I was going to write about the battle for the 5th starter between Ryan Rowland-Smith, Nelson Figueroa, Jordan Lyles and, uh, all the guys who Ed Wade talked about as starters to scare Bud Norris into pitching well – like Fernando Abad, Wilton Lopez (oh PLEEEZE) and whoever he scrounged from other Organizations’ scrap heaps.
But we all know that Figgy has been frequently bounced between minors/starting/relieving and the probability that he will actually start 33 games is miniscule, but I would be very surprised if he didn’t start ANY. He’d be wasted as a LOOGY. And we all know that Jordan Lyles will “require” minor league AAA work no matter HOW he pitches until the super 2 deadline has passed – the guy is 20 and I promise that the Organization would prefer 1 more year of underpayment at age 26 in case Lyles turns out to be any good at getting ML hitters out. And like Figgy, lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith has bounced back and forth between minors/starting/relieving. Because he actually CAN start, has had success as a starter and was hurt last year when he uck-sayed, I would guess that if he doesn’t make the rotation as the 4th or 5th man, he’s be another long reliever/spot starter, like Figgy.
Unless he completely uck-says in ST, in which case, he will most liekly end up in AAA with Lyles and Arguello.
Yeah, we gotta talk about that. As we all know, it is critical to have a lefty reliever because all rightys except closers can’t get leftys out. So, let’s see which lefty pitchers are on the Astros 40 man and NRI list: I mean, besides Wandy and Happ:
Fernando Abad, age 25, who spent winter ball as a starter – and last year, threw 19 innings over 22 games with a 2.84 ERA/1.00 WHIP – and an incredibly low 6.6 H/9 and 5.7 K/9. I promise that that hits/9 will not remain THAT low – his minor league totals are 9.3/9. And yeah, he has over 9 K/9 IP as well. His maximum number of innings pitched/year is 82, and although he IS 25, and is supposedly above the “cutoff” age, he DID pitch winter ball and I seriously doubt he is anywheres near ready to throw 200 innings this season. Which means it is far more sensible to use him as a LOOGY or long reliever. I can’t find freely/easily available minor league splits, but I would guess that he has good success against leftys – the real question is – what are his numbers vs rightys, as this is more important for deciding whether or not he should be facing RHB. I am not examining his 19 ML innings for the simple reason that the sample size is too small.
NRI – Doug Arguello, age 26. Over 09 and 10, threw 202 excellent innings at AA (by the way, he’s the guy the Organization studiously ignored in their eagerness to pimp Lyles in spite of Arguello actually pitching better, but I digress) as a starter: Last year, started 22 games over 128 IP with a 2.85 ERA/1.31 WHIP: 8.5 H/9, 7.5 K/9; 0.3 homers/9 (throughout his minor league career, he’s always been stingy with homers) and 3.3 BB/9. I don’t care if he is too old to fit into the category of “prospect” and I don’t care if he IS 26, sometimes leftys take a while to put it together and good lefty starters don’t grow on trees and I hopehopeHOPE that Ed Wade isn’t crazy enough to waste this guy on LOOGY hood. He SHOULD start at AAA (just like Lyles, but I digress…)
NRI: Gustavo Chacin, age 30. Last year, used mostly as a mopup guy in blowout games we were already losing – 38.1 IP over 44 games. Looking at just the game logs, it appears he was used as a LOOGY in 12 games, mostly in late August/September. His splits are not significant, although like pretty much every lefty, he gives up a couple more homers to righty batters. He had over a .300 BAA vs both. Even Wesley Wright is better than this.
Sergio Escalona, age 26: You’ll NEVAH guess who drafted him in the first place. Oh. You guessed it was Ed Wade with the Phillies. You so smart. The Phils DFA’d him in Jan 11 and Ed Wade picked him up in trade for some A-ball second baseman (now watch that guy go on to be good). He’s very similar to Abad – has 254 minor league innings pitched with a 3.86 ERA/1.42 WHIP: 7.9 H/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9. Like Abad, he spent most of 2010 at AA. Like Abad, he has some ML experience (2009) – threw 13.2 innings over 14 IP: 4.61 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.9 H/9 and 6.6 K/9. I don’t know why he was sent to AA last year instead of AAA – yeah, he had 19 not good innings at AAA in 2009, but he still had some ML experience. He had pitched well in his 24 innings at AA in 2008. Again, I have no idea how he does vs RHP, but as Ed Wade isn’t talking him up as a sterter in waiting, I would guess that he is purely LOOGY material.
NRI: Pat Urckfitz, age 22: This is someone I never heard of – believe it or not, he’s an undrafted FA out of junior college who signed with the Astros in 2008. He was used as a reliever in his first 2 years, and spent last year at Lancaster A+ ball (their ballpark, remember, is hitteriffic beyond belief – think of Coors pre-humidor). He started 12 games and relieved in 23 over 104.2 IP. His numbers at hitters’ heaven were absolutely outstanding: ERA 4.13/1.40 WHIP with 9.9 H/9, 8.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and – get this – only 0.8 home runs/9 IP. At LANCASTER, mind you. Which has kicked the living heck out of all of the Astros hyped prospects since Lancaster became the Astros A+ ball club 3 years ago (and no, Jordan Lyles was not ever sent there – he was sent straight to AA from A-ball – wonder why….) He threw only 5 (good) innings at AA last year, but I am seriously impressed. I doubt he’d make the ML team, but putting up those numbers at LANCASTER? I’m impressed.
And you know, there have been more than a few undrafted guys (I mean from USA/Puerto Rico) who have made it to the majors and have even done very well – think Dan Wheeler.
Starting now, I’m gonna follow this guy’s numbers. You know me, always rooting for the underdogs. Hopefully, he’ll kill AA and then AAA pitching and make it to the bigs. As an Astro, I mean.
Wesley Wright: age 26 – hard to believe he’s been an Astro for 3 years. He spent most of 2010 in the minors as a starter, throwing 14 games over 69 IP (almost 5 IP/GS) – not, uh, great. He had a 3.13 ERA.274 BAA vs leftys and a 5.40 ERA/.285 BAA vs rightys. As he did in the majors, he walked a good 4 batters/9 IP (both leftys and rightys), interestingly enough, struck out rightys at a higher rate (6.5 vs 4.8) BUT gave up homers to rightys at a significantly higher rate, just as he did in the majors.
In the majors, he really hasn’t strictly been used as a LOOGY, especially last year (and really I don’t have the time to go and re-calculate all the numbers omitting last year) and here are his career ML numbers:
vs RHB: 382 PA: .512 SLGA; .874 OPSA; 50 BB: 74 K/382 PA – sorry BBref doesn’t do IP – 18 2B; 21 HR/382 PA – also a .279 BA on balls in play
vs LHB: .384 SLGA/.734 OPSA over 200 PA: 22 BB, 59 K/220 PA; 14 2B, 2 HR – .359 BA on BIP
– basically, he walks more rightys, gives up LOTS more homers to rightys (source of his real trouble), strikes out more/walks fewer leftys, but gives up more doubles but significantly fewer homers.
Looks like LOOGY to me, unless Ed Wade plans to waste Wesley’s life as an unsuccessful AAA starter.
So, in conclusion, I would guess that Abad has the best chance of being the Designated LOOGY, with the other lefty reliever spot a tossup between Escalona and Wesley Wright, depending on how they do at ST.