Pitching Prospects By WHIP


A few weeks ago I took a look at some of the Cubs’ first base prospects, and attempted to evaluate them based on their OPS by normalizing each of their OPS against their league, and then normalizing that by their age compared to the rest of their league. I’m not going to break down that math again, but feel free to jump back and reread that article. I am going to apply that same sort of thinking to some of the Cubs’ pitching prospects.

Instead of OPS, I will be basing this evaluation on WHIP. Other than that, the procedure is basically the same as last time. I normalized each individual’s WHIP against their league average (or averages), then factored in their relevant ages to get a final ranking.

I also ranked 20 pitchers, instead of four. The results are interesting and, I think, encouraging.

Before I show the numbers, let’s take a quick look at WHIP. WHIP stands for Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched. WHIP measures the frequency at which runners reach base against a pitcher. While I certainly could have used ERA or some other pitching stat here, I went with WHIP because I wanted one that should be relevant for both starters and relievers and that would be largely independent of team defense. I also wanted a measure that was relatively easy to understand, and WHIP is a fairly standard stat.

All stats came from Baseball Reference.

I’m not going to walk through the calculation step by step this time.  Instead, I’m jumping straight to the good part: the results.  The list below shows twenty Cub pitching prospects ranked by their league and age adjusted WHIP scores.  A score of 1.00 means their WHIP is about what it should be for a pitcher in that league at that age.  Higher scores are better. This should not be considered a Top Pitching Prospects list since I am not taking into account how good any of their individual pitches are, nor what their ceiling is, nor how their mechanics look, nor anything of that nature. This is simply a comparison of how the Cubs pitchers are doing this season, which in turn gives a pretty good indicator of how each of these pitchers are measuring up against each other today and who we should be watching for tomorrow.

Robert Whitenack1.82
Casey Coleman1.49
Austin Kirk1.33
Luis Liria1.31
Yao-Lin Wang1.24

Brian Smith1.22
Benjamin Wells1.21
Chris Rusin1.20
Hunter Ackerman1.16
Aaron Kurcz1.16

Eric Jokisch1.16
Nicholas Struck1.13
Willengton Cruz1.11
Rafael Dolis1.09
Zach Rosscup1.09

Robert Coello1.06
Graham Hicks1.02
Alberto Cabrera0.97
Jeffrey Lorick0.95
Brooks Raley0.95

As I’m sure you noticed, two of the Cubs top pitching prospects are not included in this. Trey McNutt and Hayden Simpson have had tough years thanks to a variety of physical injuries and illnesses. I could have added them, but their numbers would have been meaningless. Robert Whitenack is on the list despite missing most of the season for elbow surgery. Hopefully when he recovers he has the same stuff that let him dominate this season.

I spread my choices for this list out across all levels of the minors, and the lower levels are very well represented. This is another indication that the Cubs are on the right track, and that their future does look brighter. Guys like Brian Smith and Luis Liria are in the lowest levels of the minors, and are already pitching well.

But what about next season? Is there any help for 2012 on this list?

Actually, yes. And it isn’t who I expected. Alberto Cabrera and Rafael Dolis are probably the highest regarded prospects in the upper levels of the minors who appear on this list, but neither one is really standing out at all. Nick Struck has surged from Daytona to Iowa this season and still holds a fairly healthy rating despite that rapid escalation, but I don’t know that he’ll be ready to move to Chicago next season.

Chris Rusin, on the other hand, has pitched in both Tennessee and Iowa this season, and he has been consistently good at both stops. If you are looking for a dark horse candidate to sneak into the Cubs’ rotation in the spring, Rusin is your guy. We shouldn’t be forgetting about Casey Coleman, either. He is quietly having a very good season in Iowa, and he is only 23.