Readers reached out asking about some pitchers not reviewed in the 108. I love taking readers’ suggestions. Last time resulted in my first look at Matt Brash. Most of these guys I haven’t seen very much of or this is the first time, so impressions are taken with that grain of salt. Here are some observations along with a sense of what PPL&R will look like during the season:
Wilkelman Gonzalez, Red Sox, Low-A Salem
|9/11 @Lynchberg||1||4||5||0||0||2 (1HBP)||5||0||76||53||3||3||19|
|This was Gonzalez’s third start for Salem after coming up from complex ball.|
The biggest positive: Not a lot of hard contact, really only a couple of decently struck singles and one ball hit off the left-field wall. The first pitch of at-bats were typically secondaries, but he struggled to locate the breaking ball. He consistently missed down glove-side with it early in the outing, getting behind, playing into some of the poor efficiency. The breaking ball started to come around towards the end, but this was mostly a fastball/changeup attack. There were a couple of four-pitch walks, followed by meetings at the mound whereupon Gonzalez got right quick. He had plenty of traffic, stranding seven runners. All five of the strikeouts were via the fastball. A little bit of luck, and a strikeout or two gutting out some big moments led to nice results.
Second inning: After a double, a pop-up, four-pitch walk, and a failed sac bunt, round two with Petey Halpin ensued. In round one, Gonzalez led off the game striking Halpin out on a fastball up and a little away, similar to the last pitch of this second at-bat:
Though the breaking ball was clearly not there for him above, he gutted through and got a big out. Kind of a fitting microcosm of the outing in general. Here are looks at some breaking balls that mostly went better than the try above:
Round three versus Halpin, he avenges the two strikeouts, but a bad base-running play leads to the last out of Gonzalez’s day:
Takeaway: Easy to see how this 19-year-old could find some full-season success with the fastball leading the way. Liked the way he was trying to go about his business, but the breaking ball execution wasn’t there to fully play things out. This felt like a Gonzalez versus Gonzalez outing, battling through things. Box score viewer would look at this and like it, but to me, he didn’t pitch well, he battled well. Looking forward to getting another look in the future wondering what things might look like with the breaking ball working. An arm I want to pay attention to, and off of this one outing, which isn’t much, tossing him in the back of the 108 due to the age and raw skills wouldn’t seem like the worst call. He’s got an inside track to opportunity. There’s good reason for some excitement.
Gavin Stone, Dodgers, High-A Great Lakes
|9/12 @ West Michigan||1||3||3||1||1||2||7||0||64||64||1||1||14|
|This was Stone’s last outing of the season, his fifth since promotion to high-A.|
Stone was offering up a well-mixed fastball/changeup/breaking ball combination. Below, the fastballs down in the zone may be sinkers as there was another fastball showing itself later, up in the zone at 95/96 and missing bats high. Hard to tell from our vantage point. The breaking ball was his strikeout pitch, and also the pitch allowing the hardest contact; two doubles off of hangers, although one would have been a flyout if Eddys Leonard had not turned himself in knots out in centerfield. Here is the first at-bat of the game, showing off the arsenal some:
Stone got into a little trouble in the first inning, but bad defense and Gage Workman doing a great job getting enough wood on a tough pitch for a sac fly RBI led to the lone run. Overall, Stone’s execution seemed pretty dang good. I don’t think a non-competitive pitch was thrown; maybe one ball hit the dirt? If not for a couple of hangers in two-strike counts, hitters didn’t get very many good pitches to hit.
Takeaway: It was only three innings from a bad vantage point, but I was impressed with his ability to stay around the plate and use the entirety of his three to four-pitch arsenal. The strikeout ability is definitely here at this level. I want to see his stuff from a better angle, but not too shabby at all. He’s in a very competitive organization, but I’m intrigued.
Jaime Arias-Bautista, Guardians, Low-A Lynchburg
|9/2 @ Myrtle Beach||0||5.1||4||3||3||0||10||1||79||72||5||1||20|
|The last start of the season was a piggyback deal. He came on after Aaron Davenport pitched the first three.|
The 2020 draft free agent out of Fresno State spent the entirety of his pro debut season in Low-A at 22-years-old. This outing felt like a good choice as Myrtle Beach has a decent angle for us (not that great for lefties though), it was one of his longest outings pitch-wise, tied for most strikeouts in an appearance, and he gave up some runs, including an Owen Cassie homerun to lead things off:
You can see during this first at-bat, there are some different release points going on. He’s not very tall and my guess is he has a fairly low fastball release helping to create riding life, but I’m no expert in these matters. Here’s a three-pitch strikeout a few batters later, on three fastballs, two of which were not located very well, and the hitter, Peter Matt, was left dumbfounded how he didn’t destroy them:
There also seemed to be two different breaking balls. During this three-pitch strikeout against Christian Franklin, breaking balls #2 and #3 look quite different:
(It can be hard to tell watching a guy for the first time if the breaking ball is just inconsistent, two different pitches, or the same pitch with a manipulated break, which in turn wouldn’t be the same pitch at all, but called the same thing.)
There were plenty of strikeouts, and a couple of long stretches sitting down hitters in a row. A fluky 6th inning containing a bunt single, a couple of throwing errors by Arias-Bautista, a jam shot bloop single, and an infield single led to a few runs. This bump was the only interruption to a pretty dominant outing.
Takeaway: Valuing these softer tossing, riding fastball maestros popping up these days for fantasy purposes is a proposition I don’t pretend to have the greatest answer for. Arias-Bautista throws tons of strikes, 70% on the season, 72% this outing, but he gets away with wildness in the zone I question he’d get away with against better hitters. He’s efficient, but I wouldn’t call him a great command guy…at least this outing. There were some blatantly wild pitches that would just pop up at times as well. There is a ton of competition in this system, so he’ll have to really earn it. Looking forward to seeing how the stuff plays at higher levels, but there’s a nice foundation here capable of counteracting today’s hitters. The secondaries don’t feel like big pitches, yet nastier than a Tommy Romero’s. I’m not sure if he throws a changeup as I don’t think I caught one. We’ll see how things start to look this season before getting too excited. He’s also a lefty who struggles to get lefties out as well as righties, which I don’t like.
Brandon Walter, Red Sox, High-A Greenville
|8/8 vs. Rome||1||5||1||0||0||2||5||0||66||59||8||2||18|
|Walter’s sixth start at high-A and the second start vs. Rome of the six-game series.|
Chose this start as it was his most current, had a decent view, and I like seeing how pitchers fare their second start of a week-long series/lineups have recently seen him.
First pitch of the game, first thing noticed, was Walter’s delivery. It has the feel of a little league left fielder coming in who hasn’t really pitched much. Take that for whatever. I don’t know what it means, other than he doesn’t have the optics of a machined starting pitcher. He works really fast though and I like that enough to go against my impulse of shutting it off. Take a look at his chucking-it-up-there delivery yourself:
It’s hard to get a great read on the arsenal from our vantage point, but it feels fairly limited. Walter is lauded for the mid-90s fastball he showed up with this season and throws a lot of them. I imagine there is some play with it/some different variants. Notice the different arm action on 4-Fastball above. I saw three different signs being put down, one of which seemed to be a changeup call, but I didn’t see anything come out looking like a great changeup. Mostly these calls missed in the same spot as 1-Changeup above. Then a slider showed up in a big way the second time through the lineup getting swings and misses. Here’s one that got Andrew Moritz:
After the first time through, this felt very much like a potential bullpen arm, but the breaking ball added another level that got me far more interested.
Takeaway: Despite a high number of quick at-bats, he still only mustered up a 59% strike rate this day and the strike efficiency is all over the map on the season. He’s an older college arm shutting down low minors hitters, but until better looks of the stuff, it’s hard to make a guess of how it plays against better lineups. I don’t know. I was ready to shut him off the first few innings, but he got more enticing as the game went on. This doesn’t feel like the type I’m drawn to, but this one look will keep him on the radar for the time being.
Alan Rangel, Braves, Double-A Mississippi
|9/26 vs. Montgomery (League Championship Game)||1||6||3||1||0||1||8||0||84||61||8||2||22|
|Rangel got the start in the deciding fifth game of the championship series after an eleven-day rest.|
Early on, the fastball command was not there. Having never seen him before, I don’t know his usual attack, but he turned to the secondaries this day, serving up heavy doses of a traditional curveball and a changeup. A run came across in the second due to two errors, but he shut down a good Montgomery lineup the rest of his day with plenty of swings and misses off these two pitches. And the fastball, which reached 95, came back around at the end. Rangel retired the last twelve hitters he faced, keeping all but one batted ball on the ground this final stretch.
Command waivered the whole day, with plenty of spiked everything, but he managed to not give up hard contact and kept the lack of feel from running pitch to pitch. Here are the eight strikeout pitches:
TAKEAWAY: With a championship on the line and not all the weapons there to start, Rangel impressed with his ability to gut through and find a dominant pairing with secondaries. When hitters started to adjust to the slow stuff, beating some into the ground, he cruised to the end of his day sabotaging with fastballs. Hard to not be impressed. Overall, Rangel wasn’t in control of everything, but he controlled the other team. If more of his outings look like this, I’m definitely a fan. I’d want to see better fastball command and less thrown in non-competitive pitches before the fantasy alarm gets loud, but we’ll tune in again for sure. Another pitcher in the Braves system who exudes the ability to adjust and pitch effectively on a day the entire repertoire may not be there. Such ability is one I don’t want to undervalue.
Graham Ashcraft, Reds, Double-A Chattanooga
|9/8 @ Tennessee||1||5||6||3||2||2||6||0||87||63||6||3||24|
|Killing two birds with one stone, sacrificing a potentially better vantage point, I wanted to see more Brennen Davis.|
Ashcraft put up some impressive box scores this season, including a stretch at the end of his high-A/begining of promotion whereupon he only gave up seven earned runs in ten starts (all in one outing). The monster is a heavily relied-upon high-90s cutter. That and a four-seam, which is more times than not up in the zone (at least that’s the intent), is the main deal. Command wasn’t very good, but it didn’t need to be to get swings and misses or poor contact. I question the quality of Tennessee’s lineup, but the better hitters, minus Davis, squared him up well at least once doing damage. There was a breaking ball doing some things, but the control of it is poorer than the fastballs. Here are a few looks at it:
Ashcraft is advertised as having a barely used curveball and a slider as his best secondary. I thought I saw a few more traditionally shaped sliders, but I may have mislabeled his “slider” as a curveball below. And my attempts to differentiate between four-seam and cut fastballs are best guesses. Here are the three Ashcraft versus Davis battles:
Takeaway: Ashcraft definitely has the one big pitch, but it’s really the only enticing part of the package for me. It’s hard to not think this screams relief pitcher. Unless secondaries and command take a huge jump, I’m sure he’ll continue to find minor league success, but I’m not making any major league starting pitcher bets now. As far as Davis goes, I still don’t quite understand all the rage.
Davis Daniel, Angels, Triple-A Salt Lake
|10/3 @ Tacoma||1||6.2||9||3||3||2||9||2||98||78||2||9||31|
|This was Daniel’s last outing of the year and his fifth triple-A start, a promotion full of hard lessons up to this point; 21 earned runs in 14.1 innings.|
Daniel had a great 2021 with a lively mid-90s four-seam fastball leading the way. Triple-A feels like the place he needs to be, but it’s clear that the heavy lean on the fastball isn’t garnering the same results it used to. He kept big runs from piling up this start, but there was still plenty of hard contact allowed, including home runs by Alen Hanson and Jose Marmolejos.
Takeaway: Daniel’s strike-throwing was great, but it was concerning how many well-located pitches were hit hard. The biggest question seems to be how Daniel can pitch this level of hitter down in the zone. I couldn’t figure out if there was a sinker/two-seam being offered, but my suspicion is it was the same fastball offering. It didn’t work. The changeup usage was pretty unremarkable this start. There are aspects to like, but Daniel feels like he has a lot to prove, with a chance at the bigs coming if grinding it out at the triple-A level gets him up to par.
Appreciate those who reached out asking about these players and getting me to take more time on them. Hope this answered some questions or at least gave a better sense of what kind of pitchers they are.