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The Top Pitching Prospects In The Pacific Coast League

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An inside look at the top pitchers in the PCL and how effectively they've pitched through the first month of the season.

Dan Straily
Dan Straily
Thearon W. Henderson

<p><b id="docs-internal-guid-5dccb9c5-5ea2-aea6-93d1-76bc2dd4ea8b"> </b></p>

<p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5dccb9c5-5ea2-aea6-93d1-76bc2dd4ea8b">The Pacific Coast League is known as a hitter's paradise with some extreme park effects, but it's also home to some of the best pitchers in the minor leagues. This season there are eight of&nbsp;<a target="_blank" href="http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/10/8/3474586/preliminary-top-50-pitching-prospects-list-for-2013">John Sickels top 50</a>&nbsp;minor league pitchers throwing in Triple-A PCL.</span></p>

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5. ZACK WHEELER - Las Vegas

9. TYLER SKAGGS - RENO

17. DANNY HULTZEN - Tacoma

25. JAMES PAXTON - Tacoma

30. JARROD COSART - Oklahoma

39. TYLER THORNBERG - Nashville

41. DAN STRAILY - Sacramento

50. MICHAEL WACHA - Memphis

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<p dir="ltr">This article looks at some of their top performers this season with a particular interest in who's put up the best Gamescores (GScr). A GScr is a stat developed by Bill James that grades pitchers on how deep they go into a game and effectiveness. Most of the stats collected are through Sunday.</p>

<p dir="ltr">Through the first few weeks of the season <a href="https://www.vivaelbirdos.com/" class="sbn-auto-link">Cardinals</a> prospect <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/189011/michael-wacha" class="sbn-auto-link">Michael Wacha</a> has to be considered the darling of the PCL. He's scored three straight 70+ GScr in his last three games and is allowing just over three hits per outing. Wacha was selected with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2012 draft and dominated in his four starts in High-A Palm Beach where he earned a -0.58 SIERA -- I didn't even know it was possible to score a negative SIERA.</p>

<p dir="ltr">This year Michael was aggressively moved to Triple-A to start the season and he hasn't disappointed putting up a 1.96 ERA and receiving calls from Cardinals fans for a promotion to St. Louis. One stat that's troubling with Wacha this year, is his lack of strikeouts. He's striking out less than five batters per nine innings, but Cardinal fans know he's capable of more as he had a 17.14 K/9 in 2012.</p>

<p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/158054/dan-straily" class="sbn-auto-link">Dan Straily</a> began the year in the Oakland A's rotation as a fill-in until <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/721/bartolo-colon" class="sbn-auto-link">Bartolo Colon</a> returned from suspension. Straily took advantage of his opportunity, striking out 11 and allowing only two earned runs. In a move representing how deep the A's system really is, Straily was sent down for his next start and has pitched well for Sacramento with three consecutive 60+ GScr and topping out with a 71 on April 16th. That day he went seven innings, allowing only a run on four hits with seven strikeouts.</p>

<p dir="ltr">Through three starts Dan has earned a 0.96 ERA and a K/9 of 9.6. Straily returned to the A's rotation on April 29th replacing an injured Brett Anderson. It wouldn't be surprising to see Dan cement himself in the rotation this time, although Anderson is only expected to miss a start or two.</p>

<p dir="ltr">Straily is one of those unique prospects who was selected out of college late in the draft - in the 24th round - and still worked his way into national attention with many prospect experts. Usually when guys like Keith Law hear about a 24th round prospect, they tag the guy as - organizational filler - but not with Straily. In his chat last year Law described Straily, where he actually compliments the A's pitcher:</p>

<blockquote>

<p dir="ltr">"Consensus seems to be fourth starter type, four average to above-average pitches, nothing plus, can really pitch. In Oakland that might look a lot more like a 3 given their ballpark and defense."&nbsp;</p>

</blockquote>

<p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/152195/jarred-cosart" class="sbn-auto-link">Jarred Cosart</a> has been limited in his outings by the <a href="https://www.crawfishboxes.com/" class="sbn-auto-link">Astros</a> implementation of the piggy-back system with their minor league pitchers. This system includes the starter going up to five innings or limited to 75 pitches, then the second pitcher capped at four innings and 60 pitches.</p>

<p dir="ltr">When he first heard about it, <a href="http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130422&amp;content_id=45449604&amp;fext=.jsp&amp;vkey=news_milb">Cosart wasn't very excited</a> about the new pitching experiment in Houston's system:</p>

<blockquote>

<p dir="ltr">"When they first told us in Spring Training, it was about the third day [after] I'd been sent down from Major League camp. I'm not in the best of moods, so that threw a little icing on the cake."</p>

</blockquote>

<p dir="ltr">This new role keeps Jarred from going deep in the ballgame and has resulted in three games where he was pulled before the fifth. When Cosart has lasted five innings he's put up some good GScr with his best being a 69 on April 10th. His season stats are strong as well with a 2.86 ERA and a K/9 of 9.41.</p>

<p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.azsnakepit.com/" class="sbn-auto-link">Diamondbacks</a> prospect <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/130109/tyler-skaggs" class="sbn-auto-link">Tyler Skaggs</a> has been mostly consistent, if we throw out his game against Sacramento - where he lasted only 2.1 and gave up nine earned runs - then we see four starts with a 60+ GScr. Skaggs has yet to allow a home run on the year and that includes the game against Sacramento where the wind was gusting at 19 mph out to right field.</p>

<p dir="ltr">Tyler has been able to utilize his changeup effectively and pitch to the seventh inning nearly every start. His ERA is going to be ugly for a while thanks to the Sacramento game, but he's allowed two or less runs in the rest of his appearances and both his SIERA and FIP scores represent his true ability.</p>

<p dir="ltr">The rest of the top pitchers in the PCL haven't quite lived up to expectations this year. <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/131260/zack-wheeler" class="sbn-auto-link">Zack Wheeler</a> is putting up GScr's in the low 40's and has a walk rate that matches his ERA of 5.84. <a href="https://www.lookoutlanding.com/" class="sbn-auto-link">Mariners</a> prospect <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/149012/danny-hultzen" class="sbn-auto-link">Danny Hultzen</a> probably doesn't deserve to be in this paragraph, but the news of his injury and that he'll be shut down for at least a month is very disappointing. The <a href="https://www.brewcrewball.com/" class="sbn-auto-link">Brewers</a> prospect <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/151537/tyler-thornburg" class="sbn-auto-link">Tyler Thornburg</a> has been up and down this month going five innings every appearance, but allowing too many extra-base hits. His FIP and SIERA indicate some better appearances are down the road, but so far he hasn't dominated.</p>

<p dir="ltr">

<table border="1" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">

<tbody>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top"></td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Best GScr</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Age</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Tm</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Aff</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>G</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>IP</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>ERA</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>FIP</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>SIERA</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>GB%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>BABIP</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>HR/9</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>BB/9</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>K/9</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Michael Wacha</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>72</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>21.92</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Memphis</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>STL</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>29</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>1.86</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4.65</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5.32</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>33.3%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.186</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.93</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.41</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4.66</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Daniel Straily</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>71</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>24.5</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Sacramento</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>OAK</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>18.2</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.99</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>1.99</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.08</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>40.8%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.224</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.00</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.97</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>9.89</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Jarred Cosart</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>69</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>23.08</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Okla. City</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>HOU</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>22</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.86</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.79</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.07</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>56.9%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.246</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.41</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.68</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>9.41</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p><a href="http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/players/151901/james-paxton" class="sbn-auto-link">James Paxton</a></p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>69</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>24.58</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Tacoma</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>SEA</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>97</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>6.00</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4.06</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.86</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.86</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>50.8%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.86</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5.14</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>9.43</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Danny Hultzen</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>68</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>23.58</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Tacoma</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>SEA</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>22.2</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.84</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.48</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.92</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>31.7%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.267</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.41</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.43</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>10.14</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Tyler Skaggs</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>66</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>21.92</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Reno</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>ARI</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>26.1</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>6.21</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>2.86</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4.23</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>39.5%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.341</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.00</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4.14</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>8.28</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Tyler Thornburg</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>63</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>24.75</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Nashville</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>MIL</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>25</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5.04</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.52</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.67</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>41.3%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.338</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.72</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.24</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>8.64</p>

</td>

</tr>

<tr>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Zack Wheeler</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>52</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>23.08</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>Las Vegas</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>NYM</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>23.1</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5.84</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>4.54</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>3.87</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>39.4%</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>0.371</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>1.17</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>5.84</p>

</td>

<td width="39" valign="top">

<p>10.91</p>

</td>

</tr>

</tbody>

</table>

</p>

<p>&nbsp;</p>

<h4>Infographic</h4>

<p><a href="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1583759/GScr_zpseb899dd4.jpg"><img src="http://cdn1.sbnation.com/imported_assets/1583759/GScr_zpseb899dd4_medium.jpg" class="photo" alt="Gscr_zpseb899dd4_medium" /></a></p>

<p>&nbsp;</p>

<p>&nbsp;</p>