MLB Prospects: Every MLB Team's Top Pitching Prospect
As I begin to deconstruct and re-build my Top 50 prospect rankings for a release following the All-Star break, I will continue to write scouting reports for every organization’s top prospects and also rank them by position, tools, roster status and estimated time of arrival.
This week, I offer a look at every team’s top pitching prospect. Although some of these players are on the brink of a big league call-up, most are attempting to make a name for themselves in the low minors as they work towards transforming pure stuff into overall pitchability.
New York Yankees: Manny Banuelos, LHP
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Height/Weight: 5'11", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Mexico
Triple-A: 0-2, 24 IP, 4.50 ERA, .299 BAA, 22 K/10 BB (6 GS)
Overview: As a 20-year-old, Banuelos struggled with his command at both Double- and Triple-A in 2011. The left-hander possesses a swing-and-miss arsenal of three plus pitches that he’s still learning to command. His fastball sits in the low-90s with more in the tank, and as of now, his best out pitch is a changeup with considerable fade.
He’s small in stature but has broad shoulders to go along with a quick arm. He repeats his mechanics well, so there’s plenty of reason to believe his command will improve. Pitching to more contact will help Banuelos minimize his pitch counts and in turn allow him to log more efficient innings in 2012.
2012 Season Update: After a disappointing spring training, Banuelos’ 2012 campaign got off to a slow start due to back pain that limited his innings and even forced a brief stint on the disabled list. And if that wasn’t enough, he landed back on the disabled list with shoulder tightness and inflammation.
Boston Red Sox: Matt Barnes, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6’4”/200 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Connecticut)
Low-A: 2-0, 26.2 IP, 0.34 ERA, .130 BAA, 42 K/4 BB (5 GS)
High-A: 5-1, 46 IP, 1.37 ERA, .201 BAA, 53 K/8 BB (8 GS)
Overview: Barnes has an explosive fastball that sits in the mid-90s and occasionally flashes a ‘6 or ‘7. He possesses a power frame that’s extremely durable, and he has the pure arm strength to still blow it by hitters late into the game.
His curveball is above average with plus potential and should quickly improve as he moves away from the use of a mediocre slider. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches and will be crucial in his development as a starter. His easy delivery produces big-time heat, although he occasionally struggles to work on a downward plane and leaves pitches up in the zone.
2012 Season Update: After beginning the season at Low-A, Barnes needed only five dominant outings before he was promoted to High-A, where he has continued to stifle opposing hitters. He’s having an amazing season and continues to advance his estimated time of arrival with each start.
Tampa Bay Rays: Taylor Guerrieri, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6’3”/195 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS—Spring Valley, SC)
Class-A Short Season: 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 6 K/1 BB (1 GS)
Overview: Guerrieri already has the makings of a power pitcher with a 92-95 mph fastball that frequently touches 96-97. His plus curveball is the downer type and he gets excellent rotation on it thanks to his high three-quarter arm angle. He also keeps a cutter and changeup on the back-burner, as he rarely had to throw anything beyond his power 1-2 combo in high school.
For a hard-throwing right-hander, his mechanics are pretty smooth and repeatable, as drives with his lower half and pounds the bottom of the strike zone. There were questions about Guerrieri’s maturity and makeup headed into the draft, so the Rays were able to draft him with the 24th overall pick.
Guerrieri has tremendous upside as a front-line starter. Entering his first professional season in 2012, he’ll likely begin at the Rays' rookie level affiliate. As he develops the cutter and changeup, the right-hander could emerge as one of the lower-minor’s top pitching prospects
2012 Season Update: Guerrieri’s season is just beginning, as he turned in a dominant first start of the season for Short Season Hudson Valley, allowing two hits with six strikeouts over five innings.
Toronto Blue Jays: Daniel Norris, LHP
Courtesy of tricitiessports.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (HS—Johnson City, Tenn.)
Rookie Appalachian League: 1-0, 4 IP, 0 H, 5 K
Overview: The top prep left-hander in the 2011 draft class, Norris is an outstanding athlete who also received looks as a two-way player, as well as a quarterback.
With a four-pitch mix, he’s much more advanced than the average high school pitcher. His fastball has been consistently clocked in the low-90s while reaching as high as 96 mph.
The southpaw has also shown an impressive feel for his changeup, which features considerable fade and is consistently located down in the zone. Norris rounds out his arsenal with a curveball and slider, both of which have the makings of at least above-average offerings.
In addition to having a quick arm, his mechanics are smooth and repeatable and suggest that he could see a jump in velocity as he continues to develop. The Blue Jays won’t rush him, as they do all their young arms, so expect Norris to receive considerable seasoning in the minor leagues.
2012 Season Update: Norris made his first start of the 2012 season on June 19 for Bluefield of the Appalachian League, firing four innings of no-hit ball with five strikeouts.
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'1", 200
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Owasso, Okla.)
Low-A: 1-0, 30 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.53 BAA, 40 K/2 BB (8 GS)
High-A: 2-2, 18.2 IP, 4.34 ERA, .261 BAA, 23 K/6 BB (4 GS)
Overview: In any draft not loaded with elite collegiate arms like Cole, Hultzen and Bauer, Bundy would have been a consensus No. 1 overall selection. However, he slid to No. 4, and the Baltimore Orioles were thrilled.
Famous for his insane workout routine, the right-hander has a ridiculous work ethic and strength for an 19-year-old.
Oh yeah, and his pitchability grades through the roof.
Lured away from a scholarship to be the Texas Longhorns' quarterback, Bundy signed for $6.225 million (including a $4 million signing bonus) just before the August 15 deadline.
He features a 94-98 mph four-seam fastball that has topped out at 100 mph, as well as a low-90s two-seamer and upper-80s/low-90s cutter. In addition to his slew of fastballs, Bundy possesses a deuce that already grades as a plus pitch, and he has shown an advanced feel for his changeup.
His sheer strength allows for repeatable mechanics and a greater workload than one expects from a prep arm. Both his maturity and arsenal of plus pitches should make Bundy a fast riser within the Orioles organization and make him the first prep arm from the 2011 draft class to reach the show.
2012 Season Update: The legend of Dylan Bundy grew to epic proportions early this season, as he didn’t allowed an earned run over 30 innings at Low-A while posting an absurd 40 K/2 BB ratio. Since his promotion to High-A however, he’s been touched up a bit, though his stuff remains arguably the best in all the minor leagues.
Chicago White Sox: Nestor Molina, RHP
Courtesy of MLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'1", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Venezuela
Double-A: 4-6, 79.1 IP, 4.65 ERA, .311 BAA, 57 K/17 BB (12 GS)
Overview: Traded this offseason for Sergio Santos, Molina, like Santos, is a former position player turned pitcher. However, although he lacks significant experience on the bump, he’s considerably advanced with both his overall feel and command.
None of his pitches grade out as a plus, but he mixes them well and exhibits excellent command. He spots his fastball, which registers between 88-92 mph, to both sides of the plate which subsequently sets up his offspeed offerings. Molina’s arsenal consists of a curveball, changeup and splitter which has late tumble and generates a fair amount of swing-and-misses.
2012 Season Update: After a strong start to the season in Double-A, Molina was called up to Triple-A Charlotte for a very unimpressive spot-start. Overall, he’s struggled at Double-A, surrendering 102 hits in 79.1 innings. However, his command has been sharp as usual, as he’s only issued 17 free passes thus far.
Cleveland Indians: Dillon Howard, RHP
Courtesy of PerfectGame.org
Height/Weight: 6'4", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2011, second round (HS—Searcy, Ark.)
Rookie AZL: 0-1, 3 IP, 4 ER, 1 K/2 BB (1 GS)
Overview: After a disappointing season as a high school senior, Howard slid to the second round, where he was snatched up by the Indians for well-above slot value.
Howard features a heavy two-seam fastball that sits in the low-90s with late, arm-side sink. He also has a four-seamer that can scrape 94-95 mph, although he prefers to throw the two-seam.
The right-hander’s best offspeed pitch is currently a changeup, which plays up due to his deceptive arm action and mechanics. Howard also works in a curveball, although it can be sloppy at times and therefore has a slurvy rotation and slow-developing break.
Like most prep pitchers, Howard will need time to fully develop his arsenal and command in the minor leagues, so don’t expect to see him in the Tribe’s rotation until late 2015 or 2016.
2012 Season Update: Howard made his Arizona League debut on June 20 and only lasted three innings. Clearly a bit rusty, the right-hander allowed six runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks. Yes, it was a rough first start, but he should have no problem bouncing back.
Minnesota Twins: Kyle Gibson, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'6", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Missouri)
2012 Stats: N/A
Overview: Gibson slid in the 2009 draft after suffering a stress fracture in his right forearm during the season. However, the 6'6" right-hander displayed so much upside prior the injury that the Twins deemed that he was a risk worth taking.
After reaching Triple-A in his first professional season in 2010, Gibson tore his UCL and subsequently required Tommy John surgery.
Prior the surgery, however, Gibson pounded the strike zone with his 91-93 mph fastball and demonstrated an ability to throw variations with considerable sink and cut. His changeup always served as his best secondary pitch, as he threw it with similar arm speed and generated late, fading action.
Gibson’s slider is also an above-average out pitch, and he showed an ability to both throw it for a strike and bury it out of the zone when ahead in the count.
2012 Season Update: Because Gibson’s UCL tear occurred in late July of 2011, it’s highly doubtful that he’ll return to the mound during the 2012 season. However, he should be fully healthy and ready to make up for lost time by 2013.
Kansas City Royals: Jake Odorizzi, RHP
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Drafted/Signed: 2008, first-round supplemental (HS: Highland, Ill.)
Double-A: 4-2, 38 IP, 3.32 ERA, .191 BAA, 47 K/10 BB, (7 GS)
Triple-A: 4-0, 33.2 IP, 2.41 ERA, .248 BAA, 34 K/10 BB (5 GS)
Overall: 8-2, 71.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, .219 BAA, 81 K/20 BB (12 GS)
Overview: The key chip in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Brewers prior to the 2011 season, Odorizzi excelled in the Carolina League and earned himself a promotion to Double-A.
His numbers took a hit in his 12 starts for Northwest Arkansas—as one expects for a 21-year-old in an advanced league—but he still finished the year with an sub-4.00 ERA and 157 strikeouts against 44 walks in nearly 150 innings.
His fastball reaches 96 mph and sits at 93-94, and his breaking ball is a sledge when in the zone. His command of it needs to improve, but he has a couple of years still before it absolutely must be reliable.
He throws a slider and a change as well, but they're behind the fastball and curveball and will be no better than 50s. Still, Odorizzi is a strike-throwing machine with a projectable, athletic frame and results that suggest he will be a consistent No. 2 at worst.
2012 Season Update: After seven excellent outings at Double-A to open the season, Odorizzi—along with fellow prospect Wil Myers—received an earlier-than-anticipated promotion to Triple-A where he’s posted similar numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. It wouldn’t surprise me if the right-hander is pitching in the big leagues by the All-Star break.
Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'5", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Westminster Christian Academy, Mo.)
High-A: 21.2 IP, 1.66 ERA, .218 BAA, 17 K/7 BB (4 GS)
Triple-A: 42 IP, 3.43 ERA, .227 BAA, 27 K/19 BB (7 GS)
MLB: 5 IP, 4 H, ER, 3 K/5 BB (1 GS)
Overview: The ninth overall selection in the 2009 draft, Turner made three starts for the Tigers in 2011 as a 20-year-old. Although the results could have been better, the right-hander’s stuff was impressive, as was his overall polish.
Turner’s 6'5" frame allows him to pound the zone with a heavy, sinking fastball that registers in the low 90s. He struggles at times with the command of his curveball, but it’s still a big-time hammer. Turner’s changeup is only an average offering as of now, but he does throw it with fastball-like arm speed.
He probably won’t be a strikeout pitcher in the major leagues, but he has enough movement and deception to induce plenty of weak contact. It appeared as though Turner would contend for the final spot in the Tigers' rotation, but he was shut down after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder.
He’s currently working his way back at High-A but should be back at Triple-A (and possibly even return to the Tigers' rotation) by the All-Star break.
2012 Season Update: After experiencing shoulder soreness during spring training, Turner was shut down for a little over a month and eased back into action with several starts in the low-minors.
However, he’s quickly regained his form and logged numerous Triple-A starts while readying himself for a spot in the Tigers’ rotation. The right-hander made his 2012 big-league debut against his hometown Cardinals on Thursday, allowing one run over five innings while fanning three and walking five.
Los Angeles Angels: Garrett Richards, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'3", 215
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (Oklahoma)
Triple-A: 5-2, 56.1 IP, 4.31 ERA, .281 BAA, 48 K/29 BB (10 GS)
MLB: 2-0, 21 IP, 0.86 ERA, .183 BAA, 17 K/11 BB (4 G; 3 GS)
Overview: After a steady progression through the low-minors in 2009 and 2010, Richards' career took off in 2011 after he dominated Double-A hitters and received a big-league promotion. While Richards' stuff was impressive over seven appearances with the Angels, he clearly was unprepared for the aggressive promotion.
Richards’ fastball usually sits 94-96 mph as a starter, although he’s been known to flash upper-90s velocity when used in relief.
However, his power arsenal is clearly best suited for a starting role. The right-hander throws a hard slider in the mid-80s that will ultimately be a plus pitch once he learns to throw it with more consistency. He also mixes in a changeup that’s a highly effective offering when it’s set up by his fastball and located down in the zone.
2012 Season Update: After a hot start at Triple-A Salt Lake, Richards noticeably struggled with his command periodically throughout May. However, Jered Weaver’s back injury and subsequent trip to the disabled list opened the door for the right-hander, who has been pitching in the Angels’ rotation since May 30.
Oakland Athletics: A.J. Cole, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'4", 180
Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: Oviedo, Fla.)
High-A: 0-7, 38 IP, 7.82 ERA, .364 BAA, 31 K/10 BB (8 GS)
Low-A: 2-0, 27.1 IP, 3.29 ERA, .264 BAA, 31 K/6 BB (6 GS)
Overview: A key piece of the trade that sent Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals, Cole emerged as one of the minors' top power pitchers in 2011. A bulldog on the mound, he relentlessly attacks hitters with a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 98 mph.
While he has shown above-average command of his fastball, he doesn’t locate his secondary stuff as well—though his curveball is a hammer that generates swing-and-misses. He does have a changeup, but it’s a work in progress.
At 6'4", Cole throws everything on a downward plane and has worked hard to make his mechanics more repeatable. He has tremendous natural ability and could develop into a No. 2 starter. In High-A to begin the season, he is a pitcher to follow closely in 2012.
2012 Season Update: After an atrocious start to the season at High-A in which he failed to record a win and gave up 60 hits over 38 innings, Cole has found himself following a demotion to Low-A. After a rough first outing for Burlington, he’s been on fire in his last five starts.
Seattle Mariners: Taijuan Walker, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'4", 210
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Yucaipa, Calif.)
Double-A: 4-3, 57 IP, 3.79 ERA, .249 BAA, 59 K/23 BB (12 GS)
Overview: Walker was lights-out last season at Low-A Clinton until he reached the 100-inning limit imposed by the Mariners. The right-hander has a big-time fastball with late life that touches the upper-90s, and he showed improved command of it in 2011.
He also throws a circle change and an over-the-top curveball that could be a double-plus with improved command.
Walker’s raw athleticism distinguishes him from the other pitching prospects in the game and only makes his potential that much greater. He's the Mariners' future ace with one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect on this list. Walker began the 2012 season at Double-A, where he will work on refining his command.
2012 Season Update: After a strong start to the season following an aggressive promotion to Double-A out of spring training, Walker has struggled mightily in his last three outings, allowing 14 earned runs over 12.2 innings. It’s possible that he’s simply fatigued and struggling to make adjustments as the book is now out on him.
Texas Rangers: Martin Perez, LHP
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'0", 178
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Venezuela
Triple-A: 5-5, 84.1 IP, 4.59 ERA, .249 BAA, 49 K/38 BB (15 GS)
Overview: Perez’s 2011 season was a perplexing one: He posted excellent numbers at Double-A but then tanked after a promotion to Triple-A.
Perez has iffy fastball command, but his overall stuff is too good to rank him any lower. His heater reaches the mid-90s thanks to a quick, whippy arm, and he has arguably one of the finest breaking balls in the minors in the form of a heavy, downer curveball. When it’s on, it grades as a double-plus pitch.
He also has an average to above-average changeup that shows quality fade and should sufficiently handle right-handed hitters.
The young left-hander has elite stuff, and with more than a full season in the high minors under his belt, he has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation arm. But reaching such a ceiling will require improved fastball command and a more consistent delivery, although the latter is greatly improved relative to what it was as a teenager.
2012 Season Update: In the midst of another disappointing season at Triple-A, it’s beginning to look as though the Rangers may have rushed Perez’s development. However, there’s still plenty of hope for the left-hander, as he just turned 21 in April.
On June 21, the southpaw fired the first complete game of his career, winning back-to-back games for the first time this season. However, if he continues to struggle in the unforgiving Pacific Coast League, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rangers demoted him to Double-A re-find his groove and get him back on the right track.
New York Mets: Zack Wheeler, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'4", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: East Paulding, Ga.)
Double-A: 6-3, 71.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, .176 BAA, 73 K/29 BB (12 GS)
Overview: It must have been hard for San Francisco to part ways with Wheeler, whom they traded to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran near the 2011 trade deadline. One of my favorite right-handed prospects in baseball, Wheeler has a 6'4" frame, fast arm and repeatable mechanics. When I watch him throw, I see a future ace.
His fastball runs as high as 97, though he usually sits low-to-mid-90s with late life. His curveball is a sharp downer that jelly-legs right-handed hitters, and he also throws a solid changeup that should develop by the time he reaches the major leagues.
While his command still needs some refinement, he’s thrived following a promotion to Double-A to begin the 2012 season. At this time next year, I have a feeling that I may be writing about Wheeler as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
2012 Season Update: Picking up where he left off in 2011, Wheeler is having a phenomenal season at Double-A Binghamton. He’s posted some of the best and most consistent numbers across all of Double-A, though it’s unlikely we’ll see him before 2013.
Washington Nationals: Alex Meyer, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6’9”, 220 lbs.
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Kentucky)
Low-A: 6-3, 70.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, .218 BAA, 77 K/28 BB (14 GS)
Overview: At 6’9”, Meyer features a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper-90s and occasionally flirts with triple digits. His two-seam fastball, which registers in the low-90s with considerable arm-side run, will need to become more prevalent in his arsenal.
When it’s on, Meyer’s power slider serves as a legitimate out pitch and generates plenty of swing-and-misses. Rounding out his arsenal is a steadily improving changeup, though it still needs extensive development to be a usable pitch at the big-league level.
Given his towering frame, Meyer has a tendency to lose a feel for his mechanics, as his arms and legs get out of sync with his torso, causing balance issues throughout his delivery, as well as an inconsistent arm slot.
Considering he was a college pitcher, Meyer should be ready for full-season in 2012. If things don’t go smoothly, his big-time size and arm profile well as a closer.
2012 Season Update: Considering that he’s a lanky 6'9", 220-pounds, Meyer does a surprisingly good job repeating his mechanics. The right-hander’s been especially dominant over his last 10 starts, posting a 5-1 record, 2.59 ERA, with 58 strikeouts and 21 walks. Even more impressive is the fact he’s thrown at least six innings in each start while allowing four or less earned runs.
Philadelphia Phillies: Trevor May, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'5", 215
Drafted/Signed: 2008, fourth round (Kelso HS, Wash.)
Double-A: 6-5, 74.2 IP, 4.94 ERA, .251 BAA, 79 K/30 BB (14 GS)
Overview: The Phillies' minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, May led the Florida State League with 208 strikeouts. At 6'5", he is an imposing presence on the mound with two plus pitches. While he can reach back for 98 mph, the right-hander's heavy fastball sits in the mid-90s with late, arm-side run. He's not afraid to challenge hitters up in the zone with it and often uses it as an out pitch.
May is one of a select few minor league pitchers who possess the ability to sustain their velocity late into games. His premier off-speed pitch is a plus curveball with serious bite. When May struggles with establishing his arm speed, he has a tendency to spike the pitch. He also features a solid-average changeup that flashes potential at times.
The key to his success at more advanced levels will be the development of his changeup, as well as the use of a slider he picked up towards the end of the 2011 season. To be efficient with his pitches, he'll have to continue refining his command and making his mechanics more repeatable.
Since drafting him in 2008, the Phillies have been extremely cautious in their handling of May. After spending the last three seasons playing for the Phillies' Class-A affiliates, May has handled the jump to Double-A well this season and is making a case for debuting in late 2012.
2012 Season Update: After starting the season 5-0 in his first season at Double-A, the right-hander posted a 6.57 ERA in the month of May and is currently sporting a 6.75 ERA through his first four starts in June.
Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran, RHP
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 175
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Colombia
Triple-A: 5-3, 58.1 IP, 3.24 ERA, .270 BAA, 45 K/23 BB (12 GS)
MLB: 4.1 IP, 8.31 ERA, .235 BAA, 5 K/1 BB (1 GS)
Overview: Teheran has absolutely nothing left to prove in the minor leagues after dominating Triple-A hitters in 2011. The right-hander features a plus fastball in the 93-97 mph range and is aggressive with its placement, working both sides of the plate and pounding the lower half of the strike zone.
Also in his arsenal is a plus changeup with excellent fade, as well as a curveball and slider. Both pitches grade as above-average with potential to be a plus offering down the road.
He has showcased improved command of all pitches since 2010 but will inevitably need more refinement to be as successful at the big-league level.
2012 Season Update: After an unimpressive spring training, Teheran has continued to be inconsistent at Triple-A, as he continues to surrender far more home runs than he should (nine on the season). He was called up for a spot start where he showed improved command, but he still only lasted 4.1 innings.
Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Tampa, Fla.)
Low-A: 7-0, 79 IP, 1.59 ERA, .189 BAA, 99 K/18 BB (14 GS)
Overview: Fernandez, who grew up in Cuba and ultimately fled to the United States in 2008, has the upside of a future No. 1 starter. The right-hander has a crisp fastball that sits at 92-96 mph, though there have been reports of him hitting 97-98 over the last two seasons.
What’s impressive about Fernandez is that he already has three off-speed pitches in his arsenal, with the best being a hard, late-breaking slider that generates swing-and-misses. His curveball is an solid-average pitch that can get too loopy and lose its pace at times, so don’t be surprised if the pitch is scrapped as he develops.
The right-hander also has an early feel for a changeup, which only furthers the thought that he could be a front-line starter.
2012 Season Update: Fernandez has been one of the best pitchers in all of the minor leagues this season, as he’s dominating Low-A hitters, piling up strikeouts while exhibiting advanced command and working deep into games.
Chicago Cubs: Dillon Maples, RHP
Courtesy of baseballinstinct.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2011, 14th round (HS—Southern Pines, N.C.)
2012 Stats: N/A
Overview: Considered unsignable headed into the 2011 draft due to his strong commitment to North Carolina, the Cubs took a chance on him in the 14th round and offered him enough money to pass on his commitment.
Maples, a right-hander, possesses two plus pitches in a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a sharp, downer breaking ball. He also throws a changeup, although it’s a pitch that will need considerable development before reaching the major leagues.
Despite his impressive athleticism, Maples' mechanics are a bit worrisome as he employs a short arm action and occasionally forgets to use his lower half. It’s uncertain whether the Cubs will try to clean up his arm action and overall mechanics, but, regardless, he’ll need to improve the command of his fastball and further develop his offspeed pitches.
2012 Season Update: Maples will likely make his professional debut at some point in the near future for the AZL Cubs in the Rookie Arizona League.
Houston Astros: Jarred Cosart, RHP
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Height/Weight: 6'3", 180 lbs.
Drafted/Signed: 2008, 38th round (League City HS, Texas)
Double-A: 3-4, 63 IP, 4.00 ERA, .269 BAA, 53 K/29 BB (11 GS)
Triple-A: 0-1, 6 IP, 6.00 ERA, .370 BAA, 5 K/2 BB (1 GS)
Overview: Cosart was dealt to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline for Hunter Pence and immediately became the top pitching prospect in the organization.
His fast arm generates 94-97 mph fastballs that can flash up to 98 or 99. Cosart's secondary offerings both grade out to at least a 50 in terms of stuff, but he lacks the command to use them in high volume. At this point, his changeup is a better out pitch than his breaker, though it does have good shape and pace.
Cosart has a wiry frame with room to add some bulk. His mechanics range from clean to jerky, but he is athletic and still has time to refine them.
As far as his statistics go, 2011 was an up-and-down season for Cosart. He dominated through the middle of June, got shelled for a month and a half and was traded and ultimately rushed into an unsuccessful stint at Double-A.
He'll start the 2012 season back in Double-A, where the Astros hope he will begin to reverse his converging K/9 and BB/9 rates.
2012 Season Update: Although he made a spot-start at Triple-A, Cosart has spent the majority of the season at Double-A. While his numbers aren’t overly impressive, the right-hander has demonstrated improved command compared to his 2011 season and his inducing 2.02 GB/FB.
Cincinnati Reds: Robert Stephenson, RHP
Courtesy of hardballtalk.nbcsports.com
Height/Weight: 6'2", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS—Martinez, Calif.)
Rookie Pioneer League: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 8 K/1 BB (1 GS)
Overview: Stephenson has an explosive fastball that sits 91-95 mph and has scraped as high as 97. Unlike a lot of prep pitchers, the right-hander has the ability to maintain his velocity deep into games without sacrificing command.
Although his fastball is repeatedly explosive, both of his secondary pitches—a curveball and changeup—are raw pitches that will need considerable development as he progresses through the Reds’ system.
2012 Season Update: Stephenson made his professional debut for Billings on June 19 in a dominant five-inning performance against Missoula. Although he ultimately recorded a no-decision, the right-hander notched eight strikeouts while inducing six groundouts.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jameson Taillon, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'6", 225
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: The Woodlands, Texas)
High-A: 4-6, 74.2 IP, 4.10 ERA, .234 BAA, 67 K/20 BB (14 G)
Overview: Taillon made impressive strides in his first full season, as he demonstrated improved command of all pitches. His quick arm generates fastballs that sit in the 93-97 mph range, and he occasionally flirts with triple digits.
A typical power pitcher, the right-hander complements his heater with a late-breaking, power slider and knee-buckling curve. He also has a changeup that grades as solid-average and will be crucial in his development over the next couple seasons.
2012 Season Update: Taillon has struggled to keep the ball down in the zone this season, which has led to less-than-impressive results. However, the Pirates are letting him work deeper into games and build his durability, so naturally he will continue to struggle at times over the course of the season.
After a string of six straight poor outings that began on May 16 , the right-hander finally had a much needed bounce-back outing, as he allowed one hit over seven innings on June 19 while fanning five and walking three.
Milwaukee Brewers: Wily Peralta, RHP
Rich Pilling/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'2", 240
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Dominican Republic
Triple-A: 2-8, 71 IP, 5.96 ERA, .283 BAA, 61 K/43 BB (14 GS)
MLB: IP, ER, 3 H, K (1 G)
Overview: Peralta was signed out of the Dominican Republic as a toolsy outfielder in 2005. But after witnessing his raw arm strength, he was quickly transitioned to the bump. After missing the 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery, Peralta has progressed steadily since returning.
Peralta pounds the strike zone with a four-seam and two-seam fastball and typically sits in the low-to-mid-90s—although he is capable of touching the upper 90s.
His best secondary pitch is a hard slider, which, when kept down in the zone, is a legitimate swing-and-miss pitch. He also features a changeup that has come along over the years due to his role as a starter but at the moment probably only grades out as about a 50.
Although some believe he is best suited for a bullpen role, the Brewers have remained steadfast in their development of Peralta as a starter. Therefore, it will likely take an injury to a member of the Brewers’ rotation for Peralta to get his shot. Until then, he'll wait patiently in Triple-A.
2012 Season Update: After enjoying his best minor-league season in 2011, Peralta has endured a frustrating 2012 campaign, as he continues to be knocked around in the Pacific Coast League and struggles to command his pitches (43 walks in 71 innings).
He received a big-league call-up early in the season, although it was short lived. After tossing only one innings in relief for the Brewers, the right-hander was returned to Triple-A.
St. Louis Cardinals: Shelby Miller, RHP
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Brownwood, Texas)
Triple-A: 4-6, 66 IP, 6.00 ERA, .306 BAA, 73 K/31 BB (14 GS)
Overview: After only nine starts for High-A Palm Beach, Miller upped his ETA by dominating at Double-A Springfield. He has an excellent pitcher’s frame at 6'3", 195 pounds, and he’ll only continue to fill out.
Miller throws a heavy 93-97 mph fastball with outstanding arm-side run that generates a healthy mixture of swing-and-misses and weak contact.
To complement his heater, Miller throws two above-average off-speed pitches—a sharp, downer curve and fading changeup. He has already shown the ability to work deep into games while sustaining his velocity and is built for innings.
Miller has struggled with his command this season at Triple-A, but he seems on schedule to make a midseason debut. Don’t be overly concerned with his well-documented off-field issues last season either—it’s not like he had the college experience to get such behavior out of his system.
2012 Season Update: One of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Miller is in the midst of a rough season at Triple-A Memphis. The right-hander has allowed 82 hits and 15 home runs in 66 innings this season and hasn’t turned in a quality start in over a month.
Like many other scouts and writers, I’m a firm believer that Miller is simply bored at Triple-A, and it may come to the point where the Cardinals are better off promoting him to the major leagues rather than continue regressing in the Pacific Coast League.
If there’s one positive to take away from his current season, it’s that he’s still posting a 9+ K/9 with minimal walks.
San Francisco Giants: Chris Stratton, RHP
Courtesy of US Presswire
Drafted/Signed: 2012, first round (Mississippi State)
Overview: Stratton’s fastball sits at 91-96 mph with arm-side action, and he has shown the ability to consistently locate the pitch low in the zone. The only knock on the right-hander is that he doesn’t throw the pitch enough, instead relying solely on his slider at times. At the next level, such an approach won’t be as effective against professional hitters.
Stratton has a legitimate out-pitch in his plus-slider. He throws it with nearly identical arm speed, and it features late, diving movement that generates an abundance of helpless swings.
2012 Season Update: After falling to the Giants’ with the 20th pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the right-hander signed for slot-value $1.85 million.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Lee, RHP
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Height/Weight: 6'4", 190
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: McKinney, Texas)
High-A: 2-2, 52.1 IP, 4.30 ERA, .263 BAA, 52 K/9 BB (11 GS)
Overview: After selecting Lee with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Dodgers signed him for $5.25 million just before the deadline. Slated to play both football and baseball at Louisiana State, the signing bonus—the largest in franchise history—lured Lee away from his previous commitment.
The right-hander's fastball typically sits in the 90-93 mph range to both sides of the plate, and he will give hitters a different look by mixing in a cutter. For the first time in his young career, Lee threw both a curveball and slider in 2011, with the latter frequently showing the potential to be a plus pitch. His changeup is pretty mediocre, but it could still be an effective pitch down the road.
For someone his size, Lee repeats his mechanics well despite throwing across his body. He exudes confidence on the mound while controlling the pace of the game—traits rarely found in high school pitchers.
Lee will likely begin the season at High-A, and considering both his polish and maturity on the mound, he should log significant time at Double-A as early as July.
2012 Season Update: Lee was simply far too hittable early in the season, as he struggled to consistently work down in the zone. However, since allowing seven earned runs in four innings on May 7, the right-hander has yielded only six runs over his last 21 innings.
Colorado Rockies: Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'5", 240
Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (Mississippi)
Triple-A: 3-4, 41.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, .269 BAA, 42 K/16 BB (8 GS)
MLB: 0-2, 23 IP, 4.70 ERA, .266 BAA, 20 K/15 BB (5 GS)
Overview: Due to his previous experience, pure stuff and overall projectability, Pomeranz was the centerpiece of the deal that brought Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. He was then rushed up to make four starts late in the year after 20 across three minor league stops—none above Double-A.
The 6'5" left-hander already has a plus fastball and breaker and has the aptitude to develop a changeup on the fly at the major league level. However, given his jerky arm action on the backside, Pomeranz needs to establish more consistency with his delivery. With that in place, improved command should follow.
While his upside comes as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, he could blossom into the Rockies’ ace given their lackluster rotation.
2012 Season Update: Pomeranz has spent the better part of the last two months refining his mechanics and command at Triple-A Colorado Springs after a handful of mediocre starts in the big leagues.
He struggled to repeat his mechanics in his brief time with the Rockies that resulted in 25 hits and 15 walks in 23 innings. He turned his best start of the season on June 19, as he left after six innings with a no-hitter still intact—he struck out eight and walked three.
The Rockies would prefer to let Pomeranz iron out his command issues before recalling him, but if the teams makes a move in the coming weeks, he could be back up to fill a hole in the team’s starting rotation.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Trevor Bauer, RHP
Rob Tringali/Getty Images
Height/Weight: 6'1", 185
Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)
Double-A: 7-1, 48.1 IP, 1.68 ERA, .192 BAA, 60 K/26 BB (8 GS)
Triple-A: 4-0, 42 IP, 2.79 ERA, .252 BAA, 51 K/20 BB (7 GS)
Overall: 11-1, 90.1 IP, 2.19 ERA, .221 BAA, 111 K/46 BB (15 GS)
Overview: I’d be shocked if Bauer isn’t the first player from the 2011 draft class to reach the major leagues. Winner of Baseball America’s College Player of the Year award and USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award in 2011, the right-hander is on the fast track after reaching Double-A last season.
Often compared to Tim Lincecum due to similarities in mechanics, Bauer is more than just that: He’s a student of the game who employs a ridiculous work ethic.
And then there’s his stuff.
Bauer’s torque delivery unleashes 92-97 mph fastballs on unsuspecting hitters, although his best pitch, his plus-plus curveball—which is absolutely filthy—will be considered one of the best in baseball upon his arrival. Beyond that, he also mixes in a plus-slider, above-average changeup and average splitter.
2012 Season Update: After dominating hitters at Double-A, the hard-throwing right-hander was promoted to Triple-A where he’s stifled hitters in the Pacific Coast League. He still has some issues to work out regarding his command, but that may ultimately be something that the Diamondbacks have to live with.
It shouldn’t be long until the 2011 first-rounder is pitching in the big leagues.
San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP
Courtesy of ESPN.com
Height/Weight: 6'4"/180 lbs
Drafted/Signed: 2012, first round (HS—Harvard-Westlake, Calif.)
Overview: Fried, a 6'3", 170-pounder whose fastball sits in the low-90s, has drawn rave reviews from scouts, especially for his plus breaking ball that has excellent shape and downward action.
He has a highly athletic and projectable frame, while his feel and command of his pitches are incredibly mature for his age. His curveball is already a plus offering and the best in the draft, as he throws it in the mid-to-upper-70s with tight rotation and late, downward bite.
His delivery is smooth yet deceptive, which aids the effectiveness of his solid-to-average changeup. As a senior, he's already shown an above-average feel for the strike zone as well as solid command of his pitches.
Fried will need some time to develop, but it's possible that he is one of the first prep pitchers in the 2012 draft class to reach the major leagues due to his four-pitch mix and advanced feel.
2012 Season Update: After the Padres drafted him with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Fried signed for slot-value $3 million.