MLB Prospects: 10 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Cole Hamels
On Wednesday, the Phillies and Cole Hamels reached an agreement on six-year contract extension worth at least $144 million that also includes an option for a seventh year.
The 28-year-old left-hander owns a 3.23 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 133.2 innings this season for the Phillies, and he was named to his third All-Star game this past July. Over the course of his seven-year career, all with Philadelphia, Hamels is 85-58 with a 3.38 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 1295 innings. In 2008, Hamels was named the World Series MVP when the Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays.
But as we look toward the minor leagues, are there any young, left-handed pitching prospects who have the potential to be the next Cole Hamels? Perhaps, but only time will tell.
Regardless, these 10 prospects have a high enough ceiling that it’s entirely possible.
10. Nick Turley, LHP, New York Yankees
High-A: 6-3, 80.1 IP, 2.69 ERA, .219 BAA, 89 K/28 BB (16 G; 15 GS)
A 50th-round draft pick—yes, you read that correctly—Turley is a 6’6” southpaw who lacks velocity, but makes up for it with command of three average pitches. He’s posted surprisingly high strikeout totals this season at High-A and is rapidly becoming a legitimate prospect.
With his ongoing success, Turley’s ceiling has increased as well, and he could emerge as a notable left-handed pitching prospect if he can repeat such success at Double-A.
9. Nick Maronde, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
High-A: 2-1, 53 IP, 1.87 ERA, .180 BAA, 52 K/14 BB (9 GS)
Drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Florida, the Angels chose to develop Maronde as a starter after working out of the Gators’ bullpen. He muddles between being a finesse and power pitcher and a strained lat muscle sidelined him for nearly a month earlier this season. However, the early results this season have been highly promising, and the 22-year-old may be poised for a promotion to Double-A in the near future.
8. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Double-A: 4-3, 66.2 IP, 3.51 ERA, .242 BAA, 72 K/37 BB (14 GS)
At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Paxton is a left-handed power pitcher capable of registering high strikeout and ground-ball rates. Using two plus pitches in his fastball (both two- and four-seam) and breaking ball, he doesn’t shy away from hitters and is comfortable throwing the curveball in any count. His mechanics can be inconsistent, especially from the stack, but he’s continued to make adjustments since reaching Double-A.
7. Tony Cingrani, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
High-A: 5-1, 56.2 IP, 1.11 ERA, .189 BAA, 71 K/13 BB (10 GS)
Double-A: 5-2, 54.1 IP, 2.15 ERA, .194 BAA, 59 K/19 BB (9 GS)
After serving as a reliever at Rice, the Reds converted Cingrani to a starting pitcher after drafting him in the third round of the 2011 draft. Since then, the left-hander has breezed through the low minors and is nearing another promotion after continued dominance at Double-A.
Basically, he’s a two-pitch pitcher relying on a plus fastball-changeup combination. With plus command of both offerings, Cingrani has posted huge strikeout numbers this season and, in general, been incredibly difficult to square up. I still think that he’ll need to develop at least a solid-average breaking ball, but obviously, he’s doing well with his current arsenal.
6. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Double-A: 8-3, 75.1 IP, 1.19 ERA, .151 BAA, 79 K/32 BB (13 GS)
Triple-A: 1-2, 27 IP, 4.33 ERA, .282 BAA, 35 K/21 BB (6 GS)
Hultzen was regarded as one of the more advanced pitchers in the 2011 draft class due to his experience at Virginia and overall feel for the strike zone. On the verge of a big-league call-up after a recent promotion to Triple-A Tacoma, he demonstrates advanced command of three pitches—a low-90s fastball, a slider (technically his out pitch) and a changeup—and is effective against right- and left-handed hitters.
5. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Rookie: 20.1 IP, 4.87 ERA, .218 BAA, 22 K/9 BB (6 G; 5 GS)
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2011 draft, Norris is a highly athletic lefty with a four-pitch arsenal—three of which have the potential to be plus offerings. He’ll need considerable seasoning in the minor leagues to clean up his mechanics and become a more cerebral pitcher, but the upside is obvious.
4. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
High-A: 6-4, 101 IP, 3.21 ERA, .245 BAA, 104 K/39 BB (19 GS)
A strong season at High-A has led to Biddle’s ascent to No. 1 prospect status within the Phillies’ organization. He’s improved the command of his three-pitch mix this season, which has led to more consistency and higher strikeout rates.
Moving forward, improving his fastball command will be essential in his overall development, as it sets up each of his promising offspeed offerings.
3. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Low-A: 6-2, 83.1 IP, 2.70 ERA, .255 BAA, 86 K/13 BB (20 G; 14 GS)
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2010 draft, Nicolino is emerging as an elite left-handed pitching prospect due to his projectable frame and impressive three-pitch mix. His velocity has climbed as he’s physically developed, and the Blue Jays have protected him in the lower minors with the rest of their “Big Three”—RHP Aaron Sanchez and RHP Noah Syndergaard.
2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Double-A: 5-4, 69.2 IP, 2.84 ERA, .241 BAA, 71 K/21 BB (13 GS)
Triple-A: 3-1, 27.2 IP, 2.28 ERA, .272 BAA, 16 K/7 BB (5 GS)
Currently the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, Skaggs is tall and lanky with a smooth yet deceptive arm action and repeatable mechanics that allow him to pound the knees with his 88-93 mph fastball. He also has arguably the best left-handed curveball in the minor leagues, a double-plus offering that keeps right-handed hitters off balance as much as it does lefties. He will also work in a decent changeup, but the southpaw’s bread and butter is his hammer.
1. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres
Rookie: 8 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 8 K/6 BB (5 G; 4 GS)
Selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player draft, Fried is considerably more advanced than most high school pitchers. The left-hander exhibits command of a three-pitch mix that includes a slightly above-average fastball, plus curveball and a changeup that also has plus potential.
With smooth and effortless mechanics, Fried’s 6’4”, 180-pound frame still leaves room for projection, as he should have No. 1 starter upside in his prime.