This is the 6th in the 2013 Pitching staff review series, here’s a review of Auburn/Short-A’s pitching staff for 2013. I’m posting Auburn and GCL today to finish off the series this week. Other parts of the 2013 series:
- Washington/MLB’s 2013 review
- Syracuse/AAA’s 2013 review
- Harrisburg/AA’s 2013 review
- Potomac/High-A’s 2013 review
- Hagerstown/Low-A’s 2013 review
All stats are courtesy of either milb.com’s Auburn’s 2013 Stats page or via Fangraph’s Auburn 2013 page. Also useful here are the Big Board and the Nats Draft Tracker since so many of these lower-minors guys are recent draftees.
A caveat before starting this post (and we’ll say this same thing in the GCL post): this is short-season ball, so nobody’s got more than a few dozen innings. The staff leader had 56 innings. So yes this is absolutely going to be some “Small Sample Size” analysis. Which in some cases is unfair to the player (to the good or to the bad). It is what it is.
Auburn starters. The rotation started the season with Turnbull, Johansen, Selsor, Orlan and DWilliams. Those 5 opening day rotation members were acquired by the team as follows: 2011 Draft, 2013 draft, 2012 draft, 2012 draft and 2011 draft. I mention this because a common thought process is that Short-A spots are “saved” for college draftess in the current year, but this year only one current-year draftee started in the Short-A rotation (and it was our #1 pick). The Auburn rotation ended with Barrientos, Giolito, Selsor (sort of), Orlan, Simms and Ullmann. As with the rest of the system, Auburn graduated a ton of hurlers throughout the season. Lets take a look at the starters:
- Kylin Turnbull faced two demotions to end up as Auburn’s opening day starter, not a great start to his 2nd pro season. He posted a 1.96 ERA in his first four Short-A starts and returned to Hagerstown. See Low-A write-up for more. Outlook for next season: High-A’s rotation competition but likely slipping to bullpen.
- Jake Johansen was the Nats first 2013 pick, a big tall righty from a small Texas school with a 99 mph fastball. He did not disappoint in pro ball, posting a 1.92 ERA with 51/23 K/BB in 51 2/3 innings between Auburn and Hagerstown. After signing quickly for slot (very quickly, like in 24 hours or so), Johansen joined short-A Auburn and was essentially unhittable through 10 starts. He was promoted up to low-A, got hit around in two starts and finishes the season with a 1.92 ERA, and a sub 1.00 WHIP. Johansen is walking too many batters, but still flashes a dominant fastball. Scouts continue to believe he’ll end up in the bullpen (a lazy narrative assigned by default to any player over 6’5″ with a significant fastball .. with the constant “big guys cannot repeat their mechanics” excuse. Nobody talks about how LeBron James can’t “repeat his mechanics” as he dominates the NBA and he’s 6’8″ playing the point … just a slight tangent on my irritation with broad-stroke scouting narratives), but until that situation presents itself Johansen will stay as a starter. Outlook for next season: Low-A’s rotation, looking for a push to Potomac mid-season.
- Casey Selsor was 0-6, 4.29 ERA with 30/14 in 42 1/3 innings, 56 hits for Auburn. He started the season in Auburn’s rotation, got demoted to the bullpen after 6 starts, but eventually made his way back into the rotation in some sense by the time the season was over. He gave up a ton of baserunners, but his BABIP was high. Despite a 4.29 ERA his FIP for the year was just 3.15. So he pitched better than his stats look. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen as a swingman.
- Robert Orlan was 1-5, 3.65 ERA with 47/22 K/BB in 56 2/3 innings, 54 hits for Auburn. Orlan was the leading innings-eater for Auburn in 2013 after missing the whole 2012 season following TJ surgery. Orlan kept the ball down, pitched better than his ERA shows (3.38 fip) and shows no reason not to continue up the chain and compete for rotation jobs in full season ball next year. Outlook for next season: Low-A rotation.
- Deion Williams has now fully transitioned to the mound after being a hitter in 2011. But the jury is out as to whether he can stick; in 8 Auburn starts he got shelled, going 0-6 with a 9+ ERA and was dumped back to the rookie league. He’s young (just turned 21) so he has a bit of time to sort things out. Outlook for next season: XST and another shot at Short-A in the bullpen.
- Joel Barrientos tried to make the jump from rookie ball to short-season and got hammered: in 11 appearances (8 starts) he was 1-5 with a 7.08 ERA, getting demoted to the bullpen later in the season. The DSL grad just turned 19, so patience is expected with his progression. He did well enough in the GCL in 2012; he needs to make the leap to the next level. Outlook for next season: XST and another shot at Short-A rotation.
- Austin Voth was clearly started too low for his draft pedigree (Pac-12 College Junior) and it showed, as he went 3-0, 1.75 ERA with 55/6 K/BB in46 1/3 innings between three levels. He pushed his way through two promotions on the season, ending up in the Hagerstown rotation. Two key stats on Voth to keep in mind: he had more than a 9/1 K/BB ratio on the season and he gave up zero home-runs in his 55 innings on the year. And these stats were done with pretty normal looking BABIPs; his FIP values were lower than his ERAs in short- and low-A. I like this guy and I think he could be a find. He finished 2nd in the Pac-12 to Mark Appel in strikeouts last year after all. Outlook for next season: Low-A rotation and also looking for a mid-season bump to Potomac.
- Ryan Ullmann began the season in the rookie league, being a senior coming from a Division III school, but by season’s end he was in the Auburn rotation. He got 6 starts in Auburn with some up and down results (3 decent, one ok, two bad) that resulted in a 5.30 ERA all told. You can’t teach size (he’s 6’6″, 230). Ullmann closed in college and may return to the pen, despite his K/9 not being strong. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen, maybe Short-A again.
- Nick Pivetta sported a 1-1, 3.41 ERA with 18/12 K/BB in 29 innings between GCL and Short-A. Pivetta started 5 games for Auburn but averaged less than 4 innings a start. For such a big guy (6’5″ 220) with such a reported fastball (upper 90s in short spurts) I would have hoped for more K’s (18 in 29 innings). Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen, possibly as a closer so he can maintain higher velocity in shorter outings.
- Lucas Giolito, as any Nats fan knows, returned from TJ surgery and pitched in both the GCL and for Auburn. In three Short-A starts he gave up just 9 hits and one run. See GCL’s post for more. Outlook for next season: Low-A rotation.
- Other’s who got 1-2 starts here or there:
- Blake Treinen got two rehab starts. See the AA-post for more.
- John Simms got two spot starts at the end of the season; see the reliever section.
- Chris Young got a rehab start; see the AAA post for more.
- Reynaldo Lopez gave up 7 runs in an inning and a third, got demoted to the GCL and he didn’t throw another inning all year. Odd. Outlook for next season: GCL bullpen.
Auburn Relievers: We’ll go by the assumed closers then by IP.
- Leonard Hollins had 6 saves and a 2.91 ERA with 36/16 in 46 1/3 innings, 48 hits mostly for Auburn. The submariner made a successful jump to short-A out of the GCL, and still has not given up a professional home-run. All we have to do now is figure out if he’s “Leonard” or if he’s “L.J.” since milb.com and Fangraphs differ in their names for him. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen.
- David Napoli went 1-0, 1.14 ERA with 28/10 K/BB in23 relief innings in Auburn, 16 hits. He had a very wild reputation coming out of college, but seems to have toned it down at Auburn to become an excellent relief pitcher. I’m a little disappointed to see him already get converted to relief, but his size and stuff seems to point towards situational lefty anyway. I’m also very excited in particular to see Napoli succeed; he was a clear “draft punt” pick, a college senior taken between the 6th and 10th rounds and given a miniscule signing bonus so as to play by the new CBA drafting bonus cap rules. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen, perhaps even higher if Potomac needs lefties.
- Jake Joyce went 1-3, 5.22 ERA with 25/12 K/BB in 29 relief innings in Auburn, 37 hits. Joyce was unlucky (.381 babip) and his FIP reflects that (3.03 versus 5.22 era), but he still gave up a ton of base-runners (1.67 whip) and a ton of air-outs (0.62 GO/AO on the year). Like Napoli, Joyce was a senior sign for very little money, but he didn’t perform nearly as well. He could seem rather expendible if he doesn’t start strong in 2014. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen competition, release candidate.
- John Simms worked mostly as a long-man for Auburn, getting two starts at the end of the year. All told, he went 0-4, 5.70 ERA with 34/7 K/BB. His walks were low but hits were high. His ERA looks ugly but look beyond the top layer and you discover that Simms actually didn’t pitch that badly this year. A ridiculously high BABIP of .438 contributed to his inflated short-A ERA; his FIP was just 2.38. Combine that with his 5/1 K/BB ratio and he has the makings of at least a good reliever in the system. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen.
- Andrew Cooper was 2-1, 3.86 ERA with 16/7 K/BB in 25 2/3 relief innings mostly in Auburn, 29 hits. His Auburn-only numbers were worse. Drafted as a project, and so far he’s pitched like a project. His numbers aren’t bad or great in any direction. I’d suspect the team knew he needed some complex time so I could see him staying in Viera until next season’s short-A starts up and repeating the level. Outlook for next season: XST and then Short-A bullpen again.
- Cory Bafidis went 2-0, 2.73 ERA with 22/13 K/BB in 26 1/3 relief innings mostly in Auburn, 18 hits. He got pushed to low-A too early, settled into short-A where he probably belonged to begin with, and pitched relatively well for 20 innings. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen loogy competition, perhaps falling back to Short-A again.
- Will Hudgins started the year in Hagerstown’s bullpen, was demoted to Auburn, and abruptly retired in July. Outlook for next season: out of baseball.
- Other Relievers who got 10 or fewer innings:
- Justin Thomas threw 3 1/3 innings in Auburn during his tour of the Nats farm system in 2013. See low-A post for more. Outlook for next season: High-A bullpen competition.
- Mike Sylvestri started the season in Auburn, got shelled (12 runs in 8 2/3 innings) but then dominated the GCL. He’s undersized (5’10″, 180) and could have trouble getting out of rookie ball (as evidenced by his short-A experience). Outlook for next season: XST and then Short-A bullpen again, release candidate.
- Ben Grisz threw 8 scoreless innings in his return to the organization after missing the 2nd half of 2011 with some unknown “off-field issue” and then the entire 2012 season with some sort of injury (discussed here in this 4-minute interview with awful audio). He’s an NDFA turning 23 with just 28 pro innings in 3 years; clearly he needs to do something in 2014. Outlook for next season: XST and then Short-A bullpen, release candidate.
- Elliott Waterman got hammered in his early outings for Auburn this year before getting demoted to rookie ball. He pitched better in the GCL, eventually earning a call-back to Auburn but has not appeared since 8/31/13. He’s still relatively young (does not turn 23 until November) and he’s a big tall lefty, but he’s putting too many guys on base and not getting enough swing and miss stuff to stick as a situational arm. He may get one more spring training but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him cut loose if he doesn’t make a full-season team in 2014. Outlook for next season: Low-A bullpen loogy competition, release candidate.
- Todd Simko threw a grand total of 6 innings for Auburn and was released.
- Kevin Dicharry threw 4 1/3 innings and then was released 7/1/13. Without any knowledge of how well he recovered from the arm issues he had in college, this seems like an incredibly quick release considering how well he pitched (even if he was overaged) last year in the GCL.
- Niko Spezial started the season with Auburn but got the quick demotion after just 3 1/3 relatively non-descript innings. See the GCL write-up for more.
- Matt Derosier briefly started the season in Auburn he pitched in middle relief for the GCL Nats. See the GCL write-up for more.
- Christian Garcia threw one inning of re-hab work. See the AAA write-up for more.l
- Catchers Erick Fernandez and Andruth Ramirez each threw a bit of bullpen-saving mop-up work, as did OF Greg Zebrack.
In the end, Auburn featured three starters who will form the bulk of what could be a pretty special Hagerstown rotation next year. Not surprisingly, the rest of the rotation and the bulk of the bullpen was comprised of mid-to-late round draft picks, college seniors and other long-shots, and as a result the team struggled on the year. But from a player development perspective, we may have a few decent players coming out of Auburn this year.
Editor note; corrected Ullmann’s entry after publication per comments; had said NAIA school, corrected to identify Concordia as a Division III school