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.
More than three months into the minor league season, pitchers at every level are opening eyes with their performances on the mound, some more so than others.
That said, here's a look at the hottest and coldest pitching prospects at each level of the minor leagues.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats: 77.2 IP (15 G), 6-4 W-L, 3.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 93:32 K:BB
Last year's 22nd overall selection, Harvey is back to dominating the South Atlantic League like he was early on after a two-start hiccup in early June.
Over his past three starts, the 19-year-old has given up just five earned on 12 hits and six walks over 17.1 innings. He's also sat down 24 in that stretch in preparation for his performance for the U.S. Team in the Futures Game on Sunday, July 13.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats: 65.2 IP (14 G), 4-2 W-L, 2.47 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 72:24 K:BB
Giolito has spent 2014 showing why he was the No. 16 pick in 2012 despite an existing arm injury that spring that eventually required Tommy John surgery soon after he was taken.
The righty, who turns 20 July 14, has had a few downs with his ups, as his last start on July 7 proves (4.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 6:3 K:BB). But the two before that (including one July 2) were gems, as Giolito surrendered only eight baserunners in 13.0 frames to go with 14 strikeouts.
Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats: 66.0 IP (13 G), 6-5 W-L, 4.23 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 79:45 K:BB
Still only 19, Reyes is a long way off but is looking like yet another top young power arm for the pitching-rich St. Louis Cardinals. The raw stuff is electric, but Reyes has a tendency to miss the outlet when trying to plug himself in. In other words, his control and command need work.
After three shaky starts in a four-start stretch across May and June, Reyes has been better his past three times out. His most recent start is an extreme example of the good and bad, as he walked—count 'em—seven in five frames July 2 but didn't give up a run because only two batters got hits while 10 struck out. He's won three straight, allowing only three runs in 18.0 innings with a 22-to-10 strikeout-to-walk mark.
Luis Heredia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats: 36.1 IP (9 G), 1-2 W-L, 4.71 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 21:22 K:BB
Until recently, Heredia was a favorite of prospect hounds, but most of that had to do with his age, as the Mexico native embarked upon full-season ball back in 2012 at 17.
Alas, his trajectory since then has been falling—and fast. About to turn 20 in August, the 6'6" right-hander left an April start after just one pitch with shoulder discomfort. Although Heredia came back in June, he's currently sporting career worsts in just about every pitching category, and he walked four batters without making it through the first inning last time out. That's a sign he still may not be right.
Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Detroit Tigers
2014 Stats: 74.1 IP (14 G), 4-2 W-L, 3.15 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 53:28 K:BB
Nabbed with the 20th overall take out of the University of Florida in 2013, Crawford's first full year actually has been rather solid on the whole.
It's the 22-year-old's last handful of starts, however, that have him among the coldest at this level. While his 4.73 ERA in those 26.2 frames isn't much to be concerned with, his backward 9-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio just might be, especially for a college arm in Low-A. Crawford had put up a strong 44-to-14 mark in his first 47.2 innings over nine starts to begin 2014.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats: 96.1 IP (16 G), 9-3 W-L, 1.96 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 109:23 K:BB
A member of the World side for the upcoming Futures Game during the All-Star festivities, Berrios will have an opportunity to pitch in the park he should soon call his home.
The 20-year-old, taken No. 32 in 2012, has been brilliant for most of the season, as he leads the Florida State League in wins (nine) and whiffs (109). The Twins promoted him to Double-A on Monday, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, to give him a bigger challenge. Berrios needs it, too, having posted a 1.41 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 over his final five starts at Fort Myers.
Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats: 11.1 IP (3 G), 1-1 W-L, 3.18 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 11:3 K:BB
Taken with the seventh overall selection in June, the polished Nola began his pro career by heading straight to High-A Clearwater. The 21-year-old has made three appearances there so far. While the first one was clunky, the last two—both in July—have been scoreless turns, over which Nola has thrown 9.0 innings and tolerated merely two baserunners while striking out nine against nary a walk.
The Phillies are likely to push his advanced arm as long as Nola pitches well, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him make a Double-A cameo before 2014 is up—and Nola could be in Philly by the middle of next season.
Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees
2014 Stats: 84.1 IP (17 G), 4-3 W-L, 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 90:19 K:BB
Bumped from Low- to High-A in mid-June, Severino has been having the kind of season that has taken his stock from "getting noticed" to "take him for real" status.
In his first three outings with Tampa, dating back to June 20, the 20-year-old gave up all of seven hits and three runs in 16.1 innings (1.62 ERA). Even better? Severino's 20-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in that time.
Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats: 94.2 IP (18 G), 6-7 W-L, 5.23 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 57:38 K:BB
The 21st overall selection in 2012, Sims entered the year as Atlanta's top prospect but has seen his stock plummet along with his strikeout numbers, which have gone from an impressive 10.3 per nine in his first full pro season last year to a how-low-can-they-go 5.4 per.
While he's struck out 11 in 10.2 innings his past two turns since the start of July, he's also allowed 16 hits, 11 runs and seven walks in that time.
Miguel Almonte, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats: 82.0 IP (15 G), 5-4 W-L, 4.50 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 77:24 K:BB
It's not that Almonte, 21, has been that bad; it's more that he hasn't been better after his breakout 2013 campaign really put him on the prospect map.
A fastball-changeup specialist who's still seeking a consistent third pitch, Almonte actually has been hit rather hard by left-handed batters this year (.292/.370/.508). That might be picking nits with a fine young arm, but the Royals could have used a better showing from Almonte to this point, especially with Kyle Zimmer going through a lost season.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats: 105.2 IP (17 G), 12-3 W-L, 2.21 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 111:40 K:BB
Owens has had a phenomenal 2014. Among starters who qualify for the league ERA title, he currently leads the Eastern League in wins (12), ERA (2.21), WHIP (1.03) and strikeouts (111).
The soon-to-be-22-year-old clearly has moved to the head of the class in a Red Sox system that is loaded with quality arms (Trey Ball, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, etc.). By this time next year, he could be in Boston—and possibly already well-established there.
The key for the 6'6" Owens is continuing to find a consistent release point to maintain his command and control, something he's done very well over his past eight starts (2.1 BB/9) after struggling with that in his first nine (4.8 BB/9).
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats: 82.2 IP (16 G), 7-0 W-L, 1.63 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 101:24 K:BB
Any concerns over whether Norris' improved stuff would somehow desert him upon hitting Double-A can be wiped away so far. The 21-year-old has struck out 25 (against six walks) in his first 16.1 frames at New Hampshire.
If the Jays are going to make a major move at the trade deadline, Norris is the kind of arm that could get something done. Whether or not they want to move him is another story.
Steven Matz, LHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats: 88.0 IP (15 G), 5-5 W-L, 2.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 82:25 K:BB
The third lefty in a row, Matz has started to come into his own after early career arm injuries and surgery. A second-rounder in 2009, he's 23 and has only just now reached Double-A after a promotion in mid-June.
His first time out with Binghamton wasn't great, but his past two have been, as the left-hander hasn't given up an earned run over 13.0 innings while sporting a 16-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Daniel Corcino, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2014 Stats: 95.1 IP (18 G), 7-7- W-L, 4.63 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 70:55 K:BB
Once upon a time, the 23-year-old Corcino was one of the better arms in the Reds' system. These days, however, he's back in Double-A after having a dreadful time at Triple-A in 2013—and he's faring worse at Pensacola now (4.63 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) than he did in his first go-round there in 2012 (3.01, 1.23).
Corcino's last three turns are shield-your-eyes bad: 12.1 IP, 14 H, 17 ER with more walks (11) than whiffs (10).
Adalberto Mejia, LHP, San Francisco Giants
2014 Stats: 71.2 IP (15 G), 4-6 W-L, 5.90 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 51:20 K:BB
Having just turned 21 June 20, Mejia was pushed aggressively to Double-A to start 2014, but perhaps he wasn't ready.
The southpaw's 5.90 ERA is among the 10 worst in the Eastern League. While his walk (2.5 BB/9) and strikeout rates (7.4) are fine enough, a .345 BABIP has simply been too much for Mejia overcome in his first genuine shot above A-ball. To that point, he's allowed 14 hits and eight earned in his last 8.1 frames.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Stats: 111.0 IP (17 G), 10-2 W-L, 1.46 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 114:32 K:BB
The 25-year-old keeps chugging along, awaiting his next chance to return to the Brewers rotation that should come in the form of another Marco Estrada disaster. While Estrada has given up at least one home run in all but two of his 18 starts—and an MLB-high 27 total—Nelson has posted a quality start in all but three of his appearances (one of which was in relief).
His latest, July 7, was another ho-hum 7.0 scoreless frames—the third straight turn in which he's held the opposition without a run.
Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats: 77.1 IP (14 G), 5-6 W-L, 3.72 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 74:18 K:BB
Despite five mostly bad starts with the Fish, DeSclafani has pitched very well across Double- and now Triple-A in 2014.
Fresh off his second demotion to the minors from Miami, the 24-year-old made two starts with New Orleans last week and allowed four runs on 12 hits in 13.0 innings to go with a 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats: 83.1 IP (17 G), 5-4 W-L, 3.46 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 93:39 K:BB
Meyer's path to Minnesota took a slight detour through his first five starts in June (5.03 ERA), but he looks to be back on track of late. The 24-year-old started off July on the right foot with 6.0 innings of one-run ball, following up the exact same line in his final go in June.
If Meyer can harness his control some (4.2 BB/9), he could get a look with the Twins in the second half.
Enny Romero, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2014 Stats: 83.1 IP (17 G), 3-10 W-L, 5.62 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 78:38 K:BB
If Romero has any hope of joining Tampa should the club wind up trading David Price and needing another arm for its five-man, well, he best do better than what he's managed his past two turns: 8.1 IP, 13 H, 10 ER, 8:5 K:BB.
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros
2014 Stats: 86.2 IP (18 G), 6-6 W-L, 4.78 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 84:43 K:BB
Add the 2010 first-rounder to the ever-growing list of recent problems in Houston.
Just when it looked like Foltynewicz, 22, was positioning himself for his big league debut after the All-Star break, he proceeded to allow 23 earned runs over 24.1 innings across his past five games. He capped that (still ongoing?) stretch by surrendering seven runs and six walks—both season highs—on July 7.