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How Long Should Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs Stay in the Minors? | September

RHP Trevor Bauer and LHP Tyler Skaggs are two of the Diamondbacks' Top 4 Minor League prospects, along with righthanders Jarrod Parker and Archie Bradley. There had been some discussion of Bauer getting a September call-up and possibly making the Diamondbacks' playoff roster. But the long playoff run of the AA Mobile Bay Bears, along with some struggles by Bauer in his last two starts, probably means that he will not be called up this season. If he had, he would have been one of the rare players who went from the June draft to the Major Leagues in the same season.

But what about the 2012 season? Will Bauer be ready for to compete for a rotation spot next spring? As we will see below, that would still make him one of the fastest risers in all of baseball. Another potential option for the 2012 rotation is Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs has rocketed through the High A California League and the AA Southern League, striking out 198 batters in 158 IP (11.3K/9). Many feel that he too is ready for the Majors.  After the break, let's take a look at how many starts these two have made in the Minors, and compare that with the minor league service of currently successful Major League pitchers.

Let's start with the number of starts each pitcher has made in the Minors so far, and separate out the number made at the AA and AAA levels. The table below shows the numbers for Bauer, Skaggs, along with Jarrod Parker.

Pitcher School MiL Starts AAA Starts AA Starts ML Debut Age
Trevor Bauer College 7 0 4 21?
Tyler Skaggs HS 47 0 10 20?
Jarrod Parker HS 70 0 42 22?

As you can see, both Bauer and Skaggs are still fairly inexperienced, especially at the upper minors levels. Bauer has only made 7 starts in his entire Minor League career, and only 4 in AA and none in AAA. Skaggs has a higher total with 47, but only 10 of those have been in AA, and again, none at AAA. Both Bauer and Skaggs have also made postseason starts with AA Mobile this year. Parker has made a lot of AA starts, but he is almost starting over this season after missing 2011 with Tommy John surgery.

How do these numbers compare with current successful Major League starters? The table below shows the same numbers for 16 of the top starters currently in the Majors, sorted by fewest Minor League starts.

Pitcher School MiL Starts AAA Starts AA Starts ML Debut Age
Stephen Strasburg College 11 6 5 21
Tim Lincecum College 13 5 0 23
Justin Verlander College 20 0 7 22
David Price College 27 12 9 22
Jered Weaver College 28 11 8 23
Cole Hamels HS 36 3 3 22
Ian Kennedy College 43 22 9 22
Clayton Kershaw HS 44 0 16 21
Felix Hernandez IFA 48 14 10 19
C.C. Sabathia HS 51 1 19 20
Daniel Hudson College 57 22 9 22
Johnny Cueto IFA 65 8 10 22
Dan Haren College 73 29 8 23
Matt Cain HS 75 26 15 21
Ricky Romero College 81 8 52 24
Jon Lester HS 98 25 27 22

Among this group, Strasburg made the fewest starts in the Minors with only 11, although all of them were in the upper levels. If Bauer does join the Major League rotation in 2012, he will have less minor league experience than every successful starter in the Majors. Not surprisingly, the fastest risers were all college pitchers, like Bauer. The only one who skipped AAA entirely was Justin Verlander. But even very advanced college pitchers like David Price and Jered Weaver made 27 or 28 starts in the Minors before coming up to the Majors for good. Not shown on the above list is the Reds' Mike Leake, who made the Majors in his first Spring Training, before ever pitching in the Minors.

For a high school pitcher like Tyler Skaggs, the fastest risers were fellow lefthanders Hamels and Kershaw. Both made around 40-50 starts in the Minors, with very few at the upper levels.  Could Skaggs follow the same path as those two? Possibly, but I'm not sure if his performance and stuff is as good as Hamels and Kershaw. Hamels had a career ERA of 1.43 in the Minors, with a WHIP of 0.950 and 12.4K/9. Kershaw's Minor League ERA was 2.49, with 11.3K/9. Skaggs' numbers are a little worse, with a career ERA of 3.04 and a career strikeout rate of 10.6K/9, although that has gone up to 11.3 this year.  One fast riser not on the list above is the Athletics' (and former D'Back) Brett Anderson. Anderson also made only 42 Minor League starts, with only 6 in AA and 0 in AAA. His career ERA in the Minors was 3.38, with a strikeout rate of 9.6K/9, putting both numbers a little behind Skaggs. 

It is interesting that the best pitchers that the Diamondbacks have had in recent years, Kennedy, Hudson, and Dan Haren, all made quite a few starts at the AAA level (although not in the Arizona system).

Some other pitchers to compare to are the current highly-rated prospects in the Minor Leagues. The table below shows the Minor League starts for that group: 

Pitcher School MiL Starts AAA Starts AA Starts ML Debut Age
Drew Pomeranz College 20 0 5 22
Jacob Turner HS 43 3 17 20
Shelby Miller HS 51 0 16 21?
Manny Banuelos IFA 64 7 23 21?
Julio Teheran IFA 68 24 7 20
Mike Montgomery HS 77 27 13 22?
Martin Perez IFA 83 10 44 21?
Matt Moore HS 94 9 18 22

Drew Pomeranz, just acquired by the Rockies in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, has also been on the fast track to the Majors, just making his first start last week. But one reason his Minor League totals are a little low are because he missed time with an appendectomy earlier this year. Meanwhile, Matt Moore, considered to be the top pitcher in the Minors this year, has been brought along very slowly by the Tampa Rays.

The Diamondbacks have been fairly agressive in promoting their top prospects over the last few years. We have seen Barry Enright, Ryan Cook, and Paul Goldschmidt all make the jump from AA to the Majors. Unfortunately for Enright and Cook, they soon found themselves back in AAA. Will the D'Backs also let Bauer and Skaggs make the jump next year? We'll see, but if they do, these pitchers will be moving into some pretty exclusive territory. Bauer would have spent less time in the Minors than Strasburg, Lincecum, and Verlander. If Skaggs makes next year's rotation, he would have risen in a similar fashion to Hamels and Kershaw. If it was my choice, I would prefer to let both start next year in AAA and get a little more experience before getting the call to the Majors.