MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level
Although this is only the fourth installment highlighting the hottest and coldest pitching prospects in the minor leagues, it’s become increasingly obvious that there will always be more of the “good” than the “bad”.
Granted a lot of the eye-popping numbers are products of either small sample size and/or age vs. level, but there’s also a large contingent of young hurlers that have flat out dominated.
That being said, here’s a look at the hottest and coldest pitching prospects at every minor league level through the first month of the 2013 season.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, New York Yankees
22.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, .190 BAA, 39/11 K/BB (5 GS)
De Paula has continued to impress in his stateside debut, as his 39 strikeouts (in only 22.1 innings) is four shy of the minor league lead.
Chris Stratton, RHP, San Francisco Giants
22.2 IP, 2.38 ERA, .163 BAA, 28/8 K/BB (4 GS)
The Giants' first-round draft pick last June, Stratton is simply too good to spend another month in Low-A. With a plus slider and improved feel for sequencing, the 6’3” right-hander is a candidate to make the jump straight to Double-A.
Stephen Johnson, RHP, San Francisco Giants
14.1 IP, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, .087 BAA, 15/5 K/BB (10 G)
Thanks to a highly unorthodox arm action and delivery, and a fastball that reaches triple-digits with ease, Johnson has all the makings of a future closer. If the 6’4” right-hander can sustain his command at higher levels, there’s reason to believe that he’ll be fast-tracked to the major leagues.
Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
29.1 IP, 1.84 ERA, .122 BAA, 5.40 GO/AO, 25/14 K/BB (5 GS)
Selected out of Radford with the 46th overall pick last June, Butler is building up stamina in the South Atlantic before presumably moving up the ladder, possibly even to Double-A. The right-hander is coming off his best start of the season: 8 IP, H, 0 ER, 4/2 K/BB.
Joseph Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres
25.1 IP, 1.78 ERA, .196 BAA, 23/9 K/BB (5 GS)
With a projectable 6’3”, 185-pound frame, Ross has flashed three above-average-to-plus pitches and continues to be difficult to barrel. However, after experiencing discomfort in his throwing arm last season, expect the Padres to monitor his workload closely.
Jeff Ames, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
25 IP, 1.80 ERA, .151 BAA, 22/2 K/BB (5 GS)
Ames has been dominating since improving his fastball plane and command before the 2011 season. In four of his five starts this season, the right-hander has thrown five innings and allowed no more than two hits.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, .244 BAA, 13/2 K/BB (2 GS)
Berrios doesn’t turn 19 until the end of May, but that hasn’t prevented the right-hander from dealing in both starts as one of the younger pitchers at the Low-A level.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs
26 IP, 3.12 ERA, .224 BAA, 23/8 K/BB (5 GS)
Acquired from the Rangers last summer in the Ryan Dempster deal, Hendricks is a 6’3” right-hander with above-average command of a mature arsenal. Last two starts: 13 IP, 4 H, ER, 17/2 K/BB.
Austin Brice, RHP, Miami Marlins
20.2 IP, 6.53 ERA, .263 BAA, 21/18 K/BB (5 GS)
After throwing 10 scoreless frames to open the season, Brice has been hammered over his last three starts: 10.2 IP, 16 H, 15 ER, 12/8 K/BB.
Mitch Brown, RHP, Cleveland Indians
15.2 IP, 11.49 ERA, .328 BAA, 18/11 K/BB (5 GS)
Bumped to Low-A Lake County for his full-season debut, Brown, a 19-year-old with cold-weather experience as a Minnesotan, has been hampered by walks and home runs in each of his five starts.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
16 IP, 9.56 ERA, .328 BAA, 13/11 K/BB (5 G)
Although the overall numbers are still ugly, Norris actually turned in his best outing as a professional the last time out: 4 IP, 3 H, ER, 4/3 K/BB, 7.00 GO/AO.
Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
16.1 IP, 7.71 ERA, .333 BAA, 11/10 K/BB (4 GS)
Jenkins’ frame and stuff both make him highly projectable, though his lack of experience and consistency has been obvious this season.
Jose Campos, RHP, New York Yankees
15 IP, 6.00 ERA, .283 BAA, 16/6 K/BB (5 G)
After missing nearly all the 2012 season with an elbow injury, Campos hasn’t shown the swing-and-miss stuff that he did with the Mariners in 2011.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
26 IP, 2.08 ERA, .161 BAA, 30/8 K/BB (5 GS)
After striking out 130 batters in 101.2 innings last season in his professional debut, Owens, 20, has continued to miss bats despite moving up to High-A. However, in order to be a success at higher levels, the 6'6" left-hander will have to thoroughly develop his secondary offerings.
Drew Gagnon, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
29 IP, 5.59 ERA, .261 BAA, 32/11 K/BB (6 GS)
After allowing 18 earned runs over his first three starts, the 22-year-old right-hander has been a completely different pitcher in each of last two outings: 12.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 15/2 K/BB. In fact, Gagnon was untouchable on Wednesday night as he fired seven no-hit frames with 10 strikeouts. Wow.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
26.2 IP, 3.04 ERA, .210 BAA, 33/4 K/BB (5 GS)
Kingham, a 6’5” right-hander, is seemingly coming into his own in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Last three starts: 17 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 26/1 K/BB.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
28.2 IP, 1.26 ERA, .218 BAA, 43/10 K/BB (5 GS)
Bradley indisputably has been the most impressive pitching prospect through he first month of the season. In each of his five starts, the hard-throwing right-hander has tossed at least five innings and recorded at least eight strikeouts. As a result of his overwhelming success, the Diamondbacks decided to promote Bradley to Double-A Mobile on Wednesday night.
Austin Fleet, RHP, San Francisco Giants
14.2 IP, 1.84 ERA, .104 BAA, 19/5 K/BB (5 G/1 GS)
After spending the entire 2012 season in the Double-A bullpen, Fleet is being stretched out back in High-A with Kyle Crick on the disabled list. The right-hander recently made his first start in over a year (4 IP, H, 6/2 K/BB), and undoubtedly earned himself another look with a strong showing.
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
26 IP, 1.04 ERA, .176 BAA, 23/4 K/BB (5 GS)
One of the more underrated pitching prospects in the minor leagues, Wisler has an athletic, 6’3”, 195-pound frame, clean arm action and deep arsenal. He’s making it look easy, too, as the 20-year-old has allowed no more than two runs or four hits in every start thus far.
Kyle Winkler, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
19.2 IP, 9.61 ERA, .400 BAA, 16/13 K/BB (5 GS)
After appearing in 31 games out of the High-A Visalia bullpen last season, the Diamondbacks decided to move Winkler into the starting rotation this season. To say he’s struggled thus far may be an understatement: 19.2 IP, 36 H (4 HR), 13 walks.
Garrett Gould, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
19.2 IP, 10.53 ERA, .363 BAA, 12/8 K/BB (5 GS)
Gould’s prospect stocked has tanked since reaching High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2012, as his strikeout and walk rates have continued to deteriorate. The 21-year-old is still young, but his lack of progress developmentally over the last two seasons is a legitimate concern.
Sam Selman, LHP, Kansas City Royals
17.1 IP, 4.67 ERA, .224 BAA, 15/15 K/BB (4 GS)
A second-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt last June, Selman was named the top pitching prospect in the rookie-level Pioneer League after registering a 2.09 ERA, .204 BAA and 89/22 K/BB in just 60.1 innings. The 6’3” left-hander hasn’t been as sharp this season at High-A, as if it wasn’t already obvious with a 15/15 K/BB thus far through 17.1 innings.
Because so many high-profile prospects are off to a hot start for their team’s respective Double-A affiliate, I’ve decided to omit the coldest pitchers at the level so as to include even more noteworthy performances.
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
31 IP, 1.74 ERA, .114 BAA, 40/12 K/BB (5 GS)
In last week’s installment I discussed Biddle’s masterful outing against Harrisburg in which he fanned 16 batters and allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings. Meanwhile, his follow-up start on Sunday was equally impressive, as the 6’4” southpaw allowed one knock while notching 10 strikeouts over six scoreless frames. So, just to be clear, here’s a breakdown of Biddle’s last two starts: 13 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 26/5 K/BB.
Alex Wood, LHP, Atlanta Braves
27 IP, 0.67 ERA, .192 BAA, 31/5 K/BB (5 GS)
I don’t think anyone saw this coming. Despite his max-effort delivery and choppy arm action on the backside, Wood has been able to effectively command his entire arsenal this season in his first taste of Double-A. Last three starts: 18 IP, 13 H, 0 ER, 18/3 K/BB.
Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado Rockies
26.2 IP, 3.04 ERA, .273 BAA, 30/2 K/BB (5 GS)
Bettis appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues until a shoulder injury ended his 2012 campaign before it even began. With a plus fastball-slider mix, the right-hander has managed to dominate Double-A hitters despite the massive layoff. Last four starts: 21.2 IP, 18 H, 5 ER, 26/1 K/BB. His power arm should be a welcome addition to the Rockies’ starting rotation later this season.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
27.2 IP, 1.30 ERA, .178 BAA, 32/5 K/BB (5 GS)
Considering that the Brewers already aggressively promoted Hiram Burgos directly to the major league from Double-A, it seems as though it’s only a matter of time until Nelson receives a similar call. After wearing down over the final months of the 2012 season, early-season reports indicate that the 6’4”, 245-pound right-hander has enjoyed a slight velo spike with sharper (and more consistent) secondary offerings.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
35 IP, 1.54 ERA, .150 BAA, 39/20 K/BB (6 GS)
Arguably the most projectable pitching prospect in the game, Walker is surpassing all expectations while repeating Double-A. While his command still leaves something to be desired, the 20-year-old has still been highly effective due to the sheer quality of his stuff. And if you remove his first start from the equation, here’s what the right-hander’s line would look like: 30 IP, 13 H, 2 ER, 31/16 K/BB.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
23.1 IP, 2.31 ERA, .200 BAA, 33/9 K/BB (5 GS)
With a fastball that eclipses triple-digits with ease, and a pair of secondary offerings that continue to improve, it’s becoming more and more likely that we’ll see Ventura in the major leagues this season. Meanwhile, the 21-year-old was nearly unhittable in his last start: 5 IP, H, 0 ER, 10/3 K/BB.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox
27 IP, 1.00 ERA, .169 BAA, 30/6 K/BB (5 GS)
Selected with the 39th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of LSU, Ranaudo logged only 37.2 innings last season as both a groin and shoulder injury resulted in significant time spent on the disabled list. The 6’7” right-hander certainly looks healthy this season and has been a nightmare for opposing hitters in each of his five starts.
Erik Johnson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
31.1 IP, 1.44 ERA, .165 BAA, 32/9 K/BB (5 GS)
Having left a lasting impression this spring in major league camp, Johnson has been on point with his four-pitch mix thus far. More specifically, the right-hander has been drawing countless whiffs with his plus slider—a pitch that’s essentially big-league ready. Last three starts: 21.1 IP, 12 H, 4 ER, 23/6 K/BB.
Burch Smith, RHP, San Diego Padres
26 IP, 1.38 ERA, .163 BAA, 31/4 K/BB (5 GS)
Another lesser-known pitching prospect deserving of more recognition, Smith put himself on the big-league radar last season by registering a 3.85 ERA and 137/27 K/BB over 128.2 innings in the California League. Despite moving up to Double-A for the first time, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has picked up where he left off last year.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
28 IP, 2.57 ERA, .248 BAA, 34/11 K/BB (5 GS)
At 6’9”, 220 pounds, there are very few pitchers with Myers’ size who are able to repeat their mechanics and showcase legitimate command. With two plus pitches and an approach that will continue to improve, expect the 23-year-old to make an impact in the major leagues this season.
Jose Ramirez, RHP, New York Yankees
9 IP, 0.00 ERA, .103 BAA, 12/2 K/BB (2 G/1 GS)
Coming off a breakout campaign at High-A Tampa in 2012, Ramirez has only appeared in two games so far this season. That being said, his effectiveness warrants a spot on this list.
Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians
28.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, .202 BAA, 43/9 K/BB (6 GS)
One of my favorite under-the-radar pitching prospects, Salazar has the pure stuff to contribute (in some capacity) in the major leagues this season. Last three starts: 16 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 30/4 K/BB.
Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
29 IP, 1.86 ERA, .184 BAA, 15/11 K/BB (5 GS)
After a shaky first start for Triple-A Memphis, Wacha—who was sensational this spring in major league camp—has settled in and now impressed in four consecutive outings: 3-0, 25 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 15/7 K/BB.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
27 IP, 3.33 ERA, .214 BAA, 36/9 K/BB (5 GS)
Odorizzi continues to make a strong case to be the first Rays’ pitching prospect to be recalled from the minors in the event of an opening in the starting rotation. His flyball tendencies will always be worrisome, but as long as he continues to miss bats, the right-hander should enjoy success in the major leagues.
Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins
27 IP, 3.33 ERA, .219 BAA, 26/9 K/BB (5 GS)
After failing to break camp in the Twins’ starting rotation, Gibson will likely receive an additional half season of experience at Triple-A before receiving an inevitable promotion. It could come earlier than expected too, as the 6’6” right-hander is fresh off his best start of the 2013 season: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7/2 K/BB.
Mark Montgomery, RHP, New York Yankees
12 IP, 1.50 ERA, .175 BAA, 17/5 K/BB (7 G)
The second reliever to appear on this week's list, Montgomery throws sliders almost exclusively—as he should considering it grades as one of the best in the minor leagues. As you’ll soon witness once he’s promoted to the major leagues, it doesn’t feature traditional slider spin and bite; rather, it plays like a slider for about the first 58 feet before disappearing from the strike zone like a splitter. Simply put: It’s nasty and capable of retiring big-league hitters right now. What David Robertson is to the fastball, Montgomery is to the slider.
Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets
30 IP, 4.80 ERA, .263 BAA, 36/16 K/BB (6 GS)
Wheeler recently admitted that his adaptation to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League has not gone as smoothly as anticipated. And considering that he battled through multiple outings with a blister on his pitching hand, I’ll cut the Mets’ top prospect some slack for the unusually high walk and hit totals. The good news is that Wheeler seemingly righted the ship in his start on Tuesday, as the right-hander allowed one run on five hits over 6.2 innings. Meanwhile, his command and overall effectiveness was the best it’s been this season, as he tallied eight strikeouts compared to only one walk.
Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
26.1 IP, 6.15 ERA, .269 BAA, 24/12 K/BB (5 GS)
After tossing six shutout innings to begin the 2013 season, Skaggs’ consistency has varied from start-to-start. His last four outings: 20.1 IP, 25 H, 18 ER, 20/9 K/BB.
Ethan Martin, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
22.1 IP, 7.66 ERA, .244 BAA, 23/20 K/BB (5 GS)
Martin—I just learned that his middle name is actually “Cash”, so feel free to share that fun fact—has always been difficult to barrel and capable of missing bats, but his lack of control thus far has prevented the right-hander from working deep into games. Furthermore, over his last three starts, Martin has walked 14 batters in 13 innings.
James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners
21 IP, 6.00 ERA, .306 BAA, 22/12 K/BB (5 GS)
Although he’s regarded as a notoriously slow starter, Paxton’s lack of control and command has always been problematic. He’s still missing bats with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings, but that’s about all the left-hander has had going for him thus far. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Paxton will wind up in the bullpen.
Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
20 IP, 7.65 ERA, .333 BAA, 19/11 K/BB (5 G/4 GS)
After registering a 3.01 ERA last season in Double-A, the 22-year-old has been all over the place for Triple-A Louisville. However, Corcino may finally be turning the corner, as the right-hander allowed one earned run with five strikeouts over six innings in his last start.