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Pitching Week: Brewers Minor Leaguers

We have been celebrating “Pitching Week” all week long at Baseball Prospectus, including the introduction of a couple new statistics, Called Strike Probability (CSProb) and Called Strikes Above Average (CSAA), to quantify control and command. Earlier this week for Brew Crew Ball, I took a look at how the current big league pitchers in Milwaukee graded out using these new statistics. CSAA information is also available for pitchers at the AAA and AA levels, which can help give some insight into the level of command displayed by minor leaguers. Let’s see how some of the more notable arms in Milwaukee’s farm system fared:

Player Innings Pitched DRA CSAA
Tristian Archer 81.7 1.39 4.17%
Brent Suter 110.7 2.83 4.08%
Aaron Wilkerson 102.7 1.97 4.08%
Brandon Woodruff (AA) 113.7 1.93 3.86%
Josh Hader (AA) 57 1.47 2.27%
Luis Ortiz 63 4.06 1.77%
Taylor Jungmann (AA) 75.3 2.95 -0.67%
Jorge Lopez (AA) 45.3 2.83 -0.80%
Wei-chung Wang (AA) 107.3 3.58 -1.21%
Stephen Kohlscheen 49.7 2.26 -1.37%
Josh Hader (AAA) 69 2.78 -1.59%
Wei-chung Wang (AAA) 26 4.67 -1.62%
Jorge Lopez (AAA) 79.3 6.65 -3.52%
Taylor Jungmann (AAA) 31 19.38 -5.62%
David Goforth 51.3 11.01 -6.42%
Damien Magnifico 62 6.13 -7.23%

The league leader in the MLB for CSAA was Zach Davies, with a 3.51 percent mark. As one can glean from the chart, several minor leaguers in Milwaukee’s system alone eclipsed that total last year. That likely has something to do with the quality of umpiring found at the minor league level versus in the big leagues, so the numbers should be taken with a bit of a grain of salt.

According to the numbers, several of the hurlers at Colorado Springs had difficulty commanding their pitches. Hard-throwing arms like Damien Magnifico and David Goforth have been in The Show before but failed to secure a role in spite of their plus fastballs. In both cases, the lack of a swing-and-miss pitch as well as poor command have held the two pitchers back from becoming big league contributors. Taylor Jungmann and Jorge Lopez were both demoted from Colorado Springs down to Biloxi after struggling mightily to keep hitters from reaching base and runs off the board, and both unsurprisingly graded out well-below average in CSAA while in AAA.

On the flip-side, both Brent Suter and Aaron Wilkerson enjoyed excellent seasons at the AAA level (though Wilkerson didn’t arrive in Colorado Springs until coming over in an early July trade with the Red Sox). Neither arm possesses outstanding “stuff”, especially the left-handed Suter, whose fastball tops out around 85 MPH. But both were able to post dominant Deserved Run Averages in a hitter-friendly ballpark at the highest level of the minors thanks in large part to their excellent command.

In the more pitcher-friendly environs of AA Biloxi, we find a bit more success for Milwaukee’s farmhands. Tristian Archer quietly put together an superlative performance for the Shuckers this past season on the strength of his excellent command, including an 82:9 K/BB ratio in 81.7 innings. Josh Hader also displayed above-average command during his dominant 57.0 inning run through the Southern League, though he backed up a bit upon reaching Colorado Springs while issuing 4.7 free passes per nine innings. Jorge Lopez and Taylor Jungmann both improved upon their dreadful CSAA numbers from Colorado Springs but were still a bit below-average command wise. Control of the strike zone has always been a question for those two and figures to be an issue that both will have to fight through if they want to see big league success. I was a bit suprised by Wei-Chung Wang’s numbers, as he only issued only a combined 2.4 BB/9 innings during his time at AA and AAA. He may have displayed decent control by keeping runners from reaching base via the walk, but his command graded out as below-average at both of his stops in 2016.

No pitcher in Milwaukee’s system improved their stock this year more than Brandon Woodruff. The former 11th-round pick had a middling collegiate career at Mississippi State and posted DRAs of 4.73 and 5.74 in the two years preceding 2016. His stuff ticked up this past season, including improved fastball velocity that was often 95+ MPH and a slider now graded as plus by some outlets. That, along with vastly improved command, helped Woodruff lead the minor leagues with 173 strikeouts in 158.0 combined innings between A+ and AA while allowing only 2.3 batters per nine innings to reach via base on balls. Woodruff posted sub-2.00 DRAs at both of the levels he pitched at this year on his way to winning the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He’s now considered a top-10 organization prospect by many of the ranking outlets (though he didn’t crack BP’s Brewers top 10) and should have a good chance to make an impact on the major league team in 2017.

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