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The WAR Room: Bidding farewell to Vinnie Pestano

The Angels are betting, in part, on Pestano's strong minor league performance in 2014

The WAR Room: Bidding farewell to Vinnie Pestano
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
August 10, 2014
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The WAR Room is back again, bringing you the 2014 advanced stats for every Cleveland minor leaguer. After looking at the hitters last week, today we focus on the pitchers.

Of course, it is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.

But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.

For reference on how I computed WAR, a reminder on the problems inherent in the stats, and everything else you need to know, click here. For a refresher on WAR and what it is, click here.

As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.

Also, the lack of good defensive metrics for the minor leagues means we have to adjust for a range of defensive abilities. To account for this, I will give you each player's WAR with a qualifier: either poor-defense WAR for a poor defender (-10 runs below-average per 162 games), average-defense WAR for an average defender (0 runs per 162 games), or great-defense WAR for a great defender (10 runs above-average per 162 games).

One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.

Today we look at the hitters throughout the system. Next week we will do the pitchers. For the full stats, go ahead and click here. Stats are updated through Friday, August 8.

Columbus Clippers

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Kyle Davies Indians (AAA) 30 101.1 1.9 1.6
Tyler Cloyd Indians (AAA) 27 140.2 1.3 2.2
Zach McAllister Indians (AAA) 26 43.1 1.3 2.0
Travis Banwart Indians (AAA) 28 89.1 1.2 2.6
T.J. House Indians (AAA) 24 57.0 1.1 1.2
Danny Salazar Indians (AAA) 24 53.2 0.8 0.7
Trevor Bauer Indians (AAA) 23 46.0 0.7 2.1
Gabriel Arias Indians (AAA) 24 59.2 0.7 0.8
Josh Tomlin Indians (AAA) 29 40.0 0.5 1.8
Brett Brach Indians (AAA) 26 6.2 0.2 -0.4
Justin Masterson Indians (AAA) 29 11.2 0.2 0.0
Jordan Cooper Indians (AAA) 25 4.2 0.1 0.3
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AAA) 23 9.2 -0.1 -0.1
Toru Murata Indians (AAA) 29 45.2 -0.2 0.3

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Mike Zagurski Indians (AAA)/O 31 51.0 1.2 1.2
Vinnie Pestano Indians (AAA) 29 30.1 0.8 0.9
C.C. Lee Indians (AAA) 27 30.0 0.7 0.4
Mark Lowe Indians (AAA) 31 32.2 0.6 -0.7
Austin Adams Indians (AAA) 27 44.1 0.5 1.4
Kyle Crockett Indians (AAA) 22 8.2 0.2 0.0
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AAA) 28 20.2 0.2 0.3
Scott Barnes Indians (AAA) 26 31.2 0.1 0.3
Nick Hagadone Indians (AAA) 28 28.2 0.1 -0.1
Shaun Marcum Indians (AAA) 32 1.0 0.0 0.1
Elliot Johnson Indians (AAA) 30 0.2 0.0 0.0
Josh Outman Indians (AAA) 29 12.1 0.0 -0.3
Blake Wood Indians (AAA) 28 8.0 -0.1 0.1
Bryan Price Indians (AAA) 27 15.2 -0.2 0.2
Benny Suarez Indians (AAA) 22 2.1 -0.5 -0.6
Frank Herrmann Indians (AAA) 30 29.2 -0.5 -0.5
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AAA) 25 19.2 -0.6 -0.2

Vinnie Pestano (Photo: MiLB)There was a time that right-hander Vinnie Pestano was the heir apparent to the closer role in Cleveland; now he is a shell of his former dominant self and has been traded for a lottery ticket pitching prospect. It is easy to see why the Angels decided to buy low on Pestano despite his -0.3 fWAR in 44.1 innings in 2013 and 2014. Even though he has not pitched well in the majors, Pestano pitched quite well in the minors, putting up 0.8 FIP-based WAR and 0.9 RA-based WAR in 30.1 Triple-A innings this season. Pestano got a ton of strikeouts in Columbus while walking about an average amount of batters (29.4 percent strikeout rate, 153 K%+; 9.5 percent walk rate, 107 BB%+), a result the Angels will now hope the right-hander can translate to the major league side during their playoff race.

Much like Pestano, right-hander Zach McAllister has struggled at the major league level in 2014 (5.91 ERA, 4.05 FIP in 67.0 innings) despite stellar minor league results. In particular, McAllister's 1.3 FIP-based WAR and 2.0 RA-based WAR in 43.1 innings indicate the right-hander is pitching at a Cy Young-level while in the International League. It would seem McAllister's better peripherals at the major league and his elite performance in the minors -- including a 23.1 percent strikeout rate (120 K%+) and a 5.8 percent walk rate (65 BB%+) -- point to better results down the line. McAllister may be in the minors for the time being, but he should get another look at the major league level in the near future.

Thanks in part to the constant shifting of the Clippers' rotation, the current leader in FIP-based WAR in Columbus is right-hander Kyle Davies. Davies has only thrown 101.1 innings in Triple-A, yet his 1.9 FIP-based WAR is in first for the Clippers and his 1.6 RA-based WAR is not too bad either. The 30-year-old found success in Columbus by limiting his walks (5.5 percent walk rate, 62 BB%+) in order to make up for his 16.1 percent strikeout rate (84 K%+), an approach that should be sustainable given Davies' normal .298 BABIP (98 BABIP+) and below-average 65.5 percent strand rate (92 LOB%+). Davies is helped by a low 0.53 HR/9 (70 HR/9+) -- a strange result in Huntington Park -- but overall, he is pitching well as he attempts to get back to the majors.

Right-hander Tyler Cloyd may be trailing Davies a bit with his 1.3 FIP-based WAR and 2.2 RA-based WAR in 140.2 innings, but the two are very similar. Cloyd is not having as much success as Davies due to his 1.22 HR/9 (160 HR/9+) -- something that is bound to happen considering the right-hander does not have great stuff and is pitching in Huntington Park -- yet Cloyd is still pitching well overall. The right-hander may be more of a depth option, especially considering he is only throwing at an average level in the International League, but he is a valuable arm to have in the minors in case he is needed in the majors.

Akron RubberDucks

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Will Roberts Indians (AA) 23 140.0 2.2 2.0
Joe Colon Indians (AA) 24 129.1 2.0 3.4
Gabriel Arias Indians (AA) 24 69.0 1.1 1.8
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AA) 23 112.2 0.8 2.1
Shawn Morimando Indians (AA) 21 27.0 0.5 0.6
Cody Anderson Indians (AA) 23 105.1 0.4 0.9
Toru Murata Indians (AA) 29 54.2 0.3 0.4
Matt Packer Indians (AA) 26 9.1 0.1 -0.3
Cole Sulser Indians (AA) 24 6.0 0.0 0.2
Kyle Davies Indians (AA) 30 29.2 -0.3 0.1

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Shawn Armstrong Indians (AA) 23 47.2 0.9 1.4
Giovanni Soto Indians (AA) 23 43.1 0.8 0.4
Enosil Tejeda Indians (AA) 25 48.1 0.7 1.2
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AA) 28 31.0 0.6 1.3
Kyle Crockett Indians (AA) 22 15.2 0.4 0.8
Bryan Price Indians (AA) 27 10.0 0.1 0.3
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AA) 25 13.0 0.0 0.4
Adam Miller Indians (AA) 29 33.1 0.0 -0.5
Elvis Araujo Indians (AA) 22 13.1 0.0 0.4
Louis Head Indians (AA) 24 25.0 -0.2 0.0
Jordan Cooper Indians (AA) 25 67.0 -0.3 0.0
Francisco Valera Indians (AA) 24 12.2 -0.4 -0.3
Trey Haley Indians (AA) 24 6.1 -0.4 -0.4

Will Roberts (Photo: MiLB)Like Cloyd in Triple-A, right-hander Will Roberts is not dominating the Eastern League, though he is eating a ton of innings while pitching at an above-average level. Roberts' 2.2 FIP-based WAR and 2.0 RA-based WAR in 140.0 innings are solid, thank (again) to a low 5.2 percent walk rate (64 BB%+) paired with an also low 15.0 percent strikeout rate (79 K%+). That lack of dominance holds back Roberts' ultimate ceiling, but as someone who can throw a ton of innings while avoiding walks, the right-hander will fit at the back of a rotation for a long time; possibly a major league one.

He may still be biding his time in Double-A, but right-hander Shawn Armstrong is making the most of it, putting up 0.9 FIP-based WAR and 1.4 RA-based WAR in just 47.2 innings. Such a dominant performance put Armstrong back on the prospect map, for good reason. Armstrong is exactly the kind of powerful arm teams love at the back of the bullpen, and with a 32.5 percent strikeout rate (172 K%+), the 23-year-old should find his way to the majors at some point over the next year or two. That promotion should be forthcoming thanks to a greater ability to throw the ball over the plate (8.8. percent walk rate, 108 BB%+). Armstrong had problems in the past, but right now, he is developing into a great relief prospect.

Right-hander Enosil Tejeda will never have the raw stuff of an Armstrong, but he is still producing at essentially the same level. Tejeda's 0.7 FIP-based WAR and 1.2 RA-based WAR in 48.1 innings prove you do not need elite stuff to be successful. Of course, getting hitters out at Triple-A and the majors is easier with that elite stuff, which could be why Tejeda is still in Double-A. Tejeda has a 26.5 percent strikeout rate (140 K%+) and 5.6 percent walk rate (69 BB%+), though how far those rates will drop after promotions is up for debate. The 25-year-old deserves a shot in Triple-A, though the fact the organization has not given it to him yet is worrisome.

Left-hander Elvis Araujo has only thrown 13.1 innings in Double-A, and depending on your metrics, his debut is either going very well or not well at all. Based on his 2.03 ERA (50 ERA-), Araujo has 0.4 RA-based WAR, an absolutely elite rate. But looking at his 4.64 FIP (115 FIP-) and 0.0 FIP-based WAR, Araujo still has work to do. The left-hander is striking out plenty of batters in Double-A (27.8 percent strikeout rate, 147 K%+), but he is also walking too many (13.0 percent walk rate, 159 BB%+) and giving up a ton of home runs (1.35 HR/9 (176 HR/9+). There are definitely signs that Araujo can find success in Double-A and beyond, but he is not there yet.

Carolina Mudcats

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Ryan Merritt Indians (A+) 22 134.1 2.5 4.5
Cole Sulser Indians (A+) 24 107.2 1.8 -0.7
D.J. Brown Indians (A+) 23 100.1 1.4 0.2
Michael Peoples Indians (A+) 22 90.1 1.4 1.0
Shawn Morimando Indians (A+) 21 96.1 1.0 2.1
Adam Plutko Indians (A+) 22 72.0 0.7 0.7
Dylan Baker Indians (A+) 22 22.0 0.2 0.0

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Louis Head Indians (A+) 24 20.1 0.6 0.6
Josh Martin Indians (A+) 24 54.0 0.5 0.9
Grant Sides Indians (A+) 25 45.1 0.3 1.3
Elvis Araujo Indians (A+) 22 29.0 0.3 0.0
Jacob Lee Indians (A+) 24 60.0 0.3 1.1
Benny Suarez Indians (A+) 22 50.1 0.2 0.4
Clayton Cook Indians (A+) 23 35.0 -0.1 -0.2
Robert Nixon Indians (A+) 25 48.2 -0.1 -0.6
Luis DeJesus Indians (A+) 22 1.2 -0.1 0.0
Ben Heller Indians (A+) 22 8.2 -0.3 -0.1
Carlos Melo Indians (A+) 23 10.2 -0.3 -1.0

Ryan Merritt (Photo: MiLB)Left-hander Ryan Merritt is still having a great season with 2.5 FIP-based WAR and 4.5 RA-based WAR in 134.1 innings, but there is some cause for concern with the 22-year-old. In the last two weeks, Merritt has only put up 0.1 FIP-based WAR and -0.2 RA-based WAR in 11.0 innings, the byproduct of the left-hander slowing down from the elite rate he put up earlier in the season. Merritt is still a very good pitcher and should get a look in Akron at the end of the season, but it is also important to note he is more of a good pitcher than the elite one he looked like at the start of the season.

Right-hander Ben Heller was one of the best relievers in Lake County -- where he posted 0.7 FIP-based WAR and 1.0 RA-based WAR in 37.0 innings -- but those results have not followed him to Carolina just yet. To date, Heller has -0.3 FIP-based WAR and -0.1 RA-based WAR in just 8.2 innings, which is not surprising when a pitcher walks 20.0 percent of batters (234 BB%+). It is not likely Heller will keep walking a fifth of all batters, and once the right-hander starts throwing the ball over the plate again, it is possible he will get back to performing like he did with the Captains.

Right-hander Grant Sides is not having a great season by FIP standards, with a 3.68 FIP (92 FIP-) and 0.3 FIP-based WAR in 45.1 innings, which puts a bit of a damper on the 25-year-old's 2.38 ERA (60 ERA-) and 1.3 RA-based WAR. The problem for Sides remains his subpar 11.1 percent walk rate (130 BB%+), which does not work all that well when paired with his average 19.5 percent strikeout rate (99 K%+). Sides will continue to find good results if he can maintain his 0.20 HR/9 (34 HR/9+), and while he has limited home runs throughout his career, home run rate is still something that tends to regress back to the mean.

Though he is not blowing anyone away in the Carolina League, right-hander Josh Martin is putting up some solid numbers. Thanks to his 0.5 FIP-based WAR and 0.9 RA-based WAR in 54.0 innings, Martin is giving himself value as a 24-year-old reliever in High-A. Though his 23.9 percent strikeout rate (122 K%+) and 7.3 percent walk rate (85 BB%+) are more above-average than great, it should still be enough to make Martin intriguing. High-A relievers who are getting up there in age are pretty low on the prospect ladder, but Martin is performing at the level necessary to stick around for at least another year.

Lake County Captains

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Adam Plutko Indians (A) 22 52.2 1.9 0.7
Mitch Brown Indians (A) 20 116.0 1.5 1.7
Robbie Aviles Indians (A) 22 71.2 1.5 2.4
Luis Lugo Indians (A) 20 99.1 1.2 -0.8
Dace Kime Indians (A) 22 110.1 1.1 -0.3
Jordan Milbrath Indians (A) 22 109.1 0.8 2.0
Zach McAllister Indians (A) 26 4.1 0.1 0.0
Caleb Hamrick Indians (A) 20 85.0 -0.2 -2.0

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Trevor Frank Indians (A) 23 47.1 0.8 0.7
Ben Heller Indians (A) 22 37.0 0.7 1.0
Anderson Polanco Indians (A) 21 30.0 0.5 0.3
Kenny Mathews Indians (A) 20 17.2 0.2 0.3
Justin Garcia Indians (A) 21 8.2 0.2 -0.1
Justin Brantley Indians (A) 23 30.1 0.1 1.4
Matthew Whitehouse Indians (A) 23 32.2 0.1 -1.0
James Stokes Indians (A) 23 14.2 0.0 0.4
Brian Ruiz Indians (A) 21 1.0 0.0 0.0
Cody Ferrell Indians (A) 24 0.2 0.0 -0.1
Luis DeJesus Indians (A) 22 1.2 -0.1 -0.3
Carlos Melo Indians (A) 23 18.0 -0.2 -0.6
Wander Beras Indians (A) 25 56.0 -0.2 -0.5
Kerry Doane Indians (A) 23 16.1 -0.2 -0.4
Alexis Paredes Indians (A) 22 54.2 -1.1 -1.4

Luis Lugo (Photo: MiLB)Left-hander Luis Lugo continues to be an exercise in ERA versus FIP, with his 3.88 FIP (102 FIP-) and 1.2 FIP-based WAR in 99.1 innings painting him as a slightly above-average pitcher and his 5.62 ERA (148 ERA-) and -0.8 RA-based WAR pointing to a pitcher in need of a trip to Mahoning Valley or Arizona. Though the answer is likely somewhere in the middle, Lugo's impressive 27.4 percent strikeout rate (132 K%+), average 8.3 percent walk rate (98 BB%+), and fluky 55.9 percent strand rate (81 LOB%+) are all certainly points in FIP's direction. Lugo is giving up too much hard contact -- as evidenced in his 1.09 HR/9 (184 HR/9+), but he has the stuff and upside to correct that in the future. As it is, Lugo is pitching well despite his ERA and has a very bright future.

The same arguments also apply to right-hander Dace Kime, who has a bad 5.14 ERA (135 ERA-) and -0.3 RA-based WAR in 110.1 innings and a much better 4.13 FIP (108 FIP-) and 1.1 FIP-based WAR. But in Kime's case, his low FIP is the byproduct of a 0.49 HR/9 (83 HR/9+) more than his peripherals. In order to be better in the future, Kime needs to start striking out more batters (17.5 percent strikeout rate, 84 K%+) and walk fewer (10.2 percent walk rate, 121 BB%+), because as it is right now, the right-hander is just not pitching all that well. It is easy to look at Kime's FIP and say he is okay, but unlike Lugo, it is not that simple for the 2013 third round pick.

It is always great to see an underdog achieve great things against all odds and the success of right-hander Justin Brantley is no different. After coming into the organization as an undrafted free agent, Brantley kept opposing teams off the scoreboard, posting a 0.89 ERA (23 ERA-) and 1.4 RA-based WAR in just 30.1 innings. The problem is, much of Brantley's success comes from stranding every runner (100.0 percent strand rate, 145 LOB%+), something that is unsustainable. That, in addition to Brantley's 0.89 HR/9 (150 HR/9+), is why his 3.76 FIP (99 FIP-) is higher and his 0.1 FIP-based WAR is lower. But Brantley is getting strikeouts (26.5 percent strikeout rate, 128 K%+) and not walking all that many (8.3 percent walk rate, 98 BB%+), giving hope that the right-hander's home runs will regress down and help soften the blow of his inevitability that the 23-year-old will not strand every runner for the rest of his career.

Though right-hander Carlos Melo tossed a clean inning Saturday night (which is not included in these stats), the overall picture for the 23-year-old in Lake County is still not too bright. Following Melo's -0.3 FIP-based WAR and -1.0 RA-based WAR in 10.2 Carolina innings, the right-hander is posting a similar -0.2 FIP-based WAR and -0.6 RA-based WAR in 18.0 innings. Melo continues to have a big arm (30.8 percent strikeout rate, 149 K%+) but too often cannot get the ball to go over the plate (18.7 percent walk rate, 221 BB%+). Pitchers who throw as hard as Melo get plenty of chances, and if someone could get him in the strike zone more often, he could be something. 

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Jim Piascik
August 11, 2014 - 6:04 PM EDT
WAR per 9 will over rate players without much playing time though. There is some value to being able to stay healthy/stay on the field. But yeah, clearly McAllister is pitching much better since he did it in less innings. Just kind of have to pick your poison with the table.
Rich
August 11, 2014 - 8:00 AM EDT
I would like to see these WAR numbers normalized for innings pitched, or in the case of hitters, plate appearances. As it stands now, you have two pitches with basically the same WAR (Cloyd and McAllister), but Cloyd has pitched more than three times as many innings, so there's no comparison between them at all. It's like ranking the pitchers based on how many earned runs they've allowed this year without factoring in the innings pitched.

How about converting these numbers to WAR per 9 innings or something like that so we're comparing apples to apples?

I agree that Marcum has a shot to be in the rotation next year, probably just as good a shot as Tomlin or House. What we really need is Salazar, Bauer and Carrasco to put it all together, and to use the $24 million freed up by the trades of Masterson, Cabrera, and letting Axford walk to sign a good starter, not a "buy-low" guy.
Walter
August 10, 2014 - 9:35 PM EDT
I would consider going after Masterson as FA on an one year deal for 15. Based on history he would have a bounce back year, if healthy. He should be a low buy based on his poor performance this year.

MT88 in Wi
August 10, 2014 - 3:49 PM EDT
I'll be watching the Shawn Marcum numbers closely over the next few weeks.... If he's healthy I think he pitches in the rotation next year (call it a hunch)
Jim Piascik
August 10, 2014 - 2:56 PM EDT
No, there aren't really any prospects totally ready.

But Kluber, Bauer, Salazar, McAllister, House, Carrasco, and Tomlin should be able to yield at least four adequate starters in 2015. Then you look around for a buy-low pitcher like Jason Hammel was for the Cubs this year and it could all work out.

It's not a sexy solution, but it's one that could work (especially given Bauer and Salazar's upside).
Robert
August 10, 2014 - 2:29 PM EDT
Is it fair to say that there is not a single pitcher in line behind TJ House who could become a member of the rotation within a year? We really do need a good outing from Carrasco.

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