At the beginning of the season, we sent three starting pitchers to AA San Antonio whom Baseball America had ranked among our top 30 prospects: Steve Garrison #6, Will Inman #7, and Matt Buschmann #21. All three have lived up to expectations, and another pitcher has forced himself into the group.
Right now four members of the San Antonio rotation rank in the top six in ERA in the Texas League. Will Inman is 2nd (3.00 ERA) , Steve Garrison 3rd (3.09 ERA), Stephen Faris 5th (3.46 ERA), and Matt Buschmann 6th (3.48 ERA). They have combined to pitch 302 innings while yielding 270 hits and striking out 282 batters. What's even more impressive, though, is what they have done in the month of June. Here are the splits:
Inman 2.01 ERA, 22.1 ip, 15 h, 10 bb, 21 k
Garrision 1.44 ERA, 25 ip, 20 h, 4 bb, 28 k
Faris 1.08 ERA, 25 ip, 18 h, 1 bb, 27 k
Buschmann 2.05 ERA, 22 ip, 19 h, 11 bb, 16 k
That's a 1.62 ERA in 94.1 innings. It looks like we have a good race for pitcher of the month.
What is particularly interesting about this foursome is that despite sharing a similar level of success, they are very different pitchers.
Will Inman is a 21-year old right-hander who was drafted out of Tunstall High School in Virginia. Over the course of his career Will has been a strikeout pitcher, posting 454 k's in just 395 innings. Though he doesn't have overwhelming velocity, he combines command, deception, and an excellent curveball to rack up the strikeouts. Furthermore, Will's feel for pitching belies his age, as he has an advanced feel for disrupting the timing and comfort of hitters. Inman had ERA's of 1.91, 1.71, and 1.72 in rookie ball and the two A-ball levels, respectively.
Though Steve Garrison is like Inman in that he's also just 21 years old, was a high school draft (from the Hun School in New Jersey), and came over to the Padres from the Brewers in the Linebrink deal, Garrison is the only left-hander among the four. Unlike Inman, Garrison hasn't been a strikeout pitcher per se during his minor league career, though he strikes out plenty of hitters. Rather, Garrison has a four pitch mix (FB, CB, SL, and CH) that he throws for strikes (has allowed just 2.1 walks per in his career) to keep hitters on the defensive. Very consistent, Garrison has allowed more than three earned runs in a start just twice this season while allowing zero or one run six times.
Stephen Faris is a 23-year old whom the Padres drafted out of Clemson in the 12th round of the 2006 draft. Always a good strikethrower, Stephen made a big jump this year to the Missions. Last year he spent the bulk of the season in low class A Fort Wayne, but Grady Fuson felt he could join the rotation in AA this year. He certainly hasn't disappointed, as his walks and hits allowed have gone down while his strikeouts have jumped. His moving fastball and command have stymied the Texas League so far, especially in June.
The oldest of the group at 24 (and the biggest at 6'3") Matt Buschmann was drafted by the Padres in the 15th round of the 2006 draft out of Vanderbilt. Matt features a sinker/slider combination that helped him post a 2.89 ERA in 149 innings last year as a starter at High-A Lake Elsinore. Though all four of these guys have impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios, Buschmann's is the best at 3.79 for his career.
These guys may all do it a little differently and with different pitches, but they are all very good strikethrowers just like our three young guys in AAA: Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos, and Wade LeBlanc. Hopefully, all four of these guys can continue to challenge each other and eventually make their way here to Petco.