MLB's Top 25 Can't-Miss Pitching Prospects for 2014

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2014

MLB's Top 25 Can't-Miss Pitching Prospects for 2014

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Since completing my rankings of each organization’s top-10 prospects earlier this month, I have been busy ranking the top prospects in the game by position, ceiling and estimated time of arrival in the major leagues.

    In preparation for spring training, which is now less than a month away, I’ve put together a tentative ranking of the top pitching prospects in the game for the upcoming season. Some of the scouting notes for each pitcher have been derived from their original scouting report.

    Here’s a look at the top 25 can’t-miss pitching prospects for 2014.

25. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 07/21/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 205 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Edison HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2014

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Highly projectable 6’6” left-hander; Owens repeats his mechanics despite long, lanky frame; stride toward the plate is shorter than expected; stays on line with the plate; creates natural deception; consistent high-three-quarters arm slot; works on a downhill plane.

    Fastball typically sits at 88-92 mph and can be difficult for hitters to pick up out of his hand; features sink when working down in the zone; lacks significant movement; sometimes loses feel for arm angle; changeup is best secondary pitch and projects as a plus offering; thrown in upper 70s with late sink-and-fade to the arm side; curveball flashes average potential, and he’s adept at adding and subtracting when necessary; would like to see him use it to back-foot right-handed hitters more often; good shape when on.

     

    2014 Outlook

    After six impressive starts at Double-A Portland to conclude his breakthrough 2013 campaign, Owens will return to the level next season and serve as the affiliate’s No. 1 starter, assuming Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo open the year in Triple-A. The Red Sox have no need to rush his development, especially with so many other intriguing arms ahead of him on the organization’s depth chart. However, if Owens can show more sustainable velocity and improve his secondary arsenal, it’s not entirely crazy to think he can reach the major leagues by season’s end.

     

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

     

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

24. Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/12/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Seventh round, 2011 (Bryan HS, Ohio)

    ETA: Mid-2014

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Still growing into projectable 6’3”, 195-pound frame; good athlete; delivery involves moderate effort; will jerk with upper body and head at times, though it doesn’t impede his ability to throw strikes; will need to be cleaned up a bit; maintains balance and posture; quick arm; stays in line with the plate. 

    Fastball is a present plus in the low to mid-90s; will run it as high as 95-96 mph; lots of late life to the arm side; improving sinking action; pitch flattens out when elevated; lacks consistent downhill plane; has a feel for working both sides of the plate; command projects to be average. 

    Slider is a future plus offering; thrown with excellent depth and pace at 82-87 mph; two-plane breaker; swing-and-miss potential; feel for adding and subtracting; shows confidence in pitch, both in and out of the zone; tight spin and sharp bite; still learning to locate against left-handed hitters.

    Changeup is a fringe offering that projects to be at least average at maturity; generates two-seam-like fade and sink in the mid-80s; repeats arm slot well; throws it on the firm side; weapon against left-handed hitters; became more comfortable using it against righties this season; plenty of room to improve; employs a usable mid-70s curveball as his fourth pitch; used sparingly.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Wisler’s feel for pitching and his command of a deep, powerful arsenal has him on the fast track to the major leagues, and he conceivably could debut by midseason with a hot start in Triple-A.

     

    Projection: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

     

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

23. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/23/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’7”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Fifth round, 2011 (Hart HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2016

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’7”, 195-pound right-hander throws fastball on a steep downhill plane; struggles to keep his lanky frame and long limbs in sync during his delivery; velocity spike last season pushed his fastball into the mid-90s; plenty more velocity on the way; curveball can be a hammer with plus potential but is inconsistent at the moment; doesn’t always stay on top and execute pitch; flashes excellent shape; swing-and-miss potential at highest level; future out pitch; changeup is a work in progress offering; showed improved feel over course of 2013 season; command of entire arsenal took a step forward last year in full-season debut, but there’s still a huge gap between the present and future.

     

    2014 Outlook

    After pacing the Low-A South Atlantic League last season in strikeouts (164) and opponent batting average (.142), Glasnow will move up to High-A Bradenton for the 2014 season, where he stands to post more gaudy numbers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. The Pirates have no need to rush his development, so expect the young right-hander to spend several years in the minors so as to refine his delivery and secondary arsenal.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

22. Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 05/10/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Brookwood HS, Ga.)

    ETA: Late 2015

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’2” right-hander is athletic with a live arm and little mileage; consistent arm slot and release point; made huge strides in overall development this past season after moving into starting rotation for second half; showcases impressive and underrated blend of stuff and polish; already knows how to pitch at a young age; flashes potential for a four-pitch mix of at least average offerings; pounds the strike zone.

    Fastball registers in the low- to mid-90s; velocity increased a few ticks along with the weather; good arm-side life to the pitch; curveball is a hammer and swing-and-miss pitch; features big shape and heavy downer action in the upper 70s; showcased a quality slider during professional debut in 2012, but relied on it less this past year; changeup improved significantly this past season; flashes average potential in the low- to mid-80s with late sink and fade to the arm side.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Sims has a strong feel for pitching at a young age, and his stuff will continue to improve as he gains experience and builds arm strength. The 19-year-old could start to move quickly in 2014 with a strong start to the season at High-A.

     

    Ceiling: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

     

     

    Video courtesy of Chris Blessing, BullpenBanter.com

21. Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 08/12/1996 (Age: 17)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Signed: August 2012 (Mexico)

    ETA: 2016 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 5’11" left-hander already has projectable frame and is literally growing; special combination of stuff and pitchability at a young age; employs smooth, repeatable delivery; consistently uses lower half; easy arm action; fastball sits in the low-90s and bumps 94-95 mph; potential plus curveball, and he demonstrates confidence for throwing it in any count; present feel for changeup; ridiculously bright future with front-of-the-rotation upside.

     

    2014 Outlook

    The 17-year-old’s stuff and command is worthy of a promotion to High-A for the 2014 season. But after logging only 54.1 innings last year in his professional/full-season debut, it’s more important for Urias to build arm strength and stamina next season rather than face older hitters in the California League. At the same time, Urias has the chance to be something special at a young age, and the Dodgers have a history of challenging their top pitching prospects.

     

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

     

     

    Video courtesy of Jeff Reese, BullpenBanter.com

20. Kyle Crick, RHP, San Francisco Giants

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/30/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Sherman HS, Texas)

    ETA: 2015 

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Possesses highly projectable frame at 6’4”, 220 pounds; strong core and lower half; struggles to maintain posture at times, causing his arm to drag slightly; effortless fastball velocity in the 93-96 range; bumps 97-98 mph.

    Showed improved command of the pitch this season; establishes early in games; changeup is a second plus pitch; excellent arm speed and velocity separation relative to fastball; plus movement with considerable arm-side fade.

    Curveball is still a work in progress but flashes plus potential when he’s on; impressive shape and pace but shoddy command; struggles to get on top of pitch and will frequently come around the side.

    Slider has late bite and should serve as a viable fourth pitch at maturity; aggressively attacks hitters and maintains consistent approach, even when command is shaky; feel for sequencing should improve against more advanced hitters.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Crick probably would have reached Double-A last year if not for an early-season oblique injury that resulted in two months on the shelf. However, after the right-hander’s dominant performance in the hitter-friendly California League during the second half, followed by an equally impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, it’s time to see what he can do at a more challenging level.

    Crick has a considerable gap between his present ability and future potential, and he would benefit from at least another full season in the minors. Yet, a strong showing at Double-A next season and improved command of his secondaries could have the hard-throwing right-hander in the major leagues ahead of schedule.

     

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

19. Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/01/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (Barstow HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Sanchez has an athletic and projectable 6’4” frame; effortless and fluid delivery with a quick and clean arm action; still learning how to repeat arm slot with consistency; can overthrow at times; doesn’t always finish; timing can be inconsistent and cause his arm to drag.

    Pure stuff is excellent and stands to improve; fastball registers at an easy 93-96 mph and explodes out of his hand; curveball has legitimate plus-or-better potential with tight spin and sharp downer break; showed an improved feel for it this past season, especially in the Arizona Fall League; changeup has some nice fade and could emerge as another weapon with refinement; below-average command profile; consistently induces weak contact and groundouts; poised to take an enormous step forward in 2014 with improvement to his control/command.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Sanchez will likely move up to Double-A in 2014 without ever logging more than 90 innings in a single season. The Blue Jays have no need to rush the 21-year-old to the major leagues, especially with Marcus Stroman set to arrive early in the season, but even the slightest improvement in Sanchez’s control and command could result in a late-season call-up.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

18. Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/22/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Nevada)

    ETA: Late 2015 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Outstanding athlete with shortstop background and little mileage on his arm; extremely projectable 6’3", 190-pound frame with room to fill out; repeats delivery well, considering lack of experience; some effort to delivery that will be cleaned up; lightning-quick arm.

    Athletic delivery and fast arm produce a crisp, plus fastball in 91-95 mph range; topped out at 97-98 mph in the spring; makes up for lack of movement with late life; throws pitch aggressively to both sides of the plate; uses it to pound the strike zone and get ahead in the count; should be able to hold velocity deeper into games as he gets strong and gains experience.

    Curveball is the weakest of his three offerings but flashes plus potential; relatively undeveloped due to effectiveness of fastball-changeup mix; shows a feel for generating tight spin but shape varies due to inconsistent release point; changeup was the best of its kind in the 2013 draft class; plus-plus offering thrown in the low 80s with fastball-like arm speed; turns it over perfectly to generate devastating fading action; effective against both right- and left-handed hitters; true out-pitch at the next level.

    Showcases impressive feel for pitching and overall pitchability relative to time spent on the mound; present command of fastball-changeup throughout strike zone; continues to improve at working down in the zone; aggressively (and confidently) attacks both sides of the plate; isn’t afraid to challenge good hitters; trusts his stuff.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Shipley may endure a few growing pains next season as he moves up to High-A Visalia in the California League, but his outstanding athleticism and electric three-pitch mix should enable him to make the necessary adjustments and reach Double-A by the end of the year.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

     

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

17. Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Position: LHP

    DOB: 01/18/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’4", 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2016 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6'4", 185-pound left-hander is athletic with a projectable build and considerable polish for his age; has a smooth delivery and fluid arm action; works from consistent three-quarters slot; maintains good posture with good body control; will tend to drift toward front side and overextend toward the plate; has time to clean up mechanical inefficiencies.

    Fastball ranges anywhere from 88 to 93 mph with arm-side action; will top out around 94-95 mph; has the frame to develop more velocity; mixes in both two- and four-seamers; pounds strike zone when he’s on; inconsistent command overall.

    Left-hander’s curveball is easily his best offering with a big break and the potential to draw lots of swings and misses; potential to be plus or better; feel for adding and subtracting, throwing variations of the pitch anywhere from 72-78 mph; future average command; adept at burying the pitch to induce whiffs; changeup flashes at least potential to be above average in low 80s; thrown with deceptive arm speed; impressive feel for turning the pitch over to create sink and fade; utilizes offering against both right- and left-handed hitters; advanced three-pitch mix and overall polish relative to age.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Fried impressed last year in his full-season debut at Low-A Fort Wayne, showcasing three potentially above-average to plus-plus offerings and a knack for missing bats. The soon-to-be 20-year-old will move up to High-A Lake Elsinore in 2014 and may ultimately post another unfavorable walk rate as he continues to develop physically. However, things are going to click for the left-hander sooner rather than later, and when that occurs, he’s going to move quickly.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: High

16. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/03/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’9”, 220 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 by Nationals (Kentucky)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    This 6’9” right-hander has a massive frame and long limbs; shows body control and repeatable mechanics uncommon in players his size; throws everything on a steep, downhill plane; continues to surprise with command.

    Fastball is difficult to barrel; registers between 93-97 mph and can flirt with triple digits in shorter stints; plus slider has a sharp, wipe-out break; uses it consistently against both right- and left-handed hitters; against lefties, he demonstrates a feel throwing it backdoor for a strike and at the hitter’s back foot for a swing and miss; changeup shows signs of being at least average but needs refinement; development of third pitch will be crucial to development as a starter.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Meyer’s big-time arm strength and ability to miss bats with three offerings will get him to the major leagues in 2014, where the Twins will give him every opportunity to stick in the starting rotation. Even if his mechanics and command don’t translate at the highest level, the 24-year-old still has enormous upside as a top-tier closer.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter; closer 

    Risk: Medium

15. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 05/01/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 5’9”, 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Duke)

    ETA: Mid-2014

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Undersized at 5'9" but showcases plus athleticism and physical strength; works to create downhill plane toward plate; impressive command profile considering explosiveness of arsenal; proved he has the stuff and durability to remain a starter.

    The 22-year-old possesses ridiculous arm strength; fastball registers in the low- to mid-90s, and he’ll bump a few ticks higher in shorter bursts; explosive pitch but lacks late life; present feel for working both sides of the plate; also throws a plus cutter in the low-90s with outstanding slice to the glove side; 83-86 mph slider represents a third plus offering and could even be a plus-plus at maturity; pitch has wipe-out break with the potential to miss bats at any level; effectiveness stems from fastball-like plane and release point; present feel for mixing in a low- to mid-80s changeup that flashes above-average potential; fearless approach on the mound makes entire arsenal play up.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Questions about Stroman’s durability and long-term projection as a starter will be up for debate until he proves otherwise—which he will in 2014. The right-hander’s slight build offers an unusual look for opposing hitters and, when combined with his electric stuff, could help him reach his ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter in relatively short order next season.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

14. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/18/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 235 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (The Woodlands HS, Texas)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’6” power pitcher has a huge ceiling; long limbs give him exceptional reach; tall, lanky frame; loose arm; can be long and tight on backside; hides ball well overall, though left-handers seem to get a decent look; difficult arm angle; repeatable mechanics; still establishing a feel for delivery; needs to utilize height and work downhill; should improve as he learns to finish with consistency.

    Fastball sits in the mid- to high-90s with late movement to the arm side; velocity plays up due to extension; jumps out of his hand and on opposing hitters; curveball is a second plus pitch thrown with velocity and a sharp, two-plane break; made strides with changeup last season; throws it too firmly at times; will be crucial toward overall progress; needs to iron out some minor issues with mechanics and refine his overall command.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Some people soured on Taillon last season after he failed to take a step forward developmentally in the high minors. However, the reality is that the 22-year-old actually improved both his strikeout and ground-ball rates against advanced competition. Headed back to Triple-A Indianapolis to start the year, Taillon should join Gerrit Cole, the team’s former top prospect, in the major leagues by the end of the 2014 season.

     

    Projection: No. 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

13. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 03/13/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Samford)

    ETA: Early 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Wiry frame at 6’2”, 180 pounds; still adding strength; three-quarters arm slot; good use of lower half driving toward the plate; crossfire delivery and long limbs create natural deception; delivery involves effort but he repeats it well; noticeable feel for mechanics; showcases a fast arm and smooth release; employs aggressive approach; simply knows how to get guys out. 

    Fastball is a present plus offering sitting consistently in the 93-96 mph range; tops out at 97-98; average command; features ridiculous movement with exceptional arm-side run and sink; attacks right-handed hitters with two-seamer, which is a legitimate bat-breaker and misser; turns to four-seamer when working up in the zone; also uses it to pound the inner half against left-handed hitters, which is impressive given the crossfire delivery.

    Changeup has late, splitter-like tumble; present plus pitch thrown in the mid- to upper-80s; generates fade and sink that mirrors two-seam fastball; plus-plus potential; nearly identical release point and arm speed relative to heater; throws pitch with conviction against both right- and left-handed hitters; shows confidence in pitch, regardless of count. 

    Slider is an above-average offering in the 84-88 mph range; flashes plus potential; feel for adding and subtracting; features later and sharper bite when thrown toward high end of velocity range; adept at throwing it for a strike and burying it when ahead in the count; another potential swing-and-miss offering; mixes in a low-80s curveball to offer the hitter a different look; decent shape and depth; future solid-average pitch.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Butler’s three plus-or-better pitches allowed him to dominate at three levels in 2013, including a lights-out, six-start showing at Double-A to conclude the regular season. The 22-year-old’s stuff and command is nearly major-league ready, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he receives consideration for a spot in the Rockies’ Opening Day rotation. And if Butler opens the year in the minor leagues, then he should be among the first big-name prospects to reach the major leagues this season, possibly as early as May.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

     

     

    Video courtesy of Jason Cole

12. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/13/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (San Francisco)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Projectable frame at 6’3”, 215 pounds; had surgery on right elbow following the 2012 season; was shut down in August this past season due to right shoulder tightness; clean, repeatable mechanics; fast, fluid arm action; lack of mileage on arm after moving to the mound as a college sophomore; works on consistent downhill plane; lack of deception can give hitters too good of a look at times.

    Zimmer’s fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s with late life; jumps out of his hand thanks to quick arm and easy delivery; can reach back for 96-98 mph at times; curveball is a second plus pitch with sharp downer break; legitimate plus-plus potential; also throws an average slider with tight rotation and good bite; changeup has come along nicely and gives him a deep, four-pitch mix; gets into trouble when he throws too many strikes; stuff plays lighter and soft-ish when left up in the zone.

     

    2014 Outlook

    After struggling during the first half of the season at High-A Wilmington, Zimmer turned things around in a big way after the All-Star break, posting dominant numbers at Double-A before getting shut down in August due to right shoulder tightness. The 22-year-old will open the 2014 season back at Double-A and, provided he remains healthy, should reach the major leagues sometime during the second half.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

11. Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/15/1991 (Age: 22) 

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Stanford)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Physically stronger and in better shape than 2012; generates extension toward plate with long limbs; consistent release point over front side; utilization of strong lower half and core has resulted in cleaner mid-three-quarter arm action; allows him to create a consistent plane toward the plate; can almost be too smooth at times, which limits his natural deception; near-elite combination of size, athleticism and arm strength.

    Fastball sits consistently in the 93-97 mph range; comes out of his hand cleanly and can jump on opposing hitters; holds mid-90s velocity deep into his starts; lacks plus movement; tends to flatten out when elevated; flashes some sink and arm-side run when located down in the strike zone; needs more consistent extension to generate consistent life; control has always been sharp; command is average but played up against college hitters.

    Mid-three-quarter arm angle inhibits his ability to throw slider with consistent shape and pace; registers in 84-88 mph range; slurve-like spin gives the offering some glove-slide slice; too much sweeping action as he pushes it to the plate; offering will need to be cleaned up upon turning pro.

    Changeup is a plus offering with the chance for future plus-plus grade; thrown in the 83-85 mph range with fastball-like arm speed; demonstrates natural feel for turning it over; generates late sinking action with steep fade to the arm side; confidence throwing it in any count; true out pitch at the next level; needs to create a more distinct speed differential relative to slider.

     

    2014 Outlook

    While his arsenal is one of the more advanced and polished among all pitching prospects, Appel’s approach and feel—the one that made him so successful against college hitters—for sequencing may need to be adjusted as he climbs the professional ladder. The Astros won’t need him at the major-league level in 2014, but, at the same time, they won’t be afraid to challenge him if it makes sense. Expect Appel to open the year in Double-A and make a strong case for a call-up by the season’s end.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Low

10. Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 06/03/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 180 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: October 2008 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: Early 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Right-hander has wiry frame at 5’11”, 180 pounds with room to add even more strength; lightning-quick arm that pumps fastballs in the mid- to high-90s; capable of reaching triple digits deep into starts; fastball lacks significant movement; demonstrates feel for cutting the pitch at times; will occasionally overthrow.

    Curveball has the makings of a second plus pitch with sharp downer break; comfortable throwing it in any count; legitimate out pitch but still needs slight refinement; changeup is fringe-average and could be another weapon with further refinement; big upside, considering his arm speed; both command and control are raw but have improved this season; has shown a more consistent feel for arsenal.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Ventura’s undersized, wiry frame will always raise questions about his long-term durability. However, his transformation from a thrower into a pitcher last season helped ease some of the doubt, as did his trio of impressive starts as a September call-up in the heat of a playoff race. It would be surprising if Ventura didn’t open the year in the Royals starting rotation.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter; closer 

    Risk: Medium

9. Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/24/1993 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Alhambra HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Mid-2015

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Stephenson is a durable 6’2” right-hander with a projectable frame and elite arm strength; loose body and arm action; fastball is a plus pitch with effortless 94-98 mph velocity; routinely bumps triple digits; easy release creates deception; jumps out of the hand; commands pitch well to both sides of the plate; attacks opposing hitters; will overthrow at times.

    Has an advanced feel for fading changeup and sells it with fastball-like arm speed. His breaking ball will need to be cleaned up, but its present pace and shape suggests it’ll be another plus offering; secondary offerings lack consistency, though that should improve with experience against advanced competition; should have no problem reaching his ceiling as a frontline starter.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Stephenson was placed on the fast track to the major leagues in 2013, seeing time at three different levels and finishing the season at Double-A. The right-hander will open the year back at the level and could be ready for the major leagues later in the season, though he’s unlikely to receive an extended look unless there’s an injury. However, expect Stephenson to assume a spot in the Reds starting rotation in 2015.

     

    Projection: No. 2 or 3 starter

    Risk: Medium

     

     

    Video courtesy of Ron Shah

8. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/05/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 255 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Oklahoma)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Classic power pitcher frame at 6’4” and 255 pounds; broad shoulders; strong lower half and core with a knowledge of how to use both; drives off the rubber; power doesn’t require maximum effort; fast and fluid arm action; explosive; can appear stiff at times; will still get underneath the ball and drag arm; has a feel for his mechanics and understands when to make adjustments.

    Possesses the stamina to work deep into starts; demonstrates body control overall; rarely rushes delivery; can pull open with front shoulder at times and lose pitches up and to the arm side; will occasionally lose the feel for his release point from the stretch; can offer left-handed hitters too good of a look at the ball at time of release.

    Effortless plus-plus fastball velocity; borderline elite; registers in the 94-98 mph range deep into games; will crack triple digits early in starts; topped out at 102 mph this spring; lacks movement; doesn’t shy away from challenging hitters; plus slider sits consistently between 85-88 mph; late, wipe-out break; sharp tilt with great pace; present plus offering; will need to bury it more as a professional.

    Straight changeup is weakest of his offerings and is an average pitch with the chance to improve a grade; 81-84 mph; thrown with convincing fastball-like arm speed; some fading action to the arm side.

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Medium

    2014 Outlook: Gray could probably handle the major leagues right now, though the Rockies obviously have no need to rush his development. But as long as he can stay healthy, it may be difficult for organization to keep him in the minors next season for more than a few months. Expect Gray to open the year at either High-A or Double-A, and then join Eddie Butler in the rotation by mid-summer.

7. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/21/1991 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’0", 185 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: April 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Undersized at 6’0”, 165 pounds; limited physical projection; right-hander boasts ridiculous arm speed that’s drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez’s; he possesses an explosive four-seam fastball that registers in the upper-90s as well as a heavy sinker that comes in a few ticks slower.

    His slider is his preferred secondary offering, thrown with power in the low-80s; pitch is a sharp-breaker that dives out of the strike zone at the last moment; legitimate out-pitch and bat-misser.

    The 22-year-old’s mid- to upper-80s changeup was considered his best weapon in previous years, thanks to his ability to replicate the arm speed of his fastball; pitch was used significantly less after carving out a role in the Cardinals bullpen; will be vital to his success as a starter next season, especially for neutralizing left-handed hitters; combination of his arm strength and feel for pitching gives Martinez the potential to be a dynamic, front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

     

    2014 Outlook

    After opening the year in the Double-A starting rotation, Martinez spent the second half of the season working out of the Cardinals major-league bullpen before emerging as manager Mike Matheny’s go-to setup man in the postseason. Despite his success in the late-inning role, the right-hander has a higher ceiling as a starter and therefore will audition for a rotation spot in spring training. If Martinez fails to win a spot, he’s still a safe bet to open the 2014 season at the back end of the bullpen.

     

    Ceiling: No. 2 or 3 starter; elite closer

    Risk: Medium

6. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 11/15/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195 pounds

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Owasso HS, Okla.)

    ETA: Late 2014 (Debuted in 2012) 

    2013 Stats (DNP—Tommy John surgery)

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’1” right-hander is physically strong; broad shoulders; utilizes lower half and core strength; finishes well out front; minimal effort; repeats delivery; durable; quick arm; hard to pick up out of hand; poised from the stretch; possesses a feel for his mechanics well beyond his years.

    Bundy boasts an advanced four-pitch mix highlighted by a mid-90s two-seam fastball with exceptional run; blows hitters away with a four-seamer that reaches the high-90s; breaking ball is a hammer and plus pitch; tight rotation; still developing command of the pitch; occasionally leaves it up in the zone; changeup is his most consistent secondary pitch; potential to be another above-average offering; also has a slider, but primary breaking ball is the curve.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Possessing a combination of physical strength, stuff and advanced pitchability, Bundy is the definition of a future ace. However, expectations should be tempered next season following his return from Tommy John surgery, as it could take some time for the right-hander to regain a feel for his craft after a year-and-a-half absence. I wouldn’t rule out Bundy returning to the major leagues in August/September, especially if the O’s are in the playoff hunt. Still, it makes more sense for the organization to ensure he’s fully healthy and ready to join the rotation in early 2015.

     

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Medium (only because of TJ surgery)

5. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 07/14/1994 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 225 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.)

    ETA: Late 2015 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    Giolito and his big-time arm strength received consideration for the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2012 after sitting in the mid- to high-90s early in the spring; tweaked UCL in March and missed the rest of the high school season; re-injured elbow in first professional start that summer and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery; returned in early July this year and showcased jaw-dropping stuff.

    The 6’6” right-hander has a smooth and balanced delivery; mechanics can get out of sync, much like any young pitcher with long limbs; boasts a legit 80-grade fastball in the 94-100 mph range; bumps triple digits with ease; holds velocity deep into starts; already shows feel for command of pitch throughout zone.

    Curveball is a second potentially elite offering and is flat-out nasty; pitch draws as many jelly-leg reactions from right-handed batters as it does whiffs; changeup already is, at worst, an average offering thrown in the low-80s; should add two grades as his feel improves, giving him three plus-or-better pitches; potential for above-average command of all three offerings is impressive given the amount of movement; poised for monster full-season debut and could rank as the game’s top pitching prospect at this time next year.

     

    2014 Outlook

    With three monster offerings, Giolito has the ceiling of one of baseball’s best pitchers. The right-hander will make his highly anticipated full-season debut next year at Low-A Hagerstown, and there’s a realistic chance he’ll finish the season in High-A or even Double-A. Regardless of any future promotions, expect the Nationals to proceed cautiously with Giolito’s workload given his recent elbow surgery.

     

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: High

4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 01/06/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (Louisiana State)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013)

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes

    Gausman has a power frame at 6’3”, 190 pounds and still has room to fill out; plus athleticism allows him to repeat active delivery; maintains balance throughout and knows how to use his lower half; doesn’t rely on pure arm strength as he once did.

    Right-hander boasts huge velocity, with a four-seam fastball that registers consistently in the mid- to upper-90s; two-seamer registers a few ticks slower but features more arm-side run; holds velocity deep into starts; changeup is a legitimate plus-plus pitch in the low- to mid-80s with devastating, splitter-like drop; made noticeable strides improving his slider over the last year; development of the breaking ball will be crucial to his success moving forward; viable third pitch to complement his fastball-changeup combo could make him a front-of-the-rotation force for years to come; electric arsenal and plus command profile give him an insanely high ceiling.

     

    2014 Outlook

    It was a busy 2013 season for Gausman, as he was rushed to the major leagues as a starter in May before finally finding success as a reliever in September. The right-hander’s electric arsenal and plus command profile give him an insanely high ceiling, and with a more consistent and effective breaking ball, he could realize that potential in a hurry. Gausman should open the 2014 season in the O’s starting rotation and, in general, seems poised to take a huge step forward.

     

    Projection: No. 2 starter

    Risk: Low

3. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/29/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 240 pounds

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 by Toronto (Legacy HS, Texas)

    ETA: Late 2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    The 6’6” right-hander has a power pitcher’s frame; physical presence on the bump; throws everything on a solid downhill plane; pounds lower portion of strike zone; repeats mechanics well for his size; delivery requires minimal effort; consistently lands square to the plate; fast arm; strong core; moderate effort involved in delivery.

    Fastball sits in the mid- to upper-90s with late arm-side life; scraped 100 mph in the Eastern League playoffs; amasses a healthy mix of strikeouts and ground-ball outs thanks to steep plane; curveball has plus potential in the upper-70s; tight breaker with sharp downward bite; command of the pitch has improved this season; stays on top of the pitch consistently.

    Added an above-average slider this season that has helped regulate the arm speed on the curveball; has improved control of his changeup but still only an average offering; thrown with deceptive arm speed; should serve as a weapon against left-handed hitters; control and command give him the chance to be a monster.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Syndergaard has one of the highest ceilings among all pitching prospects, with the pure stuff and command to pitch at the front of a rotation. Assuming he opens the 2014 season at Triple-A, the right-hander could be ready to debut around midseason, just as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler did in previous years.

     

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Medium

2. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/13/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2010 (Yucaipa HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2014 (Debuted in 2013) 

    2013 Stats 

     

    Scouting Report

    Walker has a highly projectable frame at 6’4” and 210 pounds; excellent athleticism; still has relatively low mileage on his arm; made big strides this season in evolution from thrower to pitcher; improved use of lower half; still needs to finish with more consistency; will sometimes struggle to get extension and complete follow-through; easy, fluid mechanics that he repeats well; smooth, explosive arm action.

    Fastball consistently registers at 93-96 mph; jumps on opposing hitters; dials it up to 97-98 mph on occasion; sustains velocity well into his starts; curveball is presently inconsistent but flashes plus potential; when he has a feel for it, the pitch has great shape and a late, downward bite; will over-grip and spike it on occasion; changeup has come along nicely; developed into above-average offering but still needs further refinement; low-90s cutter is another weapon that should help him work left-handed hitters on the inner half; excellent mound presence; has learned how to make in-game adjustments.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Walker will audition for the starting rotation in spring training and will probably win a spot based on the virtues of his stuff and potential. However, the right-hander's command, especially as it relates to his secondary arsenal, will be challenged along with his ability to make adjustments against major-league hitters.

     

    Projection: No. 2 starter 

    Risk: Low

1. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/10/1992 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225 pounds

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Broken Arrow HS, Okla.)

    ETA: Mid-2014 

    2013 Stats

     

    Scouting Report

    6’4”, 225-pound right-hander has excellent athleticism for his size; recruited as a quarterback by the University of Oklahoma out of high school; durable frame that is capable of eating innings and lasting deep into starts; athletic delivery that includes a momentum-building leg kick; exhibited better body control in 2013; everything he throws is heavy and on a steep, downhill plane.

    Right-hander boasts a heavy fastball in the mid- to upper-90s; thrown consistently on a downhill plane and cuts through strike zone with weight of a bowling ball; holds velocity deep into starts; can reach back for 97-98 mph as needed but shows better control in 94-96 range; plus-plus curveball is a hammer with sharp, downer bite; will serve as a legitimate out-pitch in the big leagues; changeup flashes above-average potential with late fade; command varies but his feel for the pitch is encouraging.

     

    2014 Outlook

    Bradley will compete for a spot in the Diamondbacks' rotation next spring, though it’s likely he’ll open the season at Triple-A Reno. Regardless, the organization's recent history of promoting top pitching prospects ahead of schedule suggests that the 21-year-old will spend most of the 2014 season in the major leagues.

     

    Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter

    Risk: Low

     

     

    Video courtesy of Steve Fiorindo, BullpenBanter.com