MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level
The Minor League Baseball season is almost over.
For those prospects in the complex and rookie leagues, the season actually has been over for about a week. Meanwhile, the postseason schedules for the Short Season, Low- and High-A leagues have either already concluded or are entering the final round.
As for the Double- and Triple-A levels, well, each league’s respective championship round is set to unfold over the upcoming week and will inevitably feature standout performances from some of the game’s best young talent.
So, with an emphasis on prospects who took the bump during the minor league playoffs, here’s a look at the hottest and coldest pitching prospects at every level.
Hottest (As always, only the hottest pitchers from the lower levels)
Andrew Pierce, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
42.2 IP, 2.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .262 BAA, 36/7 K/BB (12 G/7 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 7 IP, 4 H, 7 K
An eighth-round draft pick out of Southern Mississippi University, Pierce has a mature arsenal that lacks a plus pitch, but everything plays up due to his command and pitchability.
Dillon Maples, RHP, Chicago Cubs
76.2 IP, 4.93 ERA, .245 BAA, 75/50 K/BB (21 G/16 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 6.1 IP, 6 H, 7 K, 2 BB
Maples, the Cubs’ 14th-round bonus baby from the 2011 draft, was overmatched in the Low-A Midwest League to open the 2013 season. However, the 6’2” right-hander settled in nicely following a demotion to the Short-Season Northwest League, posting a 2.14 ERA and 41/19 K/BB ratio in 42 innings.
Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
106.1 IP, 2.62 ERA, .225 BAA, 121/38 K/BB (21 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 7 IP, H, 8 K
A second-round pick in 2009, Matz didn’t make his professional debut until 2012 after undergoing elbow surgery after signing with the Mets. With the hope of making up for lost time, the organization handed the 22-year-old an aggressive assignment to Low-A Savannah to open the season. The left-hander responded to the challenge by posting a 2.62 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 106.1 innings and allowed more than three earned runs only once in 21 starts.
Aaron Blair, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
48.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, .246 BAA, 41/17 K/BB (11 GS)
Playoffs: 2-0, 11.2 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 11/4 K/BB
The No. 36 overall selection this past June, Blair made his professional debut at Short-Season Hillsboro in early July and was moved up to Low-A South Bend after he posted a 2.90 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 31 innings. While he hasn’t been overpowering at the more advanced level, the 21-year-old has been consistent, logging at least five innings pitched with three earned runs or less in each of his five starts (including both playoff starts).
Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, New York Mets
135.2 IP, 2.72 ERA, .238 BAA, 106/16 K/BB (22 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 7.2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 4/1 K/BB
Ynoa is arguably the Mets’ breakout prospect of the year thanks to an outstanding full-season debut at Low-A Savannah. The 20-year-old right-hander showcased an impressive feel for three projectable pitches and issued only 16 walks in 135.2 innings (1.06 BB/9). As a result of season-long success at the level, Ynoa was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher—and that was before his strong outing in the first round of the playoffs.
Joe Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres
122.1 IP, 3.75 ERA, .267 BAA, 79/40 K/BB (23 GS)
Playoffs: 1-1, 5 ER, 10 H, 7 K, 3 BB (2 GS)
Ross, the No. 25 overall pick from the 2011 draft, flashed his huge upside during the first half of his full-season debut, registering a 2.71 ERA and 51/19 K/BB ratio in 66.1 innings at Low-A Fort Wayne. However, the 20-year-old regressed across the board following the All-Star break with a 4.98 ERA, 28/21 K/BB ratio and 68 hits allowed (six home runs) in 56 innings. And after firing 6.1 shutout innings in his first start in the Midwest League playoffs, Ross was pounded for six runs (five earned) on eight hits in his subsequent outing.
Luis Heredia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
65 IP, 3.05 ERA, .224 BAA, 55/37 K/BB (14 G/13 GS)
Playoffs: (L) 3 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 2/1 K/BB
Making his full-season debut, Heredia registered a 5.48 ERA with more walks (14) than strikeouts (13) in July and generally seemed overmatched as a 19-year-old in the Low-A South Atlantic League. However, the 6’6” right-hander rebounded and finished on a positive note, posting a 1.82 ERA and 33/17 K/BB ratio over his final six regular-season starts (34.2 innings). His lone playoff outing for West Virginia was one to forget, however, as Heredia allowed 10 hits over three innings in a losing effort.
C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago Cubs
116.1 IP, 1.86 ERA, .182 BAA, 155/41 K/BB (24 GS)
Two playoff starts: 2-0, 10 IP, H, 11/3 K/BB
Acquired from Texas at the trade deadline in the deal for Matt Garza, Edwards was moved up to High-A Daytona for the final six weeks of the season after posting video-game numbers at Low-A Hickory while with the Rangers. Over six starts in the Florida State League (FSL), the 22-year-old posted a 1.96 ERA and 33/7 K/BB ratio in 23 innings. Edwards also played a major role in Daytona’s recent FSL title, notching a win in both starts while allowing one hit over 10 scoreless innings.
Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants
68.2 IP, 1.57 ERA, .201 BAA, 95/35 K/BB (14 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 7 IP, 3 H, 8 K
Crick spent roughly two months on the disabled list with a strained oblique after a hot start with High-A San Jose. Upon returning in late June, the 20-year-old flat-out dominated with a 1.68 ERA, .188 BAA and 83/30 K/BB ratio over 59 innings in the hitter-friendly California League. And of his 14 starts, the 6’4” right-hander turned in a double-digit strikeout performance in six or less innings on four occasions.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Chicago Cubs
118.1 IP, 2.74 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .249 BAA, 124/43 K/BB (23 G/21 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 5 IP, 5 H, 6 K
Johnson had a really solid full-season debut. The first pitcher (No. 43 overall) selected by the Cubs in the 2012 draft, Johnson split the season between Low-A Kane County and High-A Daytona, pitching better at the latter and missing more than a bat-per-inning overall. The 22-year-old has a deep arsenal and feel for pitching, and should only get better as the organization increases his workload.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
86.1 IP, 3.34 ERA, .202 BAA, 75/40 K/BB (22 G/20 GS)
Playoffs: (L) 5.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 4/1 K/BB
Sanchez entered the season as one of the game’s more high-ceiling pitching prospects and, for the most part, retained that status with a strong showing with High-A Dunedin in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. While he dealt with shoulder fatigue in June and July, the 21-year-old struggled to take a step forward in terms of his overall control. However, Sanchez is difficult to barrel even when slightly erratic, with a crisp fastball in the mid- to upper-90s and smooth out of the hand, and a knee-buckling curveball that’s an easy plus when on.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
152 IP, 1.84 ERA, .215 BAA, 162/69 K/BB (26 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 4/1 K/BB
Bradley turned in a ridiculous final month of the regular season at Double-A Mobile, going 6-0 with a 1.24 ERA, .189 BAA and 36/16 K/BB in 36.1 innings. The 21-year-old wasn’t always at his best, as he walked five or more batters twice during that span. However, the right-hander was on point in his Southern League playoff start, allowing two earned runs over seven innings.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
117.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, .243 BAA, 133/28 K/BB (23 GS)
Playoffs: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 8/1 K/BB
Few pitching prospects have had a better overall season than Syndergaard, so it was disappointing that the 21-year-old finished the regular season with his worst start of the year (and career): 3 IP, 9 H (3 HR), 11 R (9 ER), 5/2 K/BB. However, the 6’6” right-hander returned to form in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs, as he allowed three earned runs with eight strikeouts over six innings. Syndergaard also touched 100 mph on a knee-high fastball to end the third inning.
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
136 IP, 2.78 ERA, .217 BAA, 131/33 K/BB (26 GS)
Playoffs: 6.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 4/3 K/BB
After six outstanding starts in the High-A California League, the Padres promoted Wisler to Double-A San Antonio where he registered a 3.00 ERA, .223 BAA and 103/27 K/BB ratio in 105 innings. The soon-to-be 21-year-old (Sept. 12 birthday) furthered his brilliant campaign by allowing one earned run on two hits over 6.1 innings against Corpus Christi in the Texas League playoffs.
Robbie Ray, LHP, Washington Nationals
142 IP, 3.36 ERA, .224 BAA, 160/62 K/BB (27 GS)
Playoffs: (W) 6.2 IP, 3 H, ER, 6/2 K/BB
After a disappointing 2012 season at High-A Potomac (105.2 IP, 6.56 ERA), Ray bounced back in a big way this year with a breakout season between Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. In his start during the Eastern League playoffs, the 21-year-old worked 6.2 innings for the first time after tossing a complete-game shutout on July 11.
Neil Ramirez, RHP, Chicago Cubs
107.2 IP, 3.68 ERA, .207 BAA, 132/44 K/BB (22 GS)
Playoffs: (L) 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R (3 ER), 3/3 K/BB
Acquired by the Cubs as the PTBNL (player to be named later) in the Matt Garza trade, Ramirez made a strong first impression with his new team by tossing 4.2 one-hit innings in his debut with Double-A Tennessee. Unfortunately, poor defense made the 24-year-old a tough-luck loser in his only start in the Southern League playoffs.
Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
149.2 IP, 1.80 ERA, .180 BAA, 143/52 K/BB (28 GS)
Playoffs: 1-1, 7.2 IP, 9 H, 5 R (4 ER), 6/2 K/BB (2 GS)
The No. 46 overall selection in the 2012 draft, Butler put up stupid-good numbers this year in his full-season debut. After opening the season at Low-A Asheville, the 22-year-old made 13 starts for High-A Modesto before graduating to Double-A Tulsa. While he was dominant at the more advanced level (27.2 IP, 0.65 ERA, 25/6 K/BB), Butler was shaky in both of his Texas League playoff outings.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
124.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, .225 BAA, 124/40 K/BB (22 GS)
Playoffs: 7 IP, H, 9/3 K/BB
Prior to making a solid spot start for the Rays earlier this month, the 23-year-old right-hander fanned 11 batters over eight scoreless innings against Triple-A Norfolk. Odorizzi returned to the minors in time for the International League playoffs and notched nine strikeouts over seven one-hit innings.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox
140 IP, 2.96 ERA, .219 BAA, 127/47 K/BB (25 G/24 GS)
Playoffs: (L) 2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1/1 K/BB
After missing most of the 2012 season due to injury, Ranaudo, Boston’s first-round draft pick from 2010, made up for lost time with a strong showing at Double-A Portland. The 23-year-old was inconsistent upon reaching Triple-A Pawtucket in early August, though, and he was shelled in his only International League playoff start.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals
134.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, .238 BAA, 155/53 K/BB (26 G/25 GS)
Ventura had an impressive season split between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, and it appeared as though he may reach the majors with Kansas City as a September call-up. However, that now seems doubtful, as the flame-throwing right-hander was recently suspended for a violation of team rules.