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As the first month of the season closes, I like to peruse the minor league numbers to see how the touted prospects have started their seasons. This is my subjective list of 10 pitchers (plus honourable mentions) to watch. The ranking is based in part on something I call Dominance Ratio, which weighs strikeouts against walks, hits allowed and home-runs allowed. It is designed to give a summary of a pitcher's dominance over the opponent hitters. Other factors, such as age versus level of play and previous experience are taken into account in a more subjective way. However, this is not intended to be a top prospect list.

It should not be a surprise who the number one is on this list.

Ages given are not current age, but rather "baseball" age (as listed at

1. Dylan Bundy - 19 - A level - BALTIMORE - 17 IP - 19.23 Dominance Ratio (DR)

It's only the start, but the top high school prospect  of 2011 is blazing an unprecedented trail. Recently gave up his first hit.

2. Taijuan Walker - 19 - AA - SEATTLE - 22 IP - 3.13 DR

Any other year, Walker would be number 1 with a bullet. Not too many teenaged pitchers have dominated AA the way Walker has so far.

3. Jameson Taillon - 20 - A+ - PITTSBURGH - 24.2 IP - 4.31 DR

The quasi-Canadian Texas product has begun his second year in pro ball with authority.

4. Cody Buckel -20 - A+ - TEXAS - 27.1 IP - 3.55 DR

Part of a deep Texas farm system, Buckel could be the best of the bunch. His main problem will be breaking into a solid Rangers' staff.

5. Danny Hultzen - 22 - AA - SEATTLE - 26.1 IP - 2.94 DR

Starts his career at AA and has not disappointed. We'll likely see him in the Seattle rotation soon, as the younger Walker will not be promoted as aggressively.

6. Tony Cingrani - 22 - A+ - CINCINNATI - 23 IP - 5.38 DR

Unheralded prospect has made the jump from rookie ball last year to Advanced A and dominated like few others so far this season.

7.Tyler Skaggs - 20 -AA - ARIZONA - 23.1 IP - 2.91 DR

Rumour had it that a call-up was in the cards, but the young fireballer was passed over for now. Bauer gets more hype, but Skaggs has put up more impressive numbers so far.

8. Jose Fernandez - 19 - A - MIAMI - 28.1 IP - 3.98 DR

A first round pick last season, Fernandez begins his first full year at low A. Should be promoted to advanced A by mid-season.

9. Christian Friedrich - 24 - AAA - COLORADO - 24.1 IP - 2.88 DR

A very impressive start, considering Colorado Springs is his home park.

10. Aaron Sanchez - 19 - A - TORONTO - 15 IP - 3.64 DR

Part of a celebrated trio at Lansing. Makes the list due to being a bit younger than the equally impressive Nicolino.

honourable mentions:

Deolis Guerra -23- AA (MIN)
Andrew Chafin -22- A+ (ARZ)
Justin Nicolino -20- A (TOR)
Trevor May -22- AA (PHI)
David Holmberg -20- A+ (ARZ)
Trevor Bauer -21- AA (ARZ)
Zach Wheeler -22- AA (NYM)
Gerrit Cole - 21- A+ (PIT)

Dominance Ratio is Strikeouts divided by (.5*(non-intentional walks + Home-runs allowed) +.3*hits allowed)

Minor League Pitchers to Watch | 6 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
92-93 - Tuesday, May 01 2012 @ 12:24 PM EDT (#255504) #
I like it. Tell me more about this dominance ratio thing. Did you come up with it? What's the idea behind the weighting of the different factors?
robertdudek - Tuesday, May 01 2012 @ 12:50 PM EDT (#255507) #
I did come up with it, but similar things have been thought up in the past, I'm sure.

We've long known that strikeout rate is the most important thing we can know about a minor league pitcher. This is because almost all long-term successful major league pitchers enter the majors with a higher than average strikeout rate, and almost all of those have had excellent strikeout rates in the minors. Bill James considered this among the most valuable insights of his sabrmetric career.

I loved the analogy he used when talking about Nolan Ryan: all major league pitchers begin their big league careers on a slope. heading down. The rest of their career they go down this slope, some fast, some slow. This slope, for pitchers, is their strikeout rate. When they get to the bottom of the slope, their career is over. So it stands to reason that the pitchers that start higher up the slope, tend to have the longest careers.

I never liked K/9IP because it favoured pitchers who'd walk a lot of guys - they would be deep into counts and so have lots of chances to K batters. I started to use K/BF(excluding IW) because it directly measured what I wanted to know: the dominance of the strike-zone the pitcher manifested.

Then I started thinking about Dylan Bundy and why his dominance has been so special this year. Of course it's because even balls put in play off him are so weakly hit that they have easily been turned into outs. I thought back to Tom Henke's 1985 Syracuse campaign, and how the high K rate did not fully measure his dominance.

So the upshot is to set strikeouts against the negative events - hits, walks and homeruns. Since walks and homeruns are more directly controllable by the pitcher than other hits, I gave them a slighly higher weight.  The values are not derived via any rigorous analysis, but I tried them on some sample leagues and they immediately brought the most dominant pitchers to the fore.

I also like that whole number scores are relatively meaningful. Anything above 2 in MLB represents elite dominance. Anything above 3 in the minors means that this pitcher is unequivocally ready to jump to the next level (given adequate sample size, of course). Anything close to 1 represents a near total lack of dominance.

Mike D - Tuesday, May 01 2012 @ 02:14 PM EDT (#255514) #

My favourite thing about Dylan Bundy's stat page is that, over 17 innings, he hasn't struck anybody out with men in scoring position.

You know, because nobody's reached second base yet.

92-93 - Tuesday, May 01 2012 @ 02:19 PM EDT (#255515) #
Intriguing stuff, thanks for the explanation.
Gerry - Tuesday, May 01 2012 @ 02:20 PM EDT (#255516) #
For all the prospects listed this stat will work but for many pitchers this score at A ball could be misleading because in A ball pitchers can be successful without major league "stuff".   It is fair to weigh hits less than the other factors, many minor league defenses are poor.
baagcur - Tuesday, May 01 2012 @ 02:24 PM EDT (#255518) #
This looks quite interesting. The age/level/draft round have to factor in heavily.

Looking at all the Blue Jays draftees, the best individual season for DR (>14 IP) appears to belong to a certain Bobby Bell. An 18th rounder in 2008 he put up an 8.7 ration in A- at age 22. The baseball ref figures look a bit suspect with zero walks in 43IP that year!

Anyways, two years later in AA he posted a DR of 1.1 and that appears to be that

If Sanchez had been born a day earlier he would be in the age 20 category
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