Let's do dis!
Starting Pitcher of the Year:
Tacoma - Erasmo Ramirez
Does it really surprise any of you that Erasmo was the best pitcher at Tacoma this year? It really wasn't all that hard to be the best SP on the team when you consider the craptastic rotation that the Rainiers started the year with. Still though, Erasmo had a damn fine year pitching for the Rainiers. In terms of stat per nine innings pitched, Erasmo gave up 9.4/9 hits, 0.6/9 homeruns, walked 2.1/9, and struckout 6.8/9.
If you've been reading my crap over the course of the last 4 years then you know that I carry water for Erasmo Ramirez. I am one of those guys who always takes the side of the underdog, and that describes ER. It describes him and I am loving every minute that he is on the mound performing at a level that befuddles the Seattle Baseball Inteligencia. Rock on, little man! Rock on!
Jackson - Danny Hultzen
Danny Hultzen's 13 starts while playing for the Jackson Generals equates to just about half a season, but what a half a season it was! His WHIP of 0.929 tells us that it was pretty tough to get on base against Hultzen, and when you see that he tended to walk a few too many it makes it even more impressive.
Hultzen's numbers per nine innings pitched are for the most part pretty damn nice. 4.5/9 hits, 0.4/9 homeruns, 3.8/9 walks, and 9.4/9 strikeouts is nice body of work. It's not great because of all of those walks, but once he settled in at the AA level his walks/9 took a tumble.
Of course, once he was promoted to AAA Tacoma Hultzen's numbers went south on him, but since this is a write up about Hultzen's season at AA Jackson who gives a rats arse what he did at Tacoma?
High Desert - Roenis Elias
Once again I can hear the collective "Who???" all the way out here in Colorado. Maybe I need to tell a bit of Elias' story...
Roenis Elias is a left-handed starting pitcher and is currently 24 years old. Elias grew up in Cuba, and on October 26th, 2010 Elias defected to the U.S. Kyle Glaser of the High Desert Daily Press has a great article on Elias where he details his defection. It is a damn fine read.
Anyway. In 2012 Elias started and finished out the year with High Desert. In 26 starts Elias worked 148.1 innings giving up 136 hits, walked 41, and struckout 128. He DID give up a few too many homeruns, but that's not all that odd when you consider where he was pitching in half of his starts. In terms of stat per nine innings pitched, Elias gave up 8.3/9 hits, 1.2/9 homeruns, 2.5/9 walks, and 7.8/ strikeouts. These numbers, when taken in context with where he was pitching, are fantastic! Anyone who pitches that much and has a WHIP of just 1.193 is more than deserving of a promotion in 2013 to AA Jackson!
Clinton - Trevor Miller
Again, there is the "Who???" factor. Jeez, folks, don't you all delve into the minor leagues like me? Eh? No? Wha? You have a real life? Um.... Ok...
Anywho, Trevor Miller was drafted by the Mariners in the 40th round of the 2011 draft out of San Juaquin Delta (Junior College). Miller is a 6'3" 190 lb RHP and is 21 years old.
In 2011 Miller started his professional career at Peoria in the Arizona League where he pitched well, but didn't exactly stand out. Miller ended the year pitching in two games at A+ High Desert where he was pounded to a pulp.
In 2012 Trevor Miller put up a solid season with Clinton. Appearing in 22 games and starting 17 of them, Miller proved to be the stalwart of the KibbleKing rotation. In 120.2 innings of work Miller gave up 120 hits, 11 homeruns, 17 walks, and 84 strikeouts. In terms of stat per nine innings pitched all of that works out to 9.0/9 hits, 0.8/9 homeruns, 1.3/9 walks, and 6.3/9 strikeouts.
The word that I've received is that the Mariner organization is high on Miller, and his performance this past season shows that he is deserving of thier optimism.
Everett - Victor Sanchez and Dylan Unsworth
Really? Yes, really.
At first, I put in Victor Sanchez's name in as the top starting pitcher without taking the time to look at the the Everett team stats. I mean, there was no way that anyone could possibly have been as good as Sanchez, right?
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Let me break it down like tis:
Stat Sanchez Unsworth IP 85.0 85.1 Hits 69 76 HR 5 9 BB 27 19 SO 69 67 ERA 3.18 3.90 WHIP 1.129 1.113
If I were to hand the title of best starting pitcher to Victor Sanchez it would be for this reason (and it is a big one). Sanchez pitched the entire year while being just 17 years old (DOB is Jan 30th, 1995). Still though, Sharkie Unsworth played the season while being just 19 (DOB is Sept 23rd)...
Ok, so let's look at Sanchez and maybe find out something about the kid. Sanchez was signed out of Venezuala for a reported $2.5 million. Sanchez had been considered as the top prospect in Venezuala at the time. Back in July of 2011 Ben Badler of baseballamerica.com has a great scouting report on Sanchez that is on the free side of the site.
In 2012 Sanchez was the youngest player in the Northwest League by nearly a year, but that didn't seem to faze the kid. Such was his season that the Everett Herald asked the question if Sanchez was the future King as they compared him to Felix Hernandez, which is an awesome piece of writing and well worth the time it takes to read.
So, what about this "Sharkie" kid? Well, to begin with he is called Sharkie because like all people who come from South Africa it is the thing to do.
While researching Unsworth I ran across a few articles that were pretty good reads. First, there was a piece written by Ray Cox of The Roanoke Times from July of 2011 while Unsworth was in Pulaski as an 18 year old. Another was a video interview that he did while at Pulaski.
I like Unsworth, and so far in his career he has shown that he knows a little bit about what he is doing. In his debut campaign in Arizona in 2-10 as a 17 year old he put up a 3.93 ERA and struckout 44 batters in 50 innings while walking 1. Ya, I said ONE! In 2011 he struggled a wee bit while at Pulaski as he gave up way too many hits, but once again he struckout 46 and walked just 10. With Everett this past season he struckout 67 and walked 19.
The problem with Unsworth is that he is in terrible need of more velocity on his fastball. This past season with Everett Unsworth was 86 to 88 with his fastball, but he has an advanced change-up. Unsworth has a curve that he throws sparingly since it is little more than a show pitch. Pat Dillon, the play-by-play announcer for the AquaSox tells me that he was working on a cutter this past year too.
Pulaski - Charles Kaalekahi
Can you guess by Chuckie's last name where he is from? Take your time, I'll wait... If you said Hawaii you are correct! Charles came to the Mariners via the 15th round of the 2010 draft out of Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, HI. He's a righty who stands 6'2" and weighs in at 175 lbs.
When I did my initial research on who was doing the best job of pitching as a starter at each level I was really caught be surprise by what Kaahalekahi did this past year. I really did not expect to see Kaahalekahi at the top of the list of starting pitchers for the Pulaskers in terms of innings pitched (67.2), ERA (3.19) strikeouts (65), and WHIP (1.214). Per nine innings, Kaahalekahi gave up 8.8 hits, 0.9 homeruns, 2.4 walks, and 8.6 strikeouts. Nice. Very nice.
If you are interested, here's a video from back in 2009 when he was pitching in HS.
Peoria - Tyler Pike
Tyler Pike came to the Mariners in the supplemental 3rd round of the 2012 draft. He was considered to be a tough sign, but the M's got it done. Pike is a lefty who stands 6'0" and weights 180 lbs.
For a High School pitcher, Pike was probably the most polished to go pro in the past draft. Here is what baseballamerica.com had to say in their scouting report:
"A Florida State recruit, Pike doesn't have a present pitch that wows scouts, but he grows on them with his athleticism, natural deception, three-pitch mix and ability to make hitters swing and miss. He sits around 88-89 mph with his fastball, but touches 92 and 93 both early and late in games. He raised his profile early in the season when he matched up with Tampa Jesuit's Lance McCullers Jr. and threw hard and well. He has natural deception in his easy delivery, and his ability to repeat helps him control the strike zone well. Pike projects to have average or better command of his fastball as well as his curve and changeup. He's added a bit of velocity to his curveball but could use more, and he has shown a solid feel for his changeup. Pike would be an asset as a two-way player for the Seminoles; he has a solid swing and is a 6.8-second runner in the 60, though he lacks power at the plate. He's considered a tough sign, but he could go in the first three rounds if teams think he'll pass up school."
Ok, so that is what we knew going into the draft, but how did things shake out after his first professional season?
This past year Pike pitched for the Mariners affiliate in Peoria of the Arizona League. There, he dominated. I know that the word "dominated" can be over used at times, but it is the best word to describe what Pike did. 11 games, all starts, 50.2 innings, 34 hits, 10 earned runs, 1 homerun, 21 walks, and 57 strikeouts equate to domination. That all works out to an ERA of 1.78, a WHIP of 1.086, and in terms of stat per nine innings it's 6.0 hits, 0.2 homeruns, 3.7 walks, and 10.1 strikeouts.
I want to see Pike go up against stiffer competition, and I think that is exactly what will happen in 2013. I can easily see Pike start out at Clinton of the Midwest League. At the "A" level in Clinton he will be able to start out in a league where pitchers have the upper hand in most locations, especially early in the season. That will help him greatly as the weather will warm up and so too will the offensive bats.
I'm told that Pike's ceiling is something like a solid #4 in a MLB rotation with #3 potential. I think that it might be a bit higher than that. I think that he has #2 potential on an MLB rotation. The reason I say that is because we are all a bit jaded on what a typical #2 might be because all we see is the M's, with a good/great rotation, playing in a pitchers park.
Look at it this way, think of Jason Vargas with more velocity on his fastball and you have Tyler Pike. If the kid develops a slider to go with his other three pitches then he could be dynamite.
It's time to put a ribbon and a bow on this sucker.
In conclusion I think that by looking at the each affiliate and the starting pitching that was found there I have a much better grasp on where the system is at. Where the system is at in regards to starting pitching is in the top five of all systems. The pipeline is filled with interesting prospects, and several of them have a better than even chance of panning out. I think that we all agree that someday we will see Hultzen, Paxton and Walker with the Mariners within the next year or two. behind them we have a group that might not have as much fanfare as the "Big Three", but folks should pay attention to them. Don't be surprised if Brandon Maurer beats two of the "Big Three" to the major leagues.