MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level
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Through the first two weeks of the 2013 season, left-hander Tony Cingrani has, without a doubt, been the most impressive pitching prospect in the minor leagues. After three starts, the 23-year-old, who reached the majors last year as a September call-up, is yet to be scored upon. Equally impressive is the fact that he’s allowed only three hits with 26 strikeouts and two walks over 14.1 innings for Triple-A Louisville in the International League.
But while Cingrani has captured the headlines with his dominance in Triple-A, there have been plenty of other young arms impressing throughout the minor leagues.
So, here’s an updated look at the hottest and coldest pitching prospects at every minor league level to start to the season.
LHP Max Fried // Courtesy of ESPN.com
Vincent Valasquez, RHP, Houston Astros
14 IP, 1.93 ERA, .128 BAA, 12/3 K/BB (3 G)
The 6’3” right-hander continues to improve following Tommy John surgery in 2011 and has only allowed six hits over his three outings for Low-A Quad Cities.
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
9.2 IP, 1.86 ERA, .182 BAA, 14/1 K/BB (2 GS)
Currently the youngest pitcher in Low-A, Osuna, 18, is off to an excellent start this season after registering a 2.27 ERA and .201 BAA in his stateside debut in 2012.
Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
7 IP, 0.00 ERA, .095 BAA, 5/1 K/BB (2 GS)
The 24th overall selection in the 2011 draft, Guerrieri showcased extraordinary command last season in the Short-Season New York-Penn League with 45/5 K/BB over 52 innings. The 6’3” right-hander has been equally as impressive through the first two starts of his professional debut, allowing only three baserunners and posting a 6.00 GO/AO.
Joe Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres
10 IP, 0.00 ERA, .063 BAA, 12/2 K/BB (2 GS)
One of the more underrated arms in the minor leagues, the 19-year-old’s development was impeded by a bout of shoulder tendinitis in 2012, though his performance so far suggests he’s fully healthy.
Dakota Bacus , RHP, Oakland Athletics
11 IP, 1.64 ERA, .154 BAA, 16/2 K/BB (2 G)
A ninth-round selection out of Indiana St. last June, Bacus, a 6’2” right-hander, has allowed only six hits while fanning 16 batters through his first two outings.
Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres
9 IP, 1.00 ERA, .138 BAA, 13/6 K/BB (2 GS)
After walking four batters in his full-season debut for Low-A Fort Wayne, Fried, the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, was excellent his second time out: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 8/2 K/BB.
Josh Hader, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
11 IP, 0.82 ERA, .111 BAA, 10/3 K/BB (2 GS)
Selected in the 19th round of the 2012 draft out of a Maryland high school, Hader, 19, features an above-average-to-plus fastball as well as a curveball and changeup that both flash above-average potential.
Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
10 IP, 5.40 ERA, .289 BAA, 2/5 K/BB (2 GS)
Jenkins may have one of the higher ceilings among pitching prospects in the Cardinals’ system, but he’s still a long way from the major leagues. The 6’4” right-hander is repeating the Low-A level after logging 82.1 innings (and 5.14 ERA) there amidst two stints on the disabled list last season.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
8 IP, 12.38 ERA, .382 BAA, 6/5 K/BB (3 G)
An over-slot second-rounder in 2011, Norris didn’t make his professional debut until 2012 when he registered an 8.44 ERA with 58 hits allowed and 18 walks over 42.2 innings. His inability to retire hitters has carried over into the current season, as he’s already allowed 11 earned runs on 13 hits and five walks over three starts.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
12.2 IP, 7.11 ERA, .339 BAA, 20/3 K/BB (3 GS)
With a mid-90s fastball that reaches 98 mph and a pair of very promising secondary pitches, Stephenson should dominate Low-A hitters. However, in his start on Sunday, the 19-year-old right-hander allowed six earned runs on eight hits over 2.2 tumultuous frames.
Clay Holmes, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
8.2 IP, 4.15 ERA, .219 BAA, 9/8 K/BB (2 GS)
The 6’5” right-hander has proven to be difficult to barrel, but a lack of command has prevented him from working deep into starts.
Mauricio Cabrera, RHP, Atlanta Braves
7.2 IP, 4.70 ERA, .267 BAA, 2/8 K/BB (2 GS)
The 19-year-old pitched significantly better in his second start of the season for Low-A Rome, though his control problems have been amplified against older competition.
RHP Archie Bradley
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Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
11 IP, 1.64 ERA, .128 BAA, 16/2 K/BB (2 GS)
The fifth overall draft pick last June, the polished right-hander has allowed a total of five hits and tallied eight strikeouts in both of his starts. He’s poised for a promotion to Double-A before the All-Star break, and could conceivably reach the major leagues by the end of the season.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
17.2 IP, 0.51 ERA, .172 BAA, 27/6 K/BB (3 GS)
If there’s one pitcher capable of jumping into the top 10 overall rankings this season, it’s Archie Bradley. At 6’4”, 225 pounds, the right-hander has one of the best fastball-curveball combinations in the minor leagues and throws everything on a steep, downhill plane. In addition to allowing only 10 hits through 17.2 innings so far this season, the 20-year-old is currently pacing the California League with 27 strikeouts.
Matthew Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
10 IP, 0.00 ERA, .176 BAA, 11/2 K/BB (2 GS)
After registering a 2.53 ERA with 113/28 K/BB last season for Low-A Fort Wayne, Wisler’s prospect stock has continued to soar thanks to a red-hot start in the hitter-friendly California League. Between his two starts, the highly projectable, 6’3” right-hander has allowed only six hits while tallying 11 strikeouts.
Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco Giants
11 IP, 0.82 ERA, .135 BAA, 12/1 K/BB (2 GS)
Blackburn, a physically mature, 6’3” right-hander, may not have as high of a ceiling as the Giants’ top prospect, but outstanding command gives him a chance to move through the team’s system quickly.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
10 IP, 2.70 ERA, .088 BAA, 7/3 K/BB (2 GS)
Sanchez, who boasts an effortless plus fastball and hammer breaking ball, dominated in his second start of the season, as the 6’4” right-hander fired five no-hit innings against High-A Tampa (Yankees) on April 11.
Jose Urena, RHP, Miami Marlins
13.2 IP, 2.63 ERA, .116 BAA, 12/1 K/BB (3 G)
Urena, a 6’3’ right-hander with a mid-top-high-90s fastball and promising slider, has shown steady improvement in each start this season. In his most recent outing on Monday night, the 21-year-old allowed one hit with four strikeouts over six scoreless innings.
Kylin Turnbull, LHP, Washington Nationals
9 IP, 12.00 ERA, .439 BAA, 2/3 K/BB (2 GS)
After giving up 115 hits in 98.1 innings during his professional debut last season, the 6’5” left-hander has allowed exactly nine hits in both of his starts this season.
Justin Nicolino, LHP, Miami Marlins
10 IP, 5.40 ERA, .316 BAA, 4/3 K/BB (2 GS)
Although he’s in possession of arguably the best command in the minor leagues, Nicolino, 20, has struggled against right-handed hitters, who are collectively batting .346 against him so far this season.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
9.2 IP, 6.52 ERA, .263 BAA, 7/3 K/BB (2 GS)
Kingham struggled in his most recent start, allowing five earned runs on seven hits and two walks over 4.2 innings. The 6’5” right-hander has especially struggled when pitching with runners on base (.462 BAA) compared to when the bases are empty (.160 BAA).
RHP Rafael Montero
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Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets
16.2 IP, 2.16 ERA, .183 BAA, 21/1 K/BB (3 GS)
Montero turned in an eye-opening full-season debut in 2012, as the now-22-year-old right-hander registered a 2.36 ERA with a dazzling 110/19 K/BB across both Class-A levels last season. With three potentially above-average-to-plus pitches, Montero’s command has been excellent despite the bump to Double-A, as he’s posted 21/1 K/BB through three starts.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
11 IP, 1.64 ERA, .225 BAA, 14/4 K/BB (2 GS)
After excelling at Double-A following a late-season promotion in 2012, Taillon, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, has been dominant in both starts to open the season. In his most recent outing, the 6’6” right-hander fanned 10 batters over six innings.
Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
17 IP, 1.06 ERA, .219 BAA, 15/4 K/BB (3 GS)
Arguably rushed up the ladder, Lee posted a 4.39 ERA in 65.2 innings last season for Double-A Chattanooga. The 2010 bonus baby has fared considerably better at the level this time around, highlighted by six scoreless innings in his start on Monday.
Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego Padres
11 IP, 0.00 ERA, .135 BAA, 13/1 K/BB (2 GS)
Despite registering a 3.85 ERA with 137/27 K/BB last season in the hitter-friendly California League, Smith continues to fly under the radar headed into the 2013 season. However, that may not last long, as the 6’4” right-hander has allowed only five hits through two Double-A starts.
Donn Roach, RHP, San Diego Padres
14.2 IP, 0.61 ERA, .151 BAA, 6.40 GO/AO, 9/4 K/BB (3 GS)
Boasting the best sinker in the minor leagues, Roach continues to be nearly impossible to barrel while inducing ground balls at a ridiculous rate (6.40 AO/GO).
Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Houston Astros
14 IP, 0.00 ERA, .130 BAA, 14/4 K/BB (3 G)
Acquired from the Blue Jays last summer in the deal that sent J.A. Happ north of the border, Wojciechowski lacks a legitimate plus pitch but knows how to get outs with his deep arsenal. The 6’4” right-hander is yet to allow an earned run through three starts for Double-A Corpus Christi.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox
10 IP, 0.90 ERA, .156 BAA, 12/2 K/BB (2 GS)
Having lost most of the 2012 season due to multiple stints on the disabled list, Ranaudo is finally healthy and looking more like the pitcher the Red Sox hoped he’d become when they selected him 39th overall in the 2010 draft.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox
3.1 IP, 18.90 ERA, .500 BAA, 4/3 K/BB (2 GS)
After registering a 2.86 ERA with 133/29 K/BB between both Class-A levels last season, Barnes has been hammered in both starts at Double-A this season. Over four innings, the 6’4” right-hander has allowed eight hits with only four strikeouts.
Nestor Molina, RHP, Chicago White Sox
8.2 IP, 7.27 ERA, .368 BAA, 9/3 K/BB (2 GS)
Acquired from the Blue Jays in the deal that sent Sergio Santos north of the border, Molina, a right-hander, has struggled since joining the White Sox. After a rough spring, the 24-year-old was sent back to Double-A to begin the season, where he’s posted a 7.27 ERA and allowed 14 hits in 8.2 innings across two starts.
Mike Wright, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
12.1 IP, 7.30 ERA, .333 BAA, 10/5 K/BB (3 GS)
A 6’6” right-hander who was selected in the third round of the 2011 draft, Wright registered a 4.91 ERA in 62.1 innings at Double-A Bowie last season and has now allowed 19 hits through three starts while repeating the level.
Nik Turley, LHP, New York Yankees
12.2 IP, 7.82 ERA, .340 BAA, 13/7 K/BB (3 GS)
A 50th-round selection in 2008, Turley has struggled at Double-A dating back to last season. Through his first three starts, the 6’4” southpaw has allowed 18 hits and seven walks, 17 of which have come against right-handed hitters.
RHP Jake Odorizzi
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Tony Cingrani, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
14.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, .067 BAA, 26/2 K/BB (3 GS)
After dominating at three levels last season, including an impressive showing with the Reds as a September call-up, Cingrani has been nearly unhittable at Triple-A to begin the year. Through his first three starts, the 6’4” left-hander has allowed only three hits while posting a ridiculous 26/2 K/BB. And when the injured Johnny Cueto’s turn comes up in the starting rotation, it’s a safe bet that Cingrani will be recalled to take his place.
Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
14 IP, 3.86 ERA, .298 BAA, 17/6 K/BB (3 GS)
The Mets’ top prospect’s numbers aren’t especially great, though it’s worth noting that Wheeler has shown improvement in each start. In his last start on Sunday, the 22-year-old right-hander recorded eight strikeouts without allowing a walk over 5.1 innings.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
12 IP, 3.00 ERA, .214 BAA, 17/2 K/BB (2 GS)
Odorizzi is off to a hot start with his new team after a trade from the Royals to the Rays during the offseason. Although he allowed four earned runs in his latest outing, the 23-year-old right-hander has fanned at least eight batters in each start.
Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
15 IP, 4.20 ERA, .246 BAA, 18/5 K/BB (3 GS)
Archer continues to miss bats back in Triple-A while he patiently awaits for an inevitable promotion to the major leagues. Thanks to a plus fastball and slider, as well as a vastly underrated changeup, the right-hander has fanned at least five batters in each start so far this season.
Jarred Cosart, RHP, Houston Astros
9 IP, 1.00 ERA, .133 BAA, 12/5 K/BB (2 GS)
A perennially frustrating prospect, Cosart has always showcased excellent stuff but failed to miss bats with consistency. However, could this be the season the right-hander finally turns the corner? So far so good, as he’s allowed only one earned run with 15/5 K and a 6.33 GO/AO rate through three starts.
Andre Rienzo, RHP, Chicago White Sox
10.1 IP, 10.45 ERA, .318 BAA, 9/4 K/BB (2 GS)
After a breakout season across three minor-league levels in 2012, Rienzo, 24, improved his prospect stock with a strong showing for Team Brazil in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He’s come back down to earth since then, though, as he’s allowed 12 runs on 14 hits through two starts back for Triple-A Charlotte.
Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins
9.1 IP, 5.79 ERA, .308 BAA, 10/1 K/BB (2 GS)
Having missed portions of the 2011 and 2012 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, Gibson returned to log 28.1 innings last season including two starts at Triple-A. Although he missed out on making the major-league rotation with a rough spring, the 6’6” right-hander is a safe bet to be called up at some point this season.
Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
8.2 IP, 7.27 ERA, .314 BAA, 9/3 K/BB (2 GS)
Despite owning an electric arm and projectable arsenal, the undersized right-hander has never posted the numbers his stuff suggests. I expect him to to steadily improve as he gains experience at the more advanced level, but his early starts have been rocky.
Brett Marshall, RHP, New York Yankees
8.0 IP, 11.25 ERA, .364 BAA, 7/8 K/BB (2 GS)
A sixth-round draft pick in 2008, Marshall has slowly but surely ascended the Yankees’ farm system at a level-per-year pace. Receiving his first taste of Triple-A this season, the 6’1” right-hander has allowed five runs in each of his starts.