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Small sample size theater: Minor league pitchers

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Has there been anything to learn from the first month-plus of the minor league season?

I am not going to look up the specific game this photo was taken at, but it is likely that Blake Snell pitched well
I am not going to look up the specific game this photo was taken at, but it is likely that Blake Snell pitched well
Jim Donten

We are now a little more than a month into the minor league season. That means the takes are not quite as hot as they may have been a couple weeks ago and are now just lukewarm. Always remember this: it is only a small sample size if it contradicts the conclusion you were hoping to reach!

Obviously, everything here comes with the caveat that there is still a ton of baseball to be played, and a lot will certainly change between now and September when the seasons come to an end. All prospect rankings are courtesy of our writers/community top-30 list. Stats are through Monday's games.

Is this real life?

LHP Blake Snell (0.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 34.4 K%, 11.2 BB%)

If Snell has not been the best pitcher in the minors so far this season, he has to be in a pretty select group at the top. Only three pitchers with more than 30 innings have higher strikeout rates. He still has to throw more strikes, but in four of his six starts this season, he has walked two or fewer batters. In his first two starts for Double-A Montgomery, he has induced 30 swinging strikes.

Interesting

RHP El Caballo (4.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 26.7 K%, 3.7 BB%)

Stats are between Triple-A and the majors

It is certainly disappointing that Alex Colome has been preparing to pitch in this summer's home run derby, but he has not thrown strikes like this in his career. Whether they are quality strikes or not is certainly debatable -- the number of home runs he has allowed suggests maybe not -- but I think there is some optimism here.

RHP Brent Honeywell (2.03 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 31.1 K%, 4.9 BB%)

Honeywell has been rocked the last two starts, although with nine strikeouts and no walks in nine innings, it has not been all bad. It is amazing how similar his rates are to last season. in 2014 with Princeton, his strikeout rate was 31.3% and his walk rate was 4.7%. I am not sure how much longer he is for the Midwest League if he keeps pitching like this.

RHP Jaime Schultz (2.17 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 27.7 K%, 12.3 BB%)

Schultz is still having problems with the strike zone, but it is hard to say his season has not been interesting with the outs he is recording in Double-A. The stats show his weaknesses are still there, from only throwing 58% of his pitches for strikes to performing a little worse against lefties. He has walked fewer than 10% of the batters he has faced in just three of his seven starts.

RHP Andrew Bellatti (1.82 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 22.4 K%, 6.1 BB%)

To my knowledge, Bellatti never appeared on any industry or fan-generated list, but he has continued plugging along and now finds himself in the majors. He was always considered to be a strike thrower with pedestrian stuff, but that is apparently no longer the case. With improved stuff, it is no longer possible to write off what he has accomplished.

RHP Hunter Wood (1.96 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 38.8 K%, 8.2 BB%)

Aside from some rough innings with Bowling Green last season, Wood has performed well in his professional career. Now that he was moved to the bullpen, he has exploded. He has often worked in tandem with Honeywell, leaving opponents short on run-scoring opportunities. When the Red Sox drafted him in 2012, Baseball America noted his unremarkable breaking ball ($), but that is not what FanGraphs saw in 2014.

RHP Jared Mortensen (1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 21.2 K%, 7.5 BB%)

A 26-year-old former indy leaguer does not get much prospect buzz, especially after the poor 2014 season he had. He missed nearly two months with a forearm strain, though, and he has been pitching well again in 2015 back with Montgomery. His stuff is better now than when he was an amateur.

The stats on the surface are good, but I do not know if this will last

RHP Ryne Stanek (1.99 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 16.8 K%, 8.4 BB%)

Injuries have generally limited Stanek as a professional so far. In that regard, 2015 has been nice so far, but I do not know what to make of his performance. His stuff has always drawn acclaim, but his strikeout rate has fallen this season. His walk rate is roughly what it was i 2014, and to his credit, he reduced his ISO below .100. It is nice that he is apparently not allowing much hard contact, but he has to miss more bats.

Bit of a slow start, but he did this last year too

RHP German Marquez (4.09 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 16.5 K%, 9.3 BB%)

There is nothing remarkable about what Marquez has done this season. Looking at 2014 with arbitrary end points, it is quite similar to his start with Bowling Green. In his first eight starts in 2014, he posted a 4.70 ERA and 1.47 WHIP with a 15.9 K% and 10.1 BB%. The rest of the season, he did not allow more than two earned runs in a start. Perhaps he will settle in again soon.

Underwhelming

RHP Dylan Floro (4.46 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 12.3 K%, 3.5 BB%)

Floro's strikeout rate has diminished to the point of being nearly non-existent, but it is not like he relied on missing bats much anyway. His walk rate remains miniscule, but what is concerning is a drop in groundball rate. Before this season, his lowest rate, if we take the word of minor league batted ball data, was 52.9% in 28 innings with Charlotte. So far with the Bulls, it is 43.8%, making him a lot more like the usual no-stuff, tons-of-strikes prospect.

What we expected

RHP Nathan Karns (3.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 23.0 K%, 11.5 BB%)

I could see an argument that Karns is pitching better than expectations, but I think the way he has gotten there is in line with previous seasons. He is walking a few too many batters, allowing some home runs but striking out plenty of opponents. With the injuries the Rays are sustaining, no matter how he does, I am sure they are happy to get this extended look at him in the majors.

RHP Jacob Faria (1.60 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 21.8 K%, 8.3 BB%)

So far, Faria has pitched a lot like last season. His walk rate is up a bit, but his strikeout rate is only three-tenths higher than 2014 with Bowling Green. Baseball Prospectus got a look at him last month and confirmed what a lot of people probably already thought: that he could be a quality pitcher.