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The WAR Room: Colon and Aviles riding sinkers to great results

Sinkerballers Colon, Aviles finding success in 2014

The WAR Room: Colon and Aviles riding sinkers to great results
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
June 1, 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. It is still early enough that there is some noise in the numbers, but at this point in the season, we are starting to see some interesting trends emerge.

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 note that pitchers have FIP-based WAR -- which is based on peripherals like strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc. -- and RA-based WAR -- which is based on runs allowed.

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 pitchers throughout the system. Next week we will do the hitters. For the full stats, go ahead and click here. Stats are updated through Friday, May 30.

Columbus Clippers

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
T.J. House Indians (AAA) 24 41.1 1.1 1.5
Trevor Bauer Indians (AAA) 23 46.0 0.7 2.1
Josh Tomlin Indians (AAA) 29 35.0 0.6 1.6
Kyle Davies Indians (AAA) 30 30.2 0.5 0.1
Travis Banwart Indians (AAA) 28 57.2 0.5 1.5
Tyler Cloyd Indians (AAA) 27 53.1 0.3 -0.1
Brett Brach Indians (AAA) 26 6.2 0.2 -0.4
Gabriel Arias Indians (AAA) 24 11.0 0.0 -0.5
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AAA) 23 4.2 0.0 0.0
Danny Salazar Indians (AAA) 24 12.2 -0.1 -0.3

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Vinnie Pestano Indians (AAA) 29 18.2 0.5 0.3
Mark Lowe Indians (AAA) 31 16.1 0.4 0.1
Frank Herrmann Indians (AAA) 30 13.2 0.3 0.1
Mike Zagurski Indians (AAA) 31 16.1 0.2 0.4
Kyle Crockett Indians (AAA) 22 5.1 0.1 -0.1
CC Lee Indians (AAA) 27 8.0 0.1 -0.1
Scott Barnes Indians (AAA) 26 22.0 0.0 0.2
Nick Hagadone Indians (AAA) 28 21.2 0.0 -0.1
Austin Adams Indians (AAA) 27 23.1 0.0 0.2
Elliot Johnson Indians (AAA) 30 0.2 0.0 0.0
Blake Wood Indians (AAA) 28 8.0 -0.1 0.1
Toru Murata Indians (AAA) 29 9.0 -0.2 -0.4
Benny Suarez Indians (AAA) 22 1.1 -0.4 -0.4

Danny Salazar (Photo: MiLB)As useful as advanced stats can be, Danny Salazar's Triple-A results are a case where they do not have as much value. For someone supposed to be developing into the ace of the major league staff, seeing Salazar own a -0.1 FIP-based WAR and -0.3 RA-based WAR through 12.2 Triple-A innings is, on the surface, less than encouraging. But considering Salazar is in Columbus to work on specific facets of his game -- perfecting his off-speed pitches, for example -- the raw results do not tell the whole story.

Luckily for the organization, starters like Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and T.J. House have held down the fort at the major league level when injury and performance have called for it. Those successes have allowed the organization to keep right-hander Travis Banwart in Columbus for the time-being. Banwart is a solid pitcher with a 0.5 FIP-based WAR and 1.5 RA-based WAR in 57.2 innings, results that back up the right-hander's scouting report of a solid depth option for the team. Though he would not be more than a back-of-the-rotation option at the majors, Banwart could easily fill in for a few starts if needed.

Another pitcher filling a Banwart-like role in Columbus is right-hander Kyle Davies. The major league veteran is back up in Triple-A, where his results lagged behind his peripherals. Through 30.2 innings in Columbus, Davies owns a 0.5 FIP-based WAR -- solidly above-average marks -- and a 0.1 RA-based WAR -- a decidedly replacement-level performance. Davies is not a power pitcher by any means and makes up for his lack of strikeouts by walking even fewer (13.0 percent strikeout rate, 65 K%+; 4.9 percent walk rate, 53 BB%+). That is not a sexy combination, but it is one that could get Davies another look at the major league level at the back-end of a rotation.

Rounding out Columbus' back-of-the-rotation depth starting pitching prospects, right-hander Tyler Cloyd has not had the best go of things in his organizational debut. Cloyd's 0.3 FIP-based WAR in 53.1 innings is not particularly impressive, but his -0.1 RA-based WAR is (obviously) even worse. The right-hander is having real home run issues in Columbus -- which is not a surprising given how Huntington Park plays -- and if he could get those under control, whether by not pitching in that park anymore or by throwing fewer drivable pitches, he could be another decent #5 starter. Cloyd is not there yet, but there is still a little upside left despite his pedestrian results in 2014.

Akron RubberDucks

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Joe Colon Indians (AA) 24 58.2 1.1 2.5
Will Roberts Indians (AA) 23 56.2 0.8 0.5
Gabriel Arias Indians (AA) 24 42.2 0.7 0.9
Toru Murata Indians (AA) 29 27.2 0.7 1.3
Cody Anderson Indians (AA) 23 51.2 0.7 0.6
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AA) 23 45.1 0.5 1.3
Shawn Morimando Indians (AA) 21 6.0 0.3 0.5
Kyle Davies Indians (AA) 30 29.2 -0.3 0.1

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AA) 28 23.2 0.5 1.0
Kyle Crockett Indians (AA) 22 15.2 0.4 0.8
Enosil Tejeda Indians (AA) 25 21.1 0.3 0.5
Jordan Cooper Indians (AA) 25 26.1 0.3 0.1
Shawn Armstrong Indians (AA) 23 21.1 0.2 0.8
Adam Miller Indians (AA) 29 11.1 0.1 0.4
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AA) 25 7.0 0.1 0.3
Giovanni Soto Indians (AA) 23 13.2 0.0 -0.1
Francisco Valera Indians (AA) 24 12.2 -0.4 -0.3

Joe Colon (Photo: MiLB)Right-hander Joe Colon continues to wildly outpitch his peripherals, putting up a 2.5 RA-based WAR and 1.1 FIP-based WAR in 58.2 innings. Of course, that 1.1 FIP-based WAR is easily an above-average pace -- already making it impressive -- and Colon is the type of pitcher that can outpitch his peripherals. Colon throws a ton of sinkers and aims for quick contact and groundballs, an approach that can hold down his strikeouts. More importantly, Colon could use throwing some more strikes and improving his 10.0 percent walk rate (117 BB%+), but as it is, he is getting results and making a name for himself in his first season at Double-A.

Though he is getting some starts in Triple-A now, right-hander Gabriel Arias made an impression during his first season in the organization with the RubberDucks. Arias is not dominating like Colon, but a 0.7 FIP-based WAR and 0.9 RA-based WAR in 42.2 innings is the type of borderline All-Star production that can indicate a pitcher is ready for the challenge of a promotion. Nothing Arias is doing really stands out -- a 0.42 HR/9 (58 HR/9+) is allowing those average results to play up -- but just being solid is enough to be valuable as a starting pitcher. So far in 2014, that is exactly what Arias is doing.

Akron is currently the hub for relievers on the comeback trail with right-hander Tyler Sturdevant leading the way. The 28-year-old's 0.5 FIP-based WAR and 1.0 RA-based WAR in 23.2 innings are pointing to a pitcher all the way back from missing all of 2013 with a shoulder injury. Sturdevant is throwing the ball past hitters, limiting his walks, and generally looking like the same pitcher who was close to helping in the major leagues in 2012. Plus, the right-hander regained most of his pre-injury velocity, as he is hanging out in the mid-90s, suggesting his 2014 success is not all smoke and mirrors.

Right-hander Adam Miller is also aiming to make his major league debut in the near future as he works his way back up the ladder. Miller is only 11.1 innings into his 2014 season, but the 29-year-old's 0.1 FIP-based WAR and 0.4 RA-based WAR are both solid (of course, the stats cutoff misses out on Miller's so-so outing Saturday night). The right-hander is not striking many batters out and is walking more than is ideal, but Miller is still regaining his comfort level with his pitches. Regaining that ability to comfortably throw his pitches is something that comes with time, which will hopefully lead to a decrease in walks and an increase in strikeouts going forward in 2014. 

Carolina Mudcats

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Ryan Merritt Indians (A+) 22 63.1 1.6 2.7
Cole Sulser Indians (A+) 24 49.0 0.9 -0.1
DJ Brown Indians (A+) 23 52.0 0.8 0.7
Michael Peoples Indians (A+) 22 39.1 0.5 -0.3
Dylan Baker Indians (A+) 22 6.0 0.2 0.5
Shawn Morimando Indians (A+) 21 50.2 0.2 0.3
Adam Plutko Indians (A+) 22 6.0 0.1 0.0

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Louis Head Indians (A+) 24 19.1 0.6 0.6
Elvis Araujo Indians (A+) 22 17.2 0.3 -0.1
Josh Martin Indians (A+) 24 25.2 0.2 0.8
Grant Sides Indians (A+) 25 21.0 0.2 0.8
Robert Nixon Indians (A+) 25 24.0 0.1 -0.6
Benny Suarez Indians (A+) 22 23.1 0.0 0.6
Jacob Lee Indians (A+) 24 29.0 -0.1 0.0
Clayton Cook Indians (A+) 23 9.1 -0.2 -0.3
Carlos Melo Indians (A+) 23 10.2 -0.3 -1.0

Shawn Morimando (Photo: MiLB)Left-hander Shawn Morimando is back in Carolina for now after being called up for a start in Akron earlier in the week. The promotion seems a little weird from a statistical standpoint, as despite Morimando's improvements in 2014, the left-hander is still struggling with a 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.3 RA-based WAR in 50.2 innings. Morimando cut down on his walks, but the 21-year-old is still below-average in both plate discipline stats. The results have not shown up for Morimando yet (though his first Double-A start was spectacular), but the left-hander is still young for his level and has plenty of talent.

In terms of ERA, right-hander Cole Sulser is decidedly unspectacular, as you can see by his -0.1 RA-based WAR in 49.0 innings. In terms of his FIP, however, Sulser jumps up to a well above-average 0.9 FIP-based WAR. So which one should we go with? Given Sulser's solid strikeout and walk rates, his elevated BABIP, and poor luck in stranding runners in 2014, I am going with the right-hander's good FIP-based results. At 24 years old, Sulser will need to see that ERA sink a bit in order to gain some standing, but the key is that he is pitching much better than his raw stands would indicate.

Another 24-year-old on The Carolina roster, right-hander Josh Martin is doing quite well with his 0.8 RA-based WAR in 25.2 innings, though his 0.2 FIP-based WAR is a little less impressive. A lot of Martin's success is coming from his .169 BABIP (56 BABIP+), which is either a testament to Martin's extreme ability to induce weak contact or some luck. No one runs a BABIP that low over a full season, so Martin will see his results wane a little going forward. Martin still comes out well with his peripherals and could get a look in Akron, but it is important to not overestimate his performance based on that sterling 1.40 ERA (36 ERA-).

Similarly, right-hander Grant Sides owns a 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.8 RA-based WAR in 21.0 innings with a nearly identical ERA and FIP as Martin. Sides also owns an extremely low BABIP, though the right-hander does not have Martin's solid peripherals. Sides is below-average in strikeout rate and walking too many batters in 2014; his 1.29 ERA (33 ERA-) is heavily helped by not allowing a home run on the season. If a few balls start leaving the park on Sides, things could go downhill quickly if the right-hander does not start getting more pitches in the strike zone.

Lake County Captains

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Adam Plutko Indians (A) 22 52.2 1.9 0.8
Jordan Milbrath Indians (A) 22 52.1 0.9 0.9
Robbie Aviles Indians (A) 22 49.2 0.9 2.5
Luis Lugo Indians (A) 20 39.2 0.9 -0.1
Dace Kime Indians (A) 22 45.2 0.4 -0.8
Mitch Brown Indians (A) 20 50.0 0.3 0.3

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Kenny Mathews Indians (A) 20 17.2 0.2 0.4
Matthew Whitehouse Indians (A) 23 28.2 0.2 -0.9
Trevor Frank Indians (A) 23 22.1 0.2 0.3
Ben Heller Indians (A) 22 20.1 0.1 0.2
Brian Ruiz Indians (A) 21 1.0 0.0 0.0
Cody Ferrell Indians (A) 24 0.2 0.0 -0.1
Wander Beras Indians (A) 25 23.2 0.0 0.6
Kerry Doane Indians (A) 23 14.1 -0.1 0.0
Luis Dejesus Indians (A) 22 1.2 -0.1 -0.3
Caleb Hamrick Indians (A) 20 39.2 -0.2 -1.5
Alexis Paredes Indians (A) 22 26.1 -0.3 -0.1

Robbie Aviles (Photo: MiLB)So how much credit do we give right-hander Robbie Aviles for exceeding his peripherals? Like Colon, Aviles has the profile to get more credit than his still very good FIP gives him, but he probably will not keep up his 1.45 ERA (37 ERA-) all season (in fact, his rougher Saturday start is not counted here. But Aviles is still in the midst of a great season, as either his 0.9 FIP-based WAR or 2.5 RA-based WAR in 49.2 innings would indicate. Aviles never walks anyone, and now that his strikeout rate is not also extremely low (16.2 percent, 80 K%+), he looks like he is back to being a real prospect going forward.

To an extent, right-hander Mitch Brown is starting to come around at Lake County. Brown's 0.3 FIP-based WAR and 0.3 RA-based WAR in 50.0 innings are below-average, but the 20-year-old is a least pitching well enough to stick this season. Unfortunately, Brown's 15.9 percent strikeout rate (78 K%+) and 14.2 percent walk rate (157 BB%+) both look troublesome and could cause problems down the line. Brown has the ability, but right now he is putting too many runners on base with the walk and not missing enough bats to be anywhere near moving back up the prospect ranks.

Right-hander Caleb Hamrick's down season is still continuing, as the 20-year-old is now down to a -0.2 FIP-based WAR and -1.5 RA-based WAR in 39.2 innings. Frequently pitching on the relief side of the piggyback system has Hamrick qualifying as a reliever, slightly decreasing those WAR totals, but even the starter bump would not help much. Hamrick is another pitcher struggling to get the ball over the plate, as he too has almost as many walks as strikeouts. As with most pitchers at this level, Hamrick is still young enough to turn it around long-term, but the early results in 2014 are not heartening.

Pitching out of the Lake County bullpen, right-hander Trevor Frank is not overwhelming Midwest League hitters, but the soon-to-be 23-year-old is doing well. A 23.3 percent strikeout rate (114 K%+) and 4.4 percent walk rate (49 BB%+) have Frank at a 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.3 RA-based WAR in 22.1 innings, solid results for the 2013 eighth round pick. Given his age and strong performance, hopefully Frank will get a chance to keep this going in the Carolina League soon enough.

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

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