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The WAR Room: Merritt continues to dominate in Carolina

Merritt keeps putting the pressure on for a callup to Akron

The WAR Room: Merritt continues to dominate in Carolina
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
June 15, 2014
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The WAR Room is back again, bringing you the 2014 advanced stats for every Cleveland minor leaguer. After looking at the hitters last week, today we focus on the pitchers. It is still early enough that there is some noise in the numbers, but at this point in the season, we are starting to see some interesting trends emerge.

Of course, it is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.

But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.

For reference on how I computed WAR, a reminder on the problems inherent in the stats, and everything else you need to know, click here. For a refresher on WAR and what it is, click here.

As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.

Also note that pitchers have FIP-based WAR -- which is based on peripherals like strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc. -- and RA-based WAR -- which is based on runs allowed.

One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.

Today we look at the hitters throughout the system. Next week we will do the pitchers. For the full stats, go ahead and click here. Stats are updated through Friday, June 13.

Columbus Clippers

T.J. House Indians (AAA) 24 41.1 1.1 1.5
Kyle Davies Indians (AAA) 30 50.2 1.1 0.5
Trevor Bauer Indians (AAA) 23 46.0 0.7 2.1
Josh Tomlin Indians (AAA) 29 35.0 0.6 1.6
Travis Banwart Indians (AAA) 28 72.2 0.5 1.7
Brett Brach Indians (AAA) 26 6.2 0.2 -0.4
Gabriel Arias Indians (AAA) 24 22.2 0.2 -0.5
Tyler Cloyd Indians (AAA) 27 72.2 0.2 0.4
Toru Murata Indians (AAA) 29 16.1 0.0 0.0
Zach McAllister Indians (AAA) 26 6.0 -0.1 0.2
Danny Salazar Indians (AAA) 24 12.2 -0.1 -0.3
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AAA) 23 9.2 -0.1 -0.1


Vinnie Pestano Indians (AAA) 29 23.0 0.7 0.6
Mark Lowe Indians (AAA) 31 20.2 0.5 0.2
Kyle Crockett Indians (AAA) 22 8.2 0.2 0.0
Mike Zagurski Indians (AAA)/O 31 23.0 0.2 0.1
C.C. Lee Indians (AAA) 27 10.2 0.2 -0.3
Austin Adams Indians (AAA) 27 28.0 0.1 0.5
Frank Herrmann Indians (AAA) 30 17.0 0.1 0.0
Nick Hagadone Indians (AAA) 28 23.1 0.1 0.0
Scott Barnes Indians (AAA) 26 25.1 0.1 0.3
Elliot Johnson Indians (AAA) 30 0.2 0.0 0.0
Blake Wood Indians (AAA) 28 8.0 -0.1 0.1
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AAA) 25 6.0 -0.2 0.2
Benny Suarez Indians (AAA) 22 1.1 -0.4 -0.4

Vinnie Pestano (Photo: MiLB)For a while it looked like the dominant version of right-hander Vinnie Pestano was gone forever, but the 29-year-old regained that form during his time in Columbus. Pestano is mowing down International League hitters, striking out 33.3 percent of batters (167 K%+) while also limiting his walks (7.5 percent walk rate, 82 BB%+). With a 0.7 FIP-based WAR and 0.6 RA-based WAR in 23.0 innings, Pestano is making a compelling case that he should get another shot in the major league bullpen. Pestano is probably not the closer of the future anymore, but there is a chance he can help in the middle innings.

Another Columbus reliever performing well is right-hander Mark Lowe, who owns a 0.5 FIP-based WAR and 0.2 RA-based WAR in 20.2 innings. Lowe's 3.48 ERA (88 ERA-) is still above-average, but his 2.22 FIP (56 FIP-) suggests the right-hander is pitching exceptionally well. Like Pestano, Lowe is striking out a ton of hitters (34.5 percent strikeout rate, 173 K%+) while walking a decent amount (9.2 percent walk rate, 101 BB%+). Clearly older pitchers like Pestano and Lowe should be doing well in Triple-A, but there is nothing wrong with having strong bullpen depth available.

Right-hander Austin Adams is not pitching as well as Pestano and Lowe, but the 27-year-old is showing positive signs that he is developing. Adams only owns a 0.1 FIP-based WAR in 28.0 innings due to his 3.83 FIP (97 FIP-), but the flamethrowing right-hander actually cut his walk rate down to 6.2 percent (68 BB%+). That focus on limiting his walks has harmed Adams' strikeout ability (20.4 percent strikeout rate, 103 K%+), but we all know the right-hander can ratchet up the strikeouts. Adams' newfound ability to control his walks should help the right-hander grow as a pitcher and be a force in the major leagues in the near future.

After pitching at an above-average rate in Double-A, right-hander Gabriel Arias' first experience in Triple-A has been a bit of a mixed bag. The 24-year-old's 0.2 FIP-based WAR in 22.2 Triple-A innings is solidly average, but Arias' 5.56 ERA (141 ERA-) is dragging down his -0.5 RA-based WAR. Arias is not someone who strikes out a lot of hitters, but he is doing a good job of limiting his walks with the Clippers (4.9 percent walk rate, 54 BB%+). Arias is not dominating in Triple-A, but if his .342 BABIP (114 BABIP+) sinks down a bit, his ERA should follow.

Akron RubberDucks

Will Roberts Indians (AA) 23 75.1 1.4 1.0
Joe Colon Indians (AA) 24 73.2 1.2 2.2
Gabriel Arias Indians (AA) 24 42.2 0.7 0.9
Toru Murata Indians (AA) 29 39.0 0.6 1.2
Duke Von Schamann Indians (AA) 23 52.1 0.5 1.6
Cody Anderson Indians (AA) 23 66.2 0.4 0.6
Shawn Morimando Indians (AA) 21 6.0 0.2 0.5
Matt Packer Indians (AA) 26 9.1 0.1 -0.2
Kyle Davies Indians (AA) 30 29.2 -0.3 0.1


Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AA) 28 29.0 0.6 1.4
Kyle Crockett Indians (AA) 22 15.2 0.4 0.8
Shawn Armstrong Indians (AA) 23 25.1 0.4 0.9
Jordan Cooper Indians (AA) 25 34.0 0.3 0.4
Enosil Tejeda Indians (AA) 25 27.1 0.3 0.7
J.C. Ramirez Indians (AA) 25 7.0 0.1 0.3
Louis Head Indians (AA) 24 3.1 0.1 -0.2
Bryan Price Indians (AA) 27 6.0 0.1 0.1
Giovanni Soto Indians (AA) 23 18.2 0.1 -0.4
Adam Miller Indians (AA) 29 16.2 -0.2 -0.4
Francisco Valera Indians (AA) 24 12.2 -0.4 -0.3

Cody Anderson (Photo: MiLB)The raw results continue to avoid right-hander Cody Anderson, as he currently owns a 0.4 FIP-based WAR and 0.6 RA-based WAR in 66.2 innings. Despite pitching at a below-average level on a raw performance basis, things are more encouraging for Anderson than the raw results would indicate. Anderson's strikeout rate has fallen in 2014 (14.3 percent strikeout rate, 76 K%+), but his 7.3 percent walk rate (86 BB%+) is right in line with his career marks. The right-hander found himself a little more homer-prone in 2014 -- a little surprising in Canal Park -- but the results may not be there for Anderson because he using this season to develop as a pitcher, not dominate the Eastern League.

Right-hander Will Roberts, on the other hand, is pitching at an above-average level in 2014, posting a 1.4 FIP-based WAR in 75.1 innings. Roberts is filling up the strike zone this season and limiting his walks (6.3 percent walk rate, 74 BB%+) en route to a solid season. Like Arias, Roberts does not strike a ton of batters out, but the right-hander has been solid for the RubberDucks this season. The 23-year-old does not stand out as a front-of-the-rotation guy, but he is someone who eats innings, pitches well, and could profile at the back of a major league rotation before too long.

Right-hander Duke von Schamann's 1.6 RA-based WAR in 52.1 Double-A innings paints a better picture of his 2014 season than his 0.5 FIP-based WAR, as the right-hander found more success to date than his peripherals would indicate. von Schamann is another pitcher who looks to pitch-to-contact more than strike batters out, as evidenced in his 15.8 percent strikeout rate (84 K%+). The right-hander also limited his walks, but allowing 1.03 HR/9 (139 HR/9+) in pitcher-friendly Canal Park is really hurting von Schamann. Pitching to contact can work, but von Schamann needs to work on being hit a little less hard and possibly add some more strikeouts to his game going forward.  

After starting the season strong, things have gone south for left-hander Giovanni Soto. Soto's 6.27 ERA (152 ERA-) and -0.4 RA-based WAR in 18.2 innings are not encouraging, but the left-hander's 4.05 FIP (98 FIP-) and 0.1 FIP-based WAR paint a better picture. Things are not likely as bad as the elevated ERA seem to indicate, but Soto is struggling mightily. Though he could have some positive regression coming his way, Soto does need more strikeouts (15.9 percent strikeout rate, 85 K%+) and fewer walks (9.8 percent walk rate, 116 BB%+) to get back on track this season.

Carolina Mudcats

Ryan Merritt Indians (A+) 22 76.0 1.9 3.4
Cole Sulser Indians (A+) 24 65.0 1.2 0.1
D.J. Brown Indians (A+) 23 57.0 0.9 0.4
Michael Peoples Indians (A+) 22 52.0 0.7 0.2
Shawn Morimando Indians (A+) 21 63.0 0.4 0.8
Adam Plutko Indians (A+) 22 21.0 0.2 0.3
Dylan Baker Indians (A+) 22 6.0 0.2 0.5


Louis Head Indians (A+) 24 20.1 0.6 0.6
Elvis Araujo Indians (A+) 22 23.2 0.4 0.0
Josh Martin Indians (A+) 24 31.0 0.3 0.6
Grant Sides Indians (A+) 25 26.2 0.3 0.6
Benny Suarez Indians (A+) 22 28.2 0.1 0.8
Robert Nixon Indians (A+) 25 27.2 0.0 -0.8
Jacob Lee Indians (A+) 24 33.1 -0.2 -0.1
Clayton Cook Indians (A+) 23 13.1 -0.2 -0.6
Carlos Melo Indians (A+) 23 10.2 -0.3 -1.0

Ryan Merritt (Photo: MiLB)With a 1.9 FIP-based WAR and a 3.4 RA-based WAR in 76.0 innings, left-hander Ryan Merritt continues to look like a pitcher in search of a bigger challenge. Though Merritt will likely stay in High-A a little bit longer to gain experience before heading to Akron, the left-hander mastered the command-control style at this level. Merritt is not a big strikeout guy, but a 5.4 percent walk rate (62 BB%+) is allowing the left-hander to find success. Some of that success is helped by a .252 BABIP (83 BABIP+) and 0.24 HR/9 (43 HR/9+), but even some regression on those fronts would leave Merritt with one of the best seasons for a pitcher in the organization.

Though a 4.42 ERA (112 ERA-) and 3.79 FIP (96 FIP-) do not stand out as exceptional, they are good enough for right-hander D.J. Brown to be establishing himself as a starting pitching option. With a 0.9 FIP-based WAR and 0.4 RA-based WAR in 57.0 innings, Brown is pitching steadily for the Mudcats. Though he is not putting up numbers like Merritt, Brown filled in well for Dylan Baker. At the very least, Brown seems to have done enough to stay out of the bullpen -- where he started the year -- and be given the chance to stick in the rotation for the time being.

Left-hander Elvis Araujo's transition to the bullpen is going decently, though his 0.4 FIP-based WAR in 23.2 innings is paired with a replacement-level 0.0 RA-based WAR so far this season. Araujo is doing a good job of striking batters out, posting a 24.3 percent strikeout rate (121 K%+), but there are some issues for the left-hander. One is his 10.7 percent walk rate (124 BB%+), which is taking away a little bit from his strikeouts. The other is that Araujo has not given up a home run yet in 2014, something that is likely not sustainable. Much of Araujo's FIP-based WAR is helped by that lack of home runs, and if a few balls start going over the fence, the left-hander stands to fall toward replacement level overall.

Following so much time off, some rust for right-hander Clayton Cook is to be expected. Cook currently owns a -0.2 FIP-based WAR and a -0.6 RA-based WAR in 13.1 innings, far from the form the right-hander showed pre-injury. But despite the poor results, Cook is actually showing an ability to get the ball over the plate and limit his walks (7.6 percent walk rate, 88 BB%+), a potentially encouraging sign going forward. The 2.03 HR/9 (365 HR/9+) is concerning, but that is something that should get better with time. Just having Cook back on the mound is great to see, and while his stats are not particularly good right now, it is not all bad.

Lake County Captains

Adam Plutko Indians (A) 22 52.2 1.9 0.8
Luis Lugo Indians (A) 20 51.1 1.4 0.4
Robbie Aviles Indians (A) 22 66.2 1.4 2.3
Dace Kime Indians (A) 22 64.0 0.6 -0.3
Jordan Milbrath Indians (A) 22 61.1 0.5 0.7
Mitch Brown Indians (A) 20 59.0 0.4 0.5
Zach McAllister Indians (A) 26 4.1 0.1 0.0


Trevor Frank Indians (A) 23 26.2 0.3 0.6
Kenny Mathews Indians (A) 20 17.2 0.2 0.4
Ben Heller Indians (A) 22 26.2 0.2 0.5
Matthew Whitehouse Indians (A) 23 32.2 0.1 -0.9
Brian Ruiz Indians (A) 21 1.0 0.0 0.0
Cody Ferrell Indians (A) 24 0.2 0.0 -0.1
Luis DeJesus Indians (A) 22 1.2 -0.1 -0.3
Justin Brantley Indians (A) 23 3.1 -0.1 0.1
Kerry Doane Indians (A) 23 16.1 -0.2 -0.4
Wander Beras Indians (A) 25 29.0 -0.2 -0.1
Caleb Hamrick Indians (A) 20 44.1 -0.2 -1.4
Alexis Paredes Indians (A) 22 36.0 -0.3 0.1

Luis Lugo (Photo: MiLB)Left-hander Luis Lugo is a classic example of why judging someone just off of their ERA misses a lot of the story. Lugo's 4.56 ERA (116 ERA-) and 0.4 RA-based WAR in 51.1 innings are not great, but every other stat for Lugo paints a great picture. The 20-year-old is striking out 29.1 percent of batters (144 K%+) and owns a sterling 1.4 FIP-based WAR, meaning Lugo's peripherals paint him as an All-Star as opposed to below-average. Lugo is not stranding runners in 2014 (52.5 percent LOB%, 77 LOB%+), but stranding runners tends to regress to the mean. If Lugo keeps pitching like he has and starts stranding runners, then his ERA will join his peripherals, leaving him clearly as one of the best performers on the Captains this season.

Much was made of right-hander Dace Kime getting his first career professional win, but getting beyond pitcher wins and losses, Kime's season has not actually been that bad. Kime is another pitcher who has not stranded a lot of runners (58.5 LOB%, 86 LOB%+) or had any luck with balls in play (.342 BABIP, 112 BABIP+), but he should find more fortune with those in the future. A 16.8 percent strikeout rate (83 K%+) and 9.1 percent walk rate (102 BB%+) are not ideal for Kime, but putting up a 0.6 FIP-based WAR in 64.0 innings is not that bad, especially considering it is Kime's first full professional season.

The owner of one of the highest strikeout rates in the organization, right-hander Ben Heller looks like someone who could get the call to Carolina. Heller is currently striking out 38.7 percent of batters (192 K%+), which is good enough to balance out his 11.3 percent walk rate (127 BB%+). Heller is helped some by his .225 BABIP (74 BABIP+), but a 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.5 RA-based WAR in 26.2 innings is nothing to sneeze at. That kind of strikeout rate can get a pitcher noticed and right now Heller is making some noise in Lake County.

Left-hander Kenny Mathews has not thrown as much as Heller, but the seventh round pick in 2013 is matching his performance to date. Mathews owns a 0.2 FIP-based WAR and 0.4 RA-based WAR in 17.2 innings, though some of that is thanks to not allowing a home run yet in 2014 and a .255 BABIP (84 BABIP+). In terms of his peripherals, Mathews is league-average in strikeouts and walks -- which is not too extraordinary for a reliever -- but the left-hander is doing well in his first full professional season. Overall, Mathews is having a solid debut season and is another reliever who will be interesting to follow to Carolina.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

June 16, 2014 - 5:29 PM EDT
Jim, I can appreciate your dilemma. I find LC interesting, especially the pitching. I don't think Mathews will continue as a RP but will go starter/alternate after all-star break. It looks to me like they are saving his innings for the 2nd half. I don't know about the rest of the posters but I don't really watch either pitching or hitting stats at A/A+ when RPs pitch. Most RPs at low full season are really insignificant when it come to effective ML prospects.
June 16, 2014 - 11:20 AM EDT
Love all the work on this piece! Thanks Jim!
Jim Piascik
June 16, 2014 - 7:44 AM EDT
I'm with you on Aviles moving up. I just wrote about him the last time and wanted to mix it up. :) I'm pretty sure Brown was in that update too. It's no fun to just do the same four people each time.
June 15, 2014 - 11:32 PM EDT
Jim, I think you might be missing what the LC stats are telling you. The performance and natural progression should be in favor of Aviles moving up to Carolina. Lugo and Heller could each be added but it is Aviles after the all-star game likely to be first.
The pitcher you should be watching is the breakout of Mitch Brown. Both he and Lugo have ceiling that may well be in the majors.

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