With most baseball fans still consumed with the start of the 2013 MLB season, I feel as though it’s my duty as Lead Writer to inform the Prospect Pipeline readers that the minor league season is now underway.
Reds left-handed pitching prospect Tony Cingrani stole the show in his Triple-A debut last night, as the 22-year-old left-hander tossed six no-hit innings with 14/1 K/BB against Louisville. After beginning the 2012 season in High-A and finishing in the major leagues, Cingrani’s initial dominance isn’t entirely surprising.
That said, there are numerous top-ranked pitching prospects set to take the mound this weekend, a majority of which will be televised via MiLB.tv.
Here’s a look at 10 pitchers to watch this weekend.
LHP Jesse Biddle (Philadelphia Phillies)
Double-A Reading at New Hampshire, 6:35 p.m. ET
Ranked as the Phillies’ top prospect, Biddle is coming off a season in which he registered a 3.22 ERA with 151/54 K/BB in 142.2 innings at High-A Clearwater. The 21-year-old left-hander will make the jump to Double-A Reading this season, which begins Friday on the road against New Hampshire.
RHP Chris Archer (Tampa Bay Rays)
Triple-A Durham at Norfolk, 7:05 p.m. ET (MiLB.tv)
The odd-man-out of the Rays’ big league rotation to open the season, Archer’s quest to return to the majors begins today with a start against Triple-A Norfolk. Over his two stints with the Rays last season, Archer showed the ability to miss bats with three above-average-to-plus offerings, which resulted in 36 strikeouts in only 29.1 innings.
RHP J.R. Graham (Atlanta Braves)
Double-A Mobile at Mississippi, 8:00 p.m. ET (MiLB.tv)
Selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, Graham had very impressive full-season debut last year, as he registered a 2.80 ERA with 110/34 K/BB over 148 innings between both High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. Despite not allowing an earned run this spring in major league camp, the hard-throwing right-hander is back in Double-A to start the season and will oppose former teammate Zeke Spruill (traded from Braves to Diamondbacks during the offseason) in his first start on Friday.
RHP Archie Bradley (Arizona Diamondbacks)
High-A San Jose at Visalia, 10:00 p.m. ET
One of the more impressive pitchers in the low minors last season, Bradley was dominant for Low-A South Bend, as he registered a 3.84 ERA with 87 hits allowed and 152 strikeouts in 136 innings. However, while 6’4” right-hander showcased outstanding stuff, he regularly struggled with his command, as evidenced by 84 walks during that span. If he can start to put things together in High-A this season, Bradley could hop on the fast track to the major leagues.
RHP Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Double-A Altoona at Erie, 1:35 p.m. ET
Promoted to Double-A Altoona late in the 2012 season, Taillon won each of his three starts at the level and registered a 1.59 ERA with 18/1 K/BB in 17 innings. Although he’s a technically a full developmental year behind teammate Gerrit Cole, the 6’6” right-hander could make a case for a late-season promotion to the major leagues with a strong showing at Double-A to begin the year.
RHP Kevin Gausman (Baltimore Orioles)
Double-A Bowie at Lehigh Valley, 7:00 p.m. ET (MiLB.tv)
After surviving major league camp longer than expected this spring, Gausman will open his first full season in the minors at Double-A Bowie, where’ll he pitch alongside Dylan Bundy in the starting rotation. With a plus fastball-changeup combination, the LSU alumnus already has the stuff to be successful in the major leagues. However, by opening the 2013 season in the high minors, it should give his breaking ball a chance to flourish against more advanced competition.
RHP Kyle Crick (San Francisco Giants)
High-A San Jose at Visalia, 9:00 p.m. ET
Ranked as the Giants’ top prospect headed into the 2013 season, Crick, like Archie Bradley, showcased electric, swing-and-miss stuff last season in Low-A, but struggled with his command. Overall, the now-20-year-old right-hander registered a 2.51 ERA with 128/67 K/BB in 111.1 innings. Moving up a level to the hitter-friendly California League, Crick will be forced to improve both his control and command this season, which begins with a start against Visalia on Saturday night.
LHP Henry Owens (Boston Red Sox)
High-A Salem at Frederick, 2:00 p.m. ET
Making his full-season (and professional) debut last season for Low-A Greenville, Owens, a 6’6” left-hander, fanned 130 batters in 101.2 innings last season. However, while he missed plenty of bats, the 20-year-old also surrendered 100 hits and walked 47 batters. So while his stuff is very projectable, Owens definitely leaves something to be desired in terms of his control and approach.
Bonus: LHP Robbie Erlin (Padres) vs. RHP A.J. Schugel (Angels)
Triple-A Tucson at Salt Lake, 8:35 p.m. ET (MiLB.tv)
Although neither Erlin or Schugel placed within Prospect Pipeline’s preseason top 100 prospects, both pitchers are expected to contribute in the major leagues at some point this season. Furthermore, they will both be making their respective Triple-A debuts on Saturday night.
Erlin, an undersized, command-oriented left-hander, registered a 2.92 ERA last season with 72/14 K/BB in 52.1 innings after returning from an elbow injury. Similarly, Schugel, 23, posted a 2.89 ERA last season for Double-A Arkansas over 140.1 innings.
RHP Alex Meyer (Minnesota Twins)
Double-A New Britain at Richmond, 2:05 p.m. ET
Despite registering a 2.86 ERA with 139/45 K/BB last season in 129 innings between both of the Nationals Class-A affiliates, the 6’9” right-hander was dealt to the Twins this offseason in exchange for Denard Span. Now regarded as the team’s top pitching prospect, Meyer will receive his first taste of Double-A to begin the 2013 season, which could conceivably conclude with a late-season call-up to the major leagues.
RHP Matt Barnes (Boston Red Sox)
Double-A Trenton at Portland, 1:00 p.m. ET
In his professional debut last season, Barnes got off to a torrid start for Low-A Greenville, as the hard-throwing right-hander dominated to the tune of a 0.34 ERA with 42/4 K/BB over 26.2 innings. He came back down to earth following a promotion to High-A, as he posted a 3.58 ERA with 91/25 K/BB in 93 innings. Aside from his plus fastball, Barnes’ secondary offerings will need to develop this season in order to continue his ascent up the organizational ladder.
LHP Tyler Skaggs (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Triple-A Reno at Colorado Springs, 3:35 p.m. ET (MiLB.tv)
After struggling with both his control and command last season in six big league starts, Skaggs pitched his way out of contention for the final spot in the Opening Day rotation with a shaky spring. As a result, the promising southpaw will open the 2013 season back at Triple-A. However, if he posts similar numbers as he did during his first tour of the level last season, it may not take long for Skaggs to get back to the major leagues.