The latest installment of this feature includes two White Sox pitching prospects heading in opposite directions, the best Giants pitching prospect to emerge since Zack Wheeler was traded away and a trio of intriguing yet unpolished prospects that have had issues finding the strike zone this season—they've combined for 168 walks in 252 innings pitched this season.
Erik Johnson, SP, Chicago White Sox
Season stats: 1.96 ERA, 142 IP, 100 H, 40 BB, 131 K in 24 starts (AAA/AA)
A 2011 draftee, Johnson started the 2012 season in Low-A and has made the quick ascent to the big leagues. He had his contract purchased from the minors today after proving in just 10 starts that Triple-A hitters were no match for him.
The 23-year-old right-hander, who had a 2.23 ERA in 14 Double-A starts before a promotion in late June, did not allow more than two earned runs in any of his Triple-A starts and put an exclamation point on his season with seven shutout innings on August 29th (7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 8 K).
It's likely that he'll make a few starts with the Sox this month in what could be an early audition for the 2014 rotation. If he never pitches another game in the minors, it wouldn't be a huge surprise. He doesn't have a top-of-the-rotation ceiling, but he already looks like a pretty good back-of-the-rotation starter.
Jake Leathersich, RP, New York Mets
Season stats: 4.63 ERA, 58.1 IP, 51 H, 45 BB, 102 K (AAA/AA)
The 23-year-old lefty reliever has struck out hitters in bunches since being taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. And it hasn't stopped in 2013, as he's risen into the upper levels of the minors. Unfortunately, his already questionable walk rate has skyrocketed during his first stint in Triple-A.
Since a well-earned promotion after posting a 1.53 ERA with Double-A Binghamton, including 16 walks and 55 strikeouts in 29.1 innings, Leathersich has struggled in the Pacific Coast League. He's walked 29 in 29 innings and has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 7.2 innings.
In a season that could've ended with a September call-up, it will end with questions on whether Leathersich can throw enough strikes to succeed in a major league bullpen.
Marcus Stroman, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Season stats: 3.30 ERA, 111.2 IP, 99 H, 27 BB, 129 K in 20 starts
The 5'9" right-hander was pegged as the Jays' potential "Closer of the Future," after he was taken as the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. But after a 50-game suspension for violating the league's drug program ended his year early, the organization decided to develop him as a starter in 2013.
Results have been mostly good with a handful of dominating starts along the way, including back-to-back double-digit strikeout games in late July and his latest eight-inning, 11-strikeout gem (8 IP, ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 11 K) coming last night.
While his future could still come as a late-inning reliever, Stroman has shown a lot of ability as a starting pitcher and the Jays will likely keep him in that role until he shows any limitations that would keep him from being successful in a big league rotation.
Scott Snodgress, SP, Chicago White Sox
Season stats: 4.70 ERA, 143.2 IP, 146 H, 59 BB, 190 K in 26 starts
Ranked just one spot behind Johnson in Baseball Prospectus' preseason organizational prospect rankings, Snodgress has not had nearly the same success and could be stuck in Double-A in 2014 while Johnson pitches in the majors.
The 23-year-old lefty was showing terrific progress after a rough start, allowing just four earned runs in 41.1 innings over a six-start span between July 4th and August 6th. But things have taken a turn for the worse over his last four starts. He's allowed 22 earned runs on 28 hits and 14 walks in 13.2 innings. Not exactly the kind of impression he wanted to leave on the organization entering the offseason.
Kyle Crick, RP, San Francisco Giants
Season stats: 1.57 ERA, 68.2 IP, 48 H, 39 BB, 95 K in 14 starts
Crick (pictured) was the top-ranked Giants prospect coming into the season, according to Baseball Prospectus, although that doesn't say much considering how weak the farm system has been viewed over the past few years. But despite missing some time due to an oblique injury early in the season, he's shown plenty in the hitter-friendly California League and should find himself on most offseason rankings of the top 100 prospects in baseball.
Since returning in late June, the 20-year-old has allowed just 11 earned runs in 59 innings (1.68 ERA) with 30 walks and 83 strikeouts. He's recorded double-digit strikeouts five times, including in his last start on August 29th (7 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 11 K). He'll likely begin the 2014 season in Double-A and could push for a big league promotion by midseason.
Damien Magnifico, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Season stats: 4.57 ERA, 80.2 IP, 83 H, 41 BB, 63 K (HiA/LoA)
He has the perfect name and the triple-digit fastball to end up as a late-inning relief specialist in the future. For now, the Brewers are having him start so he can develop some of his weak secondary offerings, which would make him a more effective relief pitcher in the future.
Results have been mixed, although mostly poor since a June promotion to High-A Brevard County. For the most part, the 22-year-old right-hander had done well when limited to two innings or less (7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 5 K) before his last outing on September 1st when he allowed three earned runs on two hits and four walks in just one inning of work.
Magnifico remains a work in progress, although it's likely they'll unleash him in a full-time bullpen role within the next year or two in hopes that his work as a starter will have helped.
Ismael Guillon, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Season stats: 4.75 ERA, 121.1 IP, 95 H, 95 BB, 134 K
After a mostly disappointing season, Guillon is finally showing why the Reds added him to the 40-man roster prior to the season. He's a long way from the majors, but he's talented enough that some team may have taken a shot on him in the Rule 5 draft.
Heading into his start on July 29th, Guillon had a 6.37 ERA with 80 walks in 82 innings. Since then, the lefty out of Venezuela has allowed just six earned runs in 39.1 innings over a span of seven starts. The turnaround has been sparked by an improved command of the strike zone (18 BB), including only six walks in his last 24 innings pitched.
Guillon has likely done enough to continue climbing the ladder, although he'll need to continue throwing strikes or he won't make it much further than High-A ball.
Austin Brice, SP, Miami Marlins
Season stats: 5.73 ERA, 113 IP, 118 H, 82 BB, 111 K
Several Marlins pitching prospects have been impressive this season, giving the Marlins continued hope for a future filled with young talent at the big league level. While Brice was the seventh-ranked prospect coming into the season by Baseball Prospectus, he has not been amongst the group of pitchers to take a step forward in 2013.
In fact, he's gone backwards. Well, to be more specific, Brice has gone backwards and then forward and now backwards again. The 21-year-old appeared to have righted the ship with a strong string of starts July and August. But he hit a wall and has mostly struggled since the middle of last month.
After allowing nine runs (only one earned) and getting knocked out in the first inning on August 14th, he allowed six earned runs on 10 hits in his next start on August 19th. Following a solid start on August 24th, Brice gave up six earned runs on eight hits in only three innings in his last start.