Future Minor League Callups? Triple-A Starting Pitcher SwStk% Leaders — AL

Over the last two days, I have listed and discussed the Triple-A starting pitchers who appear atop the strikeout rate leaderboards, in both the AL and the NL. You may have noticed I also talked a lot about the pitcher’s SwStk% and how it matched up with his strikeout rate. If there’s a metric I like to follow even more than a pitcher’s minor league strikeout rate, it’s possibly SwStk%. Though this is just anecdotal, it feels like if a pitcher has posted a high strikeout rate, but just a mediocre SwStk% in the minors before his MLB promotion, he more often disappoints in strikeout rate in the Majors, suggesting his SwStk% was the metric that translates better, rather than strikeout rate. With that in mind, let’s check out the AL SwStk% leaders at Triple-A that have pitched the majority of their innings in a starting role.

AL SwStk% Leaders
Name Team Age IP 2021 Org Rk K% SwStr%
Jimmy Lambert CHW 26 21.1 29 38.6% 17.3%
Daniel Lynch KCR 24 25.2 3 25.2% 17.0%
Dietrich Enns TBR 30 23.2 28.3% 15.7%
Dillon Peters LAA 28 22 28.7% 15.6%
Drew Anderson TEX 27 28.1 35.8% 15.4%
Joe Ryan TBR 25 25.2 18 35.6% 15.2%
Peter Solomon HOU 24 26 9 27.4% 15.1%
Drew Strotman TBR 24 29.1 17 25.8% 15.0%

Jimmy Lambert just pitched on the day I was typing the strikeout rate leaders article so at that point, he hadn’t yet met the 20 innings pitched requirement I was using. He now leads all Triple-A pitchers with at least 20 innings in strikeout rate and is tops in SwStk% among starting pitchers. He earned his first taste of MLB action last year, pitching two innings, and then earned a promotion this year at the end of May to start one game of a doubleheader. He allowed three runs in his 3.2 innings and was immediately optioned back to Triple-A. Lambert has posted double digit SwStk% marks at every minor league stint except at Single-A in 2017, so generating whiffs is nothing new. He’s even matched his current SwStk% in 2018 at Double-A, but his strikeout rate has skyrocketed from his typical high 20% marks. The risk here is his walk rate has sat in double digits the last two seasons, while this year he has allowed a fly ball rate well above 40%. Walks and fly balls aren’t a good mix as that’s potentially a lot of multi-run homers. Still, the big SwStk% is intriguing enough to monitor him.

Daniel Lynch had never pitched above High-A heading into the season, but he opened the year at Triple-A and was recalled in early May to make three starts. Those did not go well, as he allowed an absurd 14 runs in eight innings, resulting in his demotion back to the minors. He’s been whifftastic in the minors though, but oddly, all those swings and misses hasn’t led to an elite strikeout rate. Still, that SwStk% spike versus his mediocre marks in previous minor league stints is making him look like a better prospect in my mind than he had. I don’t care how he fared during his first go around with the Royals, so keeper league owners should remain hopeful given the SwStk% surge.

Dietrich Enns is the first of three Rays pitchers on this list, and he’s had a long minor league career that began back in 2012 with the Yankees. In fact, he find’s himself in his fourth organization since 2017. Through 2015, the left-hander had posted strong SwStk% marks, but those disappeared through 2019 and came with weak strikeout rates. This year, his SwStk% has spiked back into the mid-teens, bringing his strikeout rate up to the high 20% range. It’s a massive jump in skill rates, so I’m curious if there have been changes made and how sustainable those changes and the results are. Just another Rays pitcher to keep your eye on!

Like Enns, Dillon Peters hasn’t missed bats in recent years, so even though these results are over a small sample size, they are surprising given the jump in rates. Peters has somehow managed to post a 15.6% SwStk% and 28.7% strikeout rate with a 6.95 ERA, which is difficult to do. You can blame the crazy .429 BABIP and 28.1% HR/FB rate on that. I wonder how much organizations, and the Angels specifically, believe those high luck metric marks are a sign Peters isn’t ready for a promotion, or if they chalk it up to poor fortune and focus more on the strong strikeout/walk rate and SwStk% combination.

Drew Anderson ranked atop the strikeout rate leaders list posted on Monday and is also among the SwStk% leaders. An inflated walk rate might keep him from a recall in the near term.

Joe Ryan ranked just behind Anderson in strikeout rate and also ranks just behind him in SwStk%. He is the second Rays pitcher on this list.

Peter Solomon has been up and down with the Astros bullpen this year but has only pitched two innings. Over his short minor league career, he has posted strong strikeout rates and SwStk% marks, but his control has been an issue this year at Triple-A, as his walk rate stands at 12.8%. He has also been a fly ball pitcher, a risk I highlighted in Lambert’s blurb.

Drew Strotman is the third Rays pitcher on this list, and another whose SwStk% mark suggests a higher strikeout rate than his current 25.8% mark. He has also struggled with his control, posting a 12.9% walk rate, which is completely unacceptable given his 25.8% strikeout rate. I would guess if he could maintain that SwStk%, he’ll start striking out a higher rate of opposing batters, but he’ll need to sharpen that control to have a chance at a recall.

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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Pod, love these future minor league callup articles. When analyzing these pitchers, can you put BB% in the table as well? It would be great to see if they are really dominating with command while simultaneously getting a bunch of swinging strikes and Ks.


Strong agree with ksweber