Every week during the minor league season, we highlight and rank some aspect of the game. This week, we look at pitching prospects with the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in April. Are they for real or are they flukes?
Cody Reed, lhp, low Class A Kane County (Diamondbacks) | SO/BB: 22/0
Not to be confused with the Reds lefthander of the same name, this Cody Reed is a big-bodied southpaw drafted in the second round in 2014 from a high school in Alabama. Reed has some deception to his delivery—”I got some messed-up mechanics,” he told the Chicago Tribune—and it works to his advantage. Through 107 innings as a pro, he’s struck out 134 and walked 33. Just 19, Reed has been even better this season in his first foray at full-season ball. Through two starts in low Class A, he’s struck out 22 and walked none, recording back-to-back 11-strikeout games. Reed has a fastball in the 90-91 mph range and a slider with sharp break.
Fluke? Too soon to say. Despite his relative inexperience, Reed has advanced pitchability, but his admittedly funky mechanics possibly make him prone to inconsistent command.
Jameson Taillon, rhp, Triple-A Indianapolis (Pirates) | SO/BB: 23/2
Taillon missed two seasons to Tommy John surgery and then hernia surgery, but he has returned in 2016 with determination to reach the majors. He has shown mid-90s heat and a sharp, downward curveball through four starts. More importantly, he is healthy.
Fluke? No. Taillon has a track record of excellent control. As long as he remains healthy, there’s no reason to believe this run of command is a fluke.
Mitch Keller, rhp, low Class A West Virginia (Pirates) | SO/BB: 28/1
Keller entered the season with the reputation for a hard sinker at 91-93 mph that generated plenty of groundballs. But the 2014 second-rounder struggled with commanding his fastball and walked 7.3 batters per nine innings in 2015. This season, fully healthy after a forearm strain limited him to six starts last season, Keller is showing pinpoint command of his fastball and curve. He has walked one batter and struck out 28.
Fluke? Too soon to say. There’s not enough data on Keller to tell whether his newfound strike-zone command will stick, but health seems to have been a factor in his lack of it a year ago.
Josh Rogers, lhp, high Class A Tampa (Yankees) | SO/BB: 34/3
Selected by the Yankees in the 11th round last June as a draft-eligible sophomore, Rogers appeared ready to return to Louisville, but he ultimately signed for $485,000. The lefthander has average stuff but locates his fastball, slider and changeup well. Recently promoted to high Class A, Rogers in his first start threw 73 of 98 pitches for strikes after filling up the zone at low Class A Charleston.
Fluke? No. Rogers walked 2.3 batters per nine innings in college and his pitchability was one of his best traits leading to the draft. He’s struck out 34 and walked just three so far.
Mike Soroka, rhp, low Class A Rome (Braves) | SO/BB: 29/3
The Canadian righthander, the 28th overall pick a year ago, had an excellent pro debut. But he’s been nigh unhittable in 2016, thanks to an alignment tweak, as J.J. Cooper wrote. Soroka now has a weapon against lefthanders, and he has not lost his ability to pound the zone. He has walked just three while striking out 29 this season.
Fluke? No. Soroka has walked just eight through 61 pro innings and has proven tough to square up, not allowing a home run yet.
Domingo Acevedo, rhp, low Class A Charleston (Yankees) | SO/BB: 37/5
The 6-foot-7 righthander has overpowering stuff, including a fastball that has touched triple digits. The Yankees tasked him, however, with tightening his slider and commanding his stuff overall. So far, so good in 2016. He has walked just five and struck out 37.
Fluke? Too soon to say. Because of his long arms and legs, Acevedo has issues keeping his delivery consistent, leading to command problems.
Angel Duno, rhp, low Class A Beloit (Athletics) | SO/BB: 23/1
The 6-foot Venezuelan righthander signed as an international free agent in December 2011 and spent three years in the Dominican Summer League before getting to the States in 2015. Duno is not overpowering, with a fastball that ranges 88-92 mph but sits 90, with some sink and cut. He does a good job painting to both sides of the plate. His changeup is his best secondary offering right now, and his slider is in development.
Fluke? No. Duno walked just four in 69 innings a year ago and is gaining notice in the organization for his near-perfect command despite fringy stuff.
Max Povse, rhp, high Class A Carolina (Braves) | SO/BB: 23/4
The 6-foot-8 righthander battled an undisclosed injury last season in his first shot at high Class A, so the Braves shut him down in July. Healthy this season, Povse has run his fastball up to 97 mph. His slider has flashed solid-average, and he’s working to make the changeup more consistent.
Fluke? Too soon to say. Povse struggled with command in his abbreviated 2015, but that could have been injury related. Although Povse repeats his delivery well, his lower body mechanics can get out of whack.
Alec Mills, rhp, Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Royals) | SO/BB: 27/3
The former walk-on at Texas-Martin and Tommy John survivor is the Royals’ No. 12 prospect following a season in which he struck out 111 and walked just 14 at high Class A Wilmington. Mills has plus control and spots his four pitches well. He sits 90-92 mph and touches 94 regularly with his fastball, and his changeup is a plus offering with a 12-15 mph separation from his fastball.
Fluke? No. Mills’ control is superb. He has averaged just 1.7 walks per nine innings as a pro. He could be a candidate for a callup this season if the Royals need an emergency starter.
Joan Gregorio, rhp, Double-A Richmond (Giants) | SO/BB: 27/5
The Giants have patiently watched Gregorio develop from a skinny 6-foot-7 and 180 pounds when he signed in March 2010 to a more thick-legged, but still long-limbed, 230 pounds. Now in the rotation at Double-A, Gregorio is rewarding their faith. Through four starts, he has walked just five and struck out 27. He has an above-average four-seam fastball that sits at 93-95 mph out of the bullpen and 92-94 as a starter. He also mixes in a low-90s sinker.
Fluke? Too soon to say. Gregorio’s release point tends to wander, but the Giants cleaned up his pitching motion to the point where his control and command now project as fringe-average.