Szymborski’s MLEs: Five Notable Pitchers

Yesterday, in these electronic pages, I discussed briefly the significance of the offseason to the baseballing enthusiast — namely, as a time both to (a) process the season that was and (b) begin to acquaint oneself with the season that will be.

Over the next four or five months, we will be treated to a surfeit of data: projections (dependable and not so much), roster and depth-chart changes, rumors, etc.

In fact, some of the aforementioned data has already been made available. Almost two weeks ago now, beloved Pole Dan Szymborski released for the public’s consideration the minor league translations (zMLEs) that inform, in part, his ZiPS projection system. Though, as Szymborski shouts at the top of his lungs, the numbers are subject to all manner of caveat, they still provide an interesting point of departure for developing ideas about players come 2011.

Here are five notable pitcher zMLEs, with notations of varying helpfulness. As to what constitutes “notable,” there’s no hard definition, but I’ve generally looked for pitchers with more than 10 starts and have omitted more well-known prospects — like Jeremy Hellickson or Travis Wood, for example.

Ages are as of today, October 28th. FIPs are approximate; pitchers, ordered according to author’s whim. Five hitter zMLEs will appear in this space tomorrow.

Name: Daryl Thompson, 24, RHP
Organization: Cincinnati Level: Double-A
Actual: 51.0 IP, 12/12 GS/G, 9.18 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 0.53 HR/9, 2.63 FIP
zMLE: 46.3 IP, 12/12 GS/G, 7.38 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9, 4.31 FIP
• Was 0-5 with a 3.71 ERA despite those fine peripherals — which, that makes him a good buy-low candidate so far as investing one’s affections goes.
• One thing about him: his groundball rates have tended to be in the mid- or high-30s, which is quite low.
• One other thing about him: he had shoulder surgery last season and pitched less than 30 innings in 2009 as a result.
• Also missed time in 2010 with shouder tightness and the like.
• Is pitching for Peoria in Arizona Fall League as we speak. Literally, right now. Believe me!

Name: Tommy Milone, 23, LHP
Organization: Washington Level: Double-A
Actual: 158.0 IP, 27/27 GS/G, 8.83 K/9, 1.31 BB/9, 0.57 HR/9, 2.57 FIP
zMLE: 151.3 IP, 27/27 GS/G, 6.78 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9, 3.92 FIP
• Is a “soft-tossing lefty,” according to John Sickels.
• Has an “excellent changeup,” also according to John Sickels.
• Will likely someday own Boston-area watering hole and install former pitching coach as bartender.
• Will also marry Mary Steenburgen, probably.
• Actually, just checked: already is married to Mary Steenburgen. My B.

Name: Scott Diamond, 24, LHP
Organization: Atlanta Level: Triple-A
Actual: 56.1 IP, 10/10 GS/G, 5.27 K/9, 2.40 BB/9, 0.32 HR/9, 3.34 FIP
zMLE: 53.0 IP, 10/10 GS/G, 4.59 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, 4.26 FIP
• Also pitched 102.1 IP at Double-A. Produced slightly more Ks, slightly more BBs, slightly higher zFIP.
• Has induced grounders at above a 50% rate in minors.
• Will almost definitely be cause of regrettable headline “Diamond in the Rough” — if he hasn’t been already, I mean.
• Prediction: Will finish career with higher total WAR than Thomas Diamond.
• Hails from Guelph, which is either (a) a Canadian hamlet or (b) a placename in every C.S. Lewis novel.

Name: John Lamb, 20, LHP
Organization: Kansas City Level: High-A
Actual: 74.2 IP, 13/13 GS/G, 10.85 K/9, 1.81 BB/9, 0.12 HR/9, 1.69 FIP
zMLE: 67.3 IP, 13/13 GS/G, 6.68 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 0.40 HR/9, 3.33 FIP
• I’m sure there are even more caveats about Class A pitchers than the two higher levels, but Lamb’s numbers are striking.
• Was ranked ninth-best in Royal organization by our man Marc Hulet prior to season.
• Was ranked 10th by John Sickels prior to 2010 season and fifth after it.
• Finished year with Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, which, it deserves to be noted, is a strange name for a team.
• Another thing that deserves to be noted: Naturals is maybe not quite as strange as “Thunder Chickens,” the name that finished second in an online fan poll.

Name: Bryan Augenstein, 24, RHP
Organization: Arizona St. Louis (courtesy reader WY) Level: Triple-A
Actual: 120.2 IP, 22/22 GS/G 7.53 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, 0.90 HR/9, 3.86 FIP
zMLE: 123.7 IP, 22/22 GS/G, 6.33 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9, 4.62 FIP
• John Sickels (a) calls him a “srike-throwing innings-eater” and (b) is smarter than me.
• That said, he (i.e. Augenstein) featured one of the better translated K/BB differentials in all of the minors.
• He also seems to’ve sustained average-y groundball rates.
• Had a .385 BABIP-against and 58.2% LOB rate, largely because Reno (and the PCL, generally) is a nightmare.
• Studies find that Reno is a nightmare for a number of other reasons.

Groundball rates are courtesy of StatCorner and First Inning.

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