Augusta GreenJackets | Starting Rotation
With Martin Agosta, Chris Stratton and Kendry Flores likely receiving promotions to San Jose for the 2014 season, Augusta will need a fresh batch of young pitching talent to fill the starting rotation. Odds are a good chunk of Salem-Keizer's roster from 2013 could move east to Georgia for the new year.
Four starters from Salem-Keizer's 2013 roster had above-average seasons, especially Pat Young and Andrew Leenhouts. While Leenhouts is a 2012 draft pick, Young and Chase Johnson were 2013 picks that essentially bypassed Rookie Ball and jumped straight into the Volcanoes rotation. Young did make two appearance with the AZL Giants, but eventually compiled 25 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to begin his short, eight-start campaign with Salem-Keizer. (Highlights from one of those scoreless starts are on the right) Chase Johnson, like Young, was another 2013 draftee that moved from AZL to Salem-Keizer quickly.
The bookend of Augusta's likely rotation in 2014 could come from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Keury Mella and Luis Ysla, both highly touted young prospects, had success in the AZL. Mella, 20, struck out 41 in 36 innings in 2013 with a 2.25 ERA. At 6'2" and 200 pounds, Mella is a prototypical right-handed power arm that received high marks from scouts at the Arizona Fall Instructional League (video from Jason Cole below).
Drafted out of Cal Poly, Chase Johnson joined another Johnson in the Volcanoes rotation, Chris, and put together seven strong outings in the rotation before allowing 14 runs in his last three starts. He finished 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA but prior to the final three-start struggle, he clung to a 1.44 mark. Chris Johnson, the eldest of Salem-Keizer's 2013 rotation finished his second consecutive season with the Volcanoes and will likely skip Augusta for San Jose, barring any injury setbacks in spring.
Ysla, a 21-year old lefty, didn't lose a game in 12 starts in Arizona. He struck out an average of one batter per inning and kept his ERA below three at 2.65 while also holding hitters to a .204 batting average. Granted the successes of the two, I would guess organizational minds wouldn't have them play another shortened season with Salem-Keizer.
UPDATE: The plethora of talented young arms spanning Arizona rookie ball to Salem-Keizer in 2013 made this a challenging decision, and thus the reason I decided to add a sixth man to the rotation. Because the Giants have been known to operate six-man starting staffs in the lower levels of the minor leagues to give young pitchers more rest, I would not be surprised if Augusta were to incorporate this philosophy in 2014 considering the amount of worthy starters. If that were to be the case, DJ Snelten could find himself in Georgia this year. Snelten was a ninth-round pick last year, making six starts in 14 appearances with the AZL squad and holding opposing hitters to a .208 average and their respective teams to a 1.57 earned run average in 34.1 innings. Snelten played college ball at Minnesota, throwing a one-hitter against Ohio that required only 86 pitches. At six-feet, six-inches tall, Snelten is an imposing lefty, displaying that in Arizona with more than a strikeout per inning.
Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to comment on the 2014 Minor League Roster Predictions page. Discussion is always good.