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The WAR Room: Merritt, Lugo pitching well in the lower levels

Left-handers Merritt, Lugo looking strong in Carolina, Lake County

The WAR Room: Merritt, Lugo pitching well in the lower levels
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
July 13, 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 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 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, July 11.

Columbus Clippers

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Travis Banwart Indians (AAA) 28 89.1 1.2 2.6
Kyle Davies Indians (AAA) 30 71.2 1.1 0.8
Zach McAllister Indians (AAA) 26 36.1 1.1 1.6
T.J. House Indians (AAA) 24 50.2 1.0 1.4
Tyler Cloyd Indians (AAA) 27 105.2 0.8 1.3
Trevor Bauer Indians (AAA) 23 46.0 0.7 2.1
Danny Salazar Indians (AAA) 24 48.0 0.7 0.4
Josh Tomlin Indians (AAA) 29 35.0 0.6 1.6
Gabriel Arias Indians (AAA) 24 33.0 0.5 -0.2
Toru Murata Indians (AAA) 29 27.2 0.3 0.2
Brett Brach Indians (AAA) 26 6.2 0.2 -0.4
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AAA) 23 9.2 -0.1 -0.1

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Mike Zagurski Indians (AAA)/O 31 39.2 0.8 0.7
Vinnie Pestano Indians (AAA) 29 25.1 0.8 0.7
Mark Lowe Indians (AAA) 31 24.2 0.6 -0.3
Austin Adams Indians (AAA) 27 39.1 0.5 1.2
C.C. Lee Indians (AAA) 27 23.0 0.4 0.1
Kyle Crockett Indians (AAA) 22 8.2 0.2 0.0
Scott Barnes Indians (AAA) 26 31.2 0.1 0.3
Josh Outman Indians (AAA) 29 6.1 0.1 -0.2
Nick Hagadone Indians (AAA) 28 28.2 0.1 -0.1
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AAA) 28 8.0 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
Bryan Price Indians (AAA) 27 7.0 -0.1 0.1
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AAA) 25 12.1 -0.4 0.2
Frank Herrmann Indians (AAA) 30 27.2 -0.4 -0.5
Benny Suarez Indians (AAA) 22 2.1 -0.5 -0.6

Austin Adams (Photo: MiLB)Right-hander Austin Adams' major league debut may not have gone well Saturday, but there is still plenty of hope for the 27-year-old. Adams was called up to the majors on the strength of 0.5 FIP-based WAR and 1.2 RA-based WAR in 39.1 innings, both very strong rates that should translate to the majors. The right-hander has always been a power pitcher -- which is still true given his 23.3 percent strikeout rate (119 K%+) -- but the real growth Adams has made in 2014 is with his walk rate. Now only walking 5.3 percent of batters (59 BB%+), Adams has been able to harness his power stuff and not put too many batters on base. It may not have gone well Saturday, but given a chance, Adams should be just fine at the major league level.

Since the last WAR Room update, right-hander Travis Banwart has left the organization and signed with a South Korean team. After spending at least some time in Triple-A every year since 2009 -- a total of 577.2 innings without a single major league appearance -- Banwart decided to take a chance on his talent abroad. Banwart had performed well in Columbus this season, posting 1.2 FIP-based WAR and 2.6 RA-based WAR in 89.1 innings, but it was not enough to get him ahead of other Triple-A options like Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. The 28-year-old obviously was not in the organization's long-term plans and now will get his chance in South Korea.

Taking Banwart's place as the top depth starting option in Triple-A is right-hander Kyle Davies, who has 1.1 FIP-based WAR and 0.8 RA-based WAR in 71.2 Triple-A innings. After being called up from Akron, Davies has posted a 3.89 ERA (97 ERA-) and 3.83 FIP (95 FIP-), both slightly below the International League average. Davies is a quintessential pitch-to-contact pitcher, surviving his low 14.6 percent strikeout rate (75 K%+) with a 5.8 percent walk rate (64 BB%+) and a suppressed 0.63 HR/9 (84 HR/9+). If Davies can keep his walks and home runs down, the 30-year-old will have success with the Clippers and possibly find another major league shot down the road.

Cleveland's other depth starting option in Triple-A is right-hander Tyler Cloyd, who is pitching a little worse than Davies in 2014. Cloyd has put up 0.8 FIP-based WAR and 1.3 RA-based WAR in 105.2 innings, leaving him around average this season. The real problem for Cloyd has been home runs, with his 1.36 HR/9 (181 HR/9+) driving up his 4.26 ERA (106 ERA-) and 4.57 FIP (113 FIP-). Home run rates tend to regress toward the mean, giving Cloyd some hope, and Huntington Park is very homer-prone. But the knock on Cloyd has been a lack of plus stuff, something that tends to get exposed and hit hard in the upper levels. Cloyd's home run rate could regress back down, leaving him a decent back-of-the-rotation innings eater, but that is not guaranteed to happen.

Akron RubberDucks

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Will Roberts Indians (AA) 23 110.1 2.2 1.9
Joseph Colon Indians (AA) 24 105.1 2.0 4.0
Gabriel Arias Indians (AA) 24 69.0 1.1 1.9
Shawn Morimando Indians (AA) 21 6.0 0.3 0.5
Toru Murata Indians (AA) 29 48.2 0.2 0.3
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AA) 23 77.0 0.1 1.0
Matt Packer Indians (AA) 26 9.1 0.1 -0.3
Cody Anderson Indians (AA) 23 90.1 0.1 0.6
Cole Sulser Indians (AA) 24 6.0 0.0 0.2
Kyle Davies Indians (AA) 30 29.2 -0.2 0.1

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AA) 28 31.0 0.6 1.3
Shawn Armstrong Indians (AA) 23 37.1 0.5 1.2
Giovanni Soto Indians (AA) 23 31.0 0.5 0.0
Kyle Crockett Indians (AA) 22 15.2 0.4 0.8
Enosil Tejeda Indians (AA) 25 37.1 0.3 0.8
Jordan Cooper Indians (AA) 25 45.1 0.2 0.2
Bryan Price Indians (AA) 27 10.0 0.1 0.3
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AA) 25 13.0 0.0 0.4
Louis Head Indians (AA) 24 15.1 -0.1 -0.1
Adam Miller Indians (AA) 29 19.2 -0.2 -0.4
Elvis Araujo Indians (AA) 22 2.1 -0.2 -0.1
Francisco Valera Indians (AA) 24 12.2 -0.4 -0.3

Cody Anderson (Photo: MiLB)Right-hander Cody Anderson has looked a bit better of late, yet the highly-ranked pitching prospect is still not doing particularly well. Anderson has pitched around replacement level over the last month, leaving him at 0.1 FIP-based WAR and 0.6 RA-based WAR in 90.1 innings this season. The biggest problem for Anderson over the past month has been walks, with his walk rate jumping from 7.3 percent (86 BB%+) to 9.1 percent (109 BB%+) in that time. Anderson's walk and strikeout rate are both below-average, and when combined with a 1.30 HR/9 (169 HR/9+), it spells trouble. The right-hander is still learning and adjusting, but as of right now, he clearly has a long road ahead and is not near major league ready.

One RubberDucks pitcher closer to major league ready is right-hander Will Roberts. Roberts does not have the upside of Anderson, but with 2.2 FIP-based WAR and 1.9 RA-based WAR in 110.1 innings, the right-hander's ability is more present. The 23-year-old Roberts is filling up the zone with a 5.3 percent walk rate (63 BB%+), and with 244.1 innings under his belt at Double-A, could be ready for the challenge of Columbus before long. Roberts does not dominate, but his brand of pitching will let him stick around for quite a while in the upper levels of the minors, if not the majors.

Right-hander Louis Head overpowered Carolina League hitters this season before his callup to Akron, but since moving up to Double-A, the 24-year-old has run into some trouble. Head has pitched below replacement level during his time in Akron, posting -0.1 FIP-based WAR and -0.1 RA-based WAR in 15.1 innings. Though some of Head's issues are related to his .356 BABIP (117 BABIP+) and 1.17 HR/9 (152 HR/9+) -- both things that should regress down toward the mean -- the right-hander's 13.7 percent walk rate (164 BB%+) is a real problem. Until Head starts throwing more strikes, the right-hander will continue to struggle and pitch at replacement level.

One of the organizational soldiers that holds Cleveland's minor league teams together is right-hander Toru Murata. Pitching between Double-A and Triple-A, Murata currently owns 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.3 RA-based WAR in 48.2 Double-A innings to go with 0.3 FIP-based WAR and 0.2 RA-based WAR in 27.2 Triple-A innings. Though those rates are not all that good, Murata's job is bigger than dominating on the mound. Murata's flexibility to move from level to level and in and out of the bullpen keeps teams like Columbus and Akron running, giving the right-hander value beyond those his stats show.

Carolina Mudcats

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Ryan Merritt Indians (A+) 22 104.0 2.5 4.7
Cole Sulser Indians (A+) 24 86.2 1.4 -0.3
Michael Peoples Indians (A+) 22 74.1 1.2 0.7
D.J. Brown Indians (A+) 23 82.2 1.1 0.1
Shawn Morimando Indians (A+) 21 90.0 1.0 1.9
Adam Plutko Indians (A+) 22 48.0 0.5 0.8
Dylan Baker Indians (A+) 22 6.0 0.2 0.5

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Louis Head Indians (A+) 24 20.1 0.6 0.7
Elvis Araujo Indians (A+) 22 29.0 0.3 0.0
Grant Sides Indians (A+) 25 33.1 0.3 0.7
Josh Martin Indians (A+) 24 40.2 0.2 0.3
Benny Suarez Indians (A+) 22 37.0 0.1 0.2
Ben Heller Indians (A+) 22 2.0 0.0 0.0
Jacob Lee Indians (A+) 24 46.0 0.0 0.6
Clayton Cook Indians (A+) 23 26.2 -0.1 -0.2
Rob Nixon Indians (A+) 25 40.2 -0.1 -0.4
Carlos Melo Indians (A+) 23 10.2 -0.3 -1.0

Ryan Merritt (Photo: MiLB)If you trust that left-hander Ryan Merritt's 1.82 ERA (44 ERA-) is the real deal, then the 22-year-old is having a downright Mike Trout-ian season. Merritt's 4.7 RA-based WAR in 104.0 innings paces out to a nine-win season over a full 200 innings, an absolutely out of this world rate. Even going by FIP -- a better indicator of Merritt's ability -- the left-hander's 3.22 mark (79 FIP-) and 2.5 FIP-based WAR indicate he is pitching at an All-Star level and more than worthy of a callup sometime soon. Merritt's .236 BABIP (77 BABIP+) and 0.35 HR/9 (59 HR/9+) will regress, but his performance will likely remain impressive anyway, whether it comes in Carolina or Akron.

Lately, right-hander D.J. Brown's ERA has been on the rise and currently sits at 4.79 (117 ERA-). That leaves Brown's RA-based WAR at 0.1 in 82.2 innings, but going by the right-hander's 4.08 FIP (100 FIP-), Brown is doing much better with a 1.1 FIP-based WAR. Brown has only stranded 59.5 percent of runners this year (87 LOB%+), and with so many baserunners coming around to score, the right-hander's decent peripherals are being overwhelmed. Strand rate is a fluky stat that tends to regress back toward the mean, meaning Brown is likely to pitch more on par with his FIP going forward than his ERA.

On the surface, right-hander Grant Sides looks to be having a comeback season with a 0.3 FIP-based WAR and 0.7 RA-based WAR in 33.1 innings. The problem for Sides going forward, however, will be with his BABIP and home run rate. Sides is not striking out a high number of batters (20.3 percent strikeout rate, 104 K%+), which is a problem when paired with a 10.1 percent walk rate (117 BB%+). Once Sides' .245 BABIP (80 BABIP+) and 0.27 HR/9 (45 HR/9+) go back toward normal, the right-hander's results will suffer. Unless Sides improves his strikeout rate, his walk rate, or both, that regression will threaten to take away the 25-year-old's value.

Unlike Sides, right-hander Rob Nixon is not performing well, posting -0.1 FIP-based WAR and -0.4 RA-based WAR in 40.2 innings. Nixon's had bursts of strong performance in 2014, but his combination of a 15.3 percent strikeout rate (78 K%+), 9.6 percent walk rate (111 BB%+), and a 0.66 HR/9 (110 HR/9+) leave the 25-year-old behind the eight-ball long-term. The right-hander can be an effective pitcher, but so far in 2014, he has not been able to harness it. If Nixon can up the strikeouts and decrease the walks, though, the right-hander can find a way to be successful.

Lake County Captains

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Adam Plutko Indians (A) 22 52.2 2.0 0.8
Robbie Aviles Indians (A) 22 66.2 1.4 2.2
Luis Lugo Indians (A) 20 76.0 1.3 -0.3
Dace Kime Indians (A) 22 90.2 1.0 0.1
Mitch Brown Indians (A) 20 88.2 0.9 0.9
Jordan Milbrath Indians (A) 22 82.0 0.8 1.4
Zach McAllister Indians (A) 26 4.1 0.1 0.0

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Ben Heller Indians (A) 22 37.0 0.7 1.1
Trevor Frank Indians (A) 23 36.1 0.5 0.5
Justin Brantley Indians (A) 23 17.1 0.2 0.9
Kenny Mathews Indians (A) 20 17.2 0.2 0.4
Matt Whitehouse Indians (A) 23 32.2 0.1 -1.0
Anderson Polanco Indians (A) 21 12.0 0.1 0.2
Justin Garcia Indians (A) 21 2.0 0.1 0.1
Brian Ruiz Indians (A) 21 1.0 0.0 0.0
Cody Ferrell Indians (A) 24 0.2 0.0 -0.1
James Stokes Indians (A) 23 5.0 -0.1 0.0
Carlos Melo Indians (A) 23 6.1 -0.1 -0.4
Luis DeJesus Indians (A) 22 1.2 -0.1 -0.3
Kerry Doane Indians (A) 23 16.1 -0.2 -0.4
Alexis Paredes Indians (A) 22 45.2 -0.4 -0.5
Wander Beras Indians (A) 25 41.1 -0.4 -0.5
Caleb Hamrick Indians (A) 20 63.2 -0.6 -1.3

Luis Lugo (Photo: MiLB)Based on his 5.57 ERA (142 ERA-), the performance of left-hander Luis Lugo seems to have slipped of late. But despite a -0.3 RA-based WAR in 76.0 innings, going by Lugo's 3.65 FIP (93 FIP-), the 20-year-old has actually been above-average with a 1.3 FIP-based WAR this year. Lugo's problems are completely based in a high home run rate (1.07 HR/9, 181 HR/9+), a high BABIP (.344 BABIP, 112 BABIP+), and a low strand rate (55.8 LOB%, 81 LOB%+). The left-hander's 29.5 percent strikeout rate (145 K%+) and 7.9 percent walk rate (92 BB%+), however, are much more important and particularly impressive. Those peripherals will likely lead to a better ERA in the future, leaving Lugo with a strong case for being the top pitching prospect in the system.

Right-hander Dace Kime is also seeing worse results than his peripherals will indicate, though the difference in the 22-year-old's performance is not as pronounced. Kime currently owns a 4.76 ERA (122 ERA-) and 4.15 FIP (106 FIP-), which lead to the right-hander's 1.0 FIP-based WAR and 0.1 RA-based WAR in 90.2 innings. In order to find greater success in the future, though, Kime will need to raise his 18.3 percent strikeout rate (90 K%+) and lower his 10.0 percent walk rate (117 BB%+). Kime is not having the best first full professional season, though given that he is pitching at an average level by FIP, things could have gone much worse for the 2013 third round pick.

Right-hander Justin Brantley may be overshadowed by his more famous All-Star cousin, but the 23-year-old is making some noise in his own right with the Captains. With a 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.9 RA-based WAR in 17.1 innings, Brantley is pitching extremely well in Lake County, striking out a ton of batters (25.8 percent strikeout rate, 127 K%+) and walking very few (3.2 percent walk rate, 37 BB%+). Brantley will not keep up his 0.52 ERA (13 ERA-) over the long haul, but his 2.98 FIP (76 FIP-) is pretty good in its own right. As an undrafted free agent who is already 23 years old, Brantley has a very long road ahead of him to become a real prospect. But so far, the right-hander is on the right path.

At only 20 years old, it is too early to give up on right-hander Caleb Hamrick. There is no denying, however, that Hamrick's 2014 season is one to forget. With a -0.6 FIP-based WAR and -1.3 RA-based WAR in 63.2 innings, Hamrick is clearly not pitching well, but the beauty of the minor leagues is struggling pitchers like Hamrick will get a chance to work through their issues. Hamrick is walking nearly as many batters as he is striking out (11.6 percent strikeout rate, 57 K%+; 10.6 percent walk rate, 124 BB%+), but he could improve in time. For now, the right-hander will keep getting innings and try to get back to his more successful 2013 form.

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

User Comments

Kyle B.
July 14, 2014 - 8:29 PM EDT
I have seen Will Roberts twice and both times he was great. I saw him in Richmond Virginia both times which is basically his home, so I'm not sure if that played a role. Almost seems like a Corey Kluber type of pitcher who is under the radar. I hope he gets to Columbus soon.

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