One man’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year choices
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
Over the weekend, I covered my picks for MVP in each Minor League full-season circuit. Now I present my selections for the best pitching performances in the same leagues. I’d say you could call them the Cy Youngs of the Minors, but the Hall of Fame right-hander only pitched part of one season in the Minors (1890 for Canton of the Tri-State League before signing with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League later that year). So let’s just call them what they are — the Pitchers of the Year.
International League: Greg Reynolds, Louisville – There was a lot to like from the 6-foot-7 right-hander during his first year in the Reds system. His 2.42 ERA ranked second in the IL, behind only Indianapolis’ Kris Johnson who posted a 2.39 mark, while his 1.06 WHIP was best in the circuit. His numbers get more impressive the deeper you dive as well, with his 2.98 FIP and 1.50 BB/9 both ranking second. His strikeout numbers — 97 in 156 1/3 innings — don’t jump off the page, but Reynolds showed you don’t necessarily need that tool in your bag as a groundball pitcher. The league went with Durham’s J.D. Martin, who led the league with 16 wins for the champion Bulls and posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 27 starts. That’s fine. I’m just more apt to go with the pitcher who has the more impressive overall stats. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Martin)
Pacific Coast League: Brian Flynn, New Orleans – Speaking of looking past the W’s and the L’s, I hope you don’t mind if I put on my Brian Kenny hat here for a second. Here are two stat lines, sans win-loss record, and you decide who the better pitcher was.
Pitcher X: 23 G, 23 GS, 138 IP, 2.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.05 FIP, 127 H, 40 BB, 122 K
Pitcher Y: 23 G, 23 GS, 125.2 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 4.67 FIP, 103 H, 81 BB, 89 K
The answer is obviously Pitcher X. A lower ERA, a significantly lower WHIP, a much lower FIP and almost half the walks over the same span. Pitcher X is Brian Flynn. Pitcher Y is Johnny Hellweg. Brian Flynn went 6-11 in front of a New Orleans squad that ranked at the bottom of the PCL with 3.8 runs per game. Hellweg went 12-5 for Nashville, who owned a noticeably better offense this season. Hellweg was the PCL’s choice for Pitcher of the Year. It’s pretty easy to see they valued wins more than the other stats there. I’m not willing to do the same, although for the record — no pun intended — I’m closer to Jay Jaffe’s “stick [the win] in the junk drawer” philosophy than Kenny’s #killthewin. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Hellweg)
Eastern League: Anthony Ranaudo, Portland – Now, here’s something on which we apparently all agree. With 109 2/3 innings pitched before his promotion to Triple-A, Ranaudo didn’t technically qualify at season’s end for the major pitching categories, but his numbers there are too good to ignore. Upon leaving the Eastern League, he was best in WHIP (1.09) and batting average against (.204) while striking out 106. His 2.95 ERA would have been tops among pitchers too at the end of the season, had he qualified. Harrisburg’s Nathan Karns (3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 155 strikeouts) and New Hampshire’s Marcus Stroman (3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 129 strikeouts) also deserve mention. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Ranaudo)
Southern League: Kyle Hendricks, Tennessee – Even the Southern League seemed a little torn on this one. Hendricks was named the right-handed pitcher on the circuit’s postseason All-Star team, and yet fellow righty Archie Bradley took home the honors as Most Outstanding Pitcher. Put me down on the side of Hendricks. His 1.85 ERA, 2.65 FIP and 1.05 WHIP were all tops in the league and his 1.85 BB/9 rate was second. Bradley’s respective numbers and ranks in those categories were 1.97 (second), 3.33 (fourth), 1.23 (10th) and 4.31 (24th), although he did best Hendricks in strikeouts (119-101) and wins (12-10). I get that those latter two categories are sexier, if I dare use that word here, when it comes to pitching stats, and Bradley is no doubt helped by his status as MLB.com’s No. 7 overall prospect. Still on the whole, Hendricks was the better pitcher in the Southern League this season, and that’s what this category is meant to reward. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Bradley)
Texas League: David Martinez, Corpus Christi – Like Ranaudo above, this one is fairly cut-and-dry. The 26-year-old right-hander led the league with a 2.02 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, two complete games and — yes, alright, fine — 14 wins over 26 games (18 starts). Although he only struck out 5.98 batters per nine innings, he only walked 1.39 per nine too, good enough for third in the league in that spot. Padres prospect Keyvius Sampson was a close second in my mind after he put up a 2.26 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 33 walks in 103 1/3 innings (9.58 K/9, 2.87 BB/9) for San Antonio. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Martinez)
California League: Daniel Winkler, Modesto – Let’s face it, no one wants to pitch in the California League, where run totals are known to climb like some of the California desert thermometers in the heat of the summer. However in 2013, Winkler and San Jose’s Ty Blach exhibited some mighty impressive campaigns. The two both pitched exactly 130 1/3 innings, which is pretty great in terms of creating statistical side-by-sides. Blach allowed 42 earned runs for a 2.90 ERA while Winkler allowed 43 for a 2.97 mark. The pair went 1-2 in the circuit with those numbers. While the two were so close there, Winkler stood out in WHIP (0.93-1.09) and strikeouts (152-117). Although Blach holds a lead in other areas, I think those two stats are enough to tilt the see-saw in the Nuts starter’s favor. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Winkler)
Carolina League: Cody Anderson, Carolina — Pretty easy one here. The 23-year-old right-hander was tops in the Carolina League with a 2.34 ERA and a 2.89 FIP and was second with a 1.08 WHIP. His 8.17 K/9 was third-best and he balanced that out nicely with a 2.26 BB/9, which was also good enough for third. All in all, a non-controversial choice. I hope. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Anderson)
Florida State League: Matthew Summers, Fort Myers – When the league announced that Justin Nicolino was its Pitcher of the Year on Aug. 22, I had no qualms with the selection. His 2.23 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 96 2/3 innings would have ranked among the league leaders had he enough innings to qualify. Then again, there was still some season left to play, and that’s how Summers, I believe, stole this spot. Summers made two quality starts on Aug. 23 and 28 to lower his FSL ERA to 2.47 and his WHIP to 1.11 — both officially best in the Class A Advanced circuit. His 3.02 FIP was a smidge lower than Nicolino’s at 3.03 as well. I think Summers might be hurt by his difficult stretches with Double-A New Britain (6.45 ERA in six appearances). However given that this is a Florida State League award and not based on performance outside the league, I think he’s earned it here. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Nicolino)
Midwest League: Dylan Floro, Bowling Green – Some of Floro’s numbers are straight from a video game. He posted a 1.81 ERA and 2.67 FIP over 109 1/3 innings for the Hot Rods this season, both of which were best among Midwest hurlers with at least 100 innings this season. His 1.12 WHIP was good enough for fifth, and his 4.47 K/BB ratio was third. Bowling Green Ballpark has a decent reputation as a pitcher’s park, so if you need more convincing, consider Floro’s road ERA of 1.72, which was actually better than his 1.93 mark at home. (Note: The Midwest League did not name a particular Pitcher of the Year. Floro took the right-handed starting spot on the postseason All-Star team while Clinton’s Tyler Pike represented the southpaws.)
South Atlantic League: Tyler Glasnow, West Virginia – With Gerrit Cole already showing his potential with the big club and top prospect Jameson Taillon not too far behind him, the Pirates are not in want of great young pitching talent. Yet, Glasnow only improved the team’s situation with a breakout first full season. His 164 strikeouts led the South Atlantic League and were fourth-most in the Minors this season, despite coming in only 111 1/3 innings — a number that kept him from qualifying among the league leaders in other categories. Not to worry though. Among pitchers with at least 100 innings in the Sally League, Glasnow led in ERA (2.18) and of course K/9 (13.26) and was fourth with a 1.03 WHIP. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Gabriel Ynoa, Savannah)