One of the Milwaukee Brewers most promising pitching prospects has been lights out in July.
It has truly been a season to forget for the Brevard County Manatees. So far in 2016, they have scored the fewest runs per game in the Florida State League, and given up the third most. This has all culminated in a 29-61 record, easily the worst in the league. For reference, the next lowest win total in the league is 39.
Ponce joined the team after an extended stint on the disabled list with forearm fatigue, and the organization’s philosophy since his return has been pretty clear. The team has slowly been getting Ponce back up to speed, increasing his inning counts as the season has progressed.
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His starts have lasted two, two, three, three, four, five, six, and six innings, in that order, with the 22 year old improving as the length of his starts has increased.
In three July starts, Ponce has tossed 17 innings with 25 strikeouts, one walk, and one earned run (0.53 ERA, 1.20 FIP). Overall, Ponce is sitting on a 37:4 K:BB ratio, with a 2.90 ERA over 31 innings.
This kind of success is bound to follow a pitcher who, thus far in 2016, has thrown strikes just over 70 percent of the time. The highest percent of strikes thrown by a starting pitcher in the Majors in 2016 is 69 percent. That pitcher is Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, followed closely by Clayton Kershaw.
From many scouting sources, Ponce was in or around the Milwaukee Brewers top 10 prospects for 2016. The tall righty features two pitches that frequently garner plus or above-average ratings, a fastball and a cutter, and two pitches that may need more work, a curveball and a changeup.
Thanks to his size and four-pitch mix, the Milwaukee Brewers continue to see Ponce as a future starter. His performances certainly lean toward a full-time starter as well, with injury concerns being his biggest hurdle going forward.
Ponce has an advanced approach thanks to a successful career at Cal Polytechnic State University, and given his quick acclimation to High-A, he could be bound for Double-A Biloxi before the season ends.
The Milwaukee Brewers have shown confidence in Ponce in the past, elevating him from the Helena Brewers to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers after just two starts in the rookie league in 2015. So far, he is having the best season of his professional career, and he could become one of the fastest rising prospects in the system.
Stats via FanGraphs.com