In less than a week, every MLB team will have opened their spring training with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp. Over the next few weeks, every team will be evaluating their prospects and trying to figure out who may be able to contribute this coming season.
Looking at each team's farm system and the way their current pitching staff is constructed, I have singled out one pitcher who still has rookie eligibility and can have an immediate impact with their team for the coming season.
This list is not necessarily each team's best pitching prospect but rather a pitcher who is ready to compete at the major league level.
Tyler Skaggs reached the major leagues last season and actually started six games for the Diamondbacks. He finished the year going 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA, but three of those games came against the Giants, Reds and Dodgers who are all quality teams.
His minor league stats are much stronger as he has gone 27-17 over four seasons with a 2.98 ERA. He was able to strikeout 429 batters over 389 innings, and that is thanks to a curveball that is one of the best in the minors, according to Jonathan Mayo in Prospect Watch.
Braves' GM Frank Wren said last month that Julio Teheran has the inside track to claim the fifth spot in the starting rotation in 2013, which could come as a surprise to some Braves' fans. He has appeared in seven games over the past two seasons and has a career ERA of 5.19.
The reason the team is optimistic is because he is still only 22 years of age and has too much potential to be given up on yet. One reason for the down year last season could be related to the fact the Braves were trying to adjust his delivery.
It looks like Teheran has gotten past that, and Frank Wren was impressed with how he pitched in winter ball. If Teheran can reach his potential in 2013, he will make an already strong pitching rotation that much more intimidating.
Jonathan Mayo ranked Dylan Bundy as the best pitching prospect and the second best overall prospect in baseball. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen this guy pitch.
In his first full season as a professional baseball player, he started in Single-A and finished by appearing in two games for the Orioles. He only pitched 1.2 innings at the major league level but only gave up one hit and one walk. His stats at the minor league level are even more impressive as he finished 9-3 with a 2.08 ERA.
At only 20 years of age, he has a bright future with the Orioles, which should start at some point during the 2013 season.
Matt Barnes may end up being the best pitcher currently in the Red Sox's farm system but for this coming season, Allen Webster is the prospect who will have the most impact. Webster was sent to Boston last season in the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers.
Due to Webster's ability to keep the ball in the park, he only gave up two home runs last season, and produces a lot of ground balls. He has already been compared to Derek Lowe.
It doesn't look like Webster will start the year with the Red Sox but if he starts strong in Triple-A, it wouldn't be surprising to see him called up at some point in 2013.
Arodys Vizcaino was one of the top prospects in a very deep Atlanta Braves' farm system before having to undergo Tommy John surgery before the 2012 season. The injury concern was one of the reasons the Braves felt comfortable trading him to the Cubs in the Paul Maholm trade last season.
The reason the Cubs were willing to take the risk on a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery was because he is one of the more talented pitching prospects in the game.
It is hard to project a pitcher coming off a serious surgery, but if Vizcaino is healthy, he could help the Cubs right out of spring training.
Andre Rienzo had his best season as a professional baseball player, and the White Sox hope he is able to continue that success in the near future at the major league level. He started the year serving a 50-game suspension due to testing positive for PED but finished the year going 7-3 with a 2.53 ERA.
He was able to keep hitters off balance, striking out 113 over 103.1 innings of work and holding opponents to a batting average of .206. The White Sox rotation is pretty well set, entering the year. However, there are some injury risks in it, like Jake Peavy.
If any spot does open up in the rotation, Rienzo would fill in nicely.
If Tony Cingrani pitches this spring like he did last September, it will be hard for the Reds to send him back to the minors. This lefty has been one of the best pitching prospects in baseball and has shot through the Reds organization.
Last season, he made 26 appearances between A+ and AA and finished the year with an unreal 1.73 ERA. He struck out 172 batters over 142.1 innings of work and finished with a record of 10-4.
The Reds took notice of Cingrani's performance.
They called him up in September when he made three relief appearances, giving up only four hits over five innings and striking out nine. It wouldn't surprise many if Tony Cingrani were able to supplant Mike Leake on the Reds' pitching staff at some point this season.
Trevor Bauer was the third overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and made his way to Cleveland from Arizona in the Shin-Shoo Choo trade this past winter. It was surprising to see the Diamondbacks give up on a top draft pick so quickly, but there have been rumblings about attitude problems, something the Indians hope he left in the desert.
Bauer's first full year in the minor league system was anything short of impressive, going 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA. But he suffered a groin injury in his second start that didn't really affect him until he reached the majors.
He made his first appearance with the Diamondbacks on June 28 and made a total of four starts last year, finishing with a record of 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA.
Chad Bettis was a second-round pick for the Rockies in the 2011 MLB draft and could help the Colorado Rockies club this season.
The only concern with Bettis is that he missed the entire 2012 season due to a shoulder injury. But he was given a non-roster invite to the Rockies Spring Training and will have a chance to earn a spot on the roster.
He would most likely have an impact coming out of the bullpen for this team but could eventually take over a spot in the rotation in the future. Before his injury, Bettis had a minor league record of 18-6 with an ERA of 2.70.
If he can prove to be healthy, he would be a welcomed addition to this team.
All indications are that the Detroit Tigers are comfortable going into the 2013 season with rookie Bruce Rondon as their closer. When you look at his minor league stats to date, it is not surprising that Detroit feels as confident as it does about Rondon.
He has been with the Tigers organization since 2008 and has a career ERA of 2.53 over 140 appearances. Last year alone he appeared in 53 games, collected 29 saves and finished with a mark of 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
The one question mark with Rondon is how he will respond in pressure situations. But teams will never know how young pitchers respond until they are in that position. Whether good or bad, Rondon will probably have the biggest impact on his team's fortunes of any of the pitchers on this list.
Jarred Cosart was one of the main prospects who came over in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies. This coming season should be the fans' first chance to see the return from that trade.
Last year, Cosart split time between Double-A and Triple-A. He finished the year with an ERA of 3.34 and gave up less than a hit per inning pitched. Cosart should be competing for a rotation spot during the spring, but I expect him to start out with Oklahoma City and be called up later in the season.
Kyle Zimmer was the fifth overall pick in last year's MLB draft and could be fast tracked up to Kansas City by the end of this season. There are some injury concerns, though, as he only appeared in nine games last season due to shoulder surgery last August.
Those nine games were enough to get the organization excited about what Zimmer can potentially bring to the Royals. Jonathan Mayo writes in Prospect Watch about Zimmer:
Zimmer has the chance to have four above-average or better offerings. He’s a very good athlete who repeats his delivery well, going right after hitters and throwing a lot of strikes. It shouldn’t take him too long to be ready for Kansas City.
Maronde was selected in the third round by the Angels in the 2011 MLB draft and started 2012 at the rookie level. He ended up finishing with the Angels and appeared in 12 games with a 1.50 ERA.
In addition to those 12 games, he appeared in 20 games in the minors, finishing with a 6-4 record and 2.25 ERA. The Angels have a good rotation and it is hard to imagine Maronde taking Joe Blanton or Jason Vargas' spots, but he would be a welcomed addition in a bullpen that was the Angels' weak link last year.
Hyun-Jin Ryu is easily the highest paid prospect on this list accepting a six-year, $36 million deal with the Dodgers this offseason. Over the past year, the Dodgers have shown that money is not an issue with the contracts they have taken on, and a championship is the only thing on the organization's mind.
Ryu joins a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Zack Grienke. If he pitches well in 2013, it will make this rotation one of the best in the game. Last month, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com asked international scout Bob Engle what Dodgers can expect from Ryu and this is what he had to say:
He has a real good feel and an assortment of pitches and he can reach back when he’s in trouble. He’s a good competitor and it will be interesting and fun to watch. The [Korean Baseball League] is a good league. I don’t know what caliber of league you would compare it to in the States, but it’s solid. You see more power there than you see in Japan.
Wily Peralta is a prospect who Brewers' fans have been hearing about for a few seasons, and they finally got a chance to see him pitch at the end of last season. He started five games for the Brewers and made one additional relief appearance. He finished the year with a 2-1 record and an ERA of 2.48.
Jonathan Mayo ranked Peralta as the Brewers' top prospect and wrote:
With a smooth, downhill delivery, Peralta delivers a plus sinking fastball that generates a lot of groundball outs. His power breaking ball is outstanding and will be a true out pitch. He also has a changeup that’s a solid average pitch that looks like a splitter. Stuff-wise, he could be a No. 2 or really good No. 3 starter.
Peralta has a very good opportunity to seize a rotation spot right out of spring training if he pitches well and to contribute to an underrated pitching rotation.
Kyle Gibson was drafted in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft and quickly rose through the Twins' farm system. His progress was derailed in 2011, though, when he had to have Tommy John surgery.
But entering this season, he is ready to get back on track.
Gibson has his sights set on a roster spot with the Twins in 2013, even with their set inning limits. The Twins are pretty set at the top of their rotation with Vance Worley, Scott Diamond and Kevin Correria. But adding someone like Kyle Gibson in one of the final two spots would really help this team.
Jose Fernandez was ranked as the seventh best prospect in MLB entering 2013 by Jonathan Mayo who sees him as a top of the rotation-type pitcher in the future. He goes on to describe Fernandez as a pitcher:
"with three pitches that all have the chance to be above average or better. His hard breaking ball might be a plus pitch when all is said and done and his changeup isn’t far behind, if at all. What sets Fernandez apart, aside from his presence, is his command."
Fernandez hasn't pitched higher than Single-A but wasn't short of dominant last year, going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA. He will not start the season with the Marlins but could be a call-up come September, giving him important major league experience entering 2014.
Zack Wheeler came over to the Mets in 2011 when New York sent Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants. Mets' GM Sandy Alderson doesn't see Wheeler starting the year with the Mets, but fans shouldn't have to wait too long to see the future combination of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Last year, Wheeler split time between Double-A and Triple-A, going 12-8 in 25 starts and collecting 148 strikeouts in 149 innings pitched. Jonathan Mayo described Zack Wheeler as:
Tall and projectable, Wheeler is a power pitcher with a feel for three pitches. His fastball is already plus, touching 98 mph, with some sink and he can add and subtract from it. He throws two breaking balls, a curve he’s always had and a newer slider, both of which can be at least above-average. His changeup has improved and should be an average third offering. His command has improved tremendously, perhaps the biggest reason why he’s poised to help out in New York in the near future.
The Yankees rotation is pretty well set, so if any pitching prospect is going to have an impact on this coming season, it will be out of the bullpen. Mark Montgomery hopes he is that guy and if he is given the opportunity, I think he would be a great addition.
Last year he split time between Single-A and Double-A, appearing in 46 games and converted 15 save opportunities. He struck out 99 batters in 64.1 innings and only gave up 35 hits. Mayo wrote about Montgomery in his Prospect Watch:
While he is up to 93 mph with his fastball, his best pitch is a nasty slider that has sharp bite and tilt. He pitches with deception, giving him even more swing-and-miss ability. Whether he closes at the big league level remains to be seen, but he should be ready to get big league hitters out in 2013.
Dan Straily saw his first Major League action last year, making seven starts for the Oakland A's. While his numbers may not be overly impressive, 2-1 record and a 3.89 ERA, he was more than effective.
He was dominant before heading to Oakland and was 6-3 with a 2.02 ERA in 11 starts at the Triple-A level last year. Entering spring training, Straily is penciled in as the fourth starter behind Brett Anderson, Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker and should continue to improve as he gains MLB experience.
The Phillies rotation is pretty well set, and barring an injury, it would be almost impossible for a prospect to claim one of the spots. However, there are opportunities out of the bullpen.
This is where Jonathan Pettibone steps in.
Last season, Pettibone started 26 games between the Double-A and Triple-A level, finishing the year with a 13-8 record with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. He actually improved his numbers when he went to Triple-A, going 4-1 and dropping his ERA from 3.30 to 2.55.
Gerrit Cole was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft. After reaching the Triple-A level in his first full season, it would not be unreasonable to think he will end up pitching in Pittsburgh this season.
He did only make one appearance with the Indianapolis Indians, so he may start the 2013 season there, but Cole is too talented to stay there very long.
Jonathan Mayo wrote about Cole in his Prospect Watch:
The UCLA product is big and strong with the frame to be a power pitcher who tops a rotation. His fastball is plus plus, up to 98 mph with ease, with a ton of life. Cole's slider is also a plus, a hard breaking ball that gets swings and misses. His curve and changeup, also thrown hard, aren't quite as good as the fastball-slider combination, but both might be above-average pitches.
Casey Kelly was the key prospect that came back in the Adrian Gonzalez trade a few years ago with Boston. He made his first MLB appearance last year. The stat line was not very good, though, as he went 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA, a 1.69 WHIP and gave up 39 hits in only 23 innings pitched.
These numbers are not as much of a concern for Kelly as it may be for other pitchers, considering he didn't start pitching full time until 2010 as the Red Sox allowed him to split time between shortstop and pitching. He only made 14 appearances last season between the minors and MLB due to an elbow strain.So he still needs to gain some game experience before being considered a real force.
However, the potential is there in the next few years, and if the Padres really want to get him experience at the major league level, he could have a real impact coming out of the bullpen in 2013.
The San Francisco Giants have one of the best rotations in the game as well as one of the most durable. Now, all that could change in 2013 due to the long season with the postseason run last year, but for the sake of this article, we will assume they will continue their good fortunes.
If a pitcher is going to make an impact, it will come from the bullpen, and that is why Heath Hembree is the top choice here. Last year he spent the majority of his time in Triple-A, appearing in 39 games and finishing with 15 saves.
The ERA is a concern, though, as he saw his ERA shoot up to 4.74 from his 2011 number of 1.86. He should bounce back from that, and with a strong spring, may end up on the roster Opening Day.
Danny Hultzen is one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball today and should finally provide Felix Hernandez some much needed support in the Mariners' rotation. However, Hultzen will need to prove he is ready for the majors after a confusing 2012 season.
In 13 starts at the Double-A level, he was dominant, going 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA, averaging 9.4 strikeouts and only 3.4 walks per nine innings. He then was called up to Triple-A and didn't look like the same pitcher. He finished the year going 1-4 over 12 starts with an average of 10.5 strikeouts and eight walks per nine innings.
If the lefty can prove he has regained his control in spring training, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him pitching a lot of the season in Seattle.
With the recent news about Chris Carpenter missing the entire 2013 season, it has added a little more pressure on some of the Cardinals' young pitching prospects entering this season. While Carpenter's experience will be greatly missed, St. Louis shouldn't see a drop in production as they have one of the best collections of pitching prospects in the game today.
Shelby Miller is one of those pitchers and will probably move from the bullpen in 2012 to a spot in the rotation to start this season. He appeared in six games for St. Louis last year, giving up only two runs over 13.2 innings pitched and striking out 16.
Jake Odorizzi was one of the key pieces in a trade this past winter that sent James Shields to the Royals. Tampa Bay may not have to wait long to see a return on that trade as Odorizzi will most likely compete for a spot in the rotation with another top prospect, Chris Archer.
I think both pitchers will have a big impact on the Rays this coming season, but I see Odorizzi beating out Archer and Alex Cobb for that final spot. I think Archer would still make the roster for the Rays, but he will contribute by coming out of the bullpen.
There are concerns about control issues on the mound, something he did improve on a bit last year dropping his walks per nine innings from 5.4 to 4.4 in the minors.
The Rangers have seen a number of starting pitchers leave Texas the past few seasons for other destinations, but they have been able to replace these pitchers effectively. This year it looks like the pitcher who is ready to step in is lefty Martin Perez. He appeared in 12 games last year, starting six of them, and finished the year with a 1-4 record, a 5.45 ERA and 25 strikeouts.
These numbers wouldn't impress anyone, but the Rangers have fast tracked Perez through their farm system and is only 21 years old. He still has room to grow and develop into a solid pitcher.
But for this season, he should be able to provide some quality innings at the back of the rotation.
The Blue Jays went all in this season with the offseason moves and didn't leave much opportunity for any prospects to contribute. One player who could eventually help out is right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman.
Stroman will have to finish serving a 50-game suspension at the start of the season due to testing positive for a banned stimulant. However, by the end of this season he could find himself working out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays. He appeared in 15 games last season and finished with an ERA of 3.26 and averaged 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
Christian Garcia is the oldest prospect on this list at 27 years of age, but that was due to already going through two Tommy John surgeries. If the end of the 2012 season is any indication, it looks like those injuries may be behind him.
He pitched 12.2 innings with Washington and finished with a 2.13 ERA, averaging 10.7 strikeouts and 1.4 walks per nine innings. Mayo describes what Christian Garcia brings to the table in the Prospect Watch:
Garcia will show three above-average pitches with his fastball, curve and changeup. His control is fringe average at best, but that's just fine for his future as a short reliever.