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Each MLB Team's Pitching Prospect with the Greatest Upside

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterApril 19, 2013

Each MLB Team's Pitching Prospect with the Greatest Upside

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    When it comes to prospects, minor league statistics tend to be misleading. That’s not to say they hold no value, but eye-popping numbers alone, especially against inferior competition, are anything but a guarantee that a prospect will succeed in the major leagues. More importantly, they offer minimal insight about a player’s long-term projection.

    Rather, prospect evaluation is rooted in the intense scrutiny of a player’s development and progress, whether it be a hitter or pitcher, in all facets of the game. In terms of projection, it all comes down to a player’s perceived ceiling, which, as my colleague Adam Wells recently noted, represents the best and most optimistic outcome.

    As it relates to pitching prospects, a high ceiling is usually tied to a young hurler’s projection as a frontline starter or ace in the major leagues. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the player should be regarded as one of the game’s top prospects or even the best within their respective organization. Rather, it means that they have the most upside presuming everything goes as planned in their development.

    That being said, here’s a look at each team’s pitching prospect with the greatest upside.

Baltimore Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 1 starter (ace)

    2013 Stats: N/A

    The unanimous top pitching prospect in the minor leagues, Bundy has the potential to be an absolute monster. With a combination of physical strength, stuff and pitchability that’s rare for a pitcher of his age and relative lack of experience, the 6’1”, 195-pound right-hander is the definition of a future ace.

    Thanks to his outstanding arm strength and a strong, repeatable delivery, Bundy’s fastball works consistently in the mid- to upper 90s, with late, explosive life, and plays up due to his effortless release.

    His curveball is of the 12-to-6 downer variety with tight spin, though his command of the pitch leaves room for improvement. What was once a plus cutter in high school has evolved into a potential above-average-to-plus slider that exhibits tons of promise but needs further refinement.

    Bundy also works in an above-average changeup with some fade, and generates plenty of whiffs due to his deceptive, fastball-like arm speed.

Boston Red Sox: RHP Matt Barnes

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2013 Stats: 3.1 IP, 18.90 ERA, .500 BAA, 4/3 K/BB (2 GS)

    A 6’4", 205-pound right-hander, Barnes has the frame, stamina and pure stuff to emerge as a front-of-the-rotation starter in the major leagues. His best offering is easily his plus-plus fastball which sits comfortably in the 92-96 mph range, and he’s capable of holding the velocity deep into outings. More importantly, the 22-year-old understands the quality of the pitch and uses it challenge opposing hitters throughout the zone.

    His curveball should continue to improve over the course of the 2013 season, as it’s already an above-average offering with steep break and deceptive pace. However, the key to his future success is the ongoing development of a viable third pitch—a changeup in his case—which has the potential to be above average.

    Additionally, Barnes was able to thrive last season thanks to the strength of his fastball. But as he moves up the ladder and faces more advanced hitters, the right-hander will need to develop a better feel for sequencing his pitches over the course of each start.

New York Yankees: RHP Rafael De Paula

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2013 Stats: 12.1 IP, 5.11 ERA, .255 BAA, 23/6 K/BB (3 GS)

    Although he’s already 22 years old, De Paula’s professional career is only just beginning. At 6’2”, 210 pounds, the right-hander’s huge arm strength and fluid arm action result in electric stuff, albeit raw.

    Working from a three-quarters slot, De Paula will run his fastball as high as 98-99 mph while sitting comfortably in the 93-96 mph range. And due to his smooth release and easy delivery, the pitch seemingly jumps on opposing hitters. His only legitimate secondary offering at the moment is a breaking ball that flashes plus upside when thrown with consistency.

    As expected, the right-hander’s changeup is raw and undeveloped, and will surely be emphasized in his development during future campaigns.

Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Taylor Guerrieri

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 2 starter

    2013 Stats: 7 IP, 0.00 ERA, .095 BAA, 5/1 K/BB (2 GS)

    Boasting a deep arsenal and outstanding command, a case can be made that Guerrieri has the highest ceiling of any young arm in the low minors. At 6’3”, 195 pounds, the right-hander has a projectable frame and disguises every offering with naturally-deceptive arm action.

    To complement his heavy fastball that’s very effective in the low 90s, the 20-year-old utilizes a plus curveball with downer action to both generate whiffs and induce weak contact; he has a genuine feel for when to add and subtract.

    Meanwhile, Guerrieri continues to make progress with his splitter, a pitch that offers exhibits impressive tumble and fade in the place of a changeup.

Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 1-2 starter

    2013 Stats: 14 IP, 3.86 ERA, .173 BAA, 10/6 K/BB (3 GS)

    An impressive athlete at 6’4”, 190 pounds, Sanchez’s frame is the epitome of projectable, while his smooth delivery and lightning-quick arm makes it appear effortless. While he still has room to fill out and add strength, the right-hander’s fastball is already a plus-plus pitch with mid-to-upper-90s velocity and exceptional life. In general, the calm explosiveness of his arm should make it an overwhelming offering at any level.

    Beyond that, his curveball represents another plus offering with a devastating shape and fierce downward action. He struggles to command the pitch at times, but that’s usually a result of a rushed delivery and/or out-of-sync foot strike and arm action. His changeup is equally promising with above-average-to-plus potential and figures to be instrumental toward his future development.

Chicago White Sox: RHP Chris Beck

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 10.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, .237 BAA, 9/6 K/BB (2 GS)

    Before falling off last season at Georgia Southern, Beck was regarded as a surefire first-rounder thanks to a plus fastball and a feel for multiple secondary pitches. At 6’3”, 210 pounds, the right-hander still has the physical projection of a mid-rotation workhorse, though his once-promising stuff will need to return in order to reach said ceiling.

    Beck’s fastball is still a plus offering in the low to mid-90s and could even gain a few ticks by building more stamina. His slider is still promising as well, as it’s currently a solid, average pitch thrown with velocity and decent tilt. His changeup continues to improve and represents another potential plus offering with solid fade to the arm side.

Cleveland Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 2 starter

    2013 Stats: 6 IP, 1.50 ERA, .200 BAA, 9/3 K/BB (1 GS)

    Bauer, a 6’1”, 185-pound right-hander, is limber and athletic with an unorthodox, torque-oriented delivery and unique training regimen. While he’s worked hard to utilize physics in optimizing his delivery, he still tends to pull his head to the glove side, which, in turn, inhibits a consistent release point.

    Still, he has an explosive, quick arm that creates significant deception.

    A flame-thrower in college, Bauer’s fastball now sits in the low to mid-90s with some late arm-side action, but flattens out when left up in the zone. His curveball is still a hammer and a second plus pitch, and his delivery makes it difficult for hitters to recognize the spin out of his hand. Additionally, the 22-year-old’s deep arsenal features a splitter, slider and above-average changeup.

    The problem with Bauer is seemingly between his ears, as he continues to nibble at the strike zone and trick opposing hitters rather than trusting his pure stuff. If he can overcome the mental inconsistency, he could very well regain his original projection as a No. 1 starter.

Detroit Tigers: RHP Jake Thompson

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    Age: 19

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2012 Stats: 28.1 IP, 1.91 ERA, .149 BAA, 31/10 K/BB (7 GS)

    The 6’4”, 235-pound right-hander is physically mature, but possesses more athleticism than his size suggests (and still involves some projection). Thompson’s sturdy frame should aid his projection as a mid-rotation innings eater as he continues to develop.

    He pounds the lower half of strike zone with a heavy fastball in the upper 80s/low 90s, and stands to gain a few ticks as he continues to develop and becomes more mechanically efficient.

    The right-hander’s slider is an inconsistent pitch but flashes plus potential with occasional two-plane break and hard bite. And even though he does have a changeup, it’s a raw, undeveloped offering that stands to improve with experience.

Kansas City Royals: RHP Kyle Zimmer

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    Age: 21

    Ceiling: No. 1-2 starter

    2013 Stats: 11 IP, 1.64 ERA, .128 BAA, 16/2 K/BB (2 GS)

    Zimmer has an ideal frame at 6’3”, 215 pounds that’s even more attractive considering his clean, repeatable mechanics and quick arm. Furthermore, having moved to the mound as a college sophomore, the right-hander’s lack of mileage leaves room for significant projection.

    Yes, he underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow at the end of last summer. However, it was a minor procedure, and he’s since made a full recovery.

    Zimmer’s fastball sits in the low to mid-90s and seemingly jumps out of his hand thanks to his arm speed and effortless delivery. And, when necessary, the right-hander can reach back for 96-98 mph without sacrificing command. Meanwhile, his curveball projects to be a second plus pitch (possibly a plus-plus pitch) with sharp, downer bite, and he also utilizes an average slider with tight spin and improving depth.

    The 21-year-old’s changeup has come along nicely over the last two seasons and completes a deep, four-pitch mix. At the moment, the only real knock on Zimmer is that he gets into trouble by throwing too many strikes. That being said, it’s an issue that should correct itself as he logs significant experience against more advanced hitters.

Minnesota Twins: RHP Alex Meyer

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    Age: 23

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2012 Stats: 10 IP, 2.70 ERA, .293 BAA, 14/3 K/BB (2 GS)

    A first-round selection by the Nationals in 2011, Meyer, a 6’9” right-hander, has a massive frame and long limbs, but demonstrates a sense of body control with repeatable mechanics unusual for a pitcher of his size. More specifically, because he keeps everything relatively simple with a “tall and fall” delivery, he’s able to keep his arm action in sync with his landing, and, as a result, works on a downhill plane consistently.

    Meyer’s fastball is naturally difficult to barrel due to his height, as the pitch registers between 93-97 mph and can flirt with triple digits in shorter stints. His best secondary offering is a plus slider that features a sharp, wipeout break, and it should serve as a viable out pitch at the major league level.

    His changeup showed signs of being at least average last season, and could be a major weapon if it continues to improve. Either way, Meyer will need a usable third pitch to remain successful at higher levels.

Houston Astros: RHP Lance McCullers

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    Age: 19

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2013 Stats: 9.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, .341 BAA, 9/3 K/BB (3 G)

    A supplemental first-rounder last June, McCullers has surprising athleticism with an impressive baseball acumen and big league bloodline. More importantly, the 6’2”, 200-pound right-hander has excellent pure stuff behind plus arm strength. However, his mechanics involve considerable effort and can be inconsistent, which hinders his overall command as a result.

    McCullers boasts a plus fastball in the low to mid-90s, and he holds the velocity deep into starts compared to most pitchers his age. In shorter stints, or when he deems it necessary, the right-hander can reach back for a few additional ticks. He throws a hard breaking ball with tight spin and excellent break, which creates a sharp, diving action. Although he has a changeup, it has a ways to go in terms of becoming a defined, effective offering.

    He’ll be developed as a starter for as long as possible, but it’s worth noting that McCullers also has the makings of a lights-out closer with two devastating pitches and a highly competitive makeup.

Los Angeles Angels: RHP Austin Wood

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 15 IP, 2.40 ERA, .250 BAA, 15/5 K/BB (3 GS)

    A sixth-round selection in 2011, Wood's upside always has been obvious. However, he remains the epitome of a guy with frontline stuff and no idea on how to harness it or execute his pitches. The 6’4”, 225-pound right-hander has a physical frame and, in general, is an imposing presence on the mound.

    His bread and butter is a plus-plus fastball that usually sits in the mid-90s will top out at 98-99 mph. However, his command of the pitch continues to be shaky, as he struggles to throw it for a strike, especially early in the count.

    Furthermore, he struggles to finish his delivery and leaves it up in the zone too often. Wood has a slider which he throws in the mid-80s with late, sweeping break, though it’s ineffective if he’s not commanding the fastball. He also has a changeup, though it’s extremely raw and seldom used.

Oakland Athletics: RHP Dan Straily

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    Age: 24

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 12.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, .163 BAA, 16/1 K/BB (2 GS); 6.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, .200 BAA, 11/0 K/BB (1 GS)

    The biggest pop-up prospect of the 2012 season, Straily, 24, emerged as one of the more dominant pitchers in the minor leagues and parlayed his success into an impressive audition with A’s in the heat of a pennant race. The 6’2”, 215-pound right-hander boasts an impressive four-pitch mix that he commands well (and confidently) throughout the strike zone.

    His fastball typically registers in the low-90s with some late life to the arm side, and plays up when he’s mixing his pitches effectively. His slider and changeup both grade as above-average secondary offerings, with the former being the better of the two, and help him consistently evade bats.

    Furthermore, he’s equally comfortable throwing both pitches against right- and left-handed hitters. Straily will also mix in an average curveball that’s aided by his feel for sequencing.

Seattle Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 1 starter (ace)

    2013 Stats: 16 IP, 2.25 ERA, .197 BAA, 19/10 K/BB (3 GS)

    Of all the great pitching prospects within striking distance of the major leagues, Walker may be the most projectable. At 6’4”, 210 pounds, the right-hander is an excellent athlete with little mileage on his arm, so it’s understandable that he’s still learning how to be a pitcher and not a thrower.

    Although his delivery is smooth and arm action explosive, better use of his lower half should lead to a more consistent finish. Regardless, Walker is still able to generate ridiculous extension toward the plate during his follow-through, which only improves the overall explosiveness of his arsenal.

    Walker’s fastball consistently registers in the 93-97 mph range and jumps on opposing hitters. And when he’s around the plate, the 20-year-old has no problem sustaining it deep into games. He also throws a plus curveball with great shape and a late, downward bite, but tends to over-grip and spike the pitch.

    His changeup has come a long way over the last season and profiles as a third above-average offering at the major league level. The Mariners also introduced a cutter into his repertoire last season, which he’s now throwing in the low-90s with glove-side slice. Although he’s still developing a feel for the pitch, it should wind up being yet another top-notch offering.

Texas Rangers: RHP Luke Jackson

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    Age: 21

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 14.1 IP, 1.88 ERA, .269 BAA, 17/8 K/BB (3 GS)

    A 6’2” right-hander, Jackson, 21, uses his shoulders and front side to throw consistently on steep, downhill plane. However, the wasted movement in his delivery, as well as a long arm on the backside, hinders his overall command. As a result, he struggles to demonstrate balance throughout delivery and at times fails to finish pitches. That said, he has cleaned up his delivery a bit this season, so it’ll be interesting to track his ongoing progress.

    Jackson’s fastball sits 92-96 mph with weight, while the plane he creates makes it difficult to square up when located down in the zone. And when he needs it, the right-hander can scrape 96-97 mph. His curveball is a hammer when he’s not spiking it or losing a feel for the release point. Meanwhile, Jackson’s changeup is a work in progress that needs substantial development, but could represent at least a third average pitch at maturity.

Atlanta Braves: RHP Julio Teheran

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 2 starter

    2013 Stats: 11 IP, 7.36 ERA, .298 BAA, 8/4 K/BB (2 GS)

    The Braves tinkered with Teheran’s mechanics throughout his disappointing 2012 campaign at Triple-A Gwinnett, to which many attribute his overwhelming struggles. However, the 22-year-old right-hander reverted back to his original mechanics over the winter and has looked more and more like the pitcher that was regarded as a top-10 prospect after the 2011 season.

    With a wiry, 6’2”, 175-pound frame, Teheran still showcases a lightning-fast arm with a fluid delivery, though he tends open up with his front side at times. His fastball has regained some life, as he still throws it in the 91-95 mph range to both sides of the plate. That said, his lack of overwhelming velocity still gets him into trouble when left up in the zone.

    The changeup is still a plus pitch with excellent speed differential and deceptive arm action. And even though he’s cleaned up his curveball and slider, and is noticeably more comfortable utilizing them in games this season, both offerings are merely average and in need of further refinement.

Miami Marlins: RHP Jose Fernandez

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 1 starter

    2013 Stats: 11 IP, 0.82 ERA, .132 BAA, 13/3 K/BB (2 GS)

    At 6’3”, 215 pounds, the right-hander has a durable frame built for innings, as well as surprising athleticism for his size. Unlike most other 20-year-old hurlers, Fernandez has a smooth arm action and works from a consistent slot, while his strong lower half allows him to repeat his mechanics. Furthermore, the youngster is a fierce competitor who exhibits exceptional mound presence and oozes confidence.

    Fernandez’s fastball is an easy plus-plus pitch that ranges anywhere between 93-97 mph with weight, as the pitch explodes out of his hand with late life to the arm side. His curveball serves as a second legitimate plus pitch in the mid-80s with excellent depth and pace. More importantly, the right-hander is already comfortable throwing it to both sides of the plate (to both right- and left-handed hitters) in any count.

    He also throws a hard slider with sharp, two-plane break that projects to be at least a third above-average offering at maturity. Rounding out his impressive arsenal is a changeup in the upper-80s with significant arm-side fade.

    Overall, there’s a lot to love about Fernandez’s makeup, stuff and pitchability. And the scary part is that he still has plenty of room to improve.

New York Mets: RHP Zack Wheeler

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 1 starter (ace)

    2013 Stats: 14 IP, 3.86 ERA, .298 BAA, 17/6 K/BB (3 GS)

    Wheeler, a 6’4” right-hander, has a very projectable frame with present strength and room to physically mature. His loose, wiry build results in an athletic delivery, and when combined with his lightning-quick arm, creates an excellent shoulder angle and downhill trajectory toward the plate.

    His delivery is also naturally deceptive, as his arm whips through the window while maintaining a consistent release point. But perhaps the most underrated aspect of Wheeler’s game is his ability to stifle the running game. In addition to being quick to the plate from the stretch, his feel for varying his looks and stalling runners makes him difficult to time.

    The 22-year-old’s best pitch is a plus fastball that sits 93-96 mph with explosive arm-side run, and he’s been known to scrape 97-98 mph in the early innings. His effortless velocity simply overwhelms hitters, as it makes him difficult to barrel and induces weak, defensive swings from right-handed hitters.

    The right-hander’s plus curveball is a hammer with tight spin and 12-to-6 shape, and will presumably serve as his out pitch in the major leagues. Beyond that, Wheeler also mixes in a slider and changeup, though neither pitch is as advanced as the fastball and curveball. Overall, his highly projectable four-pitch mix of above-average-to-plus offerings give him one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects.

Philadelphia Phillies: LHP Jesse Biddle

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    Age: 21

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 18 IP, 3.00 ERA, .154 BAA, 14/7 K/BB (3 GS)

    At 6’4”, 225 pounds, Biddle has broad shoulders and projectable frame that lend to his profile as a mid-rotation innings eater. As he’s steadily ascended the Phillies system, the left-hander has cleaned up his mechanics and eliminated some of the cross-body action in his delivery that previously impeded his command.

    Biddle’s arsenal is highlighted by an above-average fastball in the low 90s with late, arm-side action. Although he commands the pitch to all four quadrants, his lack of velocity can get him into trouble if left elevated. His curveball features tight spin and late break, and he’s grown increasingly comfortable in throwing it for a strike and burying the offering when ahead in the count. His changeup also showed improvement last season and should represent at least a third average pitch at maturity.

Washington Nationals: RHP Lucas Giolito

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    Age: 19

    Ceiling: No. 1 starter (ace)

    2013 Stats: N/A

    There’s a decent chance that Giolito would have been the first prep right-hander selected first overall in the draft had he not injured his elbow early in the spring. Although he tried to come back late in the summer, the bothersome injury flared up once again. As a result, Giolito underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2013 season.

    A 6’6” right-hander with a smooth and balanced delivery, Giolito flashes near elite velocity with his fastball, as it sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and will flirt with triple digits. His curveball is outstanding; a plus-plus offering with devastating pace and shape. His changeup is understandably less advanced given his prep background, but should be at least average once he’s fully healthy and regained a feel for his delivery.

Chicago Cubs: RHP Dillon Maples

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: N/A

    At 6’2”, 195 pounds, Maples, a 14th-round over-slot signee in 2011, has a projectable frame but worrisome mechanics. Every aspect of his delivery looks forced and involves considerable effort, and his problems tend to be compounded due to his lack of consistency.

    That said, his stuff gives a lot to dream on. The right-hander’s fastball is a present plus pitch that will reach 96 mph and sit comfortably in the low 90s, and, when he’s on, will enter the zone on a downhill plane. Meanwhile, Maples’ curveball is a hammer with impressive shape and plus potential, though he struggles to throw it from a consistent release point. He also has a changeup, though it’s a presently a fringe-average offering at best.

Cincinnati Reds: RHP Robert Stephenson

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 1-2 starter

    2013 Stats: 12.2 IP, 7.11 ERA, .339 BAA, 20/3 K/BB (3 GS)

    Stephenson, a 6’2” right-hander, has a projectable, lean frame as well as a mature feel for his arsenal. His fastball is easily his best pitch, as it’s a plus-plus offering that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and will approach the century mark early in starts. He commands the pitch aggressively to both sides of the plate and isn’t afraid to challenge opposing hitters up in the zone.

    Although both his changeup and breaking ball are comparatively raw, both pitches flash above-average-to-plus potential, assuming he’s able to refine them while moving up the ladder. The curveball has excellent pace with depth, though the shape can be inconsistent as he tends to get around the pitch at times.

    Meanwhile, Stephenson’s changeup remains a work in progress; he has a basic feel for the offering, and it’s good enough to keep young hitters off balance, but it lacks overall consistency.

Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Johnny Hellweg

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    Age: 24

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 9 IP, 4.00 ERA, .200 BAA, 7/5 K/BB (2 GS)

    A 6’9” right-hander, Hellweg’s long limbs inhibit his control/command, though he continues to make adjustments in order to counter that issue (such as pitching from the the first base side of the rubber).

    The 24-year-old’s top offering is his plus-plus fastball that works in the mid-to-upper 90s and tends to jump on opposing hitters due to his ridiculous extension toward  the plate. He doesn’t miss as many bats with the pitch as one might expect; however, his ability to pound the lower portion of the strike zone induces excessive weak contact.

    Beyond the fastball, Hellweg’s curveball has its moments with depth and sharp break, but loses effectiveness when his mechanics and delivery are out of sync. And although he has a changeup, the right-hander lacks a consistent feel for the pitch and, as a result, tends to push it toward the plate.

Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 1 starter (ace)

    2013 Stats: 12.1 IP, 3.65 ERA, .265 BAA, 12/6 K/BB (3 GS)

    The No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 draft, Cole has all the makings of a big league ace. At 6’4”, 240 pounds, the right-hander is definition of a power pitcher with clean, repeatable mechanics and a durable frame built for logging innings. More importantly, his arsenal supports the lofty projection.

    Cole’s fastball is regarded as one of the best in the minor leagues thanks to elite velocity in the upper 90s with late, explosive life. His slider represents a second plus offering, as he throws it in the upper 80s with tilt and depth, as well as late, wipeout break. Although his changeup is slightly less advanced, it still grades as a future plus pitch thanks to excellent speed differential, convincing arm action and late fade out of the zone.

    The only thing holding Cole back from reaching his ceiling in the near future is his inconsistency in executing each offering, as well as his approach with runners on base and with two outs.

St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Shelby Miller

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 2 starter

    2013 Stats: 18.1 IP, 1.96 ERA, .169 BAA, 18/5 K/BB (3 GS)

    At 6’3”, 215 pounds, Miller, 22, has the quintessential frame and build of a frontline starter. Any conversation about the right-hander begins with his plus fastball which typically sits in the 92-95 mph range and will occasionally scrape 96 mph. Aside from the impressive velocity, Miller locates the pitch with near-precision throughout the strike zone and induces a sizable number of whiffs. He knows his fastball is that effective, and, as a result, doesn’t shy away from challenging opposing hitters.

    Although less advanced than his heater, Miller’s curveball is thrown with a consistent pace and shape. And provided that he’s around the zone with the primary offering, the breaking ball doesn’t need to be especially sharp. Meanwhile, Miller’s changeup is still developing and used sparingly. That said, it still flashes above-average potential at maturity.

Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Archie Bradley

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    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 1-2 starter

    2013 Stats: 17.2 IP, 0.51 ERA, .172 BAA, 27/6 K/BB (3 GS)

    At 6’4”, 225 pounds, Bradley offers the rare combination of a power frame and outstanding athleticism. Although his delivery still involves too much effort and can inhibit his command, the right-hander has noticeably cleaned things up over the last year.

    Working on a steep, downhill plane, Bradley delivers his fastball in the low to mid-90s and can reach back for a few more ticks as needed. Beyond the plus velocity, the pitch has lots of weight, as his ability to pound the bottom of the strike zone makes it difficult for opposing hitters to barrel.

    The right-hander’s curveball will be another plus offering at maturity, as it already grades as one of the best in the minor leagues thanks to its impressive depth, pace, and sharp, downer bite. And while he does feature a changeup, it lags well behind his other two offerings. However, as he continues to gain a more consistent feel for his mechanics and release point, there’s reason to believe that it will be yet another weapon.

Colorado Rockies: LHP Tyler Matzek

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    Age: 22

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2013 Stats: 8.2 IP, 2.08 ERA, .172 BAA, 11/9 K/BB (2 GS)

    Since the Rockies popped Matzek in the first round of the 2009 draft, the left-hander has been his own worst enemy, as serious control problems have prevented him from taking off as expected. However, there’s still a lot to like about the the 6’3”, 210-pound southpaw.

    Despite his ongoing struggles, Matzek still showcases the raw arm strength that made him such a highly regarded amateur. His fastball features plus velocity with excellent arm-side action when he’s working from a consistent release point. And although each of his secondary offerings (curveball/slider/changeup) will flash plus potential in a given outing, they’re all largely inconsistent and have yet to develop as expected.

    It may feel as though Matzek has been struggling for a lifetime, but the good news is that he’s still only 22 years old and always has been willing to work through the adversity.

Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Zach Lee

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    Age: 21

    Ceiling: Nos. 3 starter

    2013 Stats: 17 IP, 1.06 ERA, .219 BAA, 15/4 K/BB (3 GS)

    A 2010 bonus baby who was committed to Louisiana State as a quarterback, Lee, a 6’4”, 190-pound right-hander, is an outstanding athlete with an ideal frame. Thanks to clean, repeatable mechanics and fluid arm action, the 21-year-old exhibits projectable command of his entire arsenal, which influences his projection as a mid-rotation starter. And even though his arsenal is deep and relatively mature, Lee lacks the stuff commonly associated with a No. 1 or 2 big league starter.

    While his fastball is really only a slightly an average offering in the low 90s, the right-hander’s ability to manipulate the pitch and spot it to both sides of the plate makes it play up. Lee has a balanced secondary arsenal consisting of a fringy curveball, above-average slider and a changeup that could be a borderline-plus offering at maturity.

    Despite his lack of an overwhelming pitch, Lee projects favorably as a major league starter thanks to his mature command, advanced feel for pitching and competitiveness on the bump.

San Diego Padres: LHP Max Fried

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    Age: 19

    Ceiling: No. 2 starter

    2013 Stats: 9 IP, 1.00 ERA, .138 BAA, 13/6 K/BB (2 GS)

    The seventh overall selection in the 2012 draft, Fried has a projectable frame at 6’4”, 185 pounds with clean, repeatable mechanics, a deep arsenal and present pitchability. With a smooth arm action and effortless delivery, the left-hander’s fastball sits in the 88-93 mph range and can touch a bit higher early in starts.

    His curveball projects to be a plus offering at maturity, as his mature feel for the offering influences his confidence to throw it in any count. Meanwhile, Fried continues to make progress with his changeup, as his consistent release point and fastball-like arm speed should make it at least an above-average pitch in time.

San Francisco Giants: RHP Kyle Crick

31 of 31

    Age: 20

    Ceiling: No. 2-3 starter

    2013 Stats: 7.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, .281 BAA, 9/7 K/BB (2 GS)

    At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Crick is an excellent athlete with a projectable frame, though his mechanics and release point are both largely inconsistent at the moment. That said, the right-hander’s arm strength and electric arsenal are among the best in the low minors.

    Thanks to his present strength and quick arm, Crick consistently pumps fastballs in the 92-96 mph range and has more in the tank when he needed. His curveball is easily his best secondary offering, as it's a sharp-breaker with tight spin and thrown with velocity. He’s also made steady progress with a cutter over the last year; the improved slice of the pitch should make it at least a solid-average offering. Lastly, while Crick does have a changeup, its utility is currently limited due to a lack of feel.

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