A Minors Obsession

Top minor league ground ball pitchers

While ground balls aren’t the most important thing that a pitcher tends to have control over (that would be his walks and his strikeouts), the rate of ground balls does come into play into the production that a pitcher can put up. They do help limit home runs and power output in general, but they do also go for hits more often than fly balls do.

Still, ground balls are preferable to fly balls. Let’s take a look at who the Top 10 ground ball rate pitchers were among the starting pitchers in the minor leagues this past season. To qualify for this list a player needed to make at least 10 starts in full season baseball or had 5+ starts in rookie ball and 40+ innings pitched.

Player  Level GB Rate
Barrett Astin AA 66%
Jesus Reyes A 64%
Tejay Antone A+/AAA 62%
Wennington Romero AZL/BIL 62%
Jacob Constante A 60%
Gregory Reinoso AZL 57%
Cody Reed AAA/MLB 55%
Jonathon Crawford AZL/A+ 54%
Wendolyn Bautista A/A+ 53%
Amir Garrett AA/AAA 51%

The top two guys in the system were both guys who spent time both starting and relieving this year. Barrett Astin was quite dominant for Pensacola in 2016. He made 11 starts and 26 more relief appearances, spanning 103.1 innings. He walked 25 batters with 96 strikeouts, posting a 2.26 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. His ground ball rate was a very impressive 66% on the year. To put that in perspective, the league leader in Major League Baseball is Marcus Stroman at 60.5%. Astin will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League for Peoria when the season begins in two weeks.

Jesus Reyes posted a 2.40 ERA in Dayton, making 10 starts and 20 relief appearances. He threw 93.2 innings in total, walking 37 and striking out 68. He kept a low ERA throughout the season, but his peripherals improved as the season went along. His high ground ball rate kept the ball in the park, allowing just three home runs all season long.

Tejay Antone really sticks out on this list. He led the organization in innings pitched with 156.1, over 25 starts with Daytona and one spot start to end the season with Louisville. His 62% ground ball rate matched his rate from 2015 as well, as he’s been one of the top ground ball pitchers in the organization since he was drafted. He had a 3.45 ERA with 31 walks and 110 strikeouts to go with an organizational best 14 wins (tied with Tyler Mahle).

Other organizational notes

If you’re interested in some more in depth play-by-play information on the minor leaguers you can read about who hit for the most power to different parts of the field in the 2016 season here. I also dove into who was the best bunter in the organization based on how successful each player was in the organization.

Zach Vincej was named the Minor League Gold Glove winner at shortstop for 2016. The award is only given out to one player per position in the entire minor leagues. His .991 fielding percentage was the highest among shortstops in the minor leagues by a decent margin, with the next closest player at .985 on the season. He made just four errors on the season for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

10 thoughts on “Top minor league ground ball pitchers

  1. Good stuff Doug. I like seeing Reed and Garrett on this list and Reed in particular since it seemed like all he gave up in Cincinnati was very long fly balls. But this is another sign that in the long run he could be very good. On the flip side it’s great to see some unfamiliar names too. Barrett and Astin both sound solid. Is the fact that I haven’t heard much about them an indication that they’re not really promising prospects? Or that there are so many good arms in the Reds system that there are quality pitchers lurking throughout the mid and high minor leagues? Or put another way, does either guy have a shot at contributing for the Reds?

    • “Barrett and Astin both sound solid.”

      Especially when combined into one player!

      • How about Antone and Astin Cossack? Seems like they could handle more innings than Barrett and Astin! Hopefully you knew what I meant…

  2. From the Old Cossack’s perspective, groundball rates are indicative of pitching prowess as opposed to throwing prowess at the minor league level. Dominant SO rates are great, but eventually the bats will catch up with the pure throwers rather than skilled pitchers.

    Astin and Antone join the next tier or wave of pitchers lining up for an opportunity as the current tier/wave of pitchers ages or fails in their bid at the MLB level. Not everyone will be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Those good mid and backend starters are every bit as necessary and useful for success, not to mention the bullpen.

    • Agree about the ground ball rates and pitching vs. throwing skills. It seems like all the highly touted prospects are the hard throwers or the guys with plus breaking pitches, but often the ones that succeed are the pitchers that change speeds, stay low in the zone, and throw strikes away from the middle of the zone (and bats). That’s part of why I’m still encouraged about Reed and pleased to see his name on this list, and also why some of the guys who aren’t as electric with raw “stuff” still hold great promise and give the Reds system some real pitching depth.

  3. That is a pretty nice list. The down side of that list is most are not close to being ML ready. Antone is a really nice and intriguing prospect. Like the Cossack said, Astin and Antone should lead the 3rd next wave of pitchers after Travieso, Romano and Davis in the second wave. But don’t forget Scott Moss who O-Jim brought up yesterday. I hope Moss is on a Saturn V trajectory thru the minors for the Reds next year.

    • Romano had the lowest GB rate of his life this year, but was still at 50%. Major League average is just 47%. Davis and Travieso were at 48% and 46%.

      Scott Moss was at 51%, but decimal places behind Garrett.

  4. Finnigan has given credit for his recent improvement to Mr. Strahley. It seems to me that Strahley should take all the pitchers aside and instruct each of them on his specialty pitch as well. It seems to me the Reds would do well[ to find a guy that has an extraordinary super sinker ball and put him in charge of the pitching staff to instruct them In the use of the sinker as well.

    As far as rehiring Price, I believe he should have learned by now to recognize when a pitcher doesn’t have his stuff and get him out of there before he done more damage than the team can overcome. Obviously , Price has not learned that as yet. If he can’t learn to control his staff then let him go and get someone who can!

    If I were manager, I’d tell my staff that I expect each of them to be available at any time to be ready to pitch. I’d remind my starters that they are major leaguers now and as such they would be allowed a minimum of three runs and they would be out of there. I would start a game with the notion that my guy may not have it on that day and have my second pitcher warmed up and ready as early as the first inning. When I bring in a reliever I would have my next man warmed up and ready in case the first guy failed. Failure would consist of allowing a walk on the first hitter. Major league pitchers should be aware that they need at least one pitch they can throw for a strike when ever they need it, every time they need it. Well I probably need to stop and let this sink in, I hope Mr. Price will read this and get a few ideas, and maybe, just maybe he can stay around a while longer. Wally

    • Wally, your frustration with the handling of the pitching staff is justified and your points about Price’s apparent inability to recogonize when a starter is losing ‘it’ are valid, but your suggested approach to the bullpen will burn out the bullpen by the all star break. Not only are bullpen pitchers limited by the games and innings they pitch, but by the time spent warming up in the bullpen. With a 40 man active roster, such an aggressive approach might work, but not with a 25 man active roster.

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