The Fantasy Baseball Prospector: Impact Prospect Recap - AL Starters
by Rob Leibowitz
This past spring I covered 42 American League minor league pitchers who might make an impact on the 2012 season. It's time we checked up on some of their progresses.
Oliver Drake started the season at Double-A and made a total of three starts and has not pitched since May 28. He's been on the DL since. When healthy he profiles best as a back-end-of-the-rotation starter or as a middle reliever.
Alex Wilson has not made the majors and I suspected in my original write-up his best role is probably in relief. The righty's made 3 starts, but appeared in 32 games as a reliever for Pawtucket, where he has struck out more than a batter per inning. A September call-up is quite possible.
Nestor Molina has spent all but one start in Double-A, where the righty continues to be an excellent strike-thrower (2.1 BB/9). However, his K/9 has dropped to a sub 7.0 per nine level and overall he's been hit fairly hard with a 4.70 ERA. I questioned this ability to change speeds and it is possible that this part of his development (or lack thereof) is showing up a little at Double-A. Long term Molina is starting to look like a sinker-baller who pitches to a fair amount of contact.
Simon Castro has had a more successful year and has been with the Triple-A club for five starts. Castro is very similar to Molina as a good strike-throwing, fastball-slider guy who lacks a change. The walk rates have translated well to Triple-A, but he is missing fewer bats over the small sample and will need to work to improve that. Castro's another guy I would not be surprised to see end up in relief.
Charlie Leesman, the veteran lefty of this group, is on the one-level-at-a-time plan and has made 23 Triple-A starts. It is somewhat surprising he has not gotten the call, as his strikeout rates have translated very well from Double-A to Triple-A and his command is much improved over his 2011 campaign. The view that he is more of an organizational pitcher-fifth starter at best type probably explains it, but I'd still be surprised if he does not get a September call-up considering he is on the 40-man roster.
Dylan Axelrod has been up and down with the big club, appearing in 10 total games and making six starts, and despite not having the highest ceiling, he has the deepest repertoire and understanding of pitching. To that effect, Axelrod has translated his control skills swimmingly from Double-A to Triple-A to the majors. More interestingly, he has been able to fool even major league hitters with a 7.0-plus K/9. I still don't think he's much more than a back end of the rotation type, but he could easily end up being the most effective of this foursome long-term.
Austin Adams was certainly a favorite of mine heading into the season with the expectation he would begin in Triple-A. But the 5-foot-11 right-hander has not thrown a pitch this year. Instead he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder in late May and has been recovering since then.
Zach McAllister has made a larger impact this season than expected. The righty has already exhausted his rookie eligibility and has 17 MLB starts under his belt between late last season and this year. His abilities to locate all four of his pitches and show a good curve have allowed him to fully replicate his skills at the MLB level. While he certainly is showing the skills of a middle-of-the-rotation starter, it remains to be seen how his high fly-ball rates will hold up over time. Still, the Indians have at the very least what looks to be a competent innings eater in McAllister.
Like McAllister, Scott Barnes has spent time on the Indians' roster. However, the left-hander has spent his time in 2012 almost entirely in relief at both the Triple-A and MLB levels. I didn't see the conversion coming considering a four-pitch arsenal, but nevertheless, Barnes has seen his strikeout rate jump upwards with the move, but also has seen a jump in his walk rate. For now, his future seems to be in middle relief.
I didn't think very highly of either Matt Packer or T.J. McFarland heading into the season, figuring both would end up in swing roles or middle relief. Packer has instead missed much of the season due to a rotator cuff strain. Since coming back in late June he has advanced from rookie ball to advanced A, to Class AA, and finally to Triple-A, where he has been hammered in his first two appearances. McFarland, on the other hand, has been healthy and made a combined 23 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, showing above-average command. His strikeout rate, however, has dropped dramatically at the Triple-A level to sub-5.0. The lefty is a pitch-to-contact, ground-ball type, so it is not that surprising. To have success, however, he'll have to replicate his Double-A 1.8 BB/9 at the higher levels.
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