RHP Zack Wheeler has already caught the attention of the Mets' coaching staff.
With the first exhibition games of the 2013 season slated to begin on Friday, many of baseball’s top pitching prospects are in line to receive an extended look this spring. In fact, all six pitchers—Dylan Bundy, Taijuan Walker, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, Jose Fernandez and Jameson Taillon—that recently appeared in the top 10 among Prospect Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects will participate in big-league spring training.
While it’s unlikely that any of the aforementioned young hurlers will break camp with their respective team, there’s a strong chance that they will all be pitching in the major leagues by the end of the 2014 season.
It should come as no surprise that this year’s top pitching prospects are all of the power variety. Each of these highly regarded right-handers offer more than just a live fastball and projectable frame—they are polished with a deep arsenal of average-to-plus offerings.
Here’s a look at the most intimidating power-pitching prospects set to take the mound this spring.
Explanation of Ranking: The fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman’s potential as a power pitcher in the major leagues is somewhat obscured by teammate Dylan Bundy's. With two present plus pitches, one being mid-to-high-90s fastball, the right-hander isn’t afraid to challenge opposing hitters.
Fastball: Plus; sits mid-90s; can run it up to 97-98 mph on occasion; two-seamer comes in a few ticks slower; features more arm-side action; offers nice contrast to explosive four-seam.
Changeup: Legitimate plus offering; registers in the low-to-mid-80s; highly advanced feel for his age; impressive arm speed; fading action.
Slider: Above-average-to-plus potential; throws it hard; excellent tilt; draws whiffs; refined command could make it a weapon relative to his fastball-changeup combo.
Explanation of Ranking: This 6’9” right-hander has a massive frame and long limbs that make him an imposing presence on the mound. Uses his size to create a favorable downhill angle towards the plate, while his reach and extension towards the plate reduces hitters’ reaction time.
Fastball: Registers between 93-97 mph; can flirt with triple-digits in shorter stints; sinking action; difficult to barrel; generates excessive groundball outs.
Slider: Plus; shape can vary; depth; induces plenty of whiffs; legit swing-and-miss offering; release point needs to be more consistent.
Changeup: At least average potential; better than expected; steady sinking action; should be instrumental towards his development as a starter.
Explanation of Ranking: Martinez is undersized at 6’0”, 165 pounds, and employs a high-effort delivery. But wow, what an arm. Due to his lightning-quick arm action, the ball noticeably explodes out of his hand and is extremely difficult to time.
Fastball: Plus-plus velocity; sits in the mid-90s with some late sink; will unleash four-seamer in the high-90s; should be able to touch triple digits in shorter stints or if he adds strength.
Curveball: Should be at least an above-average offering; tight rotation due to outstanding arm speed; potential bat-misser; inconsistent release point.
Changeup: Plus; major asset given his excellent velocity and blinding arm speed; impressive feel for the pitch; commands it throughout strike zone; potential to be plus-plus offering at maturity.
Explanation of Ranking: At 6’6”, Taillon has a tall, lanky frame, and he somehow seems even taller when on the rubber. Not only is his fastball overpowering with plus velocity in the mid-to-high-90s, but his long arms significantly cut down the distance to the plate.
Fastball: Plus; registers in the mid-to-high-90s; late movement to the arm side; velocity plays up due to reach and extension; jumps out of his hand and on opposing hitters.
Curveball: Second plus pitch; sharp, two-plane break; will be out pitch in the majors; able to locate it out of the zone to draw swing and misses.
Changeup: Average; crucial toward overall development; feel for pitch is raw; struggles to command it; lacks movement and fading action.
Explanation of Ranking: Boasting the best arm in the Cardinals’ system, Rosenthal emerged as an elite reliever last season. The right-hander introduced himself to a national audience last October when he recorded 15 strikeouts and allowed only two hits over 8.2 scoreless innings in the postseason. Regardless of his role next season, Rosenthal should continue to dominate thanks to his blend of overpowering stuff and command.
Now here’s a few GIFs of the hard-throwing right-hander making Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper look helpless during the NLDS.
Fastball: Plus; effortless mid-90s velo as a starter; sits 98-101 mph out of the bullpen; natural sink; arm-side run; jumps on hitters.
Curveball: Plus; late, wipeout break; out pitch; throws it hard; tight break; deceptive pace.
Changeup: Average offering; was viable third pitch as a starter in the minors; unnecessary as a reliever; room for development.
Explanation of Ranking: Let’s see: Former top college pitcher in the nation; No. 1-overall draft pick in 2011; very projectable frame for power pitcher; plus-plus fastball; plus slider; above-average changeup; top-10 prospect; future ace—must I continue?
Fastball: Plus-plus fastball; sits in the high-90s; routinely touches triple digits; fairly straight; needs to establish pitch early in games.
Slider: Plus; thrown in the high-80s; features a devastating, wipeout break.
Changeup: above-average; excellent speed differential; filthy when around the zone; could give him a third plus pitch with further seasoning.
Explanation of Ranking: I’ll leave this one for the Mariners’ latest offseason addition, Mike Morse (via MLB.com):
Morse stood in against 20-year-old pitching prospect Taijuan Walker on Tuesday, took a few pitches and then swung awkwardly late on a couple heaters.
"I wasn't ready for that at all," Morse said with a grin. "Especially when they told me he was 19 or whatever. He was throwing an easy 94 or 95 [mph]. Man, I got a little angry in the box. I'm like, 'C'mon Mike, bear down, show this kid who's boss.' But stuff like that gets you excited about an organization."
Fastball: Plus (plus); sits 93-96 mph; can reach back for a few more ticks; holds velocity deep into starts; athleticism allows for quick, fluid arm action.
Curveball: Plus; excellent shape; late, downer bite; can over-grip and spike it; swing-and-miss break.
Changeup: Above-average potential; continues to improve; gradually developing feel; arm speed could make it a weapon.
Cutter: Added to repertoire last season; raw pitch; should keep hitters off fastball.
Explanation of Ranking: Although he’s entering his age-20 season, everything about Dylan Bundy is mature. The 6’1” right-hander excelled at three minor league levels last year before finishing his professional debut in the Orioles’ bullpen. Not only is he a physical specimen with an aces arsenal, but Bundy’s mound presence and moxie distinguishes him from other highly regarded pitching prospects.
Fastball: Two-seamer registers in mid-90s with devastating run; four-seamer is easy, high-90s gas; attacks throughout strike zone; tough to barrel.
Curveball: Above-average-to-plus potential; tight break; tentative feel; too loopy at times.
Slider: Average; lags behind CB and CH; thrown with velocity; dives out of the zone when located
Changeup: Plus; best secondary offering; advanced feel; deceptive arm speed; late fade.
Explanation of Ranking: Wheeler’s combination of a plus fastball and above-average breaking ball routinely makes good hitters look foolish. While the mid-to-high-90s heater generates defensive swings due to its hard, boring action, the right-hander’s curveball is a hammer with top-to-bottom shape that jelly-legs right-handed hitters.
Fastball: Plus; sits 93-96 mph; touches 98 mph; easy velo; explosive late life to the arm side.
Curveball: Plus potential; sharp downer break; tight rotation; legit swing-and-miss offering.
Slider: Slightly above-average; depth can vary; sharp, late break; keeps hitters off CB and CH.
Changeup: Average; still developing feel; tends to overthrow pitch; needs refinement.
Explanation of Ranking: Fernandez drilled Giancarlo Stanton in the head with a mid-90s fastball (see video below) during live batting practice on Wednesday. Obviously it was unintentional; just a case of a very eager and excited pitching prospect trying to dial one up against baseball’s most prolific power hitter. The 20-year-old would normally come in at Nos. 3 or 4, as he’s a fierce competitor who oozes confidence.
Fastball: 92-97 mph; scrapes 98-99 mph; heavy; late, arm-side life; pounds the knees.
Curveball: Plus pitch; mid-80s; excellent depth and pace; swing-and-miss pitch.
Slider: Above-average; sharp, two-plane break.
Changeup: Average-to-above average; developing a feel; late fade out of zone; keeps it down in the zone.