MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level
LHP Jesse Biddle (Phillies) struck out 16 batters over seven innings on Monday night. // Photo courtesy of PhuturePhillies.com
On Monday night, Philadelphia Phillies’ left-hander Jesse Biddle turned in what may ultimately be the most dominant start we’ll see at any professional level this season.
In his fourth start of the year for Double-A Reading, the 21-year-old allowed one hit over seven scoreless frames while fanning a career-high 16 batters. Don’t worry, I’ve included video in his write-up.
However, Biddle is just one of many pitchers off to a terrific start in the minor leagues.
Here’s a look at this week’s hottest and coldest pitchers at every minor league level.
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Jarred Cosart, RHP, Houston Astros
17.2 IP, 1.02 ERA, .161 BAA, 12/5 K/BB (4 G)
Cosart has seemingly benefited from the strict pitch-count and innings limit under the Astros ‘piggyback’ format; last start: 5 IP, 3 H, ER, 6/0 K/BB.
Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics
18.2 IP, 0.96 ERA, .159 BAA, 20/6 K/BB (3 GS)
The pop-up prospect of the year in 2012, Straily is simply too advanced for Triple-A. He's ready for a return to the major leagues.
Alex Torres, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
16 IP, 1.69 ERA, .093 BAA, 19/5 K/BB (3 GS)
Torres has always missed bats and induced weak contact, but has exhibited improved control and command through three starts this season.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
17 IP, 3.18 ERA, .217 BAA, 25/5 K/BB (3 GS)
Odorizzi has been the most dominant of all the Rays’ young arms currently stashed at Triple-A Durham; has fanned at least eight batters in all three starts.
Andy Oliver, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
21.1 IP, 2.11 ERA, .164 BAA, 29/12 K/BB (4 GS)
Arguably rushed through the Tigers’ system, Oliver has relished the change of scenery; in his last start, the 25-year-old fired a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts over six scoreless frames.
John Gast, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
24.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, .220 BAA, 22/6 K/BB (4 GS)
The 24-year-old left-hander is yet to allow an earned run this season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Andre Rienzo, RHP, Chicago White Sox
20.1 IP, 7.52 ERA, .310 BAA, 16/7 K/BB (4 GS)
After an excellent 2012 campaign in which he thrived across three levels, Rienzo has been hammered this season in his first extended stay at Triple-A.
Tyler Cloyd, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
20 IP, 7.65 ERA, .329 BAA, 19/11 K/BB (4 GS)
After posting a 2.35 ERA over 142 innings last season for Triple-A Lehigh Valley—and logging 33 innings in the major leagues—Cloyd is off to a shaky start back at the level.
A.J. Schugel, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
16.2 IP, 8.64 ERA, .361 BAA, 20/9 K/BB (4 GS)
After a quick ascension of the Angels’ system, Schugel has been hammered at Triple-A Salt Lake to open the 2013 season.
James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners
16.1 IP, 6.61 ERA, .318 BAA, 17/10 K/BB (4 GS)
One of the more frustrating and inconsistent pitchers in the minors, Paxton has once again struggled with this control this season while allowing 21 hits over 16.1 innings.
Chris Heston, RHP, San Francisco Giants
21 IP, 6.86 ERA, .371 BAA, 22/5 K/BB (4 GS)
After fanning 16 batters over his first two starts, Heston has struggled mightily as of late; last two starts: 9 IP, 20 H, 10 ER, 6/3 K/BB.
Video: Jesse Biddle fans 16 batters over 7 innings in his fourth Double-A start. (via Josh Norris)
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox
15.2 IP, 1.15 ERA, .184 BAA, 17/5 K/BB (3 GS)
Limited to only 37.2 innings last season due to injury, Ranaudo is making up for lost time with an excellent start at Double-A.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox
After struggling in each of his first two Double-A starts, Barnes returned to his 2012 form in his most recent outing: 6 IP, 5 H, ER, 7/1 K/BB.
Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets
22.2 IP, 1.59 ERA, .183 BAA, 27/1 K/BB (4 GS)
Featuring some of the best command in the minor leagues, Montero has been increasingly impressive in each start this season. Last outing: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 6/0 K/BB. How good is his command? Well, dating back to the start of last season, the right-hander owns a 137/20 K/BB over 144.2 innings. What?!
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
16 IP, 1.69 ERA, .217 BAA, 19/7 K/BB (3 GS)
Thanks to a plus fastball-slider combination, Meyer is seemingly on the fast track to the major leagues and should arrive at some point later this season. Last start: 6 IP, H, 0 ER, 5/4 K/BB. And when he’s not missing bats, the 6’9” right-hander is using his height to work on an impressive downhill plane to induce a ridiculous amount of groundball outs (8.33 GO/AO).
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
25 IP, 2.16 ERA, .126 BAA, 30/9 K/BB (4 GS)
On Monday night, Biddle turned in what may ultimately be the most dominant start we’ll see at any level this season—wait for it—7 IP, 1 H, 16/2 K/BB. That’s right, folks, he fanned 16 batters in seven innings.
For your viewing pleasure, here's a video (also featured at the top of the page) of Biddle's outing. (via Josh Norris)
Erik Johnson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
25.1 IP, 1.07 ERA, .161 BAA, 25/5 K/BB (4 GS)
The top pitching prospect in the White Sox’s barren farm system, Johnson, a 6’3” right-hander, was dominant in his last outing: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10/1 K/BB.
Alex Wood, LHP, Atlanta Braves
22 IP, 0.82 ERA, .182 BAA, 25/4 K/BB (4 GS)
The 6’4” left-hander has forced arm action that was expected to limit his command as a professional, but that simply hasn’t been the case. He’s had no problem disposing of Double-A hitters this season despite making the jump from Low-A. Last two starts: 13 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 12/2 K/BB.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
21.2 IP, 1.25 ERA, .175 BAA, 26/5 K/BB (4 GS)
After wearing down over the second half of the 2012 season, Nelson, a 6’6” right-hander, is already making a case to be the next Brewers pitching prospect—following in the footsteps of Hiram Burgos—to make the jump from Double-A to the majors. Last two outings: 10.2 IP, 6 H, ER, 14/3 K/BB.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
22 IP, 1.64 ERA, .165 BAA, 25/14 K/BB (4 GS)
Arguably the most projectable pitching prospect in the game, Walker has been outstanding over his last three starts: 17 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 17/10 K/BB.
Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego Padres
16 IP, 1.13 ERA, .118 BAA, 20/3 K/BB (3 GS)
Despite the fact that he posted a 3.85 ERA with 137/27 K/BB last year in 128.2 innings, Smith continued to fly under the radar headed into the 2013 season. However, that’s no longer the case as the right-hander has picked up where he left off with 20/3 K/BB through 16 frames.
Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Houston Astros
18 IP, 0.00 ERA, .133 BAA, 19/4 K/BB (4 G)
Another promising arm benefitting from the Astros’ shared innings pitching philosophy, Wojciechowski is yet to allow an earned run through his first 18 innings this season.
Deck McGuire, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
22 IP, 5.73 ERA, .241 BAA, 17/12 K/BB (4 GS)
Back at Double-A for the third straight season, things definitely are not looking up for the 2010 first-rounder (14th overall).
Ariel Pena, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
16.1 IP, 5.51 ERA, .204 BAA, 12/14 K/BB (4 GS)
Acquired from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade last season, Pena has struggled mightily since joining the Brewers.
Cody Buckel, RHP, Texas Rangers
9 IP, 12.00 ERA, .258 BAA, 9/22 K/BB (4 GS)
What the hell is wrong with Cody? A pitcher who has showcased above-average command—especially as it relates to his fastball—since entering the Rangers’ system, the right-hander has lost his feel for the strike zone this season; has walked at least five batters in each start. Don’t be surprised if he winds up back in extended spring training if the problems persist.
Jason Adam, RHP, Kansas City Royals
15.1 IP, 15.85 ERA, .419 BAA, 16/9 K/BB (4 GS)
After registering a 3.53 ERA at High-A Wilmington in 2012, the 6’4” right-hander has struggled in each of his four Double-A outings to open the season.
Nick Maronde, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
7.1 IP, 6.14 ERA, .286 BAA, 11/8 K/BB (6 G)
Maronde has been inconsistent over six appearances, and has walked at least one batter in each outing.
Norm Hall/Getty Images
Clayton Blackburn, RHP, San Francisco Giants
17 IP, 1.06 ERA, .153 BAA, 21/1 K/BB (3 GS)
Although he doesn’t require much physical projection at 6’3”, 220 pounds, the right-hander features the best command in the Giants’ system with the potential to start moving quickly this season.
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
15 IP, 0.60 ERA, .189 BAA, 12/3 K/BB (3 GS)
A vastly underrated young arm, Wisler has a projectable frame at 6’3”, 195 pounds, as well as a deep arsenal of average-to-plus offerings.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
23.2 IP, 1.14 ERA, .217 BAA, 35/7 K/BB (4 GS)
Having fanned at least eight batters in each of his four starts, Bradley has emerged as the most dominant starter in the low minors in the early going.
Carlos Contreras, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
20.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, .173 BAA, 27/6 K/BB (4 GS)
After working as a reliever in each of the last two seasons, the 20-year-old right-hander has been impressive thus far as a starter.
Mark Sappington, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
22.2 IP, 1.59 ERA, .205 BAA, 23/9 K/BB (4 GS)
The 2012 fifth-rounder relies on a plus fastball in the mid-90s, but needs to establish his secondary offerings in order to avoid a potential move to the bullpen.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
15 IP, 2.40 ERA, .164 BAA, 16/5 K/BB (3 GS)
The 6’6” left-hander has legitimate swing-and-miss stuff (130 K in 101.2 IP last season), and could emerge as one of the minor’s top southpaws with a strong follow-up campaign.
Luke Jackson, RHP, Texas Rangers
20.1 IP, 1.33 ERA, .236 BAA, 22/9 K/BB (4 GS)
After posting a 4.39 ERA with 74/32 K/BB last season at the level, Jackson has made noticeably improvements thus far in his second tour at High-A Myrtle Beach.
Jose Urena, RHP, Miami Marlins
18.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, .167 BAA, 17/3 K/BB (4 G)
The 20-year-old continues to be impossible to barrel and has showcased impressive command (17/3 K/BB) through four starts.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
20.2 IP, 3.05 ERA, .149 BAA, 15/7 K/BB (4 GS)
Possessing one of the higher ceilings among starters in the low minors, Sanchez was on his game in his last outing: 6.2 IP, 2 H, ER, 5/1 K/BB.
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros
18 IP, 5.00 ERA, .311 BAA, 17/12 K/BB (5 G)
It took Foltynewicz an extra season to master Low-A, so don’t be surprised if it takes him additional time to adjust to the more advanced level.
Andrew Chafin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
20 IP, 5.85 ERA, .263 BAA, 26/11 K/BB (4 GS)
Although he boasts one of the best sliders in the minor leagues and continues to miss a ton of bats, the left-hander’s command is still inconsistent and could ultimately prompt a move to the bullpen.
Mike Augliera, RHP, Boston Red Sox
16.1 IP, 4.96 ERA, .288 BAA, 8/5 K/BB (3 GS)
Augliera was hit around in his professional debut last summer, though he did post a very impressive 43/3 K/BB in 38.2 innings. So far this season: 8/5 K/BB in 16.1 innings. 2012 fifth-rounder may end up in the bullpen.
Jed Bradley, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
9.2 IP, 4.66 ERA, .270 BAA, 10/9 K/BB (3 GS)
The 2011 first-rounder hasn’t moved as quickly as the Brewers envisioned when drafting him. The left-hander failed to make it out of the first inning in his most recent start: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R (2 ER), 3 BB.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
12 IP, 6.75 ERA, .313 BAA, 15/7 K/BB (3 GS)
Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the R.A. Dickey, Syndergaard was lit up in his latest start: 3 IP, 8 H, 7 ER (HR), 2/2 K/BB.
RHP Joe Ross (Padres) // Courtesy of springtraininginformation.com
Jeff Ames, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
15 IP, 1.20 ERA, .102 BAA, 15/1 K/BB (3 GS)
A 2011 first-rounder, Ames, a 6’4” right-hander, has been virtually unhittable over his first three starts.
Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Houston Astros
18 IP, 1.50 ERA, .117 BAA, 17/4 K/BB (4 G)
Limited to only 45.2 innings last season while working back from Tommy John surgery in 2011, Valasquez has four pitches and the chance to be a legitimate mid-rotation starter.
Joe Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres
14.2 IP, 1.23 ERA, .104 BAA, 15/6 K/BB (3 GS)
One of my favorite arms in the low minors, Ross—the younger brother of Padres’ starter Tyson Ross—has an electric arm and very promising stuff.
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
13.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, .224 BAA, 18/2 K/BB (3 GS)
The 18-year-old features a combination of stuff and pitchability that exceeds his ripe age.
Joan Gregorio, RHP, San Francisco Giants
17 IP, 1.06 ERA, .200, 23/1 K/BB (3 GS)
After posting a 5.54 ERA last season at the Short-Season level, Gregorio’s command has been vastly improved this year in his full-season debut. Last two starts: 12 IP, 9 H, ER, 18/0 K/BB.
Chris Stratton, RHP, San Francisco Giants
16.2 IP, 1.08 ERA, .183 BAA, 17/5 K/BB (3 GS)
The 2012 first-round has been on his game over his last two starts: 11.1 IP, 5 H, ER, 14/4 K/BB.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees
17.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, .194 BAA, 33/9 K/BB (4 GS)
As a 22-year-old in Low-A—albeit his stateside debut—it’s not entirely surprising that De Paula has enjoyed overwhelming success, as his plus fastball and average secondaries are enough to dominate young hitters.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
12 IP, 12.00 ERA, .365 BAA, 9/8 K/BB (4 G)
Another incredibly frustrating young arm, Norris continues to get rocked in each start. Already behind the developmental curve, the 19-year-old southpaw needs to start turning things around.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
17.1 IP, 6.23 ERA, .319 BAA, 27/6 K/BB (4 GS)
Despite boasting arguably the best fastball in the low minors—an elite pitch that sits in the mid-to-upper-90s with ease—Stephenson has been inconsistent across four starts. The good news is that he’s still missing plenty of bats while inducing groundball outs (2.43 GO/AO).
Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
14 IP, 5.79 ERA, .321 BAA, 9/5 K/BB (3 GS)
Projectable, high-ceiling right-hander has legitimate stuff, but allows far too many baserunners; last start was a step in the right direction: 4 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 7/0 K/BB.
Austin Maddox, RHP, Boston Red Sox
14.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, .364 BAA, 15/6 K/BB (4 G)
Former Florida reliever is getting a chance to start with the Red Sox, but has allowed 24 hits over his first 14.2 innings.
Clay Holmes, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
18 IP, 3.50 ERA, .197 BAA, 14/15 K/BB (4 GS)
6’5” right-hander selected in the ninth round of the 2011 draft, Holmes is difficult to barrel but struggles due to below-average command.
Zachary Bird, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
10.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, .256 BAA, 9/9 K/BB (3 G)
6’4” right-hander is all projection right now with a power frame, arm strength and raw (but promising) arsenal.