The very intriguing Mike Foltynewicz


Mike Foltynewicz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Houston Astros pitcher Mike Foltynewicz is starting to show why he is considered one of the best arms in the organization.

Last night, the right-hander came in and pitched two shutout innings in a 13-6 loss to the Texas Rangers. Folty gave up one hit and one walk while keeping the Rangers off the board and limiting their damage. Since being promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City on August 1st, Foltynewicz is showing he has the stuff to be a great major league pitcher very soon.

"Foltynewicz’s appearances this season:August 2nd vs. Toronto: 0.2 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout on 12 pitchesAugust 6th at Philadelphia: 2.0 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, and 2 strikeouts on 34 pitchesAugust 9th vs. Texas: 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on 20 pitchesAugust 12th vs. Minnesota: 1.0 inning, 3 hits, 3 runs, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on 20 pitchesAugust 14th at Boston: 2.1 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 1 strikeout on 50 pitchesAugust 17th at Boston: 1.0 inning, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 walks, and 0 strikeouts on 12 pitchesAugust 24th at Cleveland: 1.1 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts on 19 pitchesAugust 27th vs. Oakland: 0.1 innings, 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout on 16 pitchesAugust 29th vs. Texas: 2.0 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 0 strikeouts on 24 pitches"

For the season, Foltynewicz has pitched 11.2 innings in nine games for the Astros. His ERA is 4.63 and he has 11 strikeouts, five walks and a 1.71 WHIP. At first, Foltynewicz had to adjust to pitching out of the bullpen in Houston (after he mostly worked as a starter in the minors.) However, since settling down in his role, the right-hander has thrown 4.2 straight scoreless innings.

Additionally, Foltynewicz has thrown at least one pitch at 100 mph in six of his nine appearances this season. The fastest pitch he’s thrown was 101 mph on August 9th against the Rangers. That nasty fastball, combined with a wicked slider and deceiving change-up, makes him an incredibly valuable reliever for the Astros this year (who have the worst bullpen in baseball with a 4.93 ERA).

"“Probably two or three or four games ago was a little rough and a little bad,” Foltynewicz said a couple weeks ago. “Now I have confidence in all my pitches. My slider is working for me for a put-out pitch and the change-up is working great. Just the fastball command is getting better so I felt pretty confident going into this game.”"

Folty was the fourth-rated prospect in Houston’s system, according to Baseball Prospectus. The hard-throwing right-hander was the 19th overall selection in the 2010 MLB Draft when the Astros were under general manager Ed Wade. He went 7-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 appearances, including 18 starts, for Oklahoma City this season.

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He pitched 102.2 innings and gave up 98 hits, 58 earned runs, 10 home runs, and 52 walks while striking out 102 batters with OKC. He also had a 1.46 WHIP and kept hitters batting .260 against him. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, the 22-year-old from Illinois dominated in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (where he was nearly five years younger than the average player.)

I think Folty has the ability to be a pretty dominant closer, but I view him more as a front-of-the-rotation starter. The Astros almost used Foltynewicz as a closer in spring training before Luhnow reassigned him to minor-league camp. This season, when they called him up, they decided to start him out the bullpen (much like they did with Roy Oswalt in May 2001.)

I think the Astros should consider using him in the rotation as early as next season. Like I said, Foltynewicz has a superb fastball (that is always in the upper 90’s) and has begun throwing his nasty slider consistently. Additionally, Folty has an above average change-up and very good curveball. The key for him is limiting walks and maintaining a good strikeout rate. Here’s a breakdown of his impressive size and demeanor from writer Bernie Pleskoff.

As long as he can keep command of his pitches, Folty will be a very tough pitcher to deal with in the pros. However, with the way he attacks hitters, I think he would be better served as a starter for the Astros and should be in the rotation next season. What do you think?