Arizona A's Pitching At A Glance
Team ERA: 3.49 (2nd best in the league)
Strike-outs/Walks: 533/167 (third and fifth best, respectively)
Team WHIP: 1.23 (best in the league)
Note: this article covers all pitchers who threw at least 10 innings for the Arizona A's this season.
It was a good year for pitching for the A's Rookie League affiliate and that pitching was a big factor in the team's 30-26 record. In a league generally better suited for hitting, the A's staff allowed less than a hit per inning and struck-out more than one batter per inning (533 in 497.1 innings). A's pitchers gave up the second-fewest hits in the league and the third-fewest homers. There were several promising arms on the A's staff, which was mostly a mix of players from the 2010 draft and the team's Dominican Academy.
The leader of the staff, Argenis Paez, is a product of the A's Dominican Academy. Signed out of Venezuela in 2008, Paez spent one-and-a-half seasons in the Dominican Summer League before debuting in the US last year. Paez pitched well in 2009 for the AZL A's, posting a 3.68 ERA in 51.1 innings with a 46:21 K:BB ratio. He improved upon those numbers in 2010, however. He lowered his ERA to 3.15 and his walk total to 17 in 65.2 innings. He struck-out 53 and maintained an excellent groundout-to-flyout ratio of 2.68. The A's coaching staff raves about Paez's ability to work in the lower half of the strike-zone and many felt he could have handled a promotion to short-season A or even Low-A if the A's had had an opening. Paez, who just turned 20 in October, is currently participating in the A's US Instructional League and a strong showing there and in spring training could land him in Burlington of the Midwest League next season.
Right-hander Tyler Vail is another youngster who could jump over short-season A directly to full-season ball in 2011. Vail was the A's fifth round pick in 2010 out of a Pennsylvania high school and the first pitcher selected by Oakland. Vail signed quickly and was able to make 13 appearances (10 starts) with the AZL A's. He was on a strict pitch count, so he averaged less than three innings per appearance. Vail was impressive in those 31.2 innings, however. He gave up only one homerun, held opposing batters to a .218 average and posted a solid 29:8 K:BB ratio. A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson raved about Vail's strike-throwing abilities and compared him to a young Trevor Cahill.
Like Vail, Omar Duran was on a strict pitch count this season. Duran was returning from an elbow injury that limited him to 24 innings in 2009. The left-hander, who is a member of the same A's international signing class as Paez, was dominant in the 40.1 innings he threw, mostly in relief, in 2010. Duran posted a 2.01 ERA, struck-out 54 batters and didn't allow a homer while inducing more than two groundouts for every flyout. He was a little wild at times, walking 17, but that number was a slight improvement over his 2009 effort. Duran, who can reach 95 MPH with his fastball and is regularly clocked at 90-93, is expected to return to the starting rotation if he is healthy next season. He will be 21 throughout the season.
Joselito Adames is another pitcher who saw some improvement with his command in 2010, although he didn't have as strong of an overall campaign as Duran. Adames walked 34 and struck-out only 43 in 76.1 innings, mostly for short-season A Vancouver, in 2009. In 2010, he struck-out 59 and walked 18 in 53 innings for the AZL A's. He also didn't allow a homer. Adames' ERA was 5.26, however, although that seems to be an unlucky number, as he held opposing batters to a decent .257 average and he induced nearly four groundouts for every flyout.
With four starts, Aaron Larsen finished tied for fourth on the AZL A's staff. Oakland's 34th round pick out of Bethany College this season, Larsen pitched like one would expect of a college pitcher in a league of mostly high school and international players. In 37.1 innings, Larsen posted a 2.89 ERA and he struck-out 31 while walking only 10. He also held opposing batters to a .177 average. Larsen got a taste of full season baseball at the end of the season, making two starts for Kane County. He should start next season in Low-A, as well.
Seth Frankoff, the A's 27th round pick from UNC-Wilmington, was the other AZL A's pitcher to have four starts, although he would collect seven more with short-season Vancouver before the end of the year. For the AZL A's, Frankoff had a 2.28 ERA in eight appearances that stretched over 27.2 innings. He was incredibly difficult to hit in Arizona, posting a .146 ERA and striking-out 35. He did walk 14, but he didn't allow a homer and averaged 1.72 groundouts for every flyout. Frankoff would continue to pitch well in Vancouver and should graduate to full-season baseball next year.
Drew Tyson, the A's 17th round pick, made the opposite trek from Frankoff, starting off his pro career in Vancouver, but spending most of his 2010 campaign with Arizona before finishing the season back in Vancouver. The right-handed reliever tossed 27 dominant innings for the A's. He allowed only 21 hits, four runs (1.33 ERA) and he walked only three while striking out 41. Like Frankoff and Larson, Tyson should begin next season in a full-season league.
Jeff Urlaub didn't have to travel far for his professional debut. He was drafted in the 30th round out of Grand Canyon State and hails from nearby Scottsdale. The lefty was exclusively a reliever for Arizona. He handled that role well, being aggressive and throwing strikes when he came into the game. Patterson compared Urlaub to A's left-hander Jerry Blevins. Urlaub posted an outstanding 26:3 K:BB ratio and allowed no homeruns and only 23 hits in 26.1 innings, and he also saved two games.
Sean Murphy is another AZL A's hurler who put up remarkable K:BB numbers. The A's 2010 33rd round pick struck-out 32 and walked eight in 21 innings. He also induced nearly two-and-a-half groundouts for every flyout and held opposing batters to a .190 average while posting a 2.57 ERA. Murphy turned 22 in August, but he came from a small college, so the A's didn't rush him into higher-level competition. He will likely get a chance to compete for a full-season job this spring.
Jose Macias was kept on a very strict pitch count after being selected in the 18th round out of Franklin Pierce College because the 2010 season was his first as a pitcher after converting from shortstop. Macias dominated at the collegiate ranks, posting an ERA under 1.00 and that carried over to his time with the AZL A's. In 14 innings, he struck-out 11, walked only three and gave up nine hits. He struggled in two short appearances with the Low-A Kane County Cougars before being shut down with shoulder soreness. Assuming he is healthy this spring, Macias should compete for a spot in Burlington.
Charles Mye signed with the A's as an undrafted free agent, and he was solid in his first pro action. In 23 innings, the lefty struck-out 23 batters and he posted a 3.52 ERA. Mye was a little wild at times, walking 11, and he will need to improve against left-handed hitters, who batted .393 against him.
Ryan Hughes is another left-hander who had a surprisingly difficult time against left-handed hitters. Lefties batted .300 against Hughes, although it was a much smaller sample size, as Hughes was limited to 13.1 innings with the A's. His ERA was a non-descript 4.73, but he had a solid 13:4 K:BB ratio. Hughes, who is from the East Bay, has a good enough arm that he was taken by the A's in the 16th round out of Nebraska despite not pitching much the past two seasons. The A's didn't push Hughes this summer, but Patterson was encouraged by what he saw from the 6'6'' southpaw and Hughes should get an opportunity to be stretched out next year.
Another pitcher that the A's have high hopes for is Andres Avila, who the team acquired from Mexico this season. The 20-year-old right-hander was inconsistent in his first taste of US baseball, but he showed some flashes of potential. He held opposing batters to a .232 average and struck-out 16 in 14.1 innings, but he walked six and posted a 5.65 ERA.
Control problems also plagued Andrew Bailey (no, not that one) and J.C. Menna. Bailey, who is a right-handed reliever just like the A's big league closer by the same name, walked 11 in 12.1 innings. He did strike-out 11 and held opposing batters to a .196 average while inducing a lot of groundballs, so there are some positives for Bailey, the A's 35th round pick this season, to build off of from his time in Arizona. Menna, who was the A's 14th round pick out of a New Jersey community college, walked 13 and allowed 25 hits in 23.1 innings. He struck-out 15. Menna has a big fastball that has reached 95 MPH and he has only been a full-time pitcher for two seasons, so the A's will be patient with his development.