Astros MiLB Position Review: Starting Pitcher
This week we take a look at the starting pitcher in the minor league system. This season was filled with pitchers who really established themselves and proved how deep the Astros system is with starting pitching.
Martes was an under the radar acquisition in 2014 in the Jarred Cosart trade. Martes had a breakout 2015 season pitching across three levels at just 19 years old and making it to AA. This season he has pitched the whole year with Corpus and after a slow start, he has dominated the Texas League. From May 17th until the end of the season Martes went 7-4 with a 2.52 ERA and 114 K in 103.2 innings. At just 20 years old, he has established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball striking out 131 batters in 125.1 innings in AA. Martes has a very good power breaking ball and a mid to high 90s fastball. He could be a guy who makes a McCullers type impact in 2017.
2016 Stats: 9-6, 3.30 ERA, 125.1 IP, 104 H, 47 BB, 131 K, 9.4 K/9, 2.73 FIP
Rodgers was a 3rd round pick out of Arizona State in 2012. After a great showing in rookie ball he had a couple rough season but always had the potential to breakout, and he did just that this season. He posted a 5.14 ERA in April but dominated the rest of the season posting a 2.43 ERA with 102 K in 111 innings. He also showed off very good control walking just 23 in 132 total innings. Rodgers got called up to the Astros and pitched 8.1 innings before the season ended.
2016 Stats: 12-4, 2.86 ERA, 132 IP, 129 H, 23 BB, 116 K, 7.9 K/9, 5.0 K/BB
One of the breakout prospects, Armenteros has had one of the better seasons in the Astros system. After making his stateside debut last season and going 3-2 with 61 K in 61 innings, he has established himself as a legit pitching prospect. Armenteros finished the season leading the Astros minor league system in strikeouts with 140 K in 127.1 innings pitching with Quad Cities, Lancaster, and Corpus Christi. He possesses a solid four pitch mix and could be potential help for Houston next season. Armenteros made one start in the playoffs for Corpus and went 5 innings allowing 1 run.
2016 Stats: 8-6, 3.53 ERA, 127.1 IP, 116 H, 44 BB, 140 K, 9.9 K/9, 3.1 K/BB
Another recent draft pick, Thornton was selected in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of UNC. Thornton was also on the breakout prospect list. Thornton was very good his freshman and sophomore season but regressed in his junior season. The Astros decided to take a chance on him and it paid off. He posted a 3.27 ERA in rookie ball and the Astros aggressively assigned him to Lancaster to start the 2016 season. He 7-4 with a 4.12 ERA and 16 BB/89 K in the Cal League. He was promoted to Corpus and dominated in his seven starts with a 2.35 ERA and 5 BB/35 K in 46 innings. Thornton also made one playoff start of 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 K. You can check out my interview with him here.
2016 Stats: 10-5, 3.52 ERA, 135.2 IP, 133 H, 21 BB, 124 K, 8.2 K/9, 5.9 K/BB
Hernandez was signed by the Astros out of Mexico. He made his Astros system debut in 2015 going 2-1 with a 3.35 ERA. He improved on those numbers in 2016 putting together a very good season. He started the season in Quad Cities and pitched well early but would dominate June and July. In a span of six games from June to July, Hernandez posted a 0.24 ERA with 4 BB/41 K in 37 IP. This earned him a promotion to Lancaster where he continued to pitch well (3.48 ERA) in a very hitter friendly league. Hernandez is just 21 years old and will definitely be one to keep an eye on next season.
2016 Stats: 6-5, 2.94 ERA, 125.1 IP, 125 H, 24 BB, 127 K, 9.1 K/9, 5.2 K/BB
The Astros signed Perez in 2014 at just 16 years old. He made his Astros system debut in 2015 pitching between the DSL and the Gulf Coast League Astros striking out 61 batters in 50 innings at just 17 years old. In 2016, at just 18 years old, Perez made his full season debut with Quad Cities proving why the Astros signed him. He had a 2.84 ERA with 19 BB/75 K in 66.2 IP. Perez has good stuff but a very advanced pitchability for his age. He could get some run for a top 100 prospect this off-season. If he has a good 2017 he will definitely jump up on people’s radar.
2016 Stats: 3-3, 2.84 ERA, 66.2 IP, 63 H, 19 BB, 75 K, 10.1 K/9, 3.9 K/BB
Musgrove was acquired by the Astros in the 10 player trade with Toronto in 2012. At the time, he was seen as a lottery ticket given that he had only pitched in rookie ball. Musgrove made some noise in 2014 when he went 7-1 with a 2.81 ERA with Tri-City. He followed that up with a dominant 2015 where he went 12-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 8 BB/99 K in 100.2 innings across three different levels. Musgrove pitched very well in 2016 between Corpus and Fresno earning a call-up to the Astros where he made 10 starts.
2016 Stats: 7-4, 2.74 ERA, 85.1 IP, 79 H, 10 BB, 87 K, 9.2 K/9, 8.7 K/BB
Paulino was the PTBNL in the trade that sent Veras to Detroit. He missed all of 2014 due to TJ Surgery but has made a resurgence since. Last season he 5-3 with a 2.81 ERA over three different levels. He was even better this season pitching in AA and AAA. With Corpus, Paulino posted a 1.83 ERA with 11 BB/72 K in 64 innings. He missed sometime due to a minor injury but came back and pitched well. He was eventually called up to the Astros where he pitched just 7 innings.
2016 Stats: 5-4, 2.00 ERA, 90.0 IP, 72 H, 19 BB, 106 K, 10.6 K/9, 5.5 K/BB
THE REST OF THE PACK
Deetz was a pick of mine to be the breakout prospect in the Astros system in 2016. While he had a very good season, there is still more potential for him to grow. He possesses a big time fastball and a very good curve. Deetz was drafted by the Astros in the 11th round of the 2014 draft. He had a very good 2015 season posting a 1.70 ERA over 63.2 innings. In 2016 he improved his strikeout rate averaging nearly 9 per nine innings. He was eventually promoted to Double-A where he made two starts and dominated allowing zero runs and 2 BB/17 K in 12 innings.
2016 Stats: 8-5, 3.76 ERA, 105.1 IP, 93 H, 47 BB, 103 K, 8.8 K/9
The Astros signed Perez is the summer of 2014. He made his system debut in 2015 pitching between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA and 23 BB/50 K in 55 IP. Perez got a late start to the 2016 season being assigned to Tri-City in June. He went 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 12 BB/36 K in 28.2 IP earning him a promotion to Quad Cities. There he finished posting a 4.60 ERA with 22 BB/44 K in 31.1 IP. He will need to work on his control but he is a very talented young pitcher.
2016 Stats: 4-1, 3.15 ERA, 60.1 IP, 47 H, 34 BB, 80 K, 12.0 K/9, 2.3 K/BB
Sneed was acquired from the Brewers in the trade that sent Jon Villar to Milwaukee. Sneed got off to a nice start in the 2016 season going 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his first 13 outings. Sneed hit a bit of a rough stretch in late June and July which caused his ERA to rise. He was able to turn it around in August with a 2.27 ERA. Sneed has a solid four pitch mix with advanced pitchability. He could start out in AA again, but if he puts together a nice season, he could see himself in Houston.
2016 Stats: 6-5, 4.04 ERA, 118 IP, 119 H, 33 BB, 112 K, 8.5 K/9, 3.3 K/BB
Dykxhoorn is a big, Canadian born pitcher drafted by the Astros in 2014. He had a solid 2015 posting a 3.88 ERA with 94 K in 109 IP for Quad Cities. Brock got off to a nice start in 2016 posting a 3.21 ERA over his first 7 outings. Unfortunately, he hit a rough spot in June and July which ballooned his ERA. He is huge standing at 6’8″ and 250 lbs. He will only be 22 next season and has plenty of time to turn it around.
2016 Stats: 10-4, 5.02 ERA, 123.2 IP, 142 H, 31 BB, 91 K, 6.6 K/9, 2.9 K/BB
Bostick was drafted in the 2nd round by the Rangers and then dealt for Carlos Corporan prior to the 2015 season. He has great size (6’6″) and good stuff, though it has yet to all come together. He struggled with injuries a bit this season pitching for Lancaster and Tri-City. He only made two starts in Tri-City but pitched well allowing just 4 runs in 11 innings. With Lancaster he had a 4.98 ERA, large in part to his 10.35 ERA in August.
2016 Stats: 6-4, 4.74 ERA, 79.2 IP, 89 H, 42 BB, 55 K, 6.2 K/9
The Astros, over the last few years, have really built a deep farm system and it has showed this season. Prior to the season, guys like Thornton, Armenteros, Perez x2, and Hernandez may not have been on people’s radar but they definitely are now. The Astros have already got contributions from Musgrove and Martes should be next. He might start in AAA and has a chance to help early. Corpus Christi’s rotation should be very good once again with Thornton, Armenteros, Deetz leading the way.
The Astros first pick in 2016, Forrest Whitley, wasn’t mentioned here but he should start with Quad Cities. Franklin Perez may start in QC but it wouldn’t surprise me to seem him move fast. The Astros are loaded with arms throughout the system.
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**Photo Credit: Tammy Tucker**