After the 2019 season was over there really was only one starting pitcher who was in the conversation for Cincinnati Reds Minor League Starter of the Year. That pitcher was Packy Naughton.
The 23-year-old left-handed starter split time with both the Daytona Tortugas and the Chattanooga Lookouts in 2019. His season began in the Florida State League with Daytona where he made nine starts. In that stretch he posted a 2.63 ERA in 51.1 innings pitched with 9 walks and 50 strikeouts. His performance there earned him a quick promotion to Double-A.
Once he arrived in Chattanooga he picked up where he had left off for the most part. He would make another 19 starts on the season – all for the Lookouts, throwing 105.2 innings for the Reds affiliate. His ERA over that span was 3.66 and he struck out 81 hitters with just 26 walks. Between his two stops he came in with a 3.32 ERA in 157.0 innings, just 10 home runs allowed, 35 walks, and he struck out 131 hitters.
Among the pitchers in the organization who threw at least 90 innings this season Packy Naughton led in wins, ERA, innings, and walk rate. He was second in home run rate, strikeouts, and WHIP. He was third in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
What separated Packy Naughton from the others?
It wasn’t exactly a stellar year for the Reds farm system when it comes to starting pitchers. That’s not to take away from what Packy Naughton did, because he’d have been in the conversation in past years, too. But it did limit the competition that he had.
What made this such an easy choice for the former Virginia Tech lefty is just the entire package of his season. Only three other pitchers in the farm system topped 130 innings pitched. None of those pitchers had an ERA under 4.00. If we extend the look to guys who threw fewer than 100 innings you get to Jose Franco (2.20 ERA in 57.1 innings for the DSL Reds), Connor Curlis (2.92 ERA in 83.1 innings for Dayton/Daytona), and Miguel Medrano (3.13 ERA in 60.1 innings for Billings). While those guys had better ERA’s, the innings were a huge differentiator here.
It’s not the fault of those pitchers that they threw fewer innings. Both Franco and Medrano pitched in short-season leagues that didn’t begin until June. Curlis didn’t begin pitching this season until late May – and he was very good once he did take the mound. But Packy Naughton was out there from opening day through the end of the year, making 28 starts and throwing 157.0 innings. That he did that and was still among the leaders in nearly every category simply made it an easy choice.