2011 Year In Review: Lake Monsters' Pitchers

Our "2011 Year In Review" series continues with a look at the pitchers for the Oakland A's short-season A affiliate.

Vermont Lake Monsters Pitching At A Glance
Team ERA:
3.71 (tied for seventh out of 14 teams)
Strike-outs/Walks: 542/229 (sixth-most in the league in both categories)
Team WHIP: 1.36 (eighth in the league)

Note: this article covers all pitchers who threw at least 20 innings for the Vermont Lake Monsters in 2011.

In one season the Oakland A's were able to provide the people of Burlington, Vermont, with something the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals were unable to do for more than a decade – a playoff team. A dramatic final day of the season saw the Lake Monsters edge their way into the playoffs. Although they fell in the first round (to, ironically, the Nationals' new New York-Penn League affiliate), it was a successful season for the A's short-season franchise.

The Lake Monsters' pitching staff boasted a number of impressive individual performances, although in a pitching-rich league, their overall team numbers were middle-of-the-pack.

There was nothing middle-of-the-pack about the season that Opening Day starter Seth Frankoff put together. The A's 2010 27th-round pick began the year with Low-A Burlington but was sent back to extended spring training after five poor starts. He regrouped in Arizona and re-emerged a different pitcher with Vermont. In a team-high 73 innings, Frankoff posted a 2.34 ERA with a 63:27 K:BB ratio. He held opposing batters to a .208 average and allowed only one homerun. Frankoff also pitched two complete games, including one shutout. He was fourth in the league in ERA.

Lefty Brent Powers also put together a solid season as part of the Vermont rotation. The Sam Houston State alum was the A's 18th-round pick this season. He improved each month of his rookie campaign, saving his best outings for August and September. In 63.1 innings, Powers posted a 3.84 ERA with a 44:15 K:BB ratio. He allowed three runs or fewer in his final seven starts of the season.

Kurt Wunderlich also improved as the season progressed. The Michigan State alum allowed 22 earned runs over his first 25 innings (7.92 ERA), but only 10 earned runs over his final 27.1 innings (3.92 ERA). The A's 2011 20th-round pick struck-out 30 and walked 21 in 52.1 innings in his first professional campaign.

Hard-throwing right-hander J.C. Menna had an up-and-down second professional season. Despite a mid-90s fastball, Menna has yet to master the lower levels of the minor leagues. Last season, he walked 13 and struck-out only 15 in 23.1 innings for the A's Rookie League squad. This year, he struck-out 40 while walking 39 in 53.2 innings for Vermont. Predictably, his ERA suffered from his lack of command, finishing at 5.70. Batters hit .290 off of the New Jersey native.

Right-hander Tyler Vail faced similar struggles. Vail, the A's fifth-round selection last season, was the youngest pitcher in the Lake Monsters' rotation at 19-years-old. He began the year with the Low-A Burlington Bees, but was sent to short-season Vermont at the midpoint of the season after posting a 5.68 ERA for the Bees. Things actually got worse for Vail with the Lake Monsters. His ERA jumped to 6.05 ERA and he walked more batters than he struck-out (25 walks to 22 strike-outs). Vail's fastball reached 95 MPH this season, but his secondary stuff and location were inconsistent. He still has a promising future and should get another shot at full-season baseball next season. Vail will turn 20 in November.

Drew Granier and Jose Macias only spent a short time in the Lake Monsters' rotation, but both made a positive impact. Granier joined Vermont from the A's Rookie League squad and he cruised through seven starts for the Lake Monsters. In 28.1 innings, Granier had a 1.91 ERA and he didn't allow a homerun. Opposing hitters batted only .214 against him. He also struck-out 34 batters. The only blip on his otherwise spotless record was his walk total (22). Macias joined the Lake Monsters from Burlington and then returned to the Bees after four starts with Vermont during which he struck-out 21, walked only six and posted a 3.27 ERA.

The real strength of the Vermont pitching staff was the team's bullpen. Drew Bailey led all Vermont relievers with 42.1 innings pitched. The 6'5'' right-hander went 5-0 with a 2.34 ERA. He struck-out 37 and allowed only two homeruns. Bailey did walk 22, a number he will need to reduce in full-season ball next season. Bailey was particularly dominant in August, when he allowed only one earned run in 16.1 innings pitched. He was the A's 35th-round pick last season.

Southpaw Jeff Urlaub was one of the Lake Monsters to participate in the New York-Penn League All-Star game. The A's 30th-round pick last season started the year with Low-A Burlington and he had a 3.93 ERA in 18.1 innings with the Bees. Urlaub dramatically improved his ERA with Vermont, posting a 1.67 ERA in 37.2 innings. He saved five games and posted an incredible 49:4 K:BB ratio. For the year between Burlington and Vermont, Urlaub had a 72:10 K:BB ratio.

T.J. Walz also opened a lot of eyes with his K:BB ratio. The A's 15th-round pick this season struck-out 27 and walked only three in only 22 innings before he was promoted to Low-A Burlington. While with Vermont, Walz gave-up only 14 hits and one earned run (0.41 ERA). His numbers dipped a bit with Burlington, but Walz was still impressive with the Bees. He pitched in relief this season because of a heavy college workload, but he is expected to move into the starting rotation next season.

Tanner Peters, the A's 16th-round pick this season, was dominant in his professional debut season. Serving as the Lake Monsters' closer for much of the season, he racked up 11 saves, good for fourth-most in the league. Peters had a 1.35 ERA in 26.2 innings. He struck-out 33 batters and walked eight while allowing only 12 hits. Peters was a starter in college and the A's could move him back into the rotation next season when he moves up to full-season ball.

Nathan Kilcrease, the A's 2011 30th-round pick, was another rookie who impressed for Vermont. The 5'6'' Alabama alum posted a 2.67 ERA and a 28:5 K:BB ratio in 30.1 innings for the Lake Monsters. Although Kilcrease was a starter for the Crimson Tide, the A's are likely to keep him in the bullpen next season.

Logan Chitwood got off to a rough start with the Lake Monsters, posting a 5.14 ERA through the first two months of the season. The A's 19th-round pick last season finished on a high note, however. In August, he had a 2.61 ERA and he struck-out the side in his only September regular season appearance. In 32.1 innings, he struck-out 26 and walked 10 and he allowed only one homerun.

Southpaw Ryan Hughes was brought along slowly by the A's in 2010 when they drafted him out of Nebraska. The former high school track star hasn't pitched many innings during his career and the A's consider the strong-armed reliever to be a long-term project. He pitched 27 innings with the Lake Monsters this season and had a 6.00 ERA. Hughes, who hails from the East Bay, struck-out 18 and walked 11.

Jeiler Castillo joined the A's organization during the off-season when Oakland drafted him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft out of the Houston organization. Castillo struggled during his first year with Oakland. He allowed four runs in 8.1 innings for Low-A Burlington before being sent down to short-season Vermont. With the Lake Monsters, he had a 5.75 ERA in 36 innings. Castillo did improve as the season progressed and he had a 3.31 ERA in August and threw a scoreless inning in his only September appearance.

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