Friday, December 21, 2012

Twins Sign Bryan Augenstein: Scouting Report

The Twins have long been known for their love of contact pitchers, that get a lot of ground-balls, don't walk many batters, and don't strikeout many either. The Twins continued this line of thinking this off-season by passing on bringing the volatile Francisco Liraino back, and signing Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia. However, there is a minor league free agent that the club signed, 26 year old right-hander Bryan Augenstein, that doesn't quite fit this mold. Augenstein's background is control pitching, as Baseball America ranked him as the best control pitcher in the Midwest League (A-ball) in 2008 and the best control pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in 2009. He was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 7th round in 2007 and rose high enough that BA ranked him as the 11th best prospect in the system in 2009. He broke into the Majors that year, throwing 17 innings at a replacement level. However, he didn't pitch in the Majors in 2010 and spent most of the year as a starter in Reno, where DIPs really thought he pitched well. He made the Cardinals bullpen in 2011, but was hurt very early in the season and threw more AAA innings than MLB innings (just 5.2) by the end of the year. His 22.2 career innings in the Majors aren't enough to play with numbers, but it does give us some Pitch F/X data.

He has a well below average fastball (much more sinkers than fastballs), averaging under 89 MPH. Classification systems seem to have problems determining whether or not his main breaking pitch is a curve or slider (traditionally, it would be a slider considering his large sinker usage, but Brooks Baseball calls it a curve and it averages just over 77 MPH), but he throws it about a third of the time. He also throws a changeup that is a little harder at almost 80 MPH.

In 2011, he was better than league average as a reliever in the PCL, though his home ballpark played pitcher friendly. He had very large home/road splits as well, struggling across the board on the road with bad strikeout/walk/and homer rates. At home, he was excellent. In 2012, he appeared in 23 games (1 start) with AAA Durham in the International League with the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Even though the Durham park plays about neutral, Augenstein again struggled mightily on the road. Overall, he was very solid, with a FIP over 1 run below league average thanks to a .42 HR/9IP, 8.3 HR/OFB % (10.6 % was league average), and .121 ISO. His GB % was okay, but he relied on his IFFB % more. He has also had massive platoon splits over the last two years, much better against righties than lefties, against whom he has had massive home run problems.

In watching him, he is clearly a deception type pitcher, using a high leg kick while standing straight up before moving his arm-slot down into a traditional sidearm position. He ran the fastball up to 90-92 MPH, but it doesn't have much movement. It did seem to me that he was throwing a separate fastball and sinker (though sometimes it moves more like a 2 seamer). I would definitely call his slider/curve a slider, as it breaks in hard into lefties (and got up to 83 MPH on the Durham Bulls radar gun), more horizontally than vertically (it just doesn't look like anything you would call a curveball). While it is easy to see why he has big platoon splits because of his sidearm delivery, I really thought the hard slider in would help minimize that. His change has a slight late drop, but it is not all that impressive, and was usually sitting at about 78 MPH. Predictably, he is changeup happy to lefties (he threw it a lot against righties too from what I saw), and I just don't think the pitch is as good as the slider.

Of course, I am not saying that this signals any kind of change in the Twins' organization, I was just noting that Augenstein is interesting because he is a little different than the traditional Twins pitcher. While the Twins didn't have much platoon splits in 2012 (equally horrible against both), the bullpen was pretty bad, 21st in fWAR. This will give Augenstein a chance to make the team as a right-handed specialist.

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