Easley, Buchanan Lead Strong-Armed Pack Bushmen

Pssst, it's Josh, not John. - USA TODAY Sports

Bushmen = minor leaguers. Bush leagues. See? OK, maybe that was a stretch. Anyway. These guys are good.

It's time for an update on how the recent Pack draftees and the former Pack hurlers closest to the majors are performing down in the bush.

The Marlins may have gotten a steal in Josh Easley. Easley lasted until the 22nd round but is pitching like a future Big League bullpen anchor. In 13 games spanning 22 2/3 innings, Easley has surrendered just 11 hits and four walks while striking out 35 batters. Opponents are reaching base against him only 17.6% of the time while fanning 41.2% of the time, so he is twice as likely to strike you out than to let you get on base. His 8.75 K/BB ratio is simply nuts; anything over 3.0 is really good. It all adds up to a microscopic 0.79 ERA and a possible promotion to high-A ball before the season is over. But don't go searching for him on fangraphs.

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Earlier in the summer I wrote a piece warning WPN to cool its collective jets on their euphoria over the "breakthrough" season Jake Buchanan was having, arguing that his AA numbers were inflated by an unusually low opponents' BABIP. OK, euphoria might be overstating it, as I'm not sure anyone follows the progress of Pack minor leaguers other than me and their families. (Are you even still reading?) At any rate, it was hard not to take notice of that shiny 2.09 AA ERA.

In AAA, Buchanan's BABIP has regressed to the normal range at .308. And, guess what? He's still pitching pretty damn well thanks to his pinpoint control and K/9 rate. His AAA ERA is a very respectable 3.25, he is walking just 1.7/9, and striking out 6.4/9, the highest total of his career. That is still a very pedestrian strikeout rate and has me worried that Buchanan simply lacks the stuff to get major league hitters out, but the fact that he is fanning more batters than ever against the toughest level of competition he has seen is a really good sign. And he is enjoying his success while still being young compared to the competition; 81% of opponents' plate appearances against Buchanan this season have come from players that are older than him. The 23-year-old has room for projection, and the Astros have room for him. They have an open spot on their 40-man roster and Buchanan may just claim it for a September cup of coffee.

Anthony Tzamtzis got off to an awful start in the Rays' system (which should come as no surprise to anyone who watched him bean mascots the last two years at N.C. State), but he seems to be putting things together now that he is getting consistent work. After allowing an opponents' OPS of .845 in July, Tzamtzis has been excellent in August, dropping that number to .639. His ERA has sunk accordingly, all the way to 3.86. He's fanning batters at a very high rate (12.2/9) and even picked up a save. There may be hope for him yet.

If you're hoping to see Cory Mazzoni pitch, you will have to wait until the Arizona Fall League (at the earliest). Mazzoni hasn't pitched since July 3rd and will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. If he can make up for lost time in the AFL and have a strong spring, Mazzoni is a candidate to break in with the Mets as a 5th starter/middle relief guy as soon as next year, and his ceiling is much higher than that.

The Giants threw a not-quite-fully-rehabbed Eric Surkamp to the wolves (or, more specifically, the Reds) for an emergency start in a doubleheader earlier this year and got disastrous results: seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. But the silver lining is that Surkamp has been excellent in AAA, going 6-1 with a 2.75 ERA. Every starter not named Madison Bumgarner has been awful for the first-to-(almost)-worst Giants this year, so Surkamp should get his shot again soon.

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