Who Has Been the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ Most Dominant Starter in 2016?

May 13, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; An MLB play ball logo painted on the grass at Citizens Bank Park during a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds. The Philadelphia Phillies won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; An MLB play ball logo painted on the grass at Citizens Bank Park during a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds. The Philadelphia Phillies won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

At the start of the season, I chose the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers as my team to cover in the Brewers’ minor league system. Their stellar pitching staff has made that a worthwhile decision.

Before we start, I wanted to make a few points:

1) I am not claiming which pitcher is the best prospect on the team, but rather who is having the best year simply from what we can see statistically. If you want to know who the most promising prospects are according to real scouts, there are many excellent resources available right here on the internet.

2) The Timber Rattler’s rotation is difficult to get a grasp on, because they rotate in around ten starters, switching them between starting games, and “starting” games via long, planned relief appearances.

Thus, I feel I’m left to somewhat arbitrarily decide what constitutes a “starter” for this team, so I chose some parameters; five official starts and 35+ innings pitched. Let’s look at our qualifiers in no particular order:

David Burkhalter

Jordan Yamamoto

Drake Owenby

Marcos Diplan

Freddy Peralta

Jake Drossner

Miguel Diaz

Jon Perrin

(Now with the High-A Brevard County Manatees)

It’s lucky for the other pitchers that Perrin has graduated, because he was absurdly good for the T-Rats, posting a 47:1 K:BB ratio in 36 innings pitched, with a 1.27 FIP.

So let’s begin with the available starters. It’s important to remember that pretty much every T-Rats pitcher is excelling, so my points of criticism are nit-picking more than anything else.

RHP David Burkhalter | Age: 20 | 6’3″ 190

Of the pitchers that have been with the T-Rats all season, Burkhalter has been given the most true starting opportunities, starting nine games and appearing in 12. He currently owns a 3.56 ERA with a 3.08 FIP. He has modest strikeout numbers (46 in 55 2/3 innings) but just eight walks.

Overall, he’s holding runners to a .247/.282/.405 slash on a .299 BABIP. That OBP is outstanding, but he has been giving up a notable amount of extra-base hits (23).

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His best outing was an eight inning, 81-pitch work of art against the Burlington Bees, when the tall righty struck out six batters, gave up just three hits, and walked none. He could have easily completed the game, if minor league managers cared at all about that (they rightfully do not). Unfortunately, Burkhalter has a 10.45 ERA over his last two starts.

RHP Jordan Yamamoto | Age: 20 | 6’0″ 185

Boy, Yamamoto has been outstanding this season. The Hawaiian has a 2.25 ERA (2.30 FIP) with 53:10 K:BB ratio in 52 innings. He’s also holding opposing hitters to a .229/.271/.302 slash.

Yamamoto has also been on an absolute tear lately, allowing just one earned run over his last five appearances (22 1/3 innings),with 25 strikeouts and three walks, for a sterling 0.40 ERA (1.61 FIP).

His best outing actually came prior to his recent string of success, a seven inning, four hit affair against the Peoria Chiefs when Yamamoto struck out eight and walked none. It also took him just 86 pitches (60 strikes) with 10 groundouts.

LHP Drake Owenby | Age: 22 | 6’2″ 205

Owenby jumped into consideration as the team’s best pitcher of 2016 in his most recent appearance, a five inning relief “start” when the lefty struck out 11 and walked three. He has had inconsistent strikeout totals this season, but that performance brought him to 49 Ks in 48 1/3 innings.

This represents a significant jump in his strikeout rate over Owenby’s tough 2015, as well as a lower walk rate (2.8 BB/9). Overall, Owenby is sitting on an excellent 2.61 ERA (3.44 FIP), while holding opponents to a .237/.292/.355 slash (.299 BABIP).

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We’re dealing with tiny sample sizes here, but it’s interesting to note Owenby’s exaggerated splits between starting and relieving (even if some of his “relief” appearances are five innings). When coming out of the bullpen, Owenby owns a 12.3 K/9 innings. When he starts the game, that number drops to 6.2 K/9.

RHP Marcos Diplan | Age: 19 | 6’0″ 160

Diplan is probably the T-Rat that most embodies the term “unhittable” at this point in the season. He’s holding opponents to a .188/.299/.288 slash line (.288 BABIP), with an excellent 12.1 K/9 innings. Unfortunately, as you may be able to tell from that slash, Diplan allows a lot of runners via the free pass (4.5 BB/9 innings).

And that shouldn’t be too surprising, given the righty’s youth compared to his league. Diplan is currently sitting on a 1.89 ERA (3.03 FIP) over 47 2/3 innings. Perhaps due to Diplan’s small stature and youth, the Timber Rattlers have not allowed him to exceed five innings pitched in a single appearance.

Thus, his best appearance is of the five inning variety, a game in which Diplan struck out eight, walked two, and allowed just one hit. In fact, that start came in a streak of three appearances in April in which Diplan allowed a total of just three hits over 14 innings, with no earned runs allowed, 18 strikeouts, and two walks.

RHP Freddy Peralta | Age: 20 | 5’11” 175

Peralta has been kind of a “Diplan Lite” so far this season. And I don’t mean that as a slight, it’s more that he’s less extreme than his teammate. He has a slightly lower, but still outstanding strikeout rate (11.4 K/9) and a more manageable walk rate (3.3 BB/9).

Similar to Diplan, Peralta has suppressed opponents’ bats, in his case, to the tune of a .213/.290/.335 slash (.299 BABIP). Also like Diplan, Peralta has yet to exceed five innings in a single appearance. Peralta’s best appearance was arguably when he tossed five innings with seven strikeouts, two walks, and just one hit allowed.

He also had a start in which he K’d seven batters in just 3 2/3 innings, but was pulled, likely because his pitch count was already at 70. Peralta owns a 3.32 ERA with a 3.07 FIP.

LHP Jake Drossner | Age: 22 | 6’1″ 189

Of all the Timber Rattlers starters, Drossner has had the worst luck by far. Around 48% of his baserunners have come around to score (average is around 28%) and his BABIP is at .362.

This has left Drossner with a 4.70 ERA despite a healthy 3.69 FIP. His BABIP and his less than ideal walk rates have his opponents slashing .282/.376/.394 against him.

Much like Owenby, Drossner’s numbers are significantly better in his relief appearances. In 12 innings out of the bullpen, Drossner’s K:BB ratio is 17:1 (1.50 ERA), while his ratio as a starter is 24:22 (6.15 ERA).

Drossner’s best appearance was also his longest, when he worked five innings of relief, allowing just one hit, striking out six, and walking none.

RHP Miguel Diaz | Age: 21 | 6’1″ 175

No T-Rats pitcher has avoided the extra-base hit as well as Diaz. Of the 40 hits the young righty has given up, just seven have been of the extra-base variety. Overall, Diaz has held opponents to a .220/.278/.297 slash (.276 BABIP) while striking out nearly a batter per inning (8.9 K/9) and keeping his walks in check (2.7 BB/9).

Diaz’s best outing came on June 3, when he tossed 6 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and striking out eight. After struggling in the latter half of May, Peralta has posted consecutive June starts that amount to 10 1/3 innings with 11 Ks, two walks, and one earned run. His ERA now sits at 3.66, with a 3.29 FIP.

The Verdict:

I really thought this was going to be easier. Diplan certainly has the ERA and the strikeout numbers, but I think in the end, Yamamoto’s sub 2.50 ERA and FIP make him my choice for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ most dominant starter to this point.