Astros MiLB Position Review: Starting Pitcher
Now that the season is over we will review each position in the minor league system. This week we move on to the starting pitching.
Here are the previous position reviews:
James was drafted in the 34th round of the 2014 draft and steadily made his way through the Astros system. James’ sleep issues are well documented, and getting this figured out, along with some mechanical adjustments, helped him gain elite velocity. This season in the minors he struck out 171 in 114.1 innings with a 3.23 ERA earning him his call up to Houston. James showed why he was getting a lot of buzz striking out 9 in 5 innings in his major league debut and showed off his 101.1 MPH fastball in the first inning. He led the Astros minor league system in strikeouts, and it wasn’t close. He ended up striking out 29 in 23 innings for the Astros this year.
2018 Stats: 23 G, 3.23 ERA, 114.1 IP, 79 H, 41 ER, 49 BB, 171 K, 13.5 K/9 (MiLB)
Another potential steal for the Astros. Martin was a polarizing prospect in the draft with some seeing him as a first round talent and others seeing him as a mid round pick due to concerns as a starter. The Astros selected him in the second round and he has been great. He started the 2018 season in Buies Creek and struck out 26 batters in 19 scoreless innings while allowing just 4 hits, earning him a quick promotion to AA. Martin’s first start in Double-A was rough but he got rolling after that one. He pitched in 20 games after that first outing and he had a 2.45 ERA (3.26 FIP) with 96 K in 102.2 innings. Overall he had a 2.51 ERA (3.07 FIP) and struck out 122 in 122 innings. Martin also posted really strong groundball rates at both stops.
2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.51 ERA, 122.0 IP, 88 H, 34 ER, 35 BB, 122 K, 3.49 K/BB
Hartman was the Astros 9th round pick in the 2016 draft. He has consistently posted good numbers in his minor league career but this season he dominated the Texas League. He pitched in 25 games for the Hooks and had a 2.69 ERA with 26 BB/143 K in 120.2 innings. He also had a 2.96 FIP and 2.92 xFIP. Everything looked good for him with a 42.1 GB%, 29.9 K% and 5.4 BB%. I can’t find much on his actual stuff, but clearly the results are great.
2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.69 ERA, 120.2 IP, 104 H, 36 ER, 26 BB, 143 K, 10.7 K/9
Ivey was another high upside selection in the 2017 draft. He initially attended Texas A&M before transferring to Grayson Community College. Some saw it as a possible over draft but Ivey’s numbers, and stuff, are proving other wise. Ivey started the season with Quad Cities had a 3.46 ERA in 41.2 innings. The peripherals were even better. He had 8 BB/53 K (26.b K/BB%) and a 2.14 FIP/2.40 xFIP in those 41.2 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek where he has a 2.69 ERA with 82 K in 70.1 innings. There he had a 2.56 FIP/2.86 xFIP and 54.4 GB%.
2018 Stats: 24 G, 2.97 ERA, 112.0 IP, 86 H, 37 ER, 29 BB, 135 K, 4.6 K/BB
Bukauskas was the Astros first round pick in 2017. Bukauskas was involved in a car accident in spring training which pushed him timeline back a bit. He pitched a couple times in April before going back on the DL. When he came back, he looked like he was back in prime form. He started his rehab Tri-City striking out 9 in 8.1 scoreless innings. He went back to Quad Cities and struck out 21 over 15 innings. JB was then promoted to Buies Creek where he really got rolling. He started five games for Buies Creek and posted a 1.61 ERA while striking out 31 over 28 innings. He earned a final promotion to Corpus Christi where he struck out 8 over 6 scoreless innings in his one start. He also made one start in the playoffs allowing 1 run in 6 innings. Overall he had a 2.14 ERA with 71 K in 59 innings.
2018 Stats: 14 G, 2.14 ERA, 59.0 IP, 42 H, 14 ER, 24 BB, 71 K, 10.8 K/9
Javier followed up a strong 2017 season with a good 2018 season. He pitched in 49.1 innings for Quad Cities and had a 1.82 ERA while striking out 80 while being nearly unhittable (28 hits in 49.1 innings). He was promoted to Buies Creek where he maintained his good strikeout rate (66 K in 60.2 innings) and had a 3.41 ERA. Overall he struckout 146 in 110.0 innings with a 2.70 ERA.
2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.70 ERA, 110.0 IP, 72 H, 33 ER, 50 BB, 146 K, 11.9 K/9
Bielak was drafted out of Notre Dame in the 11th round following a really rough junior season. The Astros aggressively started Bielak in High-A and he pitched great posting a 2.10 ERA with 74 K in 55.2 innings. He was promoted to AA where he had a 2.35 ERA, even though his peripherals went down a bit (22 BB/57 K in 61.1 innings). Overall he had a 2.23 ERA with a 2.94 FIP across both levels.
2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.23 ERA, 117.0 IP, 96 H, 29 ER, 39 BB, 131 K, 10.1 K/9
The Astros acquired Bailey in the deal that sent Laureano to Oakland prior to the 2018 season. Bailey pitched the majority of the season in Buies Creek and was arguably the ace of the staff. He had a 2.49 ERA with 113 K in 97.2 innings. He dominated in the second half of the season posting a 1.31 ERA with 8 BB/45 K in 41.1 innings. He also pitched in five games for the Hooks striking out 23 over 24.2 innings.
2018 Stats: 25 G, 2.80 ERA, 122.1 IP, 90 H, 38 ER, 52 BB, 136 K, 10.0 K/9
Solomon was another high upside pick. A guy who had electric stuff but control issues. Just as the picks before, he dominated in the minors this season. He started the year with Quad Cities and had a 2.43 ERA with 88 K in 77.2 innings. He was promoted to Buies Creek where he was even better posting a 1.96 ERA with 4 BB/26 K in 23 innings. Overall he had a 2.32 ERA with a 2.40 FIP in 100.2 innings. Oh, and you wouldn’t believe it but he also posted good groundball numbers.
2018 Stats: 24 G, 2.32 ERA, 100.2 IP, 78 H, 26 ER, 32 BB, 114 K, 10.2 K/9
THE REST OF THE PACK
Valdez has been a favorite of many to breakout over the last couple years. He started the year in Corpus Christi and posted some of the best peripherals of his minor league career (2.8 BB/9, 11.4 K/9). He was promoted to AAA where he pitched in just two games before being called up the the Astros. With Houston he had a 2.19 ERA and 34 K in 37 innings.
2018 Stats: 22 G, 4.11 ERA, 103.0 IP, 100 H, 47 ER, 32 BB, 129 K, 11.3 K/9
Whitley had a very interesting 2018 season. He missed the first part of it serving a suspension for violating drug policy. He pitched in five games in June and July before leaving a start after 0.2 innings due to an oblique injury. He came back in August but only pitched twice before being put on the DL again with a lat injury. He only tossed a combined 26.1 innings but is still one of the Astros top prospects.
2018 Stats: 8 G, 3.76 ERA, 26.1 IP, 15 H, 11 ER, 11 BB, 34 K, 11.6 K/9
Donato put up some nice numbers in college but fell in the draft a bit (11th round, 2016) due to a UCL sprain. Donato started the 2018 season with Tri-City and he didn’t stay there long though posting a 0.00 ERA in 16 innings. He was promoted to Quad Cities where he has a 2.04 ERA with 77 K in 61.2 innings including a stellar month of August. He has a low 90s fastball and a solid curve. Donato missed a bit of development time due to injury and is already 23, but he has dominated this year and is definitely one to watch in 2019.
2018 Stats: 15 G, 1.62 ERA, 77.2 IP, 46 H, 14 ER, 22 BB, 98 K, 11.4 K/9
Armenteros really broke onto the scene in 2017 when he dominated across AA and AAA posting a 2.04 ERA with 146 K in 123.2 innings. Armenteros spent the entire 2018 season with Fresno and while his numbers were good, they weren’t as impressive as 2018. He still struck out 10.2 per 9 innings but had a 3.74 ERA. I thought he would get a chance to make his debut in 2018 but with the Astros adding him to the 40 man roster this season, there is a good chance he will debut in 2019.
2018 Stats: 22 G, 3.74 ERA, 118.0 IP, 106 H, 49 ER, 48 BB, 134 K, 10.2 K/9
As you can tell by looking over these numbers, the Astros have a nice stock pile of arms in the minor leagues. There are major league ready guys like James, Valdez and high potential guys like Whitley, Bukauskas, Martin, Ivey. Next year will be huge as a lot of these guys were already at AA this season. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say at least 4-5 of these guys could pitch with the Astros in 2019.
**Photo Credit: Tammy Tucker**