Winter League Update: The Pitchers - 11/7/11

After a very solid 2010 for Binghamton, RHP Collin McHugh has had a much tougher time out in the AFL, posting a nearly 10 ERA thus far.

Last Minor League Monday we looked at the positions players keeping busy as the temperature drops. So of course this week we get to check in on the hurlers. It's a definitively less notable crop than the hitters, but there are a few interesting names here worth keeping an eye on as the Caribbean Leagues ramp up and the AFL perpares to wind down:


RHP Collin McHugh (AFL - Peoria)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
PEJ AFL 1 3 9.87 6 5 0 0 0 17.1 33 20 19 2 7 18 1.73 .413

After a breakout season where he posted a sub-3 ERA across 16 starts for Wally Backman's Double-A Binghamton Mets and entered the discussion as a legitimate major league-caliber pitcher, the thoughtful righty is seemingly hitting a wall out west. I've suggested fatigue here before as it's been a long road for him in 2011. Maybe it's pitching at higher altitude, or in a league where the hitters are a combined .286/.359/.461. Either way he's looking a lot worse for the wear, having allowed more runs than innings pitched in all but one of his five starts.

Just as with the hitters last week, Peoria/St. Lucie Mets Pedro Lopez spoke with MLB.com about the Mets contingent of pitchers, which you can view here.

Lopez on McHugh:

"He's a kind of sleeper. He's always -- since the first year I met him, when he pitched for me in Kingsport in 2008 -- had four pitches. Fastball, curveball, slider and change-up; and now that sliders' more of a cutter...He's always been a control pitcher. He's always had good fastball command. This year he kind of struggled a little bit in St. Lucie, but then he went up and probably the strike zone helped him out. Maybe facing...hitters that are more selective kind of helped him out. I'm just glad he's able to put up the numbers he has."

LHP Robert Carson (AFL - Peoria)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
PEJ AFL 0 0 3.68 8 0 0 0 0 14.2 15 8 6 2 9 9 0.48 .273

In some ways, Carson has been who we thought he was. In other words, he's continued a lot of the trends we've seen from him these last couple seasons. For one he's still looked too hittable as far as lefties with mid 90's fastballs go, once again surrendering over a hit/IP. He's still walking too many guys (see, 1:1 K-to-BB thus far). And his once excellent GB tendencies continue to deteriorate as his level of competition rises. So all in all, not so great.

Except for the fact that according to Pitch F/X data, Carson's low-to-mid 90's heater has been popping 97-98 mph lately, which most certainly is a good thing. Maybe the gun is a little hot out there. And whether or not he's going to be able to harness it to be more effective, we'll see. But if you'd ask me if I'd rather see 93 on the reading or 98, I'll always take the latter.

Lopez on Carson:

"What a power arm. He's got a fastball, cutter, slider and change-up. Fastball averages anywhere from 93 to 96-97 miles an hour. That cutter...our pitching coach asked me if I knew that he was throwing his cutter at 89-90 miles an hour and I said 'Yeah, he's got that kind of power arm.' But you know he's here to work on his secondary pitches. I think in his previous outings...he was mainly working off his fastball. Yesterday he did a much better job throwing sliders and change-ups out there."

 

RHP Taylor Whitenton (AFL - Peoria)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
PEJ AFL 1 2 4.50 7 0 0 0 0 12.0 11 6 6 1 9 15 0.73 .244

It was an anti-climactic week for Whitenton who was named to the AFL Rising Stars West team after posting a very nice line so far, including well over a K/IP and excellent opponent AVG especially when you consider context. However, that very night he surrendered the game-winning hit in a Peoria loss -- a bomb by none other than Bryce Harper. And to add insult to injury his name was never called on Saturday during the Rising Stars game -- quite disappointing for those of us watching on MLB Network.

Lopez on Whitenton:

"I think one of the biggest surprises for me has been Taylor. He pitched for me last year in 2010 in Savannah,went back there this year. Last year he was up in the zone a lot. He did have a lot of swing and misses up in the strike zone with that fastball, he was deceptive. He's still deceptive. Now this year, the way he's been pitching here for us, he's done a great job. That fastball, it's got downward plane on it. The slider, it's coming around. That's a pitch he's working on. And he's always been able to throw that change-up. I think being able to throw that fastball at the bottom of the strike zone has helped him a lot."

 

RHP Armando Rodriguez (DWL - Escogido)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
ESC DWL 0 0 5.79 4 0 0 0 0 4.2 4 4 3 1 2 4 1.00 .200

After ending 2011 strong on the heels of an oblique injury to start the season, Rodriguez has had a tough go of it so far in the DWL. The bright side is that he's maintained his ability to make hitters miss; namely his strong K-rates, as well as his customarily low opponent AVG. He's just given up hits at the wrong times. While his secondary stuff still trails far behind his strong fb, he profiles nicely as a hard-throwing back of the bullpen-type arm.

 

RHP Rhiner Cruz (DWL - Cibao)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
GIG DWL 0 0 2.70 5 0 0 0 0 3.1 2 1 1 0 3 3 1.33 .167

Ditto for Cruz who doesn't feature much in the way of pitchability but does possess a strong, mid-90's heater which he can push into the 96-97 mph range. He's looked good thus far which can't really hurt his stock, but the 25-year old will really be judged based on his second shot at Double-A hitters after he faltered a bit in 2011.

 

RHP Marcos Camarena (LMP - Culiacan)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
CUL LMP 1 0 1.35 5 0 0 0 0 6.2 3 1 1 1 4 2 0.50 .130

We should mention 21-year old righty Marcos Camarena here, who's playing for his hometown Tomateros and playing well. This comes on the heels of a solid season for Brooklyn where he posted a 3.13 ERA in 13 starts as he followed the path that Yohan Almonte blazed back in 2010, that of the righty who thrives with so-so velocity but excellent command. For that reason he's not a true prospect but unlike Almonte, his build (6'3", 200 lbs) does give us room to hope for a little more down the line

 

RHP Dylan Owen (VWL - Caracas)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
CAR VWL 1 2 2.19 6 4 0 0 0 24.2 20 7 6 0 5 26 2.91 .225

Owen is once again showing us that he's got the stuff -- though I should probably say craftiness -- to baffle A-ball caliber lineups. Thing is he's struggled once those A's double up. I wouldn't say he's completely organizational filler -- thanks to solid K-rates and pretty good command -- but best, best case is probably Brian Bannister and that may even be a stretch.

 

RHP Erik Turgeon (AFL - Peoria)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
PEJ AFL 0 1 3.65 9 0 0 0 0 12.1 13 8 5 3 3 4 1.00 .271

Not much to say about Turgeon, who wasn't good for Binghamton this season and hasn't been great for Peoria this fall. Like in Binghamton, he's got a problem with the longball, ranking second in the AFL in that stat among pitchers without any starts. As I mentioned earlier, at the very least he's getting exposure to higher level competition so that can't hurt I guess.

Lopez on Turgeon:

"Turgeon's here to work on his fastball command. He's done well so far...We still would like to see him pitch at the bottom of the strike zone a little bit better."

 

LHP Carlos Vazquez (LMP - Mazatlan)

Team League W L ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
MAZ LMP 0 0 1.17 5 0 0 0 0 7.2 6 1 1 0 2 8 0.40 .214

If Camarena played the role of 2010 Yohan Almonte for the Cyclones, then Vazquez was 2010 Angel Cuan, aka the little lefty with spot-on command. Unlike Cuan, Vazquez has been used strictly in relief though and he's been excellent in that role for Mazatlan thus far. But like Cuan, Vazquez' best shot going forward is as a LOOGY and for a kid who just turned 20 he's certainly in that mix, along with guys like Cuan, Jim Fuller and Roy Merritt.

 

Odds & Ends

There are a few others names active, though not really very active since we last checked. The big one being RHP Jeurys Familia who hasn't appeared for Cibao in the DWL since his one and only, less than stellar relief appearance back in mid-October. Funny thing is he did pretty much the exact same thing last winter, almost down to the date and pitching line; so if that's our guide then maybe we won't see him again this fall...Savannah's hard-throwing righty Gonzalez Germen also didn't see any more action for Licey in the DWL after a similarly poor relief spot in mid-October...A trio of advanced relievers (RHP Jose Da La Torre, RHP John Lujan & LHP Roy Merritt) all made their first appearances in the Puerto Rican Winter League of late. And while neither boasts top-notch stuff, DLT and Lujan have both put up very solid numbers with Buffalo in 2010 and 2011 and could easily contribute at Citi at some point in 2012.

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