clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Threshers Pitchers Showing Early Hints of Major League Futures

Not every prospect is a star, but turning depth players into prospects with real Major League futures is plenty valuable.

Elniery Garcia pitches for the Clearwater Threshers
Elniery Garcia pitches for the Clearwater Threshers
Baseball Betsy

As I intoned back in the Threshers' season preview, this was looking to be a team loaded with middling prospects lacking in impact tools, but featuring high upside. That has not changed in the early going, though there are some hitters doing some interesting things. Some second-tier prospects have taken steps forward, specifically on the pitching side, where the Threshers lead the league in a number of categories, despite playing their home games in the most hitter-friendly park in the league. Good things are happening in both the bullpen and rotation, and this is not just small sample size.

Velocity Increases

One of the more sustainable improvements a player can make is increasing how hard they throw the baseball in a new season. The three big jumpers are Elniery Garcia, Tyler Viza, and Miguel Nunez. Garcia has gone from a soft tosser throwing 89-91 to sitting 91-93 - very respectable for a LHP -  which takes him more into the solid No. 4 range with a chance at being a No. 3, a boost up from the No. 4/5 type he looked like earlier this year. Viza wasn't on prospect lists this offseason because he was generic righty throwing 88-91, but he, too, has seen a velo uptick, up to 92-93 touching 94 in the early going. Secondary stuff-wise he's seen improvements, too; his entire arsenal has taken a step forward. Nunez is not a starter, but in his first full year in the bullpen he has improved on his velocity, sitting more toward 96 up from the 91-94 he was showing the past two seasons. Other pitchers like Jairo Munoz (who reportedly touched 98), Victor Arano, Ranfi Casimiro, Jesen Therrien, and Matt Hockenberry are all sitting towards the top of their previous velocity ranges.

Not Walking Batters

After their game on Wednesday, the Threshers lead the Florida State League in BB/9 with just 33 walks in 125 innings. That is a bit deceptive of the team as a whole, as 11 of those walks belong exclusively to Matt Imhof in his 16.2 innings this season. Part of this walk suppressioncan be attributed to players like Thomas Eshelman, Viza, and Garcia, all noted control pitchers. They have certainly not disappointed in the early going in that department. All that said, the real impressive performances are in the bullpen, where a collective nine walks in 45.1 innings so far has been an impressive tally for a group that boasts some hard throwers.

Missing Bats

The general assumption is that, when you don't walk batters, you typically don't strike out a bunch either. However, the Threshers lead the Florida State League in strikeouts with 127 in 125 innings. The rotation has been solid with Viza and Casimiro seeing big jumps in strikeout rates due to improved stuff, but still nothing that could quite be called "dominant." We turn once again to the bullpen, where the firemen have struck out 52 in their 45.1 innings, led by Nunez with 11 in 7.1 IP, Therrien with 13 in 7.1, and Rivero with 9 in 6.1.

It isn't just the walks and strikeouts representing the dominance, either. Currently, Will Morris is the only pitcher to give up more hits than innings pitched. The staff as a whole has only given up six home runs, and just two of those cam from the starting pitchers. Collectively, they have yet to hit a batter.

Conclusion

The obvious follow-up to all of this is to ask, "Why does any of it matter?" The answer is that there are real prospects here that won't appear on prospect lists. Eshelman is what we thought he was with regard to his supreme control, but Garcia and Viza have seen their stock rise and, while they are not top prospects, they have Major League rotation upside. Casimiro is a step behind the other two right now, but he will flash that upside as well.

Just like the start of the season, the bullpen is the strength for this team and it could soon be the strength of the Reading team. Therrien and Nunez are both showing to be too dominant for the FSL, and both could be Major League relievers in due time. Arano, Rivero, Hockenberry, and Munoz need more time in High-A, but their control and mid 90s heat are reminiscent of Edubray Ramos and his rise last season. This cadre is not a bunch of aces or closers, but there is definitely something intriguing going on in Florida with a bunch of previously written-off pitchers.