Astros MiLB Position Review: Starting Pitching
We continue our position reviews in the Astros system this week, taking a look at the starting pitchers. Both RHP and LHP will be on this list.
Here are the previous position reviews:
One of the breakout prospects in 2016, Armenteros has had another stellar season. He started the year out in Corpus Christ and made quick work of Double-A posting a 1.93 ERA (2.61 FIP) with 74 K in 65.1 innings. He was promoted to Triple-A where he went 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA (3.45 FIP) and 72 K in 58.1 innings over 10 starts. He also had a very good 49.3 GB% with Fresno. Armenteros now owns a career of 42 BB/159 K in 142.0 IP with a 2.03 ERA in AA/AAA. He has started to see some national love with Baseball Prospectus ranking him as 5th in the Astros system. He should see Houston sometime next year.
2017 Stats: 10-4, 2.04 ERA, 123.2 IP, 91 H, 28 ER, 38 BB, 146 K, 10.6 K/9
Whitley was the Astros first round pick in 2016 and he has rocketed through the Astros system. Whitley started the season with Quad Cities and had 67 K in 46.1 (13.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9) innings with a 2.91 ERA (2.61 FIP). He was promoted to High-A Buies Creek where he had a 3.16 ERA (2.09 FIP) and 50 K in 31.1 IP (14.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9). He finished with Corpus Christi posting a 1.84 ERA (1.68 FIP) over 4 outings with 4 BB/26 K in 14.2 innings (16.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9). As you can see, he improved his FIP, K/9, and BB/9 at each level moving up in the system. Whitley really had a phenomenal first full season making it to AA and joining rare company. Whitley has established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
2017 Stats: 5-4, 2.83 ERA, 92.1 IP, 78 H, 29 ER, 34 BB, 143 K, 13.9 K/9
Winkelman was drafted by the Astros in the 21st round of the 2015 draft. Winkelman started the season with Buies Creek and dominated posting a 1.39 ERA with 6 BB/46 K in 32.1 IP. He was then promoted to Corpus Christi where he had some ups and downs. He finished with a 4.04 ERA in AA with 64 K in 71.1 innings though he had a crazy difference between his runs and earned runs. He also posted good groundball rates at both stops with 52.9% at Buies Creek and 48.2% at Corpus Christi. Overall he averaged over a strikeout per inning and had a 3.21 ERA between two levels.
2017 Stats: 4-7, 3.21 ERA, 103.2 IP, 107 H, 37 ER, 35 BB, 110 K, 9.5 K/9
Alcala has been in the Astros system since 2015 and has steadily made his way up the ladder. He started the 2017 season with Quad Cities pitching in six games and posting a 2.03 ERA with 35 K in 31 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek and had a 3.45 ERA with 60 K in 78.1 innings. While his walk and strikeouts rates weren’t great, he was nearly unhittable all season allowing just 71 hits in 109.1 innings, good for a .184 batting average against. He has good stuff and will be one to keep an eye on in 2018.
2017 Stats: 7-6, 3.05 ERA, 109.1 IP, 71 H, 37 ER, 45 BB, 95 K, 7.8 K/9
Javier is a bit of an unknown in the Astros system but he has been dominant over his brief career. His first year in the Astros system, 2015, he had a 2.13 ERA in the DSL. In 2016 between the GCL and Greeneville he had a 2.29 ERA. Javier started the season with Tri-City after a couple of outings with Buies Creek early on. He had 24 K in 16.2 innings with Tri-City earning him a promotion to Quad Cities where he posted a 2.39 ERA and 47 K in 37.2 innings. His stuff is very good but has an advanced pitchability that allows him to dominate at the lower levels. Next year will be a big test for him as him moved to High-A and Double-A.
2017 Stats: 3-0, 2.25 ERA, 60.0 IP, 38 H, 15 ER, 27 BB, 80 K, 12.0 K/9
LaRue was the Astros 14th round selection in 2016. This season he was one of the more dominating pitchers for Quad Cities going 12-4 with a 2.86 ERA and allowing just 76 hits in 100.2 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek and pitched in 4 games to close out the season. Overall, he had a 3.23 ERA in 120 IP with a solid walk and and strikeout rate.
2017 Stats: 12-7, 3.23 ERA, 120.0 IP, 106 H, 43 ER, 30 BB, 105 K, 7.9 K/9
Quiala is another under the radar Cuban signing by the Astros. He started the season with Buies Creek and went 5-1 with a 2.31 ERA and 59 K in 58.1 innings. He was promoted to AA and had a 2.86 ERA in 50.1 innings. Overall he had a 2.57 ERA with 92 K in 108.2 innings.
2017 Stats: 9-5, 2.57 ERA, 108.2 IP, 105 H, 31 ER, 24 BB, 92 K, 7.6 K/9
THE REST OF THE PACK
Perez was signed by the Astros in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic. He has good stuff but has yet to really harness it. He started the season with Quad Cities and had a 2.50 ERA with 24 K in 18 innings. Perez was promoted to Buies Creek where he had a 3.63 ERA in 89.1 innings with 104 K. Unfortunately that came with 67 walks, good for 6.8 BB/9.
2017 Stats: 7-6, 3.44 ERA, 107.1 IP, 78 H, 41 ER, 78 BB, 128 K, 10.7 K/9
Valdez is a lefty from the Dominican Republic that gained some traction after his 2016 season and his performance in Spring Training in 2017. This year he started with Buies Creek and had a 2.79 ERA with 73 K in 61.1 innings. He was promoted to Corpus Christi but had a rough time there posting a 5.88 ERA in 49 IP, though he did have a 3.93 FIP with a 58.7 GB%. Overall he had 126 K in 110.1 IP.
2017 Stats: 7-8, 4.16 ERA, 110.1 IP, 101 H, 51 ER, 52 BB, 126 K, 10.3 K/9
Adcock was the Astros 4th round pick in 2016. In 2017 he made his full season debut and pitched well. He started the season with Quad Cities and dominated posting a 1.14 ERA with 7 BB/37 K in 23.2 innings. Adcock was promoted to Buies Creek where he had a 4.71 ERA (4.10 FIP) with 80 K in 84 IP. Overall it was a solid full season debut for the lefty..
2017 Stats: 5-4, 3.93 ERA, 107.2 IP, 93 H, 47 ER, 39 BB, 117 K, 9.8 K/9
Perez originally agreed to a deal with the Astros worth $5.15 million but the deal was voided due to a physical. Perez was later signed for $2 million. He made his debut this season starting with Quad Cities posting a 4.39 ERA with 17 BB/55 K in 55.1 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek and posted a 2.84 ERA with 5 BB/18 K in 25.1 innings. He is already 21 years old and recently added to the Astros 40-man roster.
2017 Stats: 6-4, 4.13 ERA, 93.2 IP, 94 H, 43 ER, 27 BB, 83 K, 8.0 K/9
This list has it all. Top prospects, guys with high ceilings, guys with high floors. The Astros have built a nice depth of starting pitching in the minors, just as they have in years past.
Armenteros is almost a guarantee to see time in Houston next year. Whitley is still really young but he could have an impact too. Perez (Cionel and Hector), Alcala, Valdez, Javier are all one good season away from really taking a step up in the prospect rankings.
Then we have a few lefties in there with nice upside like Adcock, Winkelman, Perez and Valdez. It will be really fun next year to watch all these guys continue their rise in the system.
**Photo Credit: Tammy Tucker**