It’s been quite the golden era of minor league pitching in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, home of the Senators, the Washington Nationals’ Double-A team, the past few seasons. Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann spent time in the capital city of Pennsylvania. Lucas Giolito, the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball, is there now. Joe Ross spent time with the Senators before embarking on a very solid rookie campaign in the big leagues. Drew Storen closed games in Harrisburg before going onto Washington.
Though there have been plenty of top prospects and first-rounders toeing the slab for the Senators of late, there have also been less-heralded pitchers that have produced solid seasons in Harrisburg before going onto the Major Leagues. Names like Tommy Milone and Tanner Roark come to mind. Austin Voth hopes to join the list.
Pitching in his first full season at Double-A, Voth, a fifth round pick in the 2013 draft out of Washington, has turned in another solid season to date. In 24 games in Harrisburg, the 6’1″ right-hander has a 3.01 ERA and has exhibited excellent command. In 134.1 innings, Voth has walked only 35 while striking out 127. The 2015 season has been a continuation of the impressive resume Voth has built to date in the minor leagues. Since being drafted, he has posted a 2.72 ERA in over 300 career innings while posting a 2.3 BB/9 and a 9.2 K/9.
Despite the strong, consistent performance, the heady, reserved 23-year-old from the Pacific Northwest still feels he is under-the-radar when it comes to his status as a prospect. He began the season ranked tenth in the Nationals’ system, but was bumped down by the addition of Trea Turner, who debuted with Washington Friday night.
“I like to pride myself on that title,” Voth said when describing his place in the Nationals’ system. “I don’t necessarily want to be seen as overrated.”
Consistency has been the key for Voth as he piles up sub-3.00 ERA seasons in the minor leagues. The runner-up to eventual top overall pick Mark Appel in the 2013 Pac-12 strikeout rankings has also worked hard to make adjustments each season as he climbs the ranks.
“Every year, I’ve had to make minor tweaks here and there,” Voth explained. “I’ve worked on my mechanics, and every year my changeup has been getting better, more consistent so I’m throwing it for strikes.”
Voth got his first taste of Double-A late last season. After roaring through two levels of Single-A ball to the tune of a 2.10 ERA in 19 starts, Voth hit a wall with the Senators. His ERA spiked to 6.52 in five starts. Unfamiliar with the league, and with his innings total reaching uncharted territory, Voth just ran out of steam.
“Last year, I got really tired towards the end of the season. In the offseason, I long-tossed a lot more and did more things to get my stamina up late in the season which has helped a lot,” Voth said when describing the adjustments which have helped him excel into the final month of the 2015 season.
“I choose to long-toss most days with my throwing program just to stretch out my arm. It seems to have helped this year keeping my velo up.”
Judging by the performance this year, Voth is stronger than ever. He has already breezed by the 126.2 innings logged last year. Twelve of his starts have gone at least six innings, and he has pitched into the seventh and beyond six times, including a three consecutive starts from July 7 to July 20.
Armed with a low-90’s fastball that won’t blow anyone away, Voth attacks hitters early in the count. He is comfortable changing speeds on his fastball, and will throw his slider or changeup at any moment. This ability to throw each of his pitches for strikes helps him keep hitters off balance and generate weak contact on a consistent basis. He throws his pitches with a very low-energy, repeatable delivery.
“I like to switch it up and throw offspeed early in the count late in the game,” Voth said when describing his pitching style. “Early in the game, I like to use my fastball to both sides of the plate and get comfortable with my fastball. Everything works off that.”
Voth shows great control, even deep into games, and is hard on himself, stating that he feels he has issued too many free passes this year. Not many watching him pitch will feel that way, as Voth has walked fewer hitters in more innings than he did last year.
Listening to Voth discuss pitching, it is clear he takes a very cerebral, measured approach to his craft.
“I know this league, and I know what I can get away with. When you know who the three umpires are going into a game and you know their strike zones, you can manipulate how far off the plate I can get.”
Though he went undrafted out of high school, Voth has developed rapidly the past few seasons, and should be considered a prospect to watch in the Nationals’ system. He has what it takes to be a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater in the big leagues. While the names of Strasburg or Giolito wow fans, it is on the backs of consistent, quiet pitchers like Austin Voth that successful Major League rotations are built.