Justin Verlander is the top pitcher in the game. At this point, that’s a fact.
The second overall selection in the 2004 draft out of Old Dominion, Verlander reached the major leagues in less than a year after signing. However, it wasn’t until the following year, his first full season in the major leagues, that he established himself as one of the top young arms in the game.
In 2006, Verlander registered a 3.63 ERA with 124/60 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 186 innings, and ultimately garnered rookie of the year honors in the American League.
The right-hander built upon his success the following season, as he registered a 3.66 ERA with 183/67 K/BB in 201.2 innings, and was selected to his first All-Star squad. However, Verlander’s control issues became increasingly evident, as he led the league with 17 hit batters and 19 wild pitches.
The same issues were present the following season, which was, without a doubt, the worst of Verlander’s career. Overall, the hard-throwing right-hander finished his 2008 campaign with a 4.84 ERA with a disappointing 163/87 K/BB in 201 innings.
Since then, however, Verlander has simply been a different pitcher—one who trusts his pure stuff and prides himself on working deep, very deep, into his starts.
The now 29-year-old turned in the best season of his young career in 2011 when he paced the league with a 2.40 ERA and 172 ERA+ (adjusted ERA), 251 innings pitched and 250 strikeouts. His utter dominance led to a slew of end-of-season accolades, including Cy Young and MVP honors in the American League.
Over the course of Verlander’s eight-year career in the major leagues, the right-hander has posted a 3.40 ERA and 128 ERA+ with 1,454/470 K/BB in 1,553.2 innings. Thus far, he’s been selected to five All-Star teams and placed in the American League Cy Young voting in six different seasons.
The biggest difference between pre-2008 Verlander and his current form is the development of his plus changeup. Despite his plus fastball-curveball combination, something that he’d showcased since college, the right-hander never quite missed as many bats as expected. However, since implementing a more advanced and consistent changeup, he’s emerged as the game’s most dominant starter—and given his ability to work deep into every start, one of the game’s more dominant closers.
But as we look toward the minor leagues, is there a pitching prospect capable of becoming the next Justin Verlander? Although it’s doubtful that any of them will come close to matching the enormity of his success, there are certainly some intriguing options.
Here’s a look at seven pitching prospects who could be the next Justin Verlander.
*All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com
*Pitcher scouting reports contain information that appeared in each player’s profile in the recently published Top 100 prospects.
*Pitch grades refer to the 20-80 scouting scale where the first grade reflects the present, and the second grade based on future projection.