Christian Binford, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Binford, a 30th-round draft pick in 2011, breezed through the Carolina League this season thanks to his plus command of a three-pitch mix, and he recently was rewarded for his strong performance with a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
While he lacks a true plus offering, the 21-year-old’s impressive feel for pitching should at least allow him to hold his own at the more advanced level, thus setting him up for a potential major league debut in late 2015 or early 2016.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals
ETA: Late 2015
Giolito, 19, is simply too good to spend much time in the minor leagues, as he possesses arguably the highest ceiling among all pitching prospects to go along with the potential to make an immediate impact in the major leagues.
Unfortunately, at least for baseball fans, the right-hander is unlikely to join the Nationals until late 2015 at the earliest, as the organization has and will continue to dictate his workload like it has in the past with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Few pitchers in the low minors have been as impressive as Hunter Harvey this season, as the 19-year-old—this is his full-season debut—has dominated older hitters in the South Atlantic League. As was the case with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in recent years, Harvey should be able to move quickly through the minor leagues compared to his peers.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
ETA: Late 2014
Meyer, 24, has been impressive at Triple-A Rochester this season, as it’s become increasingly clear that he has little left to prove in the minor leagues. The 6’9” right-hander seemingly is next in line to be called up by the Twins, and it could happen sooner rather than later given the current state of the team’s starting rotation.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Daniel Norris quietly has emerged as one the game’s better left-handed pitching prospects this year thanks to a mechanical adjustment he made late last season, as the 21-year-old is already on his second level this season after a promotion from High- to Double-A in mid-June.
Given his overwhelming success at both stops and the Blue Jays' chances of winning the AL East this season, it’s not crazy to think the organization might challenge the left-hander with a call-up later this summer. However, a debut at some point next season probably is more realistic.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
ETA: Late 2014
Owens, a 6’6” left-hander, has continued to both avoid and miss barrels at Double-A Portland this season—as he does so well when his secondary pitches are sharp—and, in my opinion, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Owens, 21, doesn’t reach the major leagues before the end of the season. With a mostly veteran starting rotation, it’d be wise of the Red Sox to start getting their young arms acclimated to the major leagues this year.
Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Braden Shipley, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 draft, has already received a promotion to High-A Visalia, and he should continue to move up the ladder in a hurry thanks to his power arsenal and hugely underrated feel for pitching.
Much like the Dodgers, Orioles and Tigers, Arizona doesn’t mess around with its pitching prospects (think Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs). So expect Shipley, as long as he stays healthy, to get to the majors sometime during the 2015 season.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
ETA: Late 2014
Noah Syndergaard's performance at Triple-A Las Vegas this season has been up and down, as he's maintained solid strikeout and walk rates but has also been knocked around at times in the Pacific Coast League. As long as the 21-year-old’s minor elbow injury from last month is a non-issue moving forward, he should still make his highly anticipated debut with the Mets in late 2014, despite the organization’s best efforts to temper expectations.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Even though Stephenson, 21, has held his own this season at Double-A Pensacola, the right-hander has shown varying command from start to start, and he has run into trouble when working up in the zone with his explosive fastball. There’s no denying that Stephenson’s pure stuff gives him impact potential, but don’t expect the Reds to call on him this season unless they’re in a serious bind due to injuries.
Jake Thompson, RHP, Detroit Tigers
ETA: Late 2015
Moved up to High-A Lakeland for the 2014 season, Thompson, 20, has thrived against advanced hitters in the Florida State League and will likely get a taste of Double-A before the season ends.
If he handles the Eastern League as he did the FSL, then it’s possible the Tigers—an organization known for getting its top pitching prospects to the major leagues ahead of schedule—will audition him at the highest level at some point next season.