Future Minor League Callups? Triple-A Starting Pitcher K% Leaders — NL

Yesterday, I listed and discussed the Triple-A starting pitchers atop the strikeout rate leaderboard. Now let’s flip to the NL.

NL K% Leaders
Name Team Age IP 2021 Org Rk K%
Bailey Falter PHI 24 29.2 12 36.2%
Cory Abbott CHC 25 31.1 33.8%
Christopher Sanchez PHI 24 27.1 28 31.6%
Aaron Ashby MIL 23 31.2 30.4%
Yefry Ramirez LAD 27 29.2 29.0%
Kyle Muller ATL 23 31.1 7 28.9%

Bailey Falter recorded two innings in relief in late April, but was optioned back to Triple-A after that outing and has remained there since. Historically, his strikeout rates have hovered in the high teens to low-20% range, while his SwStk% has been anywhere from the mid-to-high single digits to around 10%. Both the strikeout rates and SwStk% marks were unimpressive. But this year, his strikeout rate has skyrocketed and it’s backed by a spike in SwStk%. His velocity has increased, while Eric Longenhagen calls Falter “pretty funky and deceptive“, which might play up even more with the increased velocity. Eric even thought there was a breakout opportunity…back on March 1. Now we see the skills surge and it looks like his crystal ball was on point. As I type this, word on the street is Falter is expected to be recalled for tonight’s (yesterday’s) game and he’ll be deployed as a “follower”. So when you read this, we’ll have some more MLB metrics in the bag to evaluate.

Cory Abbott made a pair of relief appearances with the Cubs recently, but he now finds himself back in the minors. He has actually always posted pretty solid to strong strikeout rates in the minors, with nothing below 26.2% and as high as 31% during his Low-A debut back in 2017. This year, his strikeout rate has jumped to a professional best, supported by an increased SwStk%. His walk rate has taken a bit of a head though as it sits just into double digits. Also worrisome is he has been an extreme fly ball pitcher. That should help suppress his BABIP, but it could also lead to gopheritis. I would be a bit more interested if his SwStk% was a notch higher. Overall, he strikes me as risky given his walk rate and fly ball tendency, as I doubt he’ll carry over a 30%+ strikeout rate in the Majors.

Christopher Sanchez has posted double digit SwStk% at every minor league stop throughout his professional career. This year has been no different as he sports a 13.4% mark. The good news is his strikeout rate has jumped over 30% for the first time. The bad news is his control has been missing, as he has also walked 14% of batters. That’s not good and will make it difficult to have MLB success. However, he’s also an extreme ground ball pitcher. It’s rare you find an extreme groundballer who strikes out so many hitters. So the foundation is there for some intriguing upside, but he’ll need to cut down on those walks. He may never do it, but he’s worth watching to see if he could bring down his walk rate enough to take advantage of that combo of grounders and strikeouts.

After Aaron Ashby’s strikeout rate fell upon his promotion to High-A in 2019, it has fully rebounded at Triple-A this year after skipping Double-A. His strikeout rate has returned to the 30%+ level and it has come with gobs of grounders. There’s one problem — he’s walking far too many batters. This skill set looks almost identical to Sanchez above, which means it’s not yet setup for MLB success. Ashby was recently moved to the bullpen to prepare for an eventual recall to the Brewers, but I can’t imagine that will happen unless he improves his control. Even over four recent relief innings, he walked 20% of the batters he faced! Like Sanchez, this is an intriguing skill set, but only if he could sharpen his control. I’m a sucker for a groundballin’ strikeout pitcher, but he can’t walk a mid-teen rate of hitters and expect to survive in the Majors.

Yefry Ramirez defines “journeyman”, as he’s been in five different organizations since 2015. He’s amassed 89.2 MLB innings, but the skills have been weak and he owns a career 6.32 ERA and 4.88 SIERA. The near 30% strikeout rate this year could be exciting, but it comes with just an 11.4% SwStk%, which is likely close to the league average. So I don’t think that strikeout rate is sustainable and he’s any different a pitcher than historically.

Kyle Muller is the best true prospect on this list, ranking seventh within the Braves organization. With a 70 grade fastball that sits 95-96 and tops out at 98, you have to take his strikeout rate increase and SwStk% spike seriously. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again we find that control has been an issue. This is now the second straight season he has posted a double digit walk rate. As an extreme fly ball pitcher with FB% marks over 40% each minor league stint since Double-A in 2018, he’s at risk of allowing too many multi-run homers. The strikeout rate simply isn’t high enough to offset the control issues and high fly ball rate. I’m not interested here as there’s too much to improve upon.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Hi Mike,
This is really great stuff — the AL pitchers yesterday and the NL/AL hitters last week, were very much appreciated. In my 24 team dynasty, this is one of the few articles highlighting players that were mostly on the F/A wire. Thanks!