Relief pitchers in the minors will have a tendency to drop down into categories like “The Watch List.” In no small part because teams will try to use the best arms as starters as long as it seems possible. Thus, the minor-league reliever will eventually face competition from not only his fellow bullpenners, but also from the starters who drop out of contention for the rotation.
That being said, being used in relief in the minors doesn’t necessarily exile a guy to the bullpen forever. Sometimes it’s all part of the development arc. And there are only so many rotation spots available.
Point being, there are a whole slew of potentially interesting arms who could someday pop up and be Danny Farquhar. The competition is heavy, but teams are also usually more willing to give longshot guys a chance in the bullpen (again, Farquhar), so we try to keep an eye on as many potentialities as possible.
So here’s the first pack of pen guys:
Aaron Brooks | 2014 age: 22 | RH
If the name seems familiar, well, there was an NFL quarterback awhile back with the same moniker. This is not the same guy.
This Brooks is a local kid taken in the 28th round in 2012 out of junior college. He’s made his mark with two straight years of 10+ K/9 performances. In 2012, had a remarkable 10 saves in just 18.0 IP. He wasn’t that efficient in 2013, as both his walk rate and HR rate jumped up, which kept him out of the Spec66.
But he’s flashing some interesting stuff in the low minors.
Matt Brazis | 2014 age: 24 | RH
|2012||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-Rk||SEA||2||0||0.65||18||0||15||0||0||7||27.2||11||3||2||1||5||51||0.578||3.6||0.3||1.6||16.6||10.20|
Brazis made a mini-splash in 2012, when he came off an injury-riddled college career and crushed the low minors. I mean … 16.7 K/9 with essentially no walks, hits or runs.
That would be impossible to repeat even if it hadn’t earned him a trip to hitter-haven High Desert. Needless to say, he came back down to Earth.
But that makes two seasons in which we can’t really get a bead on the “true” Brazis. But since guys like Carson Smith have pitched well at High Desert, it’s not a total excuse. Brazis will move back up quickly if he shows more of his dominant 2012 form.
Dylan De Meyer | 2014 age: 21 | RH
How does a guy get on here with a 6.59 ERA and 1.64 WHIP? Well, looks can be deceiving.
De Meyer was victimized by a thousand cuts. Actually, it was 33 singles in 28.2 IP, for a .438 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). If you ignore his misfortune with singles … he was excellent: 30 strikeouts and just 6 walks. But you can’t completely ignore the singles, particularly since they were pretty high in 2012 as well.
Chances are he’ll always be the second-best guy named “Dylan” from South Africa. [Yes, the M’s have two of them (Dylan “Sharkie” Unsworth the other).] But the numbers show De Meyer has upside.
Isliexel Gonzalez | 2014 age: 23 | RH
|2013||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk||SEA||1||1||3.29||15||0||3||0||0||0||27.1||21||15||10||1||18||43||1.427||6.9||0.3||5.9||14.2||2.39|
No, I’m not sure how to pronounce his first name, either.
As you can see, Gonzalez started pitching in his native Venezuela at 17, but it wasn’t until age 20 that he kind of got his act together. That earned him a ticket stateside, where he’s had two interesting, but very different, seasons. In 2012 he had a low ERA and WHIP with a nice but not sky-high strikeout rate. In 2013, the K-rate took a massive leap up (almost doubling to a dazzling 14.2 K/9), but the walks jumped up as well. If he can keep up striking out one of three batters, that inflated WHIP won’t matter much, but, since he’d never shown those kind of results in the past, we’ll have to see how things shake out.
Michaelangelo Guzman | 2014 age: 23 | LH
Ah, we can only imagine the puns if Guzman makes it to The Show. He’s painting the corners! He’s got a high ceiling! And that’s before you get to the Ninja Turtle possibilities.
Anyway, Michaelangelo is a stocky (6-foot-0, 235) lefty from California drafted in the 31st round. He didn’t paint too many corners (25 walks in 26.1 IP), but the K-rate is impressive (one of every three batters) and he didn’t give much up besides the walks (.047 ISO-against).
Most importantly, LH hitters went 3-for-28 facing him. One to watch.
Seon Gi Kim | 2014 age: 22 | RH
|2010||18||2 Teams||2 Lgs||Rk||SEA||6||2||4.90||14||7||0||0||0||0||64.1||77||37||35||3||13||78||1.399||10.8||0.4||1.8||10.9||6.00|
|2011||19||3 Teams||3 Lgs||Rk-A||SEA||2||4||4.53||19||6||2||0||0||2||57.2||61||37||29||2||29||49||1.561||9.5||0.3||4.5||7.6||1.69|
|2012||20||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-A-||SEA||6||4||4.02||16||16||0||0||0||0||80.2||78||42||36||9||32||65||1.364||8.7||1.0||3.6||7.3||2.03|
Kim blasted onto the scene in 2010 with a very strong showing in the Arizona Rookie League (10.9 K/9; 1.8 BB/9). Since then he’s been considerably more erratic. He had one of the very best outings of 2012 (6.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 K), but couldn’t follow up with any consistent success.
In 2013, he was exclusively (other than one spot start) used out of the pen, but it was in High Desert, so the results weren’t too pretty.
The arm is there, but, so far, the performance hasn’t caught up yet. His countryman and frequent teammate Ji-Man Choi has left him in his dust. But you can’t rule out Kim putting it all together one day.
Part 2 to come.