International side of the equation working and …

    peric

    11 May 11 at 12:02 am

  11. In the baseball draft, you always should take the best player available, even if you have established players at positions. Just because we have Ryan Zimmerman ensconced at 3rd base doesn’t mean that, were the best ever 3rd base prospect to fall to us we should pick another position. This is partly due to the high failure rate of draft picks, but also the itinerant nature of players within the league, free agency, injuries and the like. Plus, players can hit their way into the league and teams will find a position. Bryce Harper spent most of his prep career playing either catcher or pitcher; now we’re grooming him to play center or right field.

    If Rendon were to fall to us (and there’s no way he will; he’s clearly either 1-1 or 1-2 in this draft despite all his injury concerns) we’d absolutely take him. He’s a 3rd baseman now but he could easily transition to 2nd, LF or 1B from a relatively athletic position such as 3rd.

    My draft opinion (echoed by others): your prospects have the best shot of panning out in this order: college bats, college arms, HS bats and then HS arms. The last category is so frought with flame-outs that GMs like Rizzo almost never gamble with them in the upper ends of the draft. We took Cole and Ray last year but they were in rounds that weren’t really going to kill us.

    Modern baseball seems to be moving towards a hoarding of quality pitchers. I did a post in March (http://www.nationalsarmrace.com/?p=782) that talked about this specifically; home grown pitching. Look at that post and look at the number of upper-end pitchers in this league already tied up to long term deals. Or look at the pitchers that are coming available in hte next couple of free agency periods. There’s very few impact arms available. Meanwhile, there always seems to be impact bats hitting the market. It clearly seems the Nats (outside of Harper) plan on building a winner this way.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 11 at 4:26 pm

  12. In that same post i referenced before, I was amazed at the draft rounds of the top 20 or so pitchers in the league. Only one (Roy Oswalt) was outside the top 5 rounds. Most were first rounders or international FAs.

    From what i’ve gathered listening to scouting-heavy analysis, my rule of thumb would go like this: 1st and 2nd rounders are expected to be major leaguers. 3rd-5th high probability of making it, 6-10 are long shots, 10-20 even more remote, then from 20 onwards you’re either drafting for need in your minor league teams (hey, our short-A needs a catcher lets draft a college senior in the 25th round) or giving notice to a HSer that you want to make an impression on for the future.

    Smoker and McGeary were mostly unlucky; both had major injuries. McGeary may still pan out; he’s done w/ college, done with distractions and is a power lefty. Maybe he’ll pan out. But with Rizzo you won’t see HSers drafted as high as Smoker or Willems again. I think those guys were more toolsy, and were drafted on promise under the draft theory expoused by Bowden.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 11 at 4:31 pm

  13. How amazing is it that Pujols, possibly on his way to being the best right handed hitter in history, was a 13th round pick?

    Agree on hitter development; sometimes you just don’t know.

    Todd Boss

    11 May 11 at 5:51 pm

  14. [...] to the performances of our staff as the season progresses.  I initially did this for all the full-season minor league affiliates in Early May, and this time am catching the initial [...]

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