FotF: The Arms of Burlington

Welcome to a special Tuesday edition of Fish on the Farm! (It’s special because it’s several days late)

After spending three weeks focused on the Idaho Falls Chukars, it’s finally time to move on. The next logical step is the Burlington Royals so that is where we’re heading. As you can surmise from the title, today I’m breaking down the pitchers and in the next column I’ll delve into the position players.

All 14 of the pitchers on the Burlington roster have been introduced to the Royals system in the last 4 years. 3 came in 2008, 5 in 2010 and 6 in 2011. 9 pitchers were added via the draft, 2 were international free agents, 2 were non-drafted free agents and one was acquired via trade. In Baseball America’s 2011 Prospect Handbook, RHP Robinson Yambati cracked Kansas City’s pre-season top-30 (#16) and RHP Eric Cantrell made the organizational depth chart but the rest of the pack haven’t received much pub as of yet.

I struggled with how to present these guys and what information to provide and it’s always a challenge given the diversity of our readership so I elected to break these guys up into groups. By the way, before I get too far I should mention that the stats listed below do not count the results of the game from Monday night for most players, but I did update them on a few guys as it was relevant to my comments.

The “Prospect”

RHP Robinson Yambati (20) – 6’3″ 185 lbs – Signed 2008 out of the Dominican Republic

  • 17.2 IP (8 GS): 18.85 ERA, 3.11 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9 and 4.6 SO/9

It seemed logical to start with the name that is the most recognizable but as you can see, Yambati has been nothing short of awful this season. It’s a far cry from his 2010 season that saw him put up a 2.71 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9 and 8.7 SO/9 in 66.1 innings for the AZL Royals at age 19. There isn’t really anyway to sugar coat what Robinson has done this season and there isn’t even an individual start you can point to as a positive. His best one so far came on July 13th when he gave up 3 hits and 2 runs in 3.2 innings while walking 1 and striking out 2. In short, he’s earned his 18.85 ERA.

However, we can’t just write him off. In 2009 he moved from the Dominican Summer League to the Arizona League and struggled to finish with an 8.89 ERA, 2.01 WHIP and 18/14 SO-to-BB rate in 27.0 AZL innings. Obviously he was able to bounce back in 2010 so we can only hope history repeats itself and he gets himself back on the prospect map in 2012.

The “Performers”

While Yambati has pitched poorly this season and hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype, 5 Burlington hurlers have shown some positive signs and merit some attention.

LHP Rudy Brown (23) – 6’4″ 225 lbs – Signed June 17th, 2010 as a NDFA out of UNC Pembroke

  • 26.1 IP (13 G): 2.73 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9 and 9.9 SO/9

Brown had a nice debut season last year with the AZL Royals (2.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) and 2011 is proving to be a solid follow-up. His BB and SO rates remain in the same range as last year which is a positive, but his H/9 has climbed from 9.2 to 12.6 and that explains the jump in WHIP. The increase in his H/9 is a cause for concern but we have to keep in mind that the field conditions in rookie ball are far from ideal and the fielders themselves are generally raw and/or inexperienced. If we look at his FIP we see that he’s actually improved from a 2.44 in 2010 to a 1.79 this season. He’s got the BB and SO rates you want so if he can maintain those going forward he’s got a chance to do something. Of course at 23 he is old for the level and he needs to move quickly.

RHP Nick Graffeo (23) – 6’2″ 190 lbs – 38th Round 2010 Draft

  • 35.2 IP (13 G/2 GS): 1.51 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9 and 11.1 SO/9

Graffeo has fast become one of my favorite Burlington prospects (not that it takes much). He was born in Leawood, KS, has a December birthday like yours truly and was a late round pick. That’s three reasons to pull for a guy in my book but it doesn’t hurt that he has clearly taken a step forward this season after spending 2010 in Idaho Falls. He’s dropped his H/9 from 9.7 to 5.3 and his BB/9 from 3.8 to 2.3. All while maintaining his SO/9, some of this is to be expected since the Pioneer League is more hitter friendly, but those are still impressive improvements. Like Brown he’s going to have to move quickly but I am far more optimistic about his chances.

RHP Tyler Graham (23) – 6’4″ 250 lbs – 22nd Round 2010 Draft

  • 32.0 IP (13 G): 3.09 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 4.8 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9

Graham doesn’t have the shiny BB/9 that Brown and Graffeo have thus far in the season, but like Graffeo he has cut his H/9 and BB/9 compared to what he did with the Chukars last year. Unlike the previous two, however his FIP this season in actually higher than his ERA (3.92 to 3.09) which is primarily a byproduct of his walk rate. I’d lump him in with Brown in terms of a future and potential impact but I am intrigued that his SO/9 has jumped from 7.9 to 10.7. At 23-years old he’s another guy that will have to move fast but he’s improving* which is certainly a good sign.

*Compared to 2010 anyway. Currently he’s in a rough stretch having allowed runs in 5 of his last 6 appearances.

RHP Matthew Murray (21) – 6’4″ 225 lbs – 10th Round 2011 Draft

  • 44.2 IP (10 GS): 3.22 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9 and 9.9 SO/9

Finally we come to a starter performing well for Burlington, and let’s be honest, the rotation is where the Royals need guys to step up and develop. Another December birthday, Murray is just getting his feet wet in professional baseball after pitching for Georgia Southern University this spring. As you can see from the stats, the early returns are very positive. The only concerning number on his resume thus far are the 5 home runs he’s allowed but 4 of those came in a 3 start stretch. That said, the sparkling 6.13 SO/BB goes a long way toward putting me at ease. Murray has really hit his stride lately going 22.2 IP with 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB and 26 SO in his last 4 starts. He doesn’t need to be rushed, but a promotion to Kane County should be in order before the end of the year.

RHP Matt Ridings (23) – 6’0″ 190 lbs – 41st Round 2010 Draft

  • 46.2 IP (9 GS): 2.70 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 1.2 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9

Murray has been dominating the Appy League in his last 4 starts but it was Ridings who was named the league’s pitcher of the week yesterday. He earned that award by going 12.0 innings with 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB and 12 SO in his last 2 starts. Though he was drafted last year he didn’t make his professional debut until thus summer (June 22nd) due to Tommy John surgery that was performed during his senior season at Western Kentucky. Despite the injury he was still named the Sun-Belt Conference’s Pitcher of the Year for 2010. Ridings is far more talented than most 41st round picks you will come across and his performance this season has been very encouraging, especially the control. Hopefully he will continue to hone and regain his stuff as he gets further from his surgery date. If that happens, his SO rate should pick up and make him an even more intriguing prospect.

The “Others”

This group encompasses the other 8 pitchers currently on the Burlington Royals staff. Given their struggles, I’m just going to provide the base info for each of these guys, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be discussing them more in depth down the road.

RHP Angel Baez (20) – 6’3″ 196 lbs – Signed July 21st, 2008 out of the Dominican Republic

  • 26.0 IP (9 GS): 7.27 ERA, 2.19 WHIP, 6.9 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9

RHP Eric Cantrell (22) – 6’4″ 210 lbs – 7th Round 2010 Draft

  • 31.2 IP (9 G/6 GS): 5.97 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9

RHP Malcom Culver (21) – 6’2″ 190 lbs –  8th Round 2008 Draft

  • *Has Not Pitched*

RHP Andrew Ferguson (22) – 6’1″ 195 lbs – 18th Round 2011 Draft

  • 21.1 IP (14 G): 6.75 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9

LHP Abel Gonzalez (23) – 6’1″ 195 lbs – 33rd Round 2011 Draft

  • 10.0 IP (6 G): 10.80 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 0.9 BB/9 and 8.1 SO/9

RHP Cory Hall (23) – 6’2″ 232 lbs – Signed June 27th, 2011 as a NDFA out of Santa Clara University

  • 22.2 IP (9 G): 7.94 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9

LHP David Middendorf (22) – 6’3″ 235 lbs – 22nd Round 2011 Draft

  • 0.2 IP (1 G): 54.00 ERA, 7.50 WHIP, 0.00 BB/9 and 0.00 SO/9

Only 1 appearance with Burlington but was pitching poorly in Idaho Falls as well.

RHP Andrea Pizziconi (19) – 6’2″ 190 lbs – Acquired via June 1st trade

  • 23.2 IP (10 G/2 GS): 6.08 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9 and 6.1 SO/9

I wrote quite a bit about Andrea a couple weeks ago so if you’re interested in more, just click here.

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For more content related to the minor leagues, follow me on Twitter (@thebaseballfish) and check out Seedlings to Stars.

Topics: Abel Gonzalez, Andrea Pizziconi, Andrew Ferguson, Angel Baez, Burlington Royals, Cory Hall, David Middendorf, Eric Cantrell, Kansas City Royals, Malcom Culver, Matt Ridings, Matthew Murray, Nick Graffeo, Robinson Yambati, Rudy Brown, Tyler Graham

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