Posted May 31, 2013 12:10 pm

GreenJackets Gameday: Strikeout leaders set to face off in Augusta

Friday, May 31 - 7:05 p.m.


Charleston RiverDogs (31-20)

RHP Rafael De Paula (49.1 IP, 2.74 ERA, 2.00 FIP, 40.2 K%, 11.1 BB%, .326 BABIP)


Augusta GreenJackets (29-24)

RHP Martin Agosta (47.2 IP, 2.45 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 33 K%, 11.2 BB%, .314 BABIP)


I sometimes tout a pitching matchup as one of the best you'll see at this level, but this matchup is a legit must-see. De Paula and Agosta are first and second in the South Atlantic League in strikeout percentage.


De Paula has made 10 starts this season and four have had double-digit strikeouts. He set a season high against the Hickory Crawdads on May 10 with 12, and he followed that with 11 against the Greenville Drive in his next outing. He worked 90-92 in Savannah on May 21, according to Sand Gnats director of broadcasting and communications Toby Hyde. I've been told the movement on his fastball is major league quality, and he has the ability to work it in the mid-90s. His curveball is a potential 6, with some saying it's already there. His changeup is underdeveloped, but there hasn't been much need for it in the lower levels.


De Paula experienced age and identity issues when attempting to sign with the New York Yankees in 2009. He received a one-year suspension because of it, but he eventually signed for $500,000 in 2010. Because of MLB investigations, De Paula didn't actually make his pro debut until 2012, and this is his first season stateside. He's an advanced 22-year-old pitcher who would be throwing in at least Class-A Advanced if not for the age and identity problems. He's taking it out on the SAL right now.


Agosta continues to work on commanding his pitches in the zone when ahead in the count, something I touched on here. But he made one of his most impressive starts against Savannah last time out, throwing seven shutout innings on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. Manager Mike Goff said Agosta commanded much better with two strikes, as did the rest of his starters their most recent time out. It was a nice rebound from four runs in 3.2 innings the previous start.


Agosta has the third-highest left-on-base percentage in the league at 80.7 percent, a testament to his ability to bear down and get the out when needed. It's also a testament to his ability to get a strikeout often.


The GreenJackets are struggling to score runs over the past few games, first from runners in scoring position troubles and last night struggling to put runners on to begin with. The good news for Augusta is it likely won't see left-handed reliever Dietrich Enns again after he threw four innings Thursday. The bad news is De Paula isn't a breather starter.