Pitchers condense their work into short bursts. A minor league starter will face 20 or more batters in one outing, providing repetitions that it would take a position player five-to-seven games to accumulate. For that reason, one particularly good start by a pitching prospect carries a fair amount of weight. String together three or four such starts and a pitcher may be on to something.
Here we present the top 10 single-start pitching performances, as measured by game score (Wikipedia explanation), at each classification of the minors in April. (In case you're wondering, the top major league game score thus far is a tie (96) between Phil Humber's April 21 perfect game against the Mariners and Matt Cain's April 13 one-hitter—with 11 whiffs—against the Pirates.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES IN TRIPLE-A IN APRIL
|3||Chris Rusin||CHC||Iowa||Pacific Coast||4/22||8||2||0||0||4||0||82|
|Tyler Cloyd||PHI||Lehigh Valley||International||4/5||6||0||0||0||8||0||80|
|6||Christian Friedrich||COL||Colo. Springs||Pacific Coast||4/10||7.1||2||0||0||6||1||80|
|7||Brian Burres||SF||Fresno||Pacific Coast||4/21||7||1||0||0||5||1||79|
• The Yankees recently called up D.J. Mitchell to work in a bullpen role, and Pirates lefty Justin Wilson could receive a similar call from the Pirates this season if he can carry forward the control he showed in his last start, a combined no-hitter against Durham.
• Though he delivered seven strong innings in his lone home start in Colorado Springs, Rockies lefty Christian Friedrich turned in his gem above on the road in Tacoma.
• Major league veteran Jeff Francis is the only pitcher who appears on a chart in this blog post who allowed a home run in his exemplary start.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES IN DOUBLE-A IN APRIL
|7||Jake Odorizzi||KC||NW Arkansas||Texas||4/23||7||4||0||0||11||1||79|
|Brett Oberholtzer||HOU||Corpus Christi||Texas||4/20||7||3||0||0||8||0||79|
|10||Steve Hirschfeld||MIN||New Britain||Eastern||4/18||7||3||0||0||7||0||78|
• As if leading the minors in strikeouts last season weren't enough, Rockies lefty Edwar Cabrera continues to gain prospect momentum as the only pitcher to notch more than one of the top starts (as measured by game score) at his classification. Through five starts, he sports a 1.64 ERA and 29-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
• Brewers righthander Tyler Thornburg retired the first 22 batters prior to allowing a single to the second batter he faced in the eighth inning of his April 16 start.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES IN HIGH CLASS A IN APRIL
|1||Burch Smith||SD||Lake Elsinore||California||4/28||7.2||1||1||1||13||2||85|
|2||Hiram Burgos||MIL||Brevard Cty.||Florida State||4/24||8||1||1||1||9||1||84|
|3||Andres Santiago||LAD||R. Cucamonga||California||4/29||6.2||2||0||0||11||0||82|
|4||Nick Maronde||LAA||Inland Empire||California||4/27||7||3||0||0||12||2||81|
|Jimmy Nelson||MIL||Brevard Cty.||Florida State||4/16||7||2||0||0||7||0||80|
|8||Anthony Fernandez||SEA||High Desert||California||4/26||7||2||0||0||7||1||79|
• Padres righthander Burch Smith carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his start before surrendering a double to that inning's leadoff batter. The 22-year-old Oklahoma product signed for a well-above-slot $250,000 and skipped low Class A entirely on his way to the California League.
• Despite allowing only one run in eight innings of his April 24 start, Brewers righty Hiram Burgos found himself on the losing end of a 1-0 decision as Clearwater defeated Brevard County. Burgos is the only pitcher here to be charged with a loss in his strong performance.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES IN LOW CLASS A IN APRIL
|1||Vianney Mayo||COL||Asheville||South Atlantic||4/16||9||3||0||0||9||0||90|
|4||Nick Tropeano||HOU||Lexington||South Atlantic||4/19||8||4||0||0||9||2||81|
|5||Jeff Shields||ARI||South Bend||Midwest||4/12||7||2||0||0||7||0||80|
|Domingo Tapia||NYM||Savannah||South Atlantic||4/14||7||3||0||0||8||0||79|
|8||Luis Cruz||HOU||Lexington||South Atlantic||4/27||7||2||0||0||6||1||78|
|Jose Fernandez||MIA||Greensboro||South Atlantic||4/24||6||0||0||0||8||2||78|
• Rockies pitchers turned in the top starts in both Double-A (Edwar Cabrera) and low Class A (Vianney Mayo), while also placing Christian Friedrich on the Triple-A list and Christian Bergman on the high Class A one. As to Mayo, the 22-year-old Venezuelan righthander sits 90-94 mph and relies on changeup as his second pitch.
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