5 MLB Prospects Who Could Become the Next Justin Verlander

Adam Merkle@@AdamLMerkleContributor IIIJune 11, 2012

5 MLB Prospects Who Could Become the Next Justin Verlander

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    What exactly comes to mind when you hear the name Justin Verlander being tossed around? 

    The man surely is quite decorated, starting with the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year Award and ending most recently with two of the biggest awards for a player to receive.

    In 2011 he took home not only the AL MVP,  but also the Cy Young Award as well.  

    While Verlander quickly established himself as one of the most feared pitchers in all of baseball, he was able to utilize his physical attributes while developing four nasty pitches in the fastball, changeup, curveball and slider to utterly freeze hitters at the plate. 

    He came into the league briefly in 2005 to pitch; however, it was not until his full-time call-up in 2006 that Verlander morphed into the force that he is today. 

    But are there any young pitching studs currently working their way through the minors that are capable of following in Verlander's foot steps on their way to superstardom?

    After the jump I'll take you through five of the top current minor league hurlers that have the body and skill sets to echo the numbers the Tiger's ace set as a precedent for rookie talent when he arrived in 2006.

5. Julio Teheran: Atlanta Braves

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    This guy is just 21 years of age, yet he pitches with the poise of someone with at least 50 major league starts under their belt. 

    The Braves have been willing to show a sense of urgency with his development because of this fact, and Teheran has responded in a dominating fashion. 

    His fastball is not quite as dominating as Verlander’s, however, he throws a very commanding curveball as well as a changeup to make up for what is just an average velocity fastball. 

    The kid was a diamond in the rough when he was signed by the Braves in 2007. However, all of his time spent in the minors has allowed for a thorough examination of his strengths and correction to his weaknesses. 

    His pitching style is more suited to his build, which is a bit smaller than Verlander, but his command and pitches mirror those of Tiger’s ace. 

    When the Braves finally decide to knock Minor or Beachy out of the rotation and give Teheran the shot he deserves at pitching in the big leagues full time, his chances of finding success could be strikingly similar to what Verlander achieved in his 2004 rookie of the year campaign.

4. Shelby Miller: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Right-handed Texas flamethrower Shelby Miller was drafted by the Cardinals with the 19th selection in the 2009 MLB draft, but because he came directly out of high school, pitching at such a young age in Triple-A hasn’t exactly worked in his favor just yet. 

    But regardless of how he is currently pitching, Miller will eventually be given the opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to emerge as a Verlander-like force in the Cardinals aging rotation. 

    He has the stuff to become an ace, with a dominating fastball and the command to match, as well as a constantly improving breaking ball and off-speed pitches. 

    The development of the 6’3", 21-year-old’s off-speed pitches will allow him to mix it up so he doesn't burn out too quickly throwing predominately fastballs.   

    Make no mistake about it, this kid has what it takes to become an elite pitcher like Justin Verlander, but he needs to spend a bit more time fine tuning his dangerous stuff.

    Once he can accomplish that, when it comes time for him to pitch in the majors on a daily basis, he has the potential to achieve the type of rookie year Verlander had.

3. Jacob Turner: Detriot Tigers

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    At just 21 years young, Jacob Turner has already shelved his first major league start when he was called up to make his debut during the 2011 season. 

    The top-rated Tigers prospect has the build, size and velocity that could sculpt him into a similar hurler to the squad's current ace. 

    But let’s face facts here.  Even the man himself can only pitch a single game at time, and while many of those games are gems, one top quality pitcher isn’t enough to propel a team to the top. 

    The climb back to .500 hasn't been an easy task for the Tigers, and the type of player that could really put them back in contention is another quality starter to compliment Verlander. 

    Tigers starters Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer aren’t quite cutting it for a team that was expected to be title contenders after picking up one of the biggest free-agent signings in first baseman Prince Fielder.  

    Turner is currently preparing for his inevitable call-up with Triple-A Toledo by sharpening his deadly sinking fastball while strengthening his off-speed stuff.

    Hopefully he can get the chance to show what he can do as the Tigers pitching staff could definitely use someone with Turner's talent. 

    If Verlander is willing to take the kid under his wing, he can gain valuable knowledge by being tutored by one of the game's most successful pitchers in the current era.

2. Jameson Taillon: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Oh look, what’s this?  Another Pirates draft pick?  The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft?

    At 6’6, 225 lbs, Taillon is the future of the Pirates pitching and with his physical attributes nearly the exact replica of Verlander, one could imagine why this is. 

    He just oozes similar game, and I don’t believe that the comparisons to Justin are far-fetched. 

    Not only is he nearly a clone of Verlander physically, but he was even the second pick of the draft like Verlander! 

    Taillon hasn’t exactly had an MLB call-up worthy season just yet with a 3-5 record for the Bradenton Marauders in Single-A, but his 3.71 ERA and 58 strikeouts may be enough to pass him onto Double-A. 

    With 16 walks in 63 innings, his command could use some work.  However, this kid knows what he is doing on the mound at just 20 years of age. 

    With a fastball that hits into the upper 90s consistently, Taillon is very much the flamethrower that Verlander is.  However, he also has plus pitches in the curve and slider to make him versatile and very much like the Tigers ace.

1. Gerrit Cole: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The years of miserable last-place finishes for the Pittsburgh Pirates may finally end up reflecting some bright spots when we look at the bright young pitching prospects they so wisely invested in.

    The first pick of the 2011 MLB draft, Gerrit Cole, is as legitimate a threat to dominate the majors as Verlander was at this time period. 

    Tearing up the same league on the same pitching staff as the Pirates first selection of the 2010 draft, Cole’s years pitching for the UCLA Bruins gave him some of the necessary competition he needs to hone in on his skills. 

    With this gem of a prospect, I’m starting to feel like the Pirates management had an idea of what they were doing with their drafts during these tough rebuilding years. 

    Guys like Justin Verlander are really a dime a dozen, yet Gerrit Cole is a type of pitcher that nearly mirrors him in size and pitching style. 

    He throws plus pitches with his slider and curveballs, and his fastball has the capability of hitting triple digits on occasion. 

    The main reason I’m ranking Gerrit Cole as my No. 1 over the No. 2 pick is because of the quality of a season Cole is having in comparison.  He is currently on a tear in Single-A with a 4-1 record to the tune of a 2.76 ERA with 62 strikeouts in just 62 innings. 

    With the success of the Pirates rotation this season so far, I doubt the team is in too much of a hurry to get their two studs in Cole and Taillon into the rotation anytime in the near future. 

    This will allow for Cole to continue to sharpen his pitching and work on control while facing batters who are nearly at the MLB level. 

    When the time finally comes for Cole to be handed the ball, I think he will exceed expectations and help bring Pirates baseball back into the winner's circle.