MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level
At this time last season, NL Rookie of the Year favorite and possible Cy Young Award candidate Jose Fernandez was pitching in the High-A Florida State League.
Meanwhile, playoff-bound rookie starters Julio Teheran of the Atlanta Braves and Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the upper minors and not blowing hitters away like the scouting reports indicated they should be.
Pitchers are unpredictable, as you've probably figured out by now. They can move up the ladder quickly and they can fall off the prospect radar even faster.
Here are eight pitchers, two from each full-season league, who are either pushing for a late-season promotion or making their teams wonder if they have a future in the organization.
Brian Flynn, Miami Marlins
Season stats: 3.20 ERA, 118 IP, 108 H, 39 BB, 112 K in 20 starts
The 23-year-old lefty is proving that he was much more than a throw-in in last year's trade that brought him, along with Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly, to the Marlins in exchange for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.
Prior to yesterday's start (5 IP, 5 ER) at Las Vegas in one of the least pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, Flynn had been dominant over his previous six Triple-A starts (41.1 IP, 5 ER, 26 H, 14 BB, 37 K), including seven-plus innings of shutout ball in four of those.
It wouldn't be a surprise if he gets a late-season look in the Marlins rotation and a chance to win a spot behind Turner and ace Jose Fernandez in 2014.
Santos Rodriguez, Chicago White Sox
Season stats: 4.50 ERA, 42 IP, 28 H, 33 BB, 49 K in 28 games (AAA/AA)
The 6'6" lefty earned a promotion to Triple-A in late June after posting solid numbers in Double-A (2.35 ERA, 23 IP, 13 H, 14 BB, 25 K). His success has not carried over, however, as he has allowed 15 earned runs, 15 hits and 19 walks in 19 innings.
Added to the 40-man roster prior to the season, his spot could be in jeopardy in the offseason if he's unable to turn things around quickly.
His prior success suggests a potential to be a big league reliever, but his control issues at age 25 suggest otherwise.
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Season stats: 2.54 ERA, 109.2 IP, 95 H, 26 BB, 118 K in 21 starts (AA/Hi-A)
Mets fans already have plenty to be excited about, with Matt Harvey developing into one of the top pitchers in baseball and top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler already showing signs of becoming a very good No. 2 starter.
And now it's Syndergaard, acquired from Toronto along with Travis d'Arnaud in the R.A. Dickey trade, who could give the team another top-caliber pitching prospect to add to the rotation for a third consecutive season if he continues at his current pace.
Harvey made his major league debut in July 2012, Wheeler in June of this season and Syndergaard could debut in New York as a 21-year-old by June or July of 2014.
Since a promotion to Double-A, the 6'6" right-hander has a 1.76 ERA in nine starts with only 10 walks and 54 strikeouts in 46 innings.
B.J. Hermsen, Minnesota Twins
Season stats: 5.68 ERA, 65 IP, 97 H, 26 BB, 29 K in 25 games (11 starts)
After pitching very well in 22 Double-A starts in 2012 (11-6, 3.22 ERA), Hermsen has struggled in his second go-around at the level.
In his last three starts after spending most of June and July in the bullpen, the 23-year-old right-hander has allowed 12 earned runs and 17 hits in 10 innings pitched.
While his stellar 2012 season earned him a spot on the 40-man roster, his disastrous 2013 could get him removed from it early in the 2013-2014 offseason and possibly released from the organization.
When Double-A batters hit .353 against you, it's to be expected.
Clayton Blackburn, San Francisco Giants
Season stats: 3.62 ERA, 117 IP, 97 H, 28 BB, 119 K in 20 starts
One of the Giants' top pitching prospects coming into the season, the 20-year-old is passing the very difficult test of surviving the hitter-friendly California League with flying colors.
And he's getting stronger in the second half of the season.
In his last six starts, the right-hander has allowed just six earned runs in 40.1 innings pitched, with five walks and 31 strikeouts. Throwing strikes and working deep into games, Blackburn is developing into a future workhorse starter who could be in the San Francisco rotation by 2015.
Domingo Tapia, New York Mets
Season stats: 5.00 ERA, 81 IP, 73 H, 49 BB, 73 K in 19 starts
Of the two up-and-coming Mets pitching prospects out of the Dominican Republic, one, Rafael Montero, has continued to rise up the ranks (3.01 ERA between Triple-A and Double-A) while the other, Domingo Tapia, has struggled in the low minors.
21-year-old Tapia had a solid full-season debut with Low-A Savannah in 2012 (3.98 ERA, 108.2 IP, 92 H, 32 BB, 101 K), but a promotion to High-A St. Lucie in 2013 hasn't been kind to the right-hander.
After a strong April, things have slowly unraveled and completely fallen apart as of late.
In his last four starts, he's allowed 15 earned runs in 9.2 innings pitched, with 14 walks and eight strikeouts.
Unlike Montero, who went from rotation mate in Savannah early in 2012 to a likely big league rotation candidate in 2014, Tapia's path to the majors—if he gets there at all—will be a much slower one.
Christian Binford, Kansas City Royals
Season stats: 1.87 ERA, 120.1 IP, 108 H, 22 BB, 119 K in 20 starts
Any minor league pitchers in the Royals organization will be overshadowed by Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer, both elite prospects in the upper minors.
Who steps up to the top of the next wave, however, is still undetermined.
20-year-old Binford, a 30th-round pick in the 2011 draft, is doing everything he can to claim that spot heading into the offseason.
While he hasn't had much trouble at all in the Low-A South Atlantic League, he doesn't have a big-time fastball, so he'll have a hard time getting noticed until he succeeds as he climbs the ladder.
His next opportunity could come soon if the Royals give him a well-deserved shot at High-A Wilmington to finish the season.
Chad James, Miami Marlins
Season stats: 6.52 ERA, 38.2 IP, 44 H, 20 BB, 39 K in 10 starts
A former first-round pick, James has been going backwards since a solid season in High-A back in 2011 (3.80 ERA in 27 starts).
The lefty struggled at the level in 2012 and has failed to get back on track after being dropped to Low-A this season.
It's likely that he could've made a quick move back up the ladder with a successful stint with Greensboro, but the 22-year-old has completely fallen off the prospect radar with his unimpressive performance, which includes 11 earned runs and 14 hits allowed in 11 innings pitched over his last two starts.
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