There's an old baseball adage that you can't have enough good pitchers. In the post-steroids era, in which offenses are far less dominant, that's truer than ever.
As one general manager told me not long ago, “The premium on young pitchers is at its highest level in years especially for mid-market teams. For the most part, it's easier and less expensive to build a strong pitching staff than a solid lineup from top to bottom. That's why so many organizations have tried to stockpile pitchers in recent years. Until the system changes, I expect the trend to continue.”
If you've got a potential ace on the way, it will probably take a Roto-Rooter to pry him loose. Here's the list of mound prospects that are all but untouchable for each team.
Trevor Bauer. At 21, he has already thrown five major league-caliber pitches. He'll get a long, hard look in spring training.
Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran
There's a lot to choose from here as usual, and the 21-year-old right-hander looks to have the most upside of the lot. He held his own in five starts with the parent club last season.
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy
A lot is expected of him in the near future, as the farm system is short on young arms. Expect the 19-year-old kid to move quickly through the ranks this season.
Boston Red Sox: Matt Barnes
Anthony Ranaudo and Felix Doubront also are in the mix, but both have experienced health issues in the past. That leaves Barnes with the most long-term potential.
Chicago Cubs: Dillon Maples
It took seven figures to lure the right-hander out of the University of North Carolina, but with improved command and a third pitch, he figures to be worth it.
Chicago White Sox: Addison Reed
The organization has placed renewed emphasis on the farm system, and the 23-year-old righty rates as the crown jewel at the moment. The one-time fan of Troy Percival has a drop-dead slider to follow in his footsteps.
Cincinnati Reds: Robert Stephenson
At 19, the first-round draft pick remains a work in progress, but he's the best of a fairly ordinary bunch.
Cleveland Indians: Dillon Howard
The 19-year-old right-hander possesses a mid-90s fastball with excellent movement. He projects to be in the rotation as as early as the 2014 season.
Colorado Rockies: Drew Pomeranz
An appendectomy and a brush with the law have set him back. If the 23-year-old doesn't take a step forward soon, he may be expendable.
Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner
After the first-rounder made the jump from Double-A to the major leagues last season, he may be ready to stick as the No. 5 starter. He'll turn 21 this summer.
Houston Astros: Jarred Cosart
The 6'3" right-hander has the size and the stuff to fill the role of staff ace in the near future. Only a recurrence of health problems can prevent it.
Kansas City Royals: Jake Odorizzi
As part of the Zack Greinke trade, the 21-year-old will be given every opportunity to succeed here. Southpaw Mike Montgomery rates a close second.
Los Angeles Angels: Garrett Richards
In a farm system that lacks a top gun, the right-hander has the kind of command and movement that can translate into a middle-of-the-rotation starter before long.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Lee
At 20, he's the consensus pick as the top prospect in the organization. The 6'4", 190-pounder is a former quarterback, and his bulldog mentality is made to order for the top of the rotation.
Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez
The Cuban defector has the biggest upside among the few mound candidates in the farm system. At 6'3", 215 pounds, he also has the biggest backside for that matter. Now he has to learn to pitch.
Milwaukee Brewers: Wily Peralta
At 6'2", 240 pounds, the right-hander has the physical tools to be a horse in the rotation before long. He'll turn 23 this spring.
Minnesota Twins: Adrian Salcedo
In the absence of a can't-miss prospect in the farm system, the right-hander may pack the most potential once his 6'4", 175-pound frame fills out.
New York Mets: Matt Harvey
The 6'4" right-hander began to come of age after his arrival in the Carlos Beltran trade. It would take a lot to pry 6'4" right-hander Zack Wheeler loose as well.
New York York Yankees: Manny Banuelos
Ordinarily, even top prospects like the 5'11", 155-pound left-hander don't stay in pinstripes very long. The line will form at the right.
Oakland Athletics: A.J. Cole
Unlike Jerrod Parker and Sonny Gray, whom some rate ahead of him, the 6'4" righty packs plenty of size and has no history of arm problems.
Philadelphia Phillies: Trevor May
If May is No. 1 on the list, local product Jesse Biddle is No. 1a. Both are long, tall right-handers with plenty of potential.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole
Not everyone is sold on the first pick in the most recent draft, but in an organization that has lacked power arms for years, he and Jameson Taillon are the hopes for the future.
San Diego Padres: Casey Kelly
From their perspective, the 22-year-old righty was the key piece in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. He will get every opportunity to stick here.
San Francisco Giants: Heath Hembree
At 23, he's the heir apparent to closer Brian Wilson in the bullpen.
Seattle Mariners: Taijuan Walker
While first-rounder Danny Hultzen is the safer bet at the major league level, the 19-year-old right-hander has a chance to become something special at some point. He has the stuff already.
St. Louis Cardinals: Shelby Miller
Among righties, the former first-rounder is at or near the top of every list. Pencil him in the rotation as early as this season.
Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore
Not only does the left-hander have the stuff to become a big winner soon, but now he has the command as well. Don't call them. They'll call you.
Texas Rangers: Martin Perez
While unimpressive at the Triple A level last season, the Venezuelan has this much on his side: He's talented, 20 years old and left-handed.
Toronto Blue Jays: Noah Syndergaard
Among the many candidates in their well-stocked farm system, the 6'5", 200-pound right-hander has the best combination of size, stuff and savvy. He will turn 20 years old this summer.
Washington Nationals: Alex Meyer
The Nationals have a lot invested in the 6'9" right-hander, their most recent first-round draft pick. Stephen Strasburg may have somebody to look up to at last.
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