Ranking the 5 Best Pitching Prospects for 2013
Early last week, I broke down both the top 10 New York Mets and Yankees prospects to commence my team-specific offseason coverage. In conjunction with the unveiling of each organization’s top prospects, I will also be looking at the game’s best and more intriguing players by position; the focus will range from widely-regarded top prospects to under-the-radar follows.
Today, I will break down the top pitching prospects, all of whom are nearly big-league-ready.
5. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
2013 Age: 20
2012 Stats: 7-0, 79 IP, 1.59 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 11.28 K/9, 2.05 BB/9 (14 GS, Low-A Greensboro); 7-1, 55 IP, 1.96 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.65 K/9, 2.78 BB/9 (11 GS, High-A Jupiter)
Scouting Report: 6’3”, 215-pound right-hander has durable, power frame that’s built for innings; heavy fastball sits 93-97 mph and flirts with triple-digits; sharp, late-breaking curveball gives him a second plus pitch; changeup is average now because he tends to overthrow it, but should be at least an above-average offering by the time he reaches the major leagues.
Fernandez is highly advanced for his age, and his feel for both his arsenal and the strike zone was obvious in his full-season debut; fierce competitor who attacks opposing hitters and works deep into his starts; wouldn’t be surprised if he moves through the Marlins’ system quickly in 2013, possibly even a late-season big-league debut.
4. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2013 Age: 22
2012 Stats: 5-1, 67 IP, 2.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.27 K/9, 2.82 BB/9 (13 GS, High-A Bradenton); 3-6, 59 IP, 2.90 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9.15 K/9, 3.51 BB/9 (12 GS, Double-A Altoona); 6 IP, 3 ER, 7/1 K/BB (1 GS, Triple-A Indianapolis)
Scouting Report: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft is the epitome of a power pitcher with a durable 6’4” frame and true plus-plus fastball that routinely reaches triple-digits; cleaned up his mechanics this past season in professional debut which led to improved command; slider is absolutely deadly in the high-80s/low-90s with late, wipeout break and ideal tilt; when locating his fastball, Cole’s changeup is a yet a third plus pitch with arm action nearly identical to that of his heater; curveball is least impressive of his entire arsenal, but still grades as big-league average.
My only gripes are that his mechanics and approach on the mound can get sloppy at times, even lackadaisical; it’s the only overt aspect of his game that will be easily exploited in the major leagues.
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
2013 Age: 23
2012 Stats: 10-6, 116 IP, 3.26 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.08 K/9, 3.34 BB/9 (19 GS, Double-A Binghamton); 2-2, 33 IP, 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.45 K/9, 4.36 BB/9 (6 GS, Triple-A Buffalo)
Scouting Report: Made enormous strides in 2012 and, in my opinion, distinguished himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game; arsenal is highlighted by a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has increasingly scraped 96-98 mph; employs a deceptive and explosive delivery that generates excellent tilt and downward action on each pitch; the ball jumps out of his hand and hitters noticeably struggle in recognizing pitches.
Wheeler’s best secondary offering is a mid-80s slider with late, downer break that’s a legitimate out-pitch; change developed nicely this season and flashes with above-average potential when not overthrow; will work in a curveball with impressive pace and shape, but lacks a true feel of the pitch.
2. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2013 Age: 20
2012 Stats: 7-10, 126.2 IP, 4.69 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.38 K/9, 3.55 BB/9 (25 GS, Double-A Jackson)
Scouting Report: 6’4” right-hander is incredibly athletic and arguably the most projectable pitching prospect in the game; overall arsenal is still raw, but still advanced for a player his age.
Walker’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and he holds it into the game; pitch will occasionally touch 96-97 mph with explosive arm-side life; doesn’t have great command of downer breaking ball at the moment, but pitch shows plus potential with tight spin and good pace; changeup is raw and may only be an average offering, but he made strides in commanding the pitch last season.
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2013 Age: 20
2012 Stats: 1-0, 30 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.23 WHIP, 12.00 K/9, 0.60 BB/9 (8 GS, Low-A Delmarva); 6-3, 57 IP, 2.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.42 K/9, 2.84 BB/9 (12 GS, High-A Frederick); 2-0, 16.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.02 K/9, 4.32 BB/9 (3 GS, Double-A Bowie); 1.2 IP, H, BB (2 G, MLB)
Scouting Report: The unanimous top pitching prospect in the game reached the major leagues, albeit only two late-season appearances out of the Orioles’ bullpen, after opening professional debut at Low-A Delmarva; 6’1” right-hander is physically gifted with feel for pitching well beyond his years.
Bundy boasts an advanced four-pitch mix highlighted by a mid-90s two-seam fastball with exceptional run; will also blow hitters away with a four-seamer that sits in the high-90s; breaking ball is a hammer and plus pitch, though he’s still developing command of the pitch; changeup is his most consistent secondary pitch at the moment, but will probably only be above-average; he also has a slider, though his primary breaking ball is the curve.