MINORS: Using Pitcher Age to Find Potential Breakouts

Simeon Woods Richardson (RHP, MIN) 

In my last article, I took a look at how a pitcher’s age at a given level of the minor leagues correlated with major league outcomes (e.g., chance of reaching the majors, overall value, playing time). The findings suggested that age has a fairly strong impact, with younger players having better outcomes across the board, consistent with the previous analysis of batters. I used these findings to identify some cutoffs to keep in mind and help guide decision-making for dynasty managers. The table below shows these cutoffs for both low and high-risk ages.

  Level   Low-Risk Age  High-Risk Age
======== ============== =============
Triple-A  23 or Younger  26 or Older
Double-A  22 or Younger  24 or Older
High-A    20 or Younger  22 or Older
Single-A  19 or Younger  21 or Older

We’re still in the early portion of the minor league season, with individual sample sizes below 50 innings pitched. As such, there is still a ton of variance in pitchers’ season stat lines, making it difficult to comfortably make judgments on players as they acclimate to their assignments. As I did with batters, we can look at a player’s age to help sort through some of the noise. When a young pitcher is given an aggressive assignment, it’s an indication that the MLB organization feels that that pitcher is advanced in some way compared to their peers of the same age. It’s not a foolproof indicator, as even MLB organizations occasionally get it wrong, but it’s more reliable at this point in the season than the traditional stats when evaluating a player. We don’t need to wait for age to stabilize to be confident in it. Like I did with the takeaways from the batter age analysis, we can apply the pitcher analysis findings to this season’s group of young pitchers at every level to find some relatively new names worth highlighting.

Let’s take a look at each pitcher currently at each level of full-season minor league ball who qualifies as low-risk based on age. Stats are presented as of 5/13/23. Age is determined as age on 6/30/23 (roughly mid-season).

Compared to the batters, there are a ton more names here to sort through for each “low-risk” group at each level. For this reason, we’ll take a more discerning eye and look at only those aged 22 or younger at Triple-A, 21 or younger at Double-A, and 19 or younger at High-A and Single-A. All of the players below are at least worthy of close monitoring, but I’ll rely a little more on season stats this time to pick out some of the more interesting names. I’ll also exclude pitchers who are currently pitching more in relief roles.

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Triple-A, 22 or Younger

Name                      Org   Age    IP    ERA    K%    BB%
=======================  =====  ====  ====  =====  ====  =====
Kyle Harrison             SFG    21   21.1   3.47  39.6   22.6  
Taj Bradley               TBR    22   16.0  11.25  16.7   11.5
Simeon Woods Richardson   MIN    22   21.1   7.17  21.6    8.2
Quinn Priester            PIT    22   31.2   5.40  23.9    8.0   
Blake Walston             ARI    22   34.1   2.36  14.8   14.8
Michael McGreevy          STL    22   18.2   2.41   17.1   6.6

Simeon Woods Richardson (RHP, MIN): Woods Richardson has held a decent profile as a pitching prospect throughout his rise to the majors. He’s logged 9.2 Major League innings after making his debut in 2022 and making a few appearances so far this season. He’s had inconsistent results, but has been notably young at every level and has shown decent strikeout/command upside. He’s been a good semi-sleeper target in dynasty leagues and that continues to be the case.

Blake Walston (LHP, ARI): Walston has opened the 2023 season with a Triple-A assignment, earning confidence from the Diamondbacks with a solid Double-A performance. So far, he’s struggled to get the same swing-and-miss he’s had throughout his minor league career and will likely need some extended time to acclimate before making the leap to the majors.


Double-A, 21 or Younger

Name                     Org   Age    IP    ERA    K%    BB%
======================  =====  ====  ====  =====  ====  =====
Cristian Mena            CHW    20   27.2   4.55  39.3    6.0  
AJ Smith-Shawver         ATL    21    7.0   0.00  31.0   10.3
Ricky Tiedemann          TOR    21   12.2   4.97  42.6   13.0
Junior Santos            NYM    21   29.2   6.07  15.4   10.0   
Anthony Molina           TBR    21   25.1   6.04  20.5    8.5
Jaime Melendez           HOU    21    9.2   5.59  18.2   15.9
Joey Estes               OAK    21   25.0   4.68  20.5    9.8
Sem Robberse             TOR    21   32.2   4.96  25.7   10.3
Jared Jones              PIT    21   16.0   2.81  22.4    9.0
Tekoah Roby              TEX    21   29.0   6.83  24.2    6.3
Mick Abel                PHI    21   25.0   5.40  27.4   12.3
Dax Fulton               MIA    21   33.0   5.18  26.4   12.8
Case Williams            COL    21   26.2   8.44  12.2   16.3 
Carlos F. Rodriguez      MIL    21   28.2   1.88  34.5   10.9

Cristian Mena (RHP, CHW): Mena has been a strikeout machine throughout his minors career, and he is continuing that trend into 2023 while also walking very few batters. He actually reached Double-A in 2022 and could very well reach Triple-A as a mere 20-year-old. With continued production like this, there’s a chance he rises through the offseason as one of the top 50 prospects in the game.

Sem Robberse (RHP, TOR): Robberse is another youngster who reached Double-A to finish the 2022 season. While he hasn’t shown quite the strikeout upside that Mena has, his current 25.7 K% looks like a bit of an underperformance given his 14.8% SwK. The BB% has also ticked up, but he should likely finish the season in Triple-A as one of the youngest at the level and could similarly rise up the ranks in short order.

Tekoah Roby (RHP, TEX): Roby is on a quick rise through the minors after making his pro debut at Single-A in 2021. Now in Double-A, he is continuing to build an intriguing strikeout/command resume that rivals some of the best pitching prospects. He has given up plenty of home runs the past two seasons but he has also shown decent GB ability, and has the preciousness and bat-missing stuff to bet on.

Carlos F. Rodriguez (RHP, MIL): Rodriguez has been pushed to Double-A as a 21-year-old and appears to be continuing on a starter development path, signifying a good deal of confidence from a vaunted pitching development org in the Brewers. He is building a terrific resume with great run prevention metrics and strikeout numbers. His home run rates will likely increase with a greater sample size, but there’s definitely cushioning for him to rise up the ranks nonetheless.


High-A, 19 or Younger

Name                Org   Age    IP    ERA    K%    BB%
=================  =====  ====  ====  =====  ====  =====
Caden Dana          LAA    19   14.2   6.75  30.0   10.0  
Victor Lizarraga    SDP    19   20.2   5.66  15.7    5.6  
Mitch Bratt         TEX    19   20.2   3.48  27.0    3.4
Yu-Min Lin          ARI    19   18.0   4.00  34.3    9.0

Caden Dana (RHP, LAA): Dana started the season in Single-A before quickly earning a promotion to High-A thanks to elite strikeout numbers and improved walk rates. His ERA has ballooned at High-A thanks to a big jump in home runs, albeit in a small sample. The Angels are an aggressive organization when promoting their prospects, but Dana has the upside to handle it.

Mitch Bratt (LHP, TEX): Bratt has been great in his first taste of High-A this season, as evidenced by his 23.6 K-BB%. If he can hold this production deep into starts consistently, he’ll be a quick riser. Look for him to get stretched out as the season progresses, as the Rangers appear determined to develop him as a starter.

Yu-Min Lin (LHP, ARI): Lin impressed in his first taste of full-season ball last season, and has continued to show intriguing strikeout stuff this season at High-A. He’s been adept in his limited pro track record at giving up almost no home runs, though the environment in Hillsboro is favorable for that. He’ll likely spend most of the season at High-A as a 19-year-old, but if he can consistently hold his stuff deeper into outings over a full season, he could be a very sneaky riser.


Single-A, 19 or Younger

Name                    Org   Age    IP    ERA    K%    BB%
====================   =====  ====  ====  =====  ====  =====
Leonard Garcia          LAA    19   27.1   5.95  24.2    9.2
Yujanyer Herrera        MIL    19   19.1   4.19  20.5   19.3 
Carlos Marcano          DET    19   18.0   8.00  15.3   17.6
Deivy Cruz              BAL    19   18.2   4.82  30.1   19.3
Gerlemi Maldonado       SFG    19   18.1   5.40  18.8   21.2
Jordy Vargas            COL    19   31.0   4.65  25.6    8.8
Jedixson Paez           BOS    19   11.0   5.73  27.5    5.9
Eliander Alcalde        TOR    19   18.1   3.93  28.9   14.5
Alessandro Ercolani     PIT    19   19.2   5.03  17.6   14.1 
Juan Reynoso            MIA    19   17.1   9.35  23.6   28.1 
Jacob Steinmetz         ARI    19   18.0   3.00  19.7   14.5 
Walbert Urena           LAA    19   22.1   7.66  25.2   16.2
Jarlin Susana           WSN    19   15.2   5.17  27.0   20.3
Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz    BOS    19   17.1   2.60  12.7   15.2
Jacob Miller            MIA    19   27.0   5.00  22.6    9.4
Owen Murphy             ATL    19   17.1   3.12  30.4    8.9
Seth Keller             ATL    19   19.0   0.95  23.2    2.9
Karson Milbrandt        MIA    19   27.0   6.33  22.7   12.6 
Brandon Barriera        TOR    19    7.0   5.14  37.0   14.8
Robby Snelling          SDP    19   26.2   1.35  26.7   10.9
Jackson Ferris          CHC    19    6.0   9.00  39.1    8.7 
Jackson Cox             COL    19    3.0   6.00  15.4    7.7

Leonard Garcia (LHP, LAA): Surprise, surprise: another Angels' prospect joins the list of the youngest prospects at each level. Garcia is backing it up so far though, with decent production under the hood despite his track record of very high ERAs. He needs to learn to keep runners from scoring and keep the ball on the ground more before he gets the call to High-A. Given the org, that’s not out of the question this season.

Jedixson Paez (RHP, BOS): Paez has only pitched 11 innings so far this season, but his DSL and complex-league stats seem to suggest potential for advanced command. If these strikeout/walk numbers hold up over the minor league season, he could rise quickly. Still a ton of variance here, but the Red Sox seem to be bullish.

Seth Keller (RHP, ATL): Still just 18-years-old, Keller opened the season with the Single-A squad and has barely given up any runs, or let anyone on base for that matter (it’s a 0.74 WHIP to be exact). That’s obviously due for some correction, but it’s absolutely noteworthy given his age and the confidence from the Braves, who selected him in the sixth round of last year’s draft. He’ll need to up the whiffs and punchouts to really grow his prospect stock, but there’s tons of potential here.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.