The latest installment of this feature on minor league pitchers includes three right-handers on the "hot" side that are still fairly new to their organizations and another impressive low-level prospect in the Giants' organization.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Season stats: 3.33 ERA, 124.1 IP, 101 H, 40 BB, 124 K
The Rays' offseason trade with the Royals has already paid dividends with outfielder Wil Myers putting up impressive numbers as a rookie (.813 OPS, nine HR in 56 games). And there's more to be excited about with Jake Odorizzi's Triple-A performance in his first season with the organization.
If his last three Triple-A starts are any indication, the 23-year-old Odorizzi—who was acquired from Kansas City along with Myers, lefty Mike Montgomery and first baseman Jake Leonard for James Shields and Wade Davis—is ready for the next challenge.
After a brilliant start on Saturday (8 IP, 0 R, 3 H, BB, 11 K), Odorizzi has allowed just one earned run over his last 20 innings pitched with 10 hits and three walks allowed to go along with 22 strikeouts.
With news that the struggling Jeremy Hellickson was optioned to the minors today, Odorizzi's chances of joining the rotation in September have increased. But with Matt Moore due back from the disabled list next week, it's no certainty unless the Rays plan on moving another struggling starter, Roberto Hernandez, out of the rotation next.
Kevin Munson, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Season stats: 4.27 ERA, 52.2 IP, 42 H, 22 BB, 64 K (AAA/AA)
Munson's future in the Arizona bullpen is highly dependent on his ability to cut down on walks, which he didn't do in 2011 (41 BB in 53.2 IP with High-A Visalia). While he was able to meet the challenge the next season in Double-A (27 BB in 53 IP), while maintaining a strong strikeout rate (10.9 K/9), he was catching too much of the plate. As a result, he finished the season with a 6.28 ERA.
The 24-year-old continues to make adjustments in 2013, bouncing back with a strong stint with Double-A Mobile (3.41 ERA, 31.2 IP, 17 H, 15 BB, 39 K, 13 Sv) that carried over after a promotion to Triple-A (2.70 ERA, 4 BB, 21 K in first 16.2 IP). But he's officially hit a wall, allowing eight earned runs on eight hits over his last 4.1 IP.
Lisalverto Bonilla, RP, Texas Rangers
Season stats: 4.92 ERA, 71.1 IP, 67 H, 31 BB, 104 K (AAA/AA)
Acquired from the Phillies in the offseason deal for Michael Young, Bonilla's career with Texas was off to a disastrous start when he posted a 7.95 ERA in 43 innings for Triple-A Round Rock. A demotion to Double-A, however, might have been just what the doctor ordered.
The 23-year-old is back on track with an 0.32 ERA over 28.1 innings with only seven walks and 48 strikeouts. In a two-inning scoreless stint on Monday, he allowed just one hit while striking out six hitters. Bonilla had already experienced success at this level in 2012, but it's probably a good thing for his new organization to see it firsthand.
Anthony Ferrara, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Season stats: 5.67 ERA, 93.2 IP, 90 H, 49 BB, 80 K (AA)
Two lefty starters, Tyler Lyons and John Gast, with back-of-the-rotation tags have risen to the majors this season to make starts for the Cardinals. After consecutive strong seasons (3.03 ERA in Low-A in 2011, 3.58 ERA in High-A in 2012), Anthony Ferrara was doing a good job of putting himself on a similar path.
But he's fallen off that path this season, as he's struggled badly against Double-A hitters. The 23-year-old had a decent start to the season (3.00 ERA in 18 IP), but his ERA is close to 6.00 after getting knocked around in his last two starts (7.1 IP, 9 ER, 13 H, 7 BB, 5 K).
Overall, he's holding lefty hitters to a .205 batting average, so he still has a chance to move up the ladder as a lefty relief specialist if he's not able to get his starting career back on track.
C.J. Edwards, SP, Chicago Cubs
Season stats: 1.77 ERA, 112 IP, 71 H, 40 BB, 150 K (A+/A)
Edwards made this list just after being moved by the Rangers to the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade last month. A new organization and a higher level—he had been pitching with Low-A Hickory before the trade—hasn't slowed the 21-year-old right-hander down one bit.
In five starts with High-A Daytona, Edwards has allowed runs in just one game. And even that game was impressive. He allowed three earned runs in 3.2 innings and walked four, but he struck out eight hitters. In his other four starts, he's pitched 15 scoreless innings with only seven hits and two walks allowed while striking out 20 hitters.
Expect Edwards to rank somewhere in the organization's top 10 in most offseason farm system rankings, possibly ahead of all other Cubs pitchers and just behind the "big four" position player prospects (Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler).
Frank Garces, SP, San Diego Padres
Season stats: 5.28 ERA, 117.2 IP, 124 H, 53 BB, 125 K
The 23-year-old lefty was holding up just fine in his first season in the hitter-friendly California League. But August has been a different story, as Garces hasn't been able to string together back-to-back strong starts.
He allowed eight earned runs on seven hits and eight walks in 3.1 innings on August 1st. After bouncing back in his next start, he struggled badly again when he was knocked out of his August 13th start in the second innings after allowing five earned runs on five hits. His ERA is well over 5.00 after he allowed five earned runs in 4.2 innings in his start over the weekend.
Fortunately for Garces, he's done enough to warrant a promotion to the next level in 2014, so his Cal League days are very likely coming to an end.
Kendry Flores, SP, San Francisco Giants
Season stats: 2.65 ERA, 135.2 IP, 109 H, 17 BB, 134 K
A very weak Giants farm system appears to be on the rise behind a solid group of A-ball pitchers, led by top prospects Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton. Several others are entering the spotlight with strong seasons, however, and Kendry Flores is amongst those that have jumped to the forefront.
If he hadn't made a statement with his performance over the past two months (47.2 IP, 10 ER, 4 BB, 47 K from June 20th through August 14th), then he certainly did in his last start on August 21st. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed one earned run and six hits over eight innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out 15 hitters. Over his past 12 starts, Flores has walked just five hitters and struck out 90.
Amir Garrett, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Season stats: 5.15 ERA, 57.2 IP, 62 H, 26 BB, 32 K (A/Rk)
The 6'5" lefty made his pro debut for the Reds in 2012, allowing nine earned runs in 20 innings between two rookie levels. He spent his offseason playing college basketball for St. John's University, where he averaged 5.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. So he can be cut some slack if it takes him a while to develop.
While he has big-time potential, he's nowhere close to that as of yet, and it showed when he allowed eight runs and 10 hits in 3.1 innings on Monday. He has 16 walks and only 15 strikeouts in 34 innings since a promotion to Low-A Dayton.