MLB Power Rankings: 10 Hot Pitching Prospects Who Could Be 2011’s Mat Latos

J. BatovskyCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: 10 Hot Pitching Prospects Who Could Be 2011’s Mat Latos

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    Every season there seem to be a few pitchers that burst onto the major league scene. Some are already well-known prospects, while others seem to sneak in the backdoor.

    The 2010 season was no exception. A good example is Mat Latos. While he's missing a "t" in his name, he didn't miss the strike zone a whole lot while taking the mound for the Padres.

    He was one of the pitching prospects that made it big time. As I'm sure you aware, more prospects bomb than live up to the hype, so the success stories get a lot of ink.

    So who might be some of the young pitchers be that are poised to break out in 2011? If you've read some of my other work, you'll probably recognize some of the names.

Chris Archer, RHP, Chicago Cubs

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    Chris Archer may be a long shot on this list, but based on his complete and total domination in 2010, I figured, "Why not ?"

    He started in the Cleveland Indians organization at the age of 17 and was traded to the Cubs in the Mark DeRosa deal. The Cubbies got a real steal in Archer.

    He took a huge step forward in 2010 and as a result was selected as the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He finished the season at 15-3 with an ERA of 2.34.

    While his command came and went periodically, it was a marked improvement over his previous seasons. Archer used his solid three-pitch repertoire to hold opponents to 102 hits in 142.1 innings pitched.

    The Cubs rotation is a bit iffy after Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Tom Gorzelanny. I could see Archer slip in the backdoor with an impressive spring. He would certainly add some interest to the beginning of the Cubs' season.

Alex White, RHP, Cleveland Indians

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    Opportunity. That is what Alex White needs in 2011. After Fausto Carmona, the Indians' starting rotation is shaky at best. Enter White, the Indians' first-round draft pick in the 2009 draft.

    White is 22 years old and was named the Indians' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010. He pitched at both High-A and Double-A and basically dominated his competition, compiling a 2.45 ERA, 150.2 innings pitched, 123 hits, 46 walks, 117 strikeouts and 1.122 WHIP. It's astounding how he could have had a record of only 10-10.

    White has tremendous command and a lot of movement on his fastball. As a starting pitcher, if you can't command your fastball you're basically useless. He's ahead of the curve in that respect. If he is able to develop a consistent secondary out-pitch, he'll have a lot of success at the MLB level.

Andrew Oliver, LHP, Detroit Tigers

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    Andrew Oliver is another advanced pitcher from the 2009 draft. While the top of the Tigers' rotation is solid, one of the last two spots could be for the taking.

    He was very consistent in 2010 between Double-A and Triple-A, and his numbers were good, but not  eye-popping like those of some of the others on this list. His ERA was 3.45, and he had a WHIP of 1.281. Oliver also totaled 119 strikeouts in 130.1 innings pitched.

    He was called up last season and was less than impressive. That doesn't bother me in the least. He has the tools to be successful and if given the chance again, he'll make the most of the opportunity.

Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    By all indications, Zach is ready for the big time. By all appearances, there seems to be a spot in the rotation for him. So what do the Orioles do? If I were making the decisions, he would be in the rotation from Day 1.

    Britton threw a whopping 153.1 innings last year in 27 games, 26 of which were starts. He's shown very good command of his pitches and induces ground balls at a high rate, which is essential when pitching in Camden Yards.

    Sounds like he's ready to me. What do you think?

Cory Luebke, LHP, San Diego Padres

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    Cory Luebke's 2010 minor league statistics are staggering, but not how you might expect. He didn't blow anyone away with a 98-mph heater. He dominated by...throwing strikes.

    It's a novel idea these days, but it has been proven to work in the past. A dude named Maddux used a similar style to win lots and lots of games.

    Now I am not saying Luebke is Greg Maddux. All I am saying is that Luebke gets hitters out in a similar manner and PETCO Park is an ideal place for that.

    In 2010 he had a record of 10-1 with a 2.68 ERA, 114 innings pitched, 83 hits, 29 walks, 88 strikeouts and 0.982 WHIP.

    Yes, only 83 hits and a WHIP under 1.00. That's just sick.

    He started three games with the Padres in 2010 and held his own. He should be the fourth or fifth starter when the Padres break camp.

Kyle Drabek, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Kyle Drabek has done all that he can do at Double-A. Should he make a stop in Triple-A or just skip it altogether? All indications are that the Jays have no issues inserting him at the back end of the rotation from Day 1 in 2011.

    Over the past two seasons, Drabek has logged 320 innings pitched. That is certainly a testament to his durability.

    He has a bit of an issue with his command in that he has a tendency to walk a fair number of hitters. The fact that he only allowed 126 hits in 162 innings tends to soften the blow of the walks. He won't get away with that in the AL East, however.

    His good fastball/curveball one-two punch will allow him to have some success. If he is able to adequately develop a third pitch to keep hitters off balance, watch out.

Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves

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    Mike Minor is another pitcher from the 2009 draft class ready to take that next step. He had a short visit with the Braves last season that didn't net great results. Odds are he has learned from that and will not be fazed by what he sees with the Braves in 2011.

    Minor has pitched for two seasons in the Braves' organization with a lot of success. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is very good, and he only allowed 93 hits in 120.1 innings. His command will allow him to be successful at the next level if he trusts it. That is always an issue with young pitchers.

    He will be given every opportunity to succeed in 2011, and he just might surprise some people by being even better than advertised.

Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins

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    It's really not fair that they make people try to hit this guy. He shrugged off some injury concerns when he was drafted in 2009 to breeze through the Twins' farm system in 2010.

    Gibson started 26 games in 2010 and logged 152.0 innings. He finished the season with two complete games. His command is pretty good and he has three strong pitches.

    Other than Francisco Liriano, the Twins don't have a starter that really jumps out at you. It will only help Gibson, as a rookie, to pitch at Target Field. I could easily see him posting solid numbers in a Twins uniform in 2011.

Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle Mariners

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    If some of these young phenom pitchers could be considered sick, Michael Pineda would be categorized as an epidemic. There is not one place in the Mariners' farm system that Pineda hasn't excelled. He started his career at age 17 and has never looked back.

    Here are some of his career minor league numbers: 31-14, 2.49 ERA, 404.1 innings pitched, 345 hits, 93 walks, 396 strikeouts, 1.083 WHIP.

    There is a spot just waiting for him on the Mariners' staff. He may already be their second best starting pitcher. I can't wait to find out just how good this kid already is.

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Jeremy Hellickson would probably be in the starting rotation on at least 24 teams as we speak. The stupid thing is that he is currently listed sixth on the Rays' depth chart at starting pitcher. While it is obviously early, I'm not sure how the Rays could not have him in Tampa to start the season.

    To develop your young pitchers, they have to pitch against the best. Hellickson got a taste of the big time last season and Triple-A is not a suitable destination for him any longer.

    I guess the only real negative I can see is that he gives up a few too many fly balls. If you can truly pitch, something like that can be easily overcome. I look for Hellickson to start the season as the Rays' No. 4 starter and never look back. He will be this year's Mat Latos.