Chris Capuano (AP photo)
Where Did Chris Capuano Come From?
While looking over the Brewers roster in preparation for the You're the GM! Section, I was struck by the well-kept secret of Chris Capuano. I knew in the back of my mind that he was having a good year, but I don't think I realized that he was 17-9, 3.55 in 31 starts. 17 wins, that's tied for fourth-best in the majors. One of the disadvantages of following the minor leagues so closely during the season is that I sometimes don't pay close enough attention to what is going on in the Show itself.
Capuano was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 8th round of the 1999 draft, out of Duke. Making his pro debut in '00, he went 10-4, 2.21 in 18 starts for South Bend in the Midwest League, with a 105/45 K/BB ratio in 102 innings; he allowed only 68 hits and TWO homers all season. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2001 book, which may have been a notch too low.
Moved up to Double-A in '01, his ERA jumped to 5.31 in 28 starts, though he posted a 10-11 record and struck out 167 guys in 159 innings. However, he gave up 184 hits, 75 walks, and pitched poorly when I saw him in person. I dropped his grade to a straight C, and wrote that I didn't think he would be a successful Major League starter, being better-suited to bullpen work.
That comment looked incredibly stupid early in 2002, as he posted a 4-1, 2.72 mark in six Triple-A starts. However, at that point he blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery, missing the rest of the year. Grade C again.
Capuano came back very quickly in '03, and had an excellent year in the Pacific Coast League, going 9-5, 3.34 in 23 starts, with a 108/43 K/BB in 143 innings. He gave up just 133 hits and nine homers, and given the context of pitching at Tucson, his season was outstanding. I promoted him to Grade B, and wrote that he could "put up surprisingly nice numbers in the majors in '04." He was traded to Milwaukee in the Richie Sexson deal.
Capuano made 17 starts for the Brewers in '04, going 6-8, 4.99, then broke out in a big way this year. His minor league record was marked by strong K/IP ratios, even though he doesn't have a blazing fastball. This is another example of how pure velocity and the ability to dominate hitters are NOT always directly related.
Is his success this year sustainable in the future? You have to be impressed with his wins and his ERA, and he's got a solid strikeout rate. But his walk rate (74 in 198 innings) is higher than ideal. I have not seen him pitch for the Brewers this year, and would be very interested in the observations of those who have.