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MLB Prospects: 10 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Roger Clemens

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterNovember 17, 2016

MLB Prospects: 10 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Roger Clemens

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    Say what you want about Roger Clemens and all of the headlines that have deservedly tainted his image; over the course of his 24-year career, the right-hander was one of more dominant pitchers in baseball history. There's no denying that.

    Here is a quick glance at his career statistics (via Baseball Reference):

    354-184, 3.12 ERA, 118 CG, 46 SHO, 4,916.2 IP, 4,672 K/1,580 BB, 143 ERA+, 133.1 WAR

    Furthermore, here is a look at Clemens’ average 162-game season:

    17-9, .312 ERA, 34 GS, 6 CG, 2 SHO, 236 IP, 224 K/76 BB, 143 ERA+

    Clemens won the Cy Young Award on seven different occasions, and he even won the American League MVP with the Red Sox in 1986. He was also a perennial league leader in a host of impressive categories:

    • ERA (seven times)
    • Wins (four times)
    • Complete Games (three times)
    • Strikeouts (five times)
    • ERA+ (eight times)
    • K/BB (four times)

    It’s almost impossible to say that there will be a pitcher that has a career as lengthy and dominant as that of Roger Clemens. However, given the level of talent among minor league pitchers this season, I thought that it would at least be fun to speculate.

10. A.J. Cole, RHP, Oakland Athletics

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 180

    DOB: 1/5/92                       

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, fourth round (HS: Oviedo, Fla.)

     

    2012 Stats

    High-A: 0-7, 38 IP, 7.82 ERA, .364 BAA, 31 K/10 BB (8 GS)

    Low-A: 4-0, 38.1 IP, 2.58 ERA, .240 BAA, 43 K/6 BB (8 GS)

     

    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 over his last five starts: 3-0, 27 IP, 19 H, 4 ER, 30 K/2 BB.

9. Alex Meyer, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    Position: RHP

    Height/Weight: 6’9”, 220

    DOB: 1/3/1990

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Kentucky)

     

    2012 Stats

    Low-A: 6-4, 84 IP, 3.32 ERA, .211 BAA, 98 K/34 BB (17 GS)

     

    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.

     

    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 4-1 record and 2.66 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 20 walks.

    The Nationals may let him finish the season at Low-A, but in my opinion, he’s ready for a more challenging level.

8. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 210

    DOB: 8/13/1992           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: Yucaipa, Calif.)

     

    2012 Stats

    Double-A: 4-4, 65 IP, 4.43 ERA, .257 BAA, 67 K/30 BB (14 GS)

     

    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 as of late, allowing 21 earned runs over his last five starts spanning 20.2 innings. It’s possible that he’s simply fatigued and struggling to make adjustments now that the book is now out on him and the weather is much more hitter-friendly.

7. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 225

    DOB: 11/18/1991           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2010, first round (HS: The Woodlands, Texas)

     

    2012 Stats

    High-A: 5-6, 86.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, .229 BAA, 73 K/24 BB (16 GS)

     

    Taillon made impressive strides in 2011, his first full season, as he demonstrated improved command of all pitches and electric stuff. 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 to build his durability, so naturally, he will continue to struggle at times over the course of the season. Therefore, it’s important that the organization allows him to work through his problems rather than become overly cautious and suddenly limit his workload.

    After a string of six straight poor outings that began on May 16 , the right-hander finally has bounced back over his last three starts: 2-0, 17 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 6 K/4 BB.

6. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins

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    Position: RHP

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215

    DOB: 7/31/1992

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Tampa, Fla.)

     

    2012 Stats

    Low-A: 7-0, 79 IP, 1.59 ERA, .189 BAA, 99 K/18 BB (14 GS)

    High-A: 1-0, 10 IP, 6.30 ERA, .231 BAA, 9 K/4 BB (2 GS)

     

    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 dominated Low-A hitters and piled up strikeouts while exhibiting advanced command and working deep into games. He received a promotion to High-A in late June, where he’s been touched up a bit, throwing five innings in both of his two starts and giving up at least three earned runs. However, given his excellent command, his adjustment period should be brief.

5. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: RHP 

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200

    DOB: 6/17/1990

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (University of Connecticut)

     

    2012 Stats

    Low-A: 2-0, 26.2 IP, 0.34 ERA, .130 BAA, 42 K/4 BB (5 GS)

    High-A: 5-2, 54.1 IP, 3.48 ERA, .246 BAA, 59 K/13 BB (11 GS)

     

    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 still having an amazing season, but is enduring a rough patch over his last three starts for Salem: 8.1 IP, 16 H, 14 ER, 6 K/5 BB.

4. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP            

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 220

    DOB: 9/8/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (UCLA)

     

    2012 Stats

    High-A: 5-1, 67 IP, 2.55 ERA, .217 BAA, 69 K/21 BB, 1.63 GB/FB (13 GS)

    Double-A: 2-1, 11.2 IP, 4.63 ERA, .314 BAA, 13 K/1 BB (3 GS)

     

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Cole is your classic power pitcher. His fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph in this year’s Arizona Fall League, and he sits in the mid to upper 90s. When he’s efficient enough to play his slider off his fastball, it’s a legitimate strikeout pitch, and he has a decent changeup given his velocity.

    He has ace potential, but I just don’t think he will have as smooth of a progression through the minor leagues as others do. For a collegiate right-hander—especially one drafted No. 1 overall—Cole’s mechanics are too inconsistent, though they have definitely improved so far this season.

     

    2012 Season Update

    After pitching extremely well at High-A during the first half of the 2012 season, Cole was promoted to Double-A during the third week of June. Since then, he’s pitching surprisingly well, expect for a one-inning stint on June 26 that ended prematurely after he was pelted with multiple come-backers.

    Remove that one start from his stat sheet, and the hard-throwing right-hander has two wins while allowing three earned runs on 11 hits while registering a 11 K/1 BB in 10.2 innings.

3. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 185

    DOB: 5/30/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: East Paulding, Ga.)

     

    2012 Stats

    Double-A: 7-4, 85.1 IP, 2.75 ERA, .203 BAA, 82 K/35 BB (14 GS)

     

    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 on his two-seamer. His curveball is a sharp downer that jelly-legs right-handed hitters, and he also throws a solid-average 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. Wheeler is one of only a few top pitching prospects who have actually exceeded expectations this season.

     

    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 he’s struggled over his last two starts: 13.2 IP, 17 H, 11 ER, 9 K/6 BB.

2. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 195

    DOB: 10/10/1990           

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2009, first round (HS: Brownwood, Texas)

     

    2012 Stats

    Triple-A: 4-7, 75 IP, 6.00 ERA, .291 BAA, 86 K/39 BB (16 GS)

     

    After only nine starts for High-A Palm Beach in 2011, Miller upped his ETA by dominating at Double-A Springfield. He has an excellent pitcher’s frame at 6'3" and 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 a fading changeup. He has already shown the ability to work deep into games while sustaining his velocity, and he 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 87 hits and 17 home runs in 75 innings and is learning that he can’t get away with working up in the zone and relying on velocity.

    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 10.3 K/9 with minimal walks.

1. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Position: RHP                       

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 200

    DOB: 11/15/1992           

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: 2011, first round (HS: Owasso, Okla.)

     

    2012 Stats

    Low-A: 1-0, 30 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.53 BAA, 40 K/2 BB (8 GS)

    High-A: 4-2, 32.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, .254 BAA, 34 K/11 BB (7 GS)

     

    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.

    The right-hander is famous for his ridiculous work ethic and strength for a 19-year-old. 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. He'll likely be 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.

    The hard-throwing right-hander has given up two or fewer earned runs in five of his seven starts for Frederick.

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