I believe the Pacific Coast League to be an untapped well of promising young pitchers. The theory I came up with goes something like this. If the PCL drastically inflates hitters stats (you may recall Eric Aybar was the next A-rod and Jeff Clement was Seattle’s Mike Piazza) then it must mask quality pitching talent.
Proof? A favorite of mine over the past three seasons: Doug Fister. He came up through the PCL with flat pedestrian numbers. The only real skill was good control. Jordan Lyles is another one to watch. He survived a brief rise through the PCL and has logged 235 very mediocre innings in the Bigs. But he did all that to the tune of a 2.44 BB/K rate before he turned 22. His peers are still in AA. So if a command and control type can survive getting their brains bashed in a pure hitters environment they might do OK in the majors. The fantasy baseball angle is that we should be scouring the PCL for undervalued quality starters.
John Ely, HOU – Ely came up through the Dodgers’ system and has logged a ton of innings for the ‘Topes in Albuquerque. The Astros picked him up in the offseason, so one would assume he’ll start right away. In 168 innings at AAA last year he had thoroughly mediocre surface numbers but a 4.58 K/BB ratio and .96 HR/9. His fastball hits 90 when he has a breeze at his back but he does have a potentially potent mix of cutters and change ups. He turns 27 early in the 2013 season but “late bloom” seems to be the hallmark of guys with this type of profile.
Rob Scahill, COL – Unfortunately Scahill won’t get the normal bump when he reaches the majors. He had better than 9 Ks per 9 last season but questionable control led to a K/BB rate that was just barely over the serviceable 2/1 barrier. The sexy thing about Scahill is the 95 mph fastball. He’ll turn 26 next month but one would hope age gets him one step closer to putting it all together.
Tom Koehler, FL – His 8.3 K/9 is nice but not great and his control could be better. His fastball can tickle 94 mph and he does poses a cutter so there’s something to work with here. Although New Orleans isn’t as brutal as some parks in the PCL a call to Miami will be an improvement. He’ll turn 27 mid-season and looked alright in a cup of coffee last year that mostly consisted of relief work. He’ll be interesting if he can land a job.
Tyler Lyons, STL – At 25 he’s a pup compared to the others on this list. Lyons tossed 3 complete games across only 88 innings of work and had a BB/K rate close to 5. He’s a lefty with potential to eat innings so a rotation gig may be around the corner.
Yusmeiro Petit, SF – It seems like he’s been around forever. I’m not a fan of his 87-88 mph fastball but in the PCL last year he had an eye popping 7.71 K/BB. His upside might be something like vintage Jamie Moyer. That’s a backhanded compliment at best, but he’s worth keeping tabs on.
Eric Hacker, SF – Like Petit, Hacker is another Fresno product who has been toiling in the minors for more than a decade. He’s not a big time strikeout pitcher but does meet the minimum 2+/1 K/BB requisite. Hacker is worth a second look because in brief stints in the majors he’s shown the ability to generate better than 50% GBs. He throws a big slow curve 25% which looks like his money pitch. With enough injuries he could see some starts for the Giants and they’re know for tasty matchups from time to time.
None of these guys are reach picks and if you’re in shallow leagues, they’re not for you. Follow them in the spring and think end game in only formats and deep leagues. One or two could make for a nice spot starter in 2013 and every now and then one may pop and become the next Doug Fister.