Top 5 FIP Series: Class A Advanced-Lakeland Flying Tigers
As I've explained in my previous two articles, FIP stands for "Fielding Independent Pitching", and BABIP stands for "Batting Average on Balls In Play". Both of those are linked to their respective Fangraphs explanation pages, if you need further defining. It's important to have at least a basic understanding of both, as you'll be completely lost on these articles if you do not.
Class Advanced A-Lakeland Flying Tigers:
Compared to Erie, Lakeland was a magical place that sprouted prospects. Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, Bruce Rondon, Jacob Turner, and Drew Verhagen passed through Lakeland this season. High A ball had some successful pitchers this season, especially relievers, especially in terms of in terms of FIP. For instance, Lakeland sported almost 10 other pitchers who would have qualified for the AA portion of this series. Pretty awesome.
The Top 5:
5) Victor Larez-
If it seems like Larez has been in the organization forever, it’s because he has. Victor signed at 19 years old, in 2006 with the Marlins, then came over to the Tigers that same year. There really isn’t much to say about Larez other than the fact that he’s an organizational arm who had a good year in the system. He posted a 1.72 ERA over 68 relief innings spanning 35 appearances. His 3.21 FIP was almost a run and a half higher than his ERA, due to the fact that he only surrendered 2 HR the entire season. Also, Larez only gave up 48 hits in those 68 innings, which states that he’s probably mastered A+ ball.
4) Ryan Woolley-
Drafted by the Tigers in the 13th round of the 2011 draft, the 6’1 right hander has pitched at 4 different levels in the organization. As a 24 year old in high A ball, his numbers become a bit less impressive, however, a 2.97 FIP is nothing to scoff at. In 55.2 IP, Woolley allowed 49 hits, and had a 7.6 K/9 IP, while walking 4.04/9 IP. At first glance, Ryan seems like an organizational arm, and will probably start next year at Lakeland again. Reading reports however, Wooley works in the low 90’s, touching the mid 90’s at times, and also sports a changeup and curveball. Like I’ve said before, relievers are fungible, and if one of them figures something out, especially in their mid 20’s, it’s entirely possible for them to make an impact at the major league level.
3) Tyler White-
A 20th round pick in 2010, White fell on some extremely hard luck this season. Let me introduce a new stat: LOB%. It can be found here at Fangraphs. This statistic shows how many runners a pitcher strands on base in a given season. If someone strands a lot of runners (80%+), it’s very likely that they will come down to the league median (72%), and more runners will score against them in the future. However, in White’s case, he left only 57.3% of runners on base this season, 15%(!!) below the league average. This statistic can leave a huge difference between FIP and ERA. In this instance, Tyler White’s 5.37 ERA is in no way indicative of his success this season. Every other peripheral statistic besides runs scored on White looked excellent this year. In 55 innings, White struck out 2.5 more batters than he walked (66/25), including 10.73 strikeouts per 9 innings. He only surrendered 1 home run as well, so it’s not like he got unlucky there. White is the perfect candidate for a huge bounce back next year, his 2.89 FIP and excellent peripherals paint the picture of an unlucky guy.
2) Bruce Rondon-
Bruce throws fast. Very fast. He’s not a match for A+ hitters, let alone AA, nor even AAA. There is an excellent scouting report on Rondon by our own Brian Sakowski found here if you'd like to read further about Rondon specifically. He’s projected to be the 2013 closer, yet I believe the Tigers will sign and/or trade for a back end reliever as a fall back option. Rondon’s Lakeland numbers, however, were astonishing, He surrendered only 12 hits in 23 innings, striking out 34, and walking only 10. His K/BB ratio was over 3/1, and he continued his dominance on the upper levels as well. The big right hander posted a 1.93 ERA and 2.26 FIP at Lakeland in 2012, however, this is one case where I don’t think his numbers at high A ball matter much. He will be facing far more advanced hitters next season, and hopefully for Tigers fans, can throw the ball over the plate. If he does, watch out people.
1) Tyler Clark-
An interesting name that has forced himself into the relief pitcher of the future discussion by virtue of putting up some awesome numbers, especially in 2012. In 42.2 innings, Clark allowed just 19 hits, while maintaining almost a 4/1 K/BB ratio. Clark struck out 12.45/9 innings in A+, Bruce Rondonian numbers. His miniscule 1.93 FIP was only out done by his 0.63 ERA, allowing only 3 runs in those 42+ IP. It’s clear that Clark, 23, was no match for Florida State League hitters. However, after dominating most of the season, Clark was moved up to AA ball, and surrendered 6 runs in only 7 innings. After that, he allowed another 9 runs in 8 Arizona fall league innings. This tells me that Clark still has a long way to go in order to achieve success at the big league level. I’d guess he’ll start at AA next season, and am curious to see how he bounces back from the first failure of his career.