With the minorleagueball community top prospects voting now underway and venturing into "starting pitcher territory", let's take a look a back some of the 2015 minors' best performing starting pitchers with emphasis cast on their relative strengths and weaknesses.
The 106 pitchers listed a bit further down this page finished their 2015 minor league campaign at least a standard deviation above their league(s)'s average overall performance for a starting pitcher per my Fielding- and Ballpark-Independent Outcomes (FaBIO) statistical evaluation system, while facing at least 300 batters and averaging at least 15 batters faced per game (not many short-season players will qualify accordingly).
Each nonbunt, non-pitcher-batting plate appearance is sorted into 1 of the following 12 categories, and the pitcher is charged with the league's typical 2015 runs value for said event.
1. BB or HBP, 2. K, 3. IFFB, 4. GB to pull-third, 5. GB to center-third, ..., 7. LD to pull-third, ..., 12. OFFB to oppo-third
Each pitcher's final runs per plate appearance value is compared to the league peer group's mean and standard deviation for that parameter to obtain their Overall Rating. A Batted Ball Rating is determined similarly after omitting all BB+HBP or K events (individual components of the Batted Ball Rating are also computed such as GB Rating, IFFB Rating, etc., using GB per batted ball, IFFB per batted ball, ... to better understand how the Batted Ball Rating was attained and assess its sustainability). A Control (CTL) Rating (using BB+HBP per PA) and Strikeout (K) Rating (using K/PA) are also determined. A Youth Rating is determined by comparing the pitcher's age relative to the mean and standard deviation for SPs in their league.
Each rating will be expressed on a 100 to 0 scale where the number indicates the expected percentage of league peers beaten on the stat. 50 denotes league-average, with 84 being one standard deviation above league-average ("plus", indicated by a green number in tables) and 16 being one standard deviation below league-average ("minus", red number in tables). Asterisks denote southpaws.
The 106 MiLB SP Who Achieved a Plus or Higher Overall Rating
Let's begin with the Top 25 placers on Overall Rating.
Blake Snell held off Jose De Leon for the top spot thanks to a better and likely more sustainable batted ball profile. Andy Ferguson (99 Overall) is a righthanded upper 80s 4-seamer and changeup tosser who saw his K Rating spike upward in AA and AAA to 99 from 50 in 2014; a very high LD Avoid Rating helped cover up his repertoire-related vulnerability to the pulled OFFB. Alex Reyes clearly killed it at the K at a beyond 100 level given how low his CTL and Batted Ball Ratings were. Lucas Giolito (99 Overall) and Steven Matz (98 Overall) were 2 of just 9 MiLB pitchers who rated in the green on both K Rating and GB Rating out of the 914 who faced at least 300 batters.
The extremely low Youth Ratings of Michael Brady (98 Overall) and Aaron Wilkerson (97 Overall) have logical explanations. Brady was an infielder at the University of California who the Marlins converted to a reliever in the offseason before his first full-season - 2015 was his first extended trial as a pro starter. Wilkerson underwent Tommy John surgery after a very successful NAIA career and did not debut in independent league ball until age 24. The 2015 of Zack Godley (96 Overall) has parallels to that of Brady with 2015 being his first opportunity to toe the rubber as a pro starter (Godley was a starting pitcher in college). Among the rest of the Top 25 one will note some very balanced all-around seasons (good or better at each of CTL, K, and Batted Ball) from the likes of Joe Musgrove, Michael Fulmer, Alec Mills (the only starter to rate in the green on all 3 parameters), Jose Berrios, Mississippi Cody Reed, Kevin Ziomek, and Aaron Brooks.
And below are #26 through #50.
Taylor Guerrieri (94 Overall), Jorge Lopez (94 Overall), and Sean Newcomb (94 Overall) were 3 of the 9 MiLBers to rate in the green on both K Rating and GB Rating. The MiLB ratings suggest that Aaron Nola (94 Overall) and Tyler Duffey (94 Overall) may be much more alike than you might think per their disparate prospect pedigrees, with Duffey likely sporting the better batted ball profile (MLB Nola: 318 BF, 57 Overall, 74 Ctl, 55 K, 46 Batted Ball; MLB Duffey: 242 BF, 86 Overall, 48 Ctl, 78 K, 87 Batted Ball).
And now #51 through #75.
D.J. Snelten (92 Overall) and Ariel Jurado (90 Overall) were another 2 of the 9 MiLB pitchers who rated green at both K Rating and GB Rating; the rest of Jurado's batted ball profile was so loud that it dragged his Batted Ball Rating clear down to minus territory. John Lamb's (89 Overall) heavy OFFB bias and PullOFFB bias seems a dicey match for Great American Smallpark.
And finally #76 through #106.
Chase Johnson (86 Overall) was another of the 9 MiLBers to rate plus at both K Rating and GB Rating. Alabama Cody Reed (87 Overall) joins his Mississippi namesake on the list of 106. One has to wonder how the loud OFFB profile of Jerad Eickhoff (85 Overall) will fit into Citizens Bank Ballpark's cozy dimensions over a larger sample.
Sorting the 106 SP By Final 2015 Organization
Milwaukee led the way employing 8 of the 106 come the end of the 2015 campaign, followed closely by Cleveland with seven. Neither Atlanta nor Seattle could muster a single pitcher on the list, though the Braves traded for one during the offseason (Sean Newcomb).
MIL (8): Jorge Lopez, Adrian Houser, Josh Hader, Cy Sneed (now HOU), Hiram Burgos, Tyler Wagner, Angel Ventura, Zach Davies
CLE (7): Adam Plutko, Justus Sheffield, Mike Clevinger, Julian Merryweather, Jarrett Grube (now FA), Rob Kaminsky, Thomas Pannone
ARI (6): Zack Godley, Anthony Banda, Carlos Hernandez, Wei-Chieh Huang, Cody Reed, Anfernee Benitez
SF (6): D.J. Snelten, Martin Agosta, Joe Biagini (TOR Rule 5), Chase Johnson, Sam Coonrod, Matt Gage
CHC (5): Ryan Williams, Bradley Markey, Felix Pena, Pierce Johnson, Tsuyoshi Wada (now Japan)
CIN (5): Cody Reed, Seth Varner, Tyler Mahle, John Lamb, Amir Garrett (Matt Buschmann)
LAD (5): Jose De Leon, Chase De Jong, Jharel Cotton, Eric Stults (now FA), Julio Urias
STL (5): Alex Reyes, Tyler Lyons, Austin Gomber, Tim Cooney, Daniel Poncedeleon (Rob Kaminsky)
TB (5): Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Taylor Guerrieri, Brent Honeywell, Jared Mortensen (Matt Buschmann)
DET (4): Michael Fulmer, Matt Boyd, Kevin Ziomek, Chad Green (now NYY)
HOU (4): Joe Musgrove, Brian Holmes, Mike Hauschild, Brady Rodgers (Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, Daniel Mengden)
KC (4): Andy Ferguson, Alec Mills, Arnaldo Hernandez, Pedro Fernandez (Cody Reed, Sean Manaea, John Lamb, Aaron Brooks)
LAA (4): Michael Brady (now WAS), Sean Newcomb (now ATL), Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano
NYM (4): Steven Matz, Kevin Canelon, Tyler Badamo, Robert Gsellman (Michael Fulmer)
NYY (4): Luis Severino, Rookie Davis, Jordan Montgomery, Bryan Mitchell
BOS (3): Aaron Wilkerson, William Cuevas, Brian Johnson
CHW (3): Jordan Guerrero, Spencer Adams, Erik Johnson
COL (3): Antonio Senzatela, Sam Howard, Harrison Musgrave
OAK (3): Sean Manaea, Aaron Brooks, Daniel Mengden
TEX (3): Phil Klein, Ariel Jurado, Pedro Payano (Jerad Eickhoff)
WAS (3): Lucas Giolito, Austin Voth, Paolo Espino
BAL (2): Mike Wright, Matt Buschmann (now FA) (Zach Davies)
MIN (2): Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey
PHI (2): Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff
PIT (2): Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault
SD (2): Colin Rea, Chris Smith (now FA)
MIA (1): Kendry Flores
TOR (1): Jeff Francis (now FA) (Matt Boyd, Chase De Jong)
ATL (0), SEA (0)
Prospect Better Bets: Pitchers Among the 106 Who Were Also a Standard Deviation Younger Than League Average
There were 23 such pitchers, with 2 organizations placing a trio on the list in the Rays (the very 3 pitchers you'd guess) and Brewers (thanks to 2 late season trades). The Tribe, Pale Hose, and Snakes landed a pair each. Robert Gsellman posted a unique line in which his plus overall performance stems almost entirely from an elite batted ball profile (he rates somewhat poorly on non-batted-ball events). Many an internet commenter has lamented Spencer Adams' lower than average K rates as a pro, with most of them being relatively unaware that Adams has been better than plus at the other facets of pitching while also rating plus on youth relative to league.