3 Young Starting Pitchers Making Big Major League Impacts
It’s that point in the season where young pitchers have begun to get their first crack against big-league hitters. A handful of rookie call-ups have been given a chance to start, and have had enough success to stick in the five-man rotation.
No rookie has lived up to the same billing as Masahiro Tanaka, who is one of the best in pitchers in the game. However, some may have cemented a comfortable spot for themselves as starters in the MLB.
I'm a Stro-man
Marcus Stroman has made it to the show in his third season as a pro, and for the first place team in the AL East no less. The young right-hander out of Duke started out the season in Triple-A and was given the nod after his seventh start on the season. After relieving in his first five appearances for the Jays, John Gibbons decided he fit even better as a starter.
Stroman began starting in the Jays organization last year, when he was promoted Double-A for his second stint with the Fisher Cats, getting 20 starts throughout the season. The New York native posted similar numbers as a starter and as a reliever in the minors, which might have been part of the reason that the organization turned him into a starter.
As a reliever, Stroman found a tough time adjusting. In his five appearances, he held a 12.79 ERA and a 2.21 WHIP. Over the course of 6.1 innings, he had a 5.7 K/9 and let up 9 earned runs. His second and third relief appearances went very well, letting up zero runs over a total of 2.2 innings, allowing just one hit, zero walks and striking out one.
His other three outings were a bit tougher. Over 3.2 innings he let up nine earned runs, surrendering 12 hits while striking out two. So the Jays decided it was time for a change.
The 5’9” righty got his first MLB start on the last day in May, and quickly displayed that he was well suited for the starting rotation. Stroman’s first start came against the Royals, beating the Kansas City team that then went on to start their 10-game winning streak a week later. Stroman went six innings, allowed one earned run and struck out six in the Jays 12-2 win.
Since he's moved into the starting rotation, he has 2.43 ERA, letting up only 8 earned runs in 29.2 innings. He almost completely cut his WHIP in half, and started striking out 2.2 more hitters per nine innings. Hitters began to have a tougher time, only hitting .246, while they had hit a whopping .419 when he came out of the bullpen.
Stroman’s FIP is well below his ERA, which shows some of his numbers should improve throughout the remainder of the season. Although he's shorter than your average pitcher, Stroman has been bringing the heat, sitting comfortably at 93.9 MPH over his 10 appearances. He's been relying on his cutter and slider more than his curve and changeup to this point. His slider was his big pitch when he was first drafted, and it still seems to be, throwing 10.4% of the time.
Stroman is here to stay, but the jury isn’t out whether or not the Jays can lean on him to propel them past the tough opponents in the AL East.
All Hahns on Deck
Another rookie from the Northeast made his MLB Debut in 2014, as Jesse Hahn has broken into the bigs in his first campaign with the Padres. After dominating Rookie and A ball, he was traded from the Rays to the Padres in a multi-player deal.
Hahn got his shot in Double A and thrived in his 11 appearances. His 1.25 WHIP was almost as impressive as his 2.11 ERA over the course of 38.1 innings. Hahn’s 7.7 K/9 for San Diego’s minor league affiliate was solid, but his 3.3 BB/9 is his career worst average. He has displayed some of those walk issues in the majors, but nothing overwhelming.
After a lackluster first start, Hahn has been lights-out for the Padres in the rest of his starts. Hahn allowed four runs over 3.2 innings in his first outing, serving up two-run homers to Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez.
Over his other three starts, however, Hahn has only allowed two runs total over 19 innings. While that is impressive, it might be more noteworthy that he has struck out 22 batters over the course of these outings. His .190 batting average against in his first four starts is better than Tanaka’s .202 in his first four, and his 1.06 WHIP is 0.32 better than Stroman’s WHIP in his initial four starts.
Hahn has burst onto the scene in 2014, and it looks like he will continue to be a topic of discussion for a while.
Cowboy takes to the Sea
Andrew Heaney has been on the MLB scene for a shorter period than both Stroman and Hahn, so it's slightly more difficult to get a read on his potential.
The Oklahoma State alum has displayed great control in the minors, especially when he went to Triple-A this season, where he walked 0.8 per nine innings over 23 innings. Also, his K/9 was a very impressive 10.6, the second highest of his career. His K/9 has only been below 8.4 once in his career, displaying his swing and miss ability throughout.
The Oklahoma-native hasn't had the same strikeout success as his did in the minors. Much like when he made the jump to Double-A, and his K/9 dropped to a 6.1, his K/9 through two starts in 6.5. If the Marlins decide to give Heaney a viable chance, then he will begin to strike more players out.
Although his FIP is very high at 5.10, the Marlins can expect that to drop for Heaney. Only in his 2013 Double-A campaign did he have a FIP over 3.00 (3.12), so clearly he is just getting his sea legs.
All the 23-year-old lefty needs is more time in the show. As long as he is given that opportunity, then the Marlins will start to see the pitcher who was dominant at every level in the minors.