UPDATE: I left off Alex Perez (and stats tables)
Just like my previous post on positional prospects, I will try to highlight a few of the seasons by pitchers which showed the most improvement on the 2008 season. Here we have a combination of guys. Once again, top prospects show up prominently. But we also have a few guys coming off injury and few guys who just stepped up and had much improved seasons.
Chuck Lofgren had one of the most improved seasons, but this is largely a reflection of how terrible his 2008 season was. Lofgren is still a long way from being the prospect he was in 2006 as a 20-year old in Kinston. This was the first season he has brought his BB-rate under 10% since that season. Given his flyball tendencies (GB-rate: 35.9%) and K-rate (15.8%), Lofgren also still doesn't look like a part of the Indians future.
Yohan Pino is another guy who probably would need to follow up on this season's improvements with another equally improved season in 2010 to really get much attention, but he did make nice strides in 2009. While advancing to AAA from AA for half the season Pino upped his K-rate (16.1 > 23.7), lowered his BB-rate (7.9 > 5.6), and cut his HR-rate in half (3.4 > 1.7). These numbers are actually more in line with his career norms than his disapointing 2008, which doesn't mean he is much of a prospect, but it may mean the Indians picked him up at the right time.
Hector Rondon definitely is a prospect. I would say without much hesitation he is the Indians best pitching prospect. What Rondon did in 2009 was maintain his excellent 2009 numbers while advancing to AAA and actually lowering his BB-rate considerable (7.0 > 4.8). Rondon should be in the rotation mix for Cleveland sometime in 2010.
Jeanmar Gomez probably had the closest thing to a breakout season of any Tribe pitcher. He was already an interesting prospect coming into 2009, but there were questions about his stuff at higher levels. What he did was rise to the occasion in a major way, punctuated by a mid-season no-hitter. Spending most of the season getting his first exposure at AA, Gomez maintained a solid GB-rate (46.5 > 48.7) while edging his K-rate up over 20% (18.1 > 20.2). Gomez won't turn 22 till mid-season in 2010.
Paolo Espino had an interesting and perhaps under the radar 2009. Espino was limited in 2008 while coming back from injury and pitched primarily out of the bullpen. This season he stayed healthy, but he also transitioned back into a starter's role. Espino is yet another pitcher whose decent K-rate (21.2%) and decent BB-rate (6.5%) combine to make him a considerably above average control pitcher (3.25 K/BB). Espino still isn't a great prospect, but he has positioned himself to make himself interesting in the Akron rotation in 2010.
Josh Judy had been a favorite of mine ever since I first encountered his name (I really can't wait for the day that Judge Judy's court is in session at
Jacobs Progressive Field). Judy was one of the more important parts of Akron's outstanding 2009 bullpen. Judy pitched 54 innings and showed excellent peripherals (32.1% K-rate, 8.2% BB-rate, 50.4% GB-rate). Judy's ERA and adjusted FIP were both solidly under 3.00. He is another name to keep in the back of your head when thinking about the Indians bullpen in the latter half of 2010 and spring training 2011.
If Gomez stepped up and showed himself to be a legitimate upper level prospect, Alexander Perez stepped into the role of next best young pitcher. Making his full-season debut, Perez was sensational all year until he was shut down with a strained shoulder late in the year after having been promoted to Kinston. As a cherry on top, Perez spent most of the season under the age of 20, while putting up great all around numbers.
I'll look at some of these, and a few others in more detail later in the off-season. For now maybe we can have something other than Manny Acta to talk about.