Double-A Transition Monitor
Eric Hurley, RHP
Promoted to Double-A Frisco on July 24th. In six starts, he is 3-1, 1.95, with a 31/11 K/BB in 37 innings, allowing 21 hits.
Obviously the early results on this transition are quite positive. He is actually pitching better than he did for Class A Bakersfield, where he was 5-6, 4.11 with a 106/32 K/BB in 101 innings. His Cal League numbers were quite good for the context, but he's been even more effective in the Texas League. His K/IP has slipped slightly, but his walk rate has remained steady and there has been no slippage in his H/IP. Even his home run rate virtually the same.
I think the ERA overstates things a bit, and he's been hit-lucky: his BABIP is .198 for Frisco, which is unlikely to be sustainable. It was .306 for Bakersfield. But what matters most to Hurley's future is his command, and the fact that his walk rate has remained steady is an excellent sign. I rated him as the best Texas pitching prospect entering the season, even ahead of Danks and Volquez, and I'm increasingly comfortable with that call. Grade A-.
Andy Sonnanstine, RHP
Sonnanstine is 13-7, 2.73 in 25 starts for Double-A Montgomery, with a 133/29 K/BB in 165 innings. He's allowed 136 hits and 12 homers. Last year, he posted a stunning 178/18 K/BB in 181 innings at the A-ball level. Compared to last year, his walk rate is up by almost 100%. His strikeouts have declined by about 20%. But we're still talking about a guy with a K/BB of 4.5 to 1.
Sonnanstine's fastball is average. He relies on his changeup and slurve and his pinpoint command to survive. Some scouts were openly skeptical about his chances to succeed in Double-A, but he's clearly done so. I rated him as "Grade C+ pending higher level data" in the book this year, and I still think that's a good grade. I'm impressed by what he's done this year, but I want to see what he does in Triple-A. I've been burned a few too many times by these great K/BB guys. Don't get me wrong, I like him. But he doesn't have a huge margin for error.
Tyler Clippard, RHP
Clippard got attention after throwing a no-hitter last week, and I have numerous requests from Yankees fans for a revised analysis. He is 10-10, 3.56 in 25 starts for Trenton, with a 155/50 K/BB in 150 innings. He's given up just 107 hits, and overall is having a very strong season.
His walk rate is up by one-third compared to last year, his strikeouts down about 10%. This isn't an unusual development for a pitcher in Double-A and overall his numbers remain good. Stuff-wise, he throws harder than Sonnanstine but not as hard as Hurley. I was worried about his fly ball tendencies entering '06, afraid that this would hurt him in Double-A. His home run rate (14 so far) is a bit higher than perfect, and his GB/FB ratio is approximately .80. Keeping the ball in the park will be a challenge for him at higher levels, and it will make it even more important for him to keep his walk rate down.
But overall he's made a successful transition. I'd look for him to start '07 in Triple-A, with a shot in New York late in the year. I'd rate him as a solid Grade B prospect. He's on the cusp of B+, and might end up there in the book. I haven't decided yet.