MLB Prospects Update: Hottest, Coldest Pitchers at Every Minor League Level
Few things thrill fans like watching a homegrown talent toe the rubber for their favorite big league club and shut down the opposition. But before they can dominate in front of tens of thousands of fans every fifth day, pitchers need to prove themselves in the minor leagues.
Roughly three months into the minor league season, pitchers at every level are opening eyes with their performances on the mound, some better than others. It's important to note that those pitching in short-season leagues have far smaller sample sizes than those in full-season outfits, but hot is still hot—and cold is still cold—regardless of how many games a pitcher has under his belt.
That said, here's a look at the hottest and coldest pitchers at every level of the minor leagues.
Daniel Missaki, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Appalachian League)
2014 Stats: 2 GS, 0.00 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 15 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 17 K
Born in Japan but raised in Brazil, 18-year-old Daniel Missaki has been dominant thus far for the Pulaski Mariners, tossing 15 scoreless innings to open the season while holding opponents to a .143 batting average.
The youngest player in the 2013 World Baseball Classic—he was 16 years old—Missaki has flashed three plus pitches, including a fastball/changeup combination that is driving hitters batty en route to being named the Appalachian League's Pitcher of the Week (h/t Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune).
Merkis Montero, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Dominican Summer League)
2014 Stats: 6 GS, 0.51 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 35.1 IP, 22 H, 3 BB, 41 K
Signed out of the Dominican Republic by Arizona in 2013, 18-year-old Merkis Montero is simply laying waste to the competition in the Dominican Summer League. Over his last 18 innings of work, Montero has scattered 11 hits while allowing only one earned run, walking two and striking out 24.
Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Pioneer League)
2014 Stats: 3 G (2 GS), 5.40 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 16.2 IP, 16 H, 6 BB, 22 K
Drafted by the Dodgers in the 23rd round of the 2013 draft, 21-year-old Jose De Leon has rebounded nicely after getting shelled in his first game of the season (3.2 IP, 6 H, 6 ER). He's pitched to a 2.76 ERA over his past two starts (13 IP), surrendering 10 hits while walking three and striking out 18.
Bobby Wheatley, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Gulf Coast League)
2014 Stats: 3 G (2 GS), 9.00 ERA, 2.22 WHIP, 9 IP, 18 H, 2 BB, 8 K
Toronto's 26th round pick in the 2014 draft, Bobby Wheatley has had some issues making the transition from college to the minor leagues. Opponents are hitting a robust .439 off of the 6'5" southpaw, who may eventually find himself serving as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen.
Nolan Gannon, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (New York-Penn League)
2014 Stats: 3 GS, 0.56 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 16 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 16 K
Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft, Gannon opened the season with a 20-inning scoreless streak before allowing his first—and only—earned run of the season his third time out. The 20-year-old is simply laying waste to NY-Penn League bats, holding them to an absurd .078 batting average.
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (NY-Penn League)
2014 Stats: 3 GS, 0.60 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 15 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 22 K
After Bundy threw five scoreless innings against Gannon's Hudson Valley squad in his latest start, Orioles director of player development Brian Graham declared Bundy ready for the next step in his rehab. "He definitely looks like he's ready to go to another level," Graham told MASNSports.com's Steve Melewski. "He's competed well here, made good pitches and looks healthy. I think it's time to go to another level."
Jairo Labourt, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Northwest League)
2014 Stats: 4 GS, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 16 IP, 3 H, 9 BB, 17 K
Labourt, named Toronto's 12th-best prospect by Baseball America, started the season with Single-A Lansing but got shelled, allowing 10 earned runs over 14 innings of work while walking a whopping 20 batters, earning himself a trip to Vancouver.
While his command is nonexistent at times, Labourt has the talent to shut down opposing offenses, as evidenced in his last outing, when he threw six innings of no-hit, scoreless baseball, walking three and fanning six.
Jeff Barkley, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (NY-Penn League)
2014 Stats: 6 G, 10.64 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 11 IP, 17 H, 5 BB, 3 K
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, Barkley's first taste of professional baseball has been a sour one. The 23-year-old has already allowed more hits and earned runs (13) than he has innings pitched, as opponents are hitting .370 with three home runs against him.
Christian Jones, LHP, San Francisco Giants (South Atlantic League)
2014 Stats: 14 GS, 2.34 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 73 IP, 53 H, 15 BB, 65 K
Selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco, Jones sits with the South Atlantic League's lowest WHIP and third-lowest ERA. The 6'3" southpaw hasn't allowed more than one earned run in any of his past four starts, throwing 7.1 innings of two-hit, shutout ball his last time out.
Daury Torrez, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Midwest League)
2014 Stats: 14 GS, 3.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 15 IP, 10 H, 13 BB, 45 K
Torrez has quickly become the workhorse and de-facto ace of the Kane County rotation in 2014, something that his catcher, Ben Carhart, alluded to in a chat with The Aurora Beacon-News' Mike Knapp after Torrez's latest outing, in which he threw eight innings of shutout ball, scattering five hits while striking out eight.
"Every night what you know you are going to get from Torrez is that he throws strikes," Carhart said. "Everything was for a strike, and he was hitting both sides of the plate. His sinker was unbelievable, which was the difference."
Opposing batters are hitting only .235 against the 21-year-old, who is currently riding a 13-inning scoreless streak.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals (Midwest League)
2014 Stats: 12 GS, 2.30 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 54.2 IP, 36 H, 21 BB, 61 K
In his first full professional season, Washington's top-rated prospect has left little doubt as to why the Nationals selected him in the first round of the 2012 draft knowing that he needed Tommy John surgery.
Giolito has allowed no more than two earned runs in 10 of his 12 starts on the season, exiting the game in six of those without having allowed a run to score. That includes his latest outing on June 26, when he tossed six scoreless innings of three-hit ball, walking one and striking out nine.
Luis Lugo, LHP, Cleveland Indians (Midwest League)
2014 Stats: 15 G (10 GS), 4.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 67 IP, 56 H, 21 BB, 83 K
Lugo has some impressive strikeout totals and solid command over his three-pitch arsenal, but the 20-year-old southpaw, ranked by Baseball America as Cleveland's No. 21 prospect, has fallen on hard times. While he's recorded 20 strikeouts over his last 13.2 innings of work, he's been hit hard, surrendering 13 hits and 12 earned runs.
Cody Scarpetta, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Carolina League)
2014 Stats: 3 GS, 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 19 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 15 K
Milwaukee's 11th-round selection in the 2007 draft, Scarpetta underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, was released after the 2013 season and found himself pitching for the independent Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League to start 2014. Despite posting a 5.13 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts, Atlanta took a flier on the 25-year-old.
Scarpetta has been impressive through three starts, never more so than in his latest outing, when he took a perfect game into the sixth inning and finished his day having thrown seven scoreless, no-hit frames, walking one batter (hitting another) and striking out seven en route to Lancaster recording its second straight no-hitter.
Lindsey Caughel, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Midwest League)
2014 Stats: 9 G (7 GS), 3.81 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 52 IP, 59 H, 6 BB, 45 K
Caughel has been dealing since returning from an unspecified injury that cost him more than a month of the regular season, tossing 13 innings of one-run ball, scattering eight hits, walking one and fanning 13. Los Angeles' 23rd-round pick in the 2012 draft, the 23-year-old isn't overpowering, but he's fearless, attacking the strike zone with regularity.
Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees (Florida State League)
2014 Stats: 2 GS, 2.53 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 10.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 14 K
After failing to escape the fifth inning in his High-A debut on June 20, it looked as if the three-pitch mix that made Severino the Yankees No. 9 prospect, according to Baseball America, wasn't quite ready for advanced competition. But the 20-year-old left little doubt that he's ready for the next step in his development his next time out, tossing six no-hit innings with one walk and six strikeouts.
Promoted to High-A Tampa after an impressive start to the season with Single-A Charleston (14 GS, 2.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), Severino could get a taste of Double-A before the season ends thanks to phenomenal command and an innate ability to miss bats.
Dylan Unsworth, RHP, Seattle Mariners (California League)
2014 Stats: 15 GS, 6.93 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 75.1 IP, 101 H, 13 BB, 69 K
Signed out of a South African high school as a 17-year-old in 2010, Unsworth has routinely been one of the younger players at whichever level he's played at. That trend has continued in 2014, and the now 21-year-old looks overmatched against advanced competition. Unsworth has allowed 22 earned runs and 28 hits, including six home runs, over his last four starts (21 IP).
Casey Lawrence, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Eastern League)
2014 Stats: 14 G (11 GS), 3.10 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 78.1 IP, 73 H, 14 BB, 47 K
Lawrence came within one out of perfect game when last he took the mound, delivering the first complete-game shutout of his career against Minnesota's Double-A squad, the New Britain Rock Cats. The 26-year-old hasn't allowed an earned run in three starts (16 IP), scattering seven hits while walking one and striking out 13.
James Needy, RHP, San Diego Padres (Texas League)
2014 Stats: 15 G (14 GS), 2.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 81.2 IP, 72 H, 28 BB, 59 K
Drafted by the Padres in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, Needy has been dealing all season long, with only two starts in which he's allowed more than two earned runs. He tossed six scoreless frames his last time out and finished the month of June with a sparkling 1.26 ERA.
Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Southern League)
2014 Stats: 17 G (15 GS), 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 98.2 IP, 86 H, 36 BB, 59 K
Rhee has rebounded nicely since getting tagged for six earned runs in six innings against Birmingham on June 2, pitching to a 1.42 ERA over his next five starts (31.2 IP) and allowing only five earned runs and 25 hits. He struck out a season-high 10 batters in his last start, throwing seven innings of one-run ball.
Kyle Hald, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Texas League)
2014 Stats: 13 G (12 GS), 3.68 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 73.1 IP, 73 H, 25 BB, 53 K
An 18th-round selection in the 2011 draft out of Old Dominion University, Hald earned a promotion to Double-A Springfield after only two starts for High-A Palm Beach earlier this season. He looked like he belonged early on, pitching to a 2.48 ERA over his first 11 outings (10 starts), but the 25-year-old has hit a wall.
Hald has been crushed in each of his last two starts, allowing a total of 12 earned runs, 16 hits and six home runs in eight innings of work.
Travis Banwart, RHP, Cleveland Indians (International League)
2014 Stats: 16 GS, 3.12 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 81.2 IP, 72 H, 28 BB, 59 K
Oakland's fourth-round pick in the 2007 draft, Banwart, 28, is throwing the ball as well as he has in years. He's allowed a total of six earned runs over his last five starts (27.1 IP), walking seven while striking out 30. His last outing saw him toss seven scoreless frames, scattering five hits with a pair of walks and six strikeouts.
Tsuyoshi Wada, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Pacific Coast League)
2014 Stats: 16 GS, 2.55 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 99 IP, 91 H, 25 BB, 101 K
Now in his 13th professional season (third in the United States), Wada, 33, ranks among the Pacific Coast League's leaders in strikeouts (second), innings pitched and ERA (fourth). He's scattered 10 hits over his last 12.2 innings of work, allowing only one earned run while walking two and striking out 18.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Pacific Coast League)
2014 Stats: 15 G (14 GS), 1.66 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 97.1 IP, 62 H, 29 BB, 105 K
Nelson, Milwaukee's top prospect, put together his best start in nearly a month his last time out and almost certainly will have Brewers fans calling for the club to plug him into the back end of the first-place club's rotation once again.
The 25-year-old struck out the side in the first inning, retired the first six batters he faced and wound up scattering three hits across seven scoreless innings, issuing two free passes while fanning nine.
Nate Karns, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (International League)
2014 Stats: 16 GS, 6.08 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 80 IP, 77 H, 40 BB, 87 K
Karns, who made the jump from Double-A to the majors in 2013 while with Washington, has struggled mightily in his first season at Triple-A for Tampa Bay. The 26-year-old has allowed 24 earned runs and 27 hits over his last four starts (16.1 IP), following up a strong six-start stretch from May 6 to June 3, when he pitched to a 1.45 ERA, allowing only five earned runs in 37.1 innings of work.