AZL A's Pitching At A Glance
Team ERA: 4.93 (10th highest of 13 teams)
Strike-outs/Walks: 492/229 (fifth-most/most in the league)
Team WHIP: 1.52 (eighth-worst in the league)
Note: this article covers all pitchers who threw at least 20 innings for the AZL A's in 2011.
The AZL A's hovered around the .500 mark for most of the season, staying competitive with much of their AZL East division. Unfortunately for the entire AZL Eastern division, the AZL Giants made the playoff race a non-factor early in the season, posting a 41-15 record and winning the division by 13 games. The AZL A's would finish the year with a 27-29 mark.
There were a number of lively arms on the AZL A's staff, but many of them struggled with command. The AZL A's led the league in walks and had a few particularly wild hurlers who drove-up their team walk total.
One pitcher who had no issues with command was Andres Avila. Avila led the team with 62.1 innings pitched and he walked only 16 while striking out 71. Unfortunately, many of Avila's offerings were too true to the plate, as evidenced by his 83 hits allowed. He also coughed up six homeruns, most on the team, and finished with a 5.20 ERA. Avila, an acquisition from the Mexican Summer League, has a promising array of secondary pitches and should get a chance in the short-season leagues next year.
Argenis Paez also struck-out more than a batter an inning with 51 strike-outs in 49.2 innings. Overall, it was a disappointing season for the 20-year-old right-hander, however. The native of Venezuela looked poised to breakout as one of the A's top young pitching prospects in 2010 when he posted a 3.15 ERA and a 53:17 K:BB ratio in 65.2 innings. Paez, whose best pitch is his sinking fastball, began the 2011 season in the New York-Penn League but was quickly sent back to Arizona after allowing 16 hits and 10 earned runs in 14.2 innings. He walked an uncharacteristic 11 batters over that span. With Arizona, he improved on those numbers, posting a 4.17 ERA and a 51:27 K:BB ratio in 49.2 innings. Paez won't turn 21 until late October and there is still a lot to like about him as a pitcher. With a strong spring, he could even jump to Low-A to start next year and, at the very least, should get a shot at the New York-Penn League once again.
The best pitcher on the AZL A's staff this season was right-hander Max Perlman, who was the A's 35th-round pick out of Harvard this season. The 6'7'' starter was likely too advanced for the Arizona Rookie League and it showed in his numbers, as he posted a 2.76 ERA in 42.1 innings. He struck-out 44 and walked only 11. He also limited AZL batters to a .187 batting average. Perlman was asked to make two starts for Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the season when the River Cats' staff was depleted by major league promotions. He came through for Sacramento with flying colors, allowing two runs on six hits in nine innings. Perlman will have an opportunity with a full-season affiliate in 2012. Whether it is with Burlington or Stockton remains to be seen.
Right-hander Drew Granier also put together an impressive season for the AZL A's before moving onto a higher level. The A's 2011 32nd-round pick made six appearances (three starts) for the AZL A's and went 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA. He struck-out 35 and walked only seven in 23 innings. Granier proved those numbers weren't a fluke when he jumped to the New York-Penn League and posted a 1.91 ERA in seven starts for the Lake Monsters.
Gregory Paulino made the tough mid-season jump from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona Rookie League and handled it well despite being only 18-years-old. The Dominican right-hander posted a 3.21 ERA in eight appearances (five starts) for the AZL A's. He only struck-out 14 in 28 innings, but he kept his walks down (eight) and held opposing batters to a .235 average. Paulino also did a good job of inducing groundballs. He will be a young arm to watch in 2012.
Aaron Larsen opened eyes last season in the Arizona Rookie League when he posted a 2.89 ERA in 37.1 innings. That performance earned the right-hander a promotion to Low-A Kane County for the final week of the season and the post-season. Larsen returned to the Arizona Rookie League this year and found the second go-around more difficult. His ERA jumped to 7.09 and he walked 24 in 45.2 innings while striking out only 32. Opposing batters hit .326 against him. Larsen will look for a bounceback season in 2012.
The AZL A's best reliever was left-hander Charles Mye, who repeated at the AZL level. Mye was signed as an undrafted free agent last season and he posted a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings for the AZL A's in 2010. This year, he improved those numbers considerably, posting a 1.01 ERA with four saves in 26.2 innings. He struck-out 25, walked six and allowed only one homerun. Mye threw one scoreless inning for the River Cats towards the end of the season and then joined the Stockton Ports for their playoff run. He will have an opportunity to compete for a spot in the Burlington bullpen next spring.
Nate Eppley, the A's 29th-round pick this season, turned in a solid pro debut season out of the AZL A's bullpen. The 6'6'' right-hander had a 3.58 ERA and a 23:9 K:BB ratio in 27.2 innings. He induced nearly two groundouts for every flyout and allowed only one homerun.
Rony Acevedo, like Paulino, jumped from the DSL to the AZL this season. The Dominican right-hander had an inflated ERA for the AZL A's (7.43), but he did some things well in his US debut season. He struck-out 20 in 23 innings and allowed only two homeruns despite being a flyball pitcher. Acevedo's ERA was impacted by two poor outings at the end of the season in which he allowed 11 of the 19 earned runs he gave up all season. He will be 23 throughout all of next season.
Two relievers who had major control problems were right-handers Jose Azor and Cecil Tanner. Azor made his debut in the US this season after three years in the Dominican Summer League. Azor walked five in 19 innings for the DSL A's last season, but for Arizona this year, he walked 27 in 25 innings while striking out 19. Azor also allowed 37 hits and had an 11.52 ERA.
Tanner, the A's 23rd-round pick this season, walked 27 in only 20.2 innings. The Georgia right-hander was a top draft prospect coming out of high school in 2008 because of his ability to throw in the upper-90s. Tanner had dramatic struggles with his command at Georgia, however, and was kept mostly on the bench by the Bulldogs in 2011. The A's view Tanner as a project given his arm strength and are continuing to work with him at Instructs to try to reign in that wildness. Tanner did show some positive signs with the AZL A's in his debut season. He struck-out 26, held opposing batters to a .215 average and induced 2.36 groundouts for every flyout. If he can ever fix his command issues, Tanner will be an arm to watch in the A's system.