2013 Prospects in Review: Left Handed Starting Pitchers

Al Messerschmidt

The results of the left handed starting pitchers were a mixed bag this past season.

Catcher
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
First Base
Third Base

Left Handed Starting Pitcher

The Rays have been among the best in the major leagues at developing southpaws over the past several years, with notable players including David Price, Matt Moore, and Enny Romero. Jake McGee and Alex Torres, two excellent relievers, were both starting pitchers in the minors leagues as well whose power stuff enabled them to successfully transition into the bullpen.

Normally, left handed starting pitchers throw less hard than their right handed counterparts. Most of the good prospects can hurl a good breaking ball (curve or slider), though a few show mastery of the change-up. Since they cause matchup problems with many left handed hitters, which account for the majority of major league batters, a good southpaw is a valuable weapon. Still, left handed pitching prospects have a lower success rate than right handed ones.

8. Enny Romero (22 Y.O. in Double-A, Triple-A, and MLB)
148.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 39.2 GB%

Once a helium prospect who captured the attention of prospect followers, Romero has become a post-hype sleeper prospect. A brilliant 2010 in Princeton and Hudson Valley followed by a promising 2011 in Bowling Green caused him to start receiving top 100 attention as his mid-90s fastball and developing breaking ball gave many hope in his future. But Romero struggled in 2012 in Port Charlotte with an ERA of 3.93, a walk rate of 5.4 per nine, and a diminishing strike out rate. However, Romero's 2013 season should give fans some hope that he can still reach his potential.

When looking at his peripherals, it is easy to see why there is plenty of skepticism about Romero. His walk rate once again dropped (6.8 per nine), and though his walk rate also fell, it wasn't exactly in control. However, the ERA and the rate of hits, both of which were excellent, tell a different story. He still has mid-90s velocity, though it can vary from 91-94 in some starts to 93-97 and touching 99 (he has been clocked at 100 several times) in others. His curveball, which stalled in 2012, showed much more promise, either ranging from an average pitch to an unhittable one (it was more along the lines of average in his MLB start). His change-up still lags behind, though it also showed more progress and promise this year. What holds Romero back is his command and pitchability, both of which are far below average. Though he has a good idea of how to attack right handed hitters, he struggles far too much against lefties considering his stuff. This lack of pitching knowledge is probably the main contributor to his mediocre peripherals, which were evident in his major league start (4 Ks and 0 BBs despite allowing only one hit and very little hard contact).

11. Blake Snell (20 Y.O. in Class-A)
99 IP, 4.27 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 9.6 K/9, 6.6 BB/9, 51.4 GB%

An excellent statistical season in 2012 with Princeton set the expectations sky high for Blake Snell. In 2013, he failed to meet these expectations. Like many young pitchers, Snell struggled with command. His walk rate ballooned to a very concerning rate while his strikeout rate remained similar. His 13 wild pitches testify to his abysmal command. Additionally, he failed to work deep into games as he racked up high pitch counts.

Although the walk rate may cause many to shy away from Snell, there are still many reasons to have faith in him. So far, he has sown the ability to garner both strikeouts and groundballs. Furthermore, a young pitcher with good stuff having command issues is not unusual, though the severity of his problems is a very big issue. If Snell can get his command and walk rate under control, he profiles as a #3 starter who can pitch many innings.

16. Felipe Rivero (21 Y.O. in Advanced Class-A)
127 IP, 3.40 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 6.4 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 42.3 GB%.

After receiving little attention for his solid statistics and scouting reports, Rivero looked set to break out in 2013. Instead, he took a step backwards, displaying the first sign of control problems in his professional career and seeing his strikeout rate fall to a sub-standard level. With an arsenal featuring a low-90s fastball that can bump 94-95 mph and a change-up and curve that are both at times above average, Rivero shouldn't struggle to get strikeouts. While him command issues are not as severe as those of someone like Snell's, there still needs to be lots of improvement for him to reach his #3 starter potential.

25. Mike Montgomery (23 Y.O. in Triple-A and Advanced Class-A [rehab])
117.1 IP, 4.83 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 6.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 45.1 GB%.

The writers rated Montgomery quite a bit lower than the community, probably because we might have been more in tune to the severity of his recent struggles and injuries. For the most part, Montgomery was healthy this year. However, he wasn't able to revert to his pre-2011 form. As expected from reviewing his stat line, his stuff has not fully returned to its pre-2011 levels; his fastball now resides in the 89-92 range instead of the mid-90s, and his curveball is loopy. His change-up still grades as a 60/70 pitch, but his over reliance on it limits its effectiveness. While the Rays will probably hold out a little longer on the hope he can start, he profiles best as a middle reliever (with a set-up man ceiling).

Sean Bierman (24 Y.O. in Class-A and Advanced Class-A)
88.1 IP, 2.55 ERA, 1.84 FIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 52.9 GB%.

Bierman is no longer in the Rays organization, as he and Ben Kline were sent to the Chicago White Sox to complete the Jesse Crain trade. Although he is not a top prospect, Bierman mixes his pitches up well and pitched very well at both levels in 2013. In 21.1 innings with Port Charlotte, he did not walk a single batter. None of his pitches grades as above average, but he commands them well and knows how to pitch. There is a chance he ends up as a #5 starter, which is definitely a success for the University of Tampa product that received a minuscule $5,000 signing bonus.

Ryan Carpenter (22 Y.O. in Advanced Class-A)
117.2 IP, 4.67 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 32.8 GB%.

When the Rays drafted him out of Gonzaga University in the 7th round of the 2011 MLB draft, Ryan Carpenter profiled as the rare college starter with substantial upside but a large gap between that and present ability. The Rays signed him to an over-slot deal and hoped he would recover the excellent stuff he previously flashed. So far in pro ball, Carpenter hasn't lived up to his promise. His stuff is still more that of a back end starter, and he has had some home run issues which can be attributed to his very high fly ball percentage.

Christopher Crisostomo (19 Y.O. in Rookie League and Dominican Summer League)
Stateside: 39.0 IP, 4.85 ERA, 5.25 FIP, 5.8 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 42.3 GB%.

Since he is an international signing with no big bonus or hype, there is little readily available information about Christopher Crisostomo. He pitched effectively in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, though his peripherals were mediocre. Promoted to the GCL Rays mid-season, he pitched fairly poorly. Only four of his ten appearances came as a starter, but considering all the piggy-backing taking place in the GCL, that may not be an indication of what the Rays think his future role is.

Grayson Garvin (23 Y.O. in Advanced Class-A and Rookie League [rehab])
28.1 IP, 1.59 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 40.7 GB%.

A supplemental first round pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2011 draft, Grayson Garvin didn't pitch until 2012. As a member of the Stone Crabs, the polished left handed pitcher performed much worse than expected, posting a 5.05 ERA before having Tommy John surgery in the summer. In college, Garvin worked with a three pitch mix; he threw a 90-94 mph fastball, a solid average change-up, and a below average slider.

Garvin did not start pitching again this year until July, and after several appearances with the GCL Rays, he was sent once again to Port Charlotte, where he finished the season. It was a very solid year statistically for him, and his velocity has been in its typical range in the Arizona Fall League. The surgery put him behind schedule, but Garvin has the chance to progress quickly and reach the majors as a solid #4 starter.

Ben Griset (21 Y.O. in Short Season Class-A)
66 IP, 3.41 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 7.5 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 49.8 GB%.

The Rays 13th round pick in the 2013 draft, Ben Griset joined Chris Kirsch and Aaron Griffin to give the Hudson Valley Reneagdes three strike throwing pitchers at the top of the rotation. According to John Sickels, Griset is more of an organization player than a true prospect. His fastball hovers in the upper 80s, and he will also throw a curveball and a change-up.

Jordan Harrison (22 Y.O. in Short Season Class-A, Class-A, and Advanced Class-A)
89.1 IP, 2.92 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 48.0 GB%.

Despite being shifted across three levels, Jordan Harrison managed to put together a very good season. In many respects, his season was very similar to his 2012 season: a good strikeout rate, a better than average walk rate, and a low ERA. According to a report from rayscoloredglasses.com, Harrison at the draft time featured a 90 mph fastball, a solid curveball, and a poor change-up. After two very good seasons, it will be interesting to see if the Rays start utilizing Harrison more as a legitimate prospect.

Chris Kirsch (21 Y.O. in Short Season Class-A and Advanced Class-A)
92.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 4.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 54.3 GB%.

In his second season in the organization, Chris Kirsch, a 2012 14th round pick, improved immensely from his 8.10 ERA, posting a 3.01 ERA this year. While the ERA is shiny, there are a few red flags. A sub-five strikeout per nine rate is very poor, and while he did not walk a ton of batters, he was not a control artist either. He throws a fastball that can get up to 92 mph and he also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup.

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