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

Syracuse/AAA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2011

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Tom Milone was your AAA pitching star of 2011. Photo Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images via Milb.com

(editors note before we begin; I’m sure my faithful readers noted that I abandoned the Minor League Rotation Review posts right after the 4th of July.  That was right around the same date I put in notice and began the process of switching consulting engagements.  Free time and post-work free time suddenly evaporated and something had to give.  Paying gigs before volunteer ones unfortunately.)

That being said, I did maintain the good/soso/bad all the way through the season, and did my best to keep up with the various reliever movements (my interest is mostly with the starters in the system).  Now that the regular seasons are over, I’ll do a team-by-team review of the pitchers, the moves and where guys may/should start in 2012.  Ideally this set of reviews should start with the MLB roster, but since the minor leagues are done, I’ll hit them up first.

Syracuse’s rotation started the year with two guys who some thought could have made the MLB roster, two guys who were closer to the “organizational guy” title than a spot on the 25-man, and a relatively young up and comer who had been cruising up the organization under the radar.  By the end of the year it held three of our better starting pitcher prospects to go with two guys who are not long for the organization.

Here’s the status of the Syracuse pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Rotation: Maya 30, Stammen 27, Meyers 26, Peacock 23, JD Martin 28
  • Bullpen: Mandel 26, Wilkie 27, Severino(L) 26, Zinicola 26, CGarcia 26, Hyde (L) 26
  • Spot starter: Tatusko 26
  • Promotions: Kimball 26, Mattheus 27, Detwiler 25,  Milone(L) 24, Balester 25
  • 9/1 promotions: Maya, Stammen, Peacock, Severino
  • up-and-back: Stammen, Maya, Severino
  • demotions: Martis (from last year), Chico, Mock, Arneson, Bronson (spot start), CMartinez
  • cut/released from 2010 or this year: Meredith, Kown, Bergmann, Bisenius, Romero (L) (opted out), Carr 27, Mock 28
  • missing: Villone 41

Syracuse starters.  The rotation started the season with Maya, Detwiler, Mock, Milone and Stammen, with JD Martin as the season-long spot starter.

  • Yuniesky Maya: failed to make the team out of spring training, was the opening day starter in Syracuse, but struggled for long parts of the season.  Got a call-up and did not impress in Washington and sulked up on his return.  Finished the year 4-9, 5.00 era, 1.24 whip and 98/28 k/bb ratio in 129 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: He probably can’t make the MLB rotation again, and probably returns to AAA for 2012.  His fastball was never as good as advertised and he isn’t as good as countryman Livan Hernandez at getting guys out with control and guile.  At this point, this signing looks like a failure.
  • Ross Detwiler: Promoted mid-season just before the-all star break and has pitched considerably better in the majors than he did in AAA.  In fact, there was some debate at the time of his promotion whether he was the deserving pitcher to come up.  Final AAA numbers: 6-6, 4.53 era 1.49 whip, 63/32 k/bb in 87 1/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: He’s officially out of options and can’t be assigned to AAA without passing through waivers.  He WILL make the 2012 MLB team, likely as a #5 starter with an eye towards moving to the bullpen if he falters.
  • Garrett Mock: started strong, then had two incredibly bad outings and went on the DL.  His rehab travels around the low minors became some what of a joke, but when he returned he failed to impress, and was DFA’d in early September to make way for 9/1 callups to the majors.  Final AAA line: 0-3, 6.28 era, 1.67 whip, 32/24 k/bb in 28 innings.  His stats at all levels are worse.  Outlook for next season: there are plenty of people who openly questioned why Mock occupied a 40-man spot for so long.  I’m guessing he picks up with another team and tries to start fresh with a new organization for 2012.
  • Tom Milone: posted his third straight 12-win season in successive levels and earned a pre-9/1 call up.  He’s young, he’s lefty, and he’s got impeccable control.  Final AAA numbers: 12-6, 3.22 era, 1.03 whip and 155/16 k/bb in 148 1/3 innings.  Another great season for the Nats 2010 minor league pitcher of the year, an award he is in the running for again in 2011.  Outlook for next season: He has 3-4 more September starts to audition for next year’s rotation.  The big question with Milone is whether his 89-90mph fastball and control will be enough in the majors.  I’m predicting he falls victim to a numbers/options status game and starts next year in AAA.
  • Craig Stammen: all around nice guy never once featured in the team’s plans this year, officially crossing over from starter potential to organizational guy in 2011.  He put together a decent season, tailing off in the end to sully his overall numbers, but was never threatening to get a call-up or another shot in the Nats rotation.  AAA stats: 10-7, 4.75 era, 1.43 whip, and 127/40 k/bb in 142 innings.  Outlook for next season: He becomes 2012′s version of JD Martin, the AAA-bound starter and innings eater.  I think he’ll stay on the 40-man because he does have value, and has one option left, but after 2012 he’s a DFA candidate.  Too bad, because he’s a good-guy and deserves better.
  • Brad Meyers: earned one of the first promotions of the season after recovering from injury and dominating in his first few AA starts.   He struggled upon first arriving at AAA, hit the DL briefly, but finished strong.  Final AAA numbers: 6-5, 3.48 era, 1.31 whip and 74/15 k/bb in 95 ip.  Outlook for next season: I think Meyers gets added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule-5 draft for protection, but he is at least 7th in the starter pecking order (Strasburg, Zimmermann, Lannan, Detwiler, Peacock, and Milone) right now, so he starts in AAA.
  • Brad Peacock: Peacock absolutely dominated AA, to the point where it was long past the time to promote him when he finally was moved to AAA.  He had two rough starts but more than a few great ones, and finished AAA with a 5-1, 3.19 era, 1.25 whip and 48/24 k/bb in 48 innings.  On the season his minor league numbers were fantastic and earned him the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year; 15-3, 2.39 era, 177/47 k/bb in 146 2/3 total innings.  Outlook for next season: He’s very young (only 23) and certainly could use another year of seasoning in AAA.  He may end up competing for the #5 rotation spot with Milone, unless a new starters comes in via trade or FA.  On the other hand, if he doesn’t master his secondary pitches he’ll be destined for the bullpen, and Rizzo loves hard-throwers in the pen, so I could see him featuring as a righty out of the bullpen next season.  We’ll see.
  • JD Martin: Outrighted before the season and then signed a minor-league deal, Martin was AAA’s long man/spot starter.  He ended up with 14 starts and pedestrian numbers on the season: 3-7, 3.93 era in 30 appearances.  His fate was sealed in January when he was outrighted and nobody else sniffed; he’s a soft-throwing righty who is a good AAA pitcher until his spot is needed.   Outlook for next season: he could be back in the same role he was in this year, unless a numbers game forces his release.
  • Other guys who got spot starts here and there (non-rehab): Erik Arneson (started in AAA then was dumped to AA despite 3 decent starts.  See the AA post) and Ryan Tatusko (pitched mostly in relief with 2 AAA spot starts after a mid-season promotion).  See the AA post for thoughts on Arneson and below for Tatusko.

Syracuse Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season.

  • Relievers Cole Kimball, Ryan Mattheus and Collin Balester were each promoted up at various points during the season and each performed pretty well at the MLB level.  Outlook for next season: Kimball may start 2012 on the DL post surgery.  Mattheus should earn a bullpen spot after pitching well.  Balester’s spot is more tenuous; he’ll be out of options and has not really impressed at either level in 2011.  I’m guessing he’ll lose out in a long man competition to someone like Tom Gorzelanny and get a DFA at the end of spring training 2012.
  • Local Favorite Josh Wilkie served as the AAA closer and put up good numbers; 3.13 era, 1.36 whip, 57/21 k/bb in 60 1/3 innings pitched.  Outlook for next season: He’ll get a spring training invite but seems destined to return to AAA to wait for injuries or an opportunity.
  • Athualpa Severino got a 9/1 call up and finally featured in a MLB game, showcasing a big fastball for a little guy.  Outlook for next season: He’s a little old for a prospect (27) but could feature as a LOOGY in 2012, especially since the team is so thin on that particular speciality.
  • Everyone else (Mandel 26, Zinicola 26, CGarcia 26, Hyde (L) 26, Tatusko 26) in the AAA bullpen seems destined to be organizational guys, unfortunately.  Jeff Mandel passed through waivers and toiled decently this year.  Zech Zinicola was a rule-5 draftee who got returned and put up great numbers, but seems to be a AAA ceiling guy.  Christian Garcia didn’t have great numbers in the Yankees organization but the team took a flyer on him.  Lee Hyde has already passed through waivers successfully and was more or less awful in 2011.  Lastly Ryan Tatusko regressed badly in 2011 after a stellar 2010.  He was demoted to the bullpen and pitched mostly in relief for AAA this year, getting a couple of spot starts that he was just “soso” in.  Outlook for next season: All these guys will be back in AAA or with another organization, trying to keep the dream alive.

Other pitchers who appeared in AAA of note (not including Rehabbing MLBers): Hassan Pena pitched 7 horrible innings and was demoted.  Matt Chico was similarly bad and was DL’d/demoted before getting released.  Philly castoff JC Romero had 16 appearances and pitched well before opting out of his contract because the team hadn’t promoted him (a surprise, given our loogy struggles this year).  A year after Adam Carr was put on the 40-man to protect him, he was flat-out released after an injury riddled season (lets hope the team re-signs him and he gets another shot).  Both Evan Bronson and Carlos Martinez put in brief AAA outings before returning to their normal teams.  Lastly I put in Ron Villone as “missing” because he was in our Spring Training camp but never made it onto any roster.  We didn’t necessarily hear any announcement, but I suspect he retired after not making the team out of camp.

After reviewing all the staffs at each level, I’ll cull the above predictions into a summarized 2012 projected staff throughout the system.

4 Responses to 'Syracuse/AAA Pitching Staff Year in Review; 2011'

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  1. Seems to me Detweiler could also be prime trade bait (and others on the list could be trade bait also, most notably Stammen). IIRC, one reason talks for Bourn never got far is that Houston started out asking for Detweiler. Can’t blame the Nats for not wanting to trade Ross for someone who’ll be a free agent after next season (and being a Boras client is very unlikely to sign an extension) but I think he might be in play this winter.

    Steven J. Berke

    19 Sep 11 at 1:55 pm

  2. [...] (2nd in a series.  See yesterday’s post for Syracuse). [...]

  3. Yeah I agree on Detwiler as future trade bait. I was making this same point in conversations over the weekend. We now have a slew of starters whose ceiling seems to be #5 starter or 4-A guy (among others, Stammen, Maya, Detwiler, Milone, Martis…). Perhaps we should flip these guys to other organizations for their own 4-A ceiling hitters to help balance out that lack of depth in our AAA squad right now.

    Its tough to really predict what would happen w/r/t trades and FA signings though. You never know; suddenly we may find ourselves with a #4 starter in a trade and someone like Milone goes from a rotation candidate back to AAA.

    Todd Boss

    20 Sep 11 at 10:17 am

  4. [...] in a series looking at all the minor league levels of pitching.  AAA, AA and High-A [...]

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