Breakout St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of 2012: Seth Maness

Mark Harrell-Springfield Cardinals

One of the pitchers who made a huge impression this season in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system was Seth Maness. He walked only 10 of the 680 batters he faced this year across two levels. He’s only walked 15 of the 884 batters he has faced over two professional seasons.

The Cardinals drafted Seth Maness in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB draft out of East Carolina University. In his first season in professional baseball he pitched in Batavia, Quad Cities and Palm Beach between June 19th and the end of the season. He began this season where he left in 2011, in Palm Beach. He spent just over a month there before it was obvious that he had earned the promotion. He moved up to Springfield and did not miss a beat.

Let's look at his strikeout and walk numbers. (Next three charts via Minor League Central.)

Tm

PA

K%

BB%

KS%

KL%

Springfield

503

16.5%

1.8%

11.1%

4.0%

Lg. Average

-

19.4%

8.5%

13.9%

5.0%

Palm Beach

177

16.4%

0.6%

13.0%

3.4%

Lg. Average

-

19.1%

8.5%

14.2%

4.8%

2012 MiLB Total

680

16.5%

1.5%

11.6%

3.8%

Manness' strikeout numbers are below league average and that's a worrying part of his game, especially at this level. But, look at the walks. He is 7-8% below league average for both Springfield and Palm Beach. That walk rate is beyond unheard-of and is starting to run into the "other-worldly" category. Less than 1% of his plate appearances in Palm Beach resulted in a walk and less than 2% at Springfield.

The basis of Seth Maness' lack of walks is his ability to throw strikes. The Texas league average for percentage of pitches thrown in the strikezone is 59.5%. Seth throws pitches in the strikezone 67% of his pitches.

Let's take a look at his contact. A pitcher of his type should not be allowing much hard contact if he is hitting his spots.

Tm

PA

LD%

GB%

OFB%

IFB%

GB/FB

Bunt%

U%

Springfield

503

13.1%

50.9%

26.7%

5.4%

1.58

1.5%

2.5%

Lg. Average

-

15.7%

45.5%

28.2%

7.0%

1.29

1.2%

2.3%

Palm Beach

177

11.6%

55.8%

23.8%

6.1%

1.86

0.0%

2.7%

Lg. Average

-

16.0%

42.4%

30.1%

7.5%

1.13

1.4%

2.5%

2012 MiLB Total

680

12.7%

52.2%

25.9%

5.6%

1.66

1.1%

2.5%


And that is exactly what he is doing. His line drive percentage is below league average at both levels, which is a great sign because his strikeout numbers are not huge. Over 50% of the time, the contact that Maness allows is into the ground which is turned into an out a majority of the time.

Let's look a bit at the luck involved:

Tm

BF

IP

ERA

FIP

SIERA

GB%

LD%

BABIP

Springfield

503

123.7

3.27

3.59

3.56

50.9%

13.1%

.280

Lg. Average

-

-

4.09

3.95

4.04

45.5%

15.7%

.303

Palm Beach

177

46.0

2.15

3.42

3.28

55.8%

11.6%

.282

Lg. Average

-

-

3.88

3.64

4.14

42.4%

16.0%

.306

2012 MiLB Total

680

169.7

2.97

3.54

3.49

52.2%

12.7%

.281

Seth Maness' BABIP is certainly above average, but with the low LD% and high GB% I don't consider this to be a line with a bunch of "good luck". Maness has produced more ground balls, which are more reliably turned into outs and therefore has a lower BABIP. He is also hurt by the fact that Springfield (and the Texas League in general) is very hitter friendly.

If we are going to project what type of major league pitcher Maness will become, here is the list of major league pitchers with a BB% under 6%, K% under 16% and a GB% above 48%. (Via Fangraphs) It is a limited group for a few reasons, one being that it is extremely difficult to be successful in the major league when you strike out so few batters and even more difficult to maintain such a low walk rate against major league hitters who are more patient and more capable of hitting good pitches. Additionally, the profile is very rare.

Name

Team

G

IP

BABIP

GB%

LD%

xFIP

K%

BB%

Scott Diamond

Twins

27

173.0

.292

53.4 %

21.0 %

3.93

12.6 %

4.3 %

Clayton Richard

Padres

33

218.2

.272

53.8 %

18.4 %

4.16

11.8 %

4.6 %

Ricky Nolasco

Marlins

31

191.0

.309

46.6 %

21.6 %

4.17

15.0 %

5.7 %

Mike Leake

Reds

30

179.0

.306

48.9 %

24.5 %

3.82

15.3 %

5.4 %

Rick Porcello

Tigers

31

176.1

.344

53.2 %

24.2 %

3.89

13.7 %

5.6 %

However, there is a caveat and that is the fact that none of the players above maintained nearly the walk rate that Seth Maness did in the minors. All had a walk rate around or slightly under 6% in the minors similar to their major league numbers.

Seth Maness with a breakout season in 2012, has placed his name with the top group of starting pitchers in the Cardinals system, albeit with a different profile than most. Maness should start the 2013 season with Memphis in what could be a stacked rotation. (Rosenthal, Kelly, Dickson, Maness, Lyons, Gast, Martinez, etc.)

He should be an interesting player to keep an eye on over the next 2 years where we see whether he can keep his walk rate insanely low in AAA and even in the major leagues. If he is able to keep the walk rate within his current range below 6% and maintain his strikeout rate, Maness will be able to turn himself into a quality second-division starter like Scott Diamond or Clayton Richard above. If he is not, then he will end up as one of the AAAA players that cannot make the jump to the major league level. Unfortunately, it will not be his walk rate that decides whether he can be a major leaguer, it may be his already below average strikeout rate.

Something that cannot be seen in the stats is Maness' repertoire and his MPH readings. From all reports, Maness is throws his fastball in the upper 80s, which will be an impediment for him moving forward. Also, over at Future Redbirds earlier this year, I was able to interview Maness if you would like to read a little bit more about his repertoire, routine and preparation. If he can get the fastball up a few miles per hour, to sit over 90 MPH, then his prospect status and his chance to be successful in the major leagues both increase greatly.

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