MLB Prospects: Top 23 Starting Pitchers Currently in the Minor Leagues

Sean ZerilloCorrespondent IIJune 7, 2011

MLB Prospects: Top 23 Starting Pitchers Currently in the Minor Leagues

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    Throughout history there have been people all over the world who have tried to predict the end of the world. One popular belief especially around Lake Michigan is that the world will end when the Cubs win the world series.

    The Cubs have been America's "Lovable Losers" for over a century. Here is a list/time-line of ten moments that give every cubs fan a reason hide their teary eyes with their blue baseball cap.

Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves

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    In almost any other major league organization, Mike Minor would be pitching in the major leagues.

    Unfortunately for him, the Braves have extraordinary pitching depth.

    The 23-year-old lefty, drafted with the seventh overall pick out of Vanderbilt in 2009, has impressed over 34 career starts in the minor leagues.

    Four of those starts came in Single-A, and the remaining 30 have been spilt between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett.

    All told, Minor owns a 226:61 strikeout to walk ratio over 195 innings in the minors.

    He primarily leans on his low 90's fastball (can touch 95 MPH) and a tight slider with late break. The secondary offering helped Minor to fan 12 Cubs in a start last August 22nd.

    He's been shaky in his three MLB starts this season, but it shouldn't be long before Minor gets another crack at the bigs.

    He should serve as a nice complement to Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens atop the Braves rotation for seasons to come.

Julio Tehran, Atlanta Braves

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    Just the third Colombian pitcher to make it to the major leagues, Julio Teheran is as highly respected as any prospect in baseball.

    Teheran, 20, has already made two starts for the Braves this season. Although he didn't make it out of the fourth inning in either outing, he still owns an impressive minor league track record.

    Between Single-A, High-A and Double-A in 2010, Teheran struck out 159 batters and walked just 40 in 142.2 innings. This helped him get named as Baseball America's No. 5 prospect prior to this season.

    This lanky righty works quickly, and he uses his mid nineties fastball and a sinking change-up to keep opposing batters off-balance. He occasionally mixes in a power curve, but it's still a developing pitch.

    Teheran has a lot of upside, but he really needs to develop a good third offering. If he can, he should be an ace.

    Otherwise, he's a No. two or No. three starter at worst.

Jarrod Parker, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    It's not often that a pitcher can re-gain his status as an organization's top prospect even after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

    After all, the operation usually strips players of at least a little arm speed, subtracting at least a few valuable ticks off of million dollar fastballs.

    Jarrod Parker then is the exception and not the rule.

    Drafted ninth overall out of Norwell High School (Indiana) in 2007, Parker pitched himself to Double-A by 2009 but suffered the injury to his UCL which required the surgery.

    After missing all of 2010, he's returned to the mound in 2011 flashing the 96 MPH fastball that made him so coveted before his injury.

    Parker has struggled with his control this year, and he didn't have exceptional secondary stuff to begin with, but both of those things should continue to improve in time.

    They are considered the two most difficult things to recover after surgery.

    Even still, this is a 22-year-old pitcher with a lot of talent. He is a valuable commodity for the Diamondbacks organization; whether in their future rotation or as a trade chip.

Anthony Ranaudo, Boston Red Sox

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    Projected as one of the top picks heading into the 2010 amateur draft, Anthony Ranaudo fell all the way to the 39th overall pick, by the Boston Red Sox, due to signability issues and injury concerns.

    Ranaudo had a monster sophomore season for the LSU Tigers in 2009, striking out 159 batters in 124.1 innings and walking only 50.

    He did surrender 15 homers, however, and gave up 9 more over 51 innings in 2010 as his strikeout rate fell and his walk rate climbed.

    This hulking righty (6'7", 225 pounds) doesn't throw particularly hard, or even have an exceptional secondary pitch, but he hides the ball well and gets great extension on his pitches; allowing for a favorable comparison to the Angels' Jered Weaver.

    After posting a 50:16 strikeout to walk rate over 10 starts in his Single-A debut this year, the Red Sox moved Ranuado up to High-A last week.

    So long as his previously injured elbow doesn't become a concern, Boston found great value in the supplemental round.

Drew Pomeranz, Cleveland Indians

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    Oh, how the rich quickly get richer.

    The Cleveland Indians are off to a surprisingly good start this season, leading the AL Central by two and a half games over the Tigers.

    If they need pitching help to stay in the race towards the end of the season, they could rush last year's fifth overall pick, Drew Pomeranz, to the major leagues.

    Pomeranz built an impressive resume during his three seasons at the University of Missisipi, registering a 21-9 record.

    During his junior year as the Friday night start for Ole Miss, Pomeranz went 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA and a 139:49 strikeout to walk ratio over 100 innings.

    He's a big, durable lefty (6'5, 230 pounds) with a mid 90's fastball and an already major league ready curve-ball and change-up; both of which he can mix for strikes.

    He's begun his professional career in High-A in 2011, posting a 58:16 strikeout to walk rate over his first 9 starts and 43.2 innings.

    He should see at least Double-A by the end of the year, and may climb even higher before the calendar turns.

Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers

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    Under General Manager Dave Dombrowski, the Detroit Tigers in recent years have had a tendency to draft power arms and get them to the big leagues as quickly as possible.

    That trend may continue with their newest top arm, 20-year-old righty Jacob Turner.

    Turner is a very big (6'5", 210 pounds) 19-year-old with an upper 90's fastball, a low 90's sinker and developing pitches in his curveball and changeup. In time, his secondary pitches can become plus offerings.

    He began 2011 with Double-A Lake Erie, where he's struck out 52 batters and walked just 14 in 60 innings.

    If he continues to pound the strike zone and keep the ball on the ground, Turner might be called on to help the Tigers in their quest for the AL Central crown.

Mike Montgomery, Kansas City Royals

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    Mike Montgomery, a 21-year-old lefty from California, is perhaps the best among the five Royals pitchers who managed to crack Baseball America's top 100 prospects this year.

    Monty, as he's known to his teammates, was drafted with the 36th overall selection by Kansas City in 2008.

    He owns a 91-94 MPH fastball, an 80-84 MPH change-up and a high 70's curveball.

    With his lanky frame, at 6'4" and 185 pounds, there is still some room for Monty to add bulk. In time, his pitches could each bump up a few notches on the radar gun.

    Scouts are impressed by Montgomery's smooth, sweeping delivery which is easily repeatable and allows him to hide the ball extremely well.

    He began the 2011 season at Triple-A Omaha in the offensively charged Pacific Coast League. In the highest level of the minor leagues, Monty has struggled with his control; walking 38 batters in 63 innings.

    His career BB/9 in the minors is a respectable 3.4, however, so it should improve as he adjusts to better hitters.

    Even still, Monty isn't far off from his big league debut.

John Lamb, Kansas City Royals

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    Drafted four rounds after Montgomery in 2008, fellow lefty John Lamb ranked a spot higher (18th) in Baseball America's 2011 preseason rankings.

    Lamb has displayed excellent control throughout the minors, walking just 2.8 batters per nine innings.

    His strikeout rate, which sat above 9.0 K/9 before making the jump to Double-A in 2010, probably suggests something more of a 6.5-7.0 K/9 rate in the major leagues.

    Lamb has a very smoother delivery, even better than Montgomery's, and he has been compared favorably to a young Tom Glavine.

    He throws the same repertoire (Fastball, Change-Up, Curveball) as his organization-mate, at about the same speeds; but with much more movement.

    Lamb is also very adept at taking a little off or adding a little to each of his pitches; a skill that should serve him well in the long run. 

Jake Odorizzi, Kansas City Royals

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    Jake Odorizzi was acquired by the Kansas City Royals in the offseason trade that sent former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.

    Odorizzi was drafted four spots ahead of current organization mate Mike Montgomery in the 2008 draft (32nd overall).

    He's not an overly impressive prospect, but Odorizzi does have good size (6'2", 175 pounds), a major-league fastball (94-96 MPH) and a plus two plane slider which is his main out pitch.

    He's also developing a curveball and change-up.

    Odorizzi impressed over 120.2 innings in Single-A last season, registering a 135:40 strikeout to walk ratio.

    He's been even better in the jump to High-A this season, going 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA and a 74:14 ratio over 52.2 innings.

    He also keeps the ball on the ground, allowing just 13 homers over 241 professional innings.

    Odorizzi has all the makings of a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter at worst, with the upside for more.

Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins

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    Of all the pitching prospects in baseball, perhaps none is more polished or major league ready than Kyle Gibson of the Minnesota Twins.

    Stuck in an organization with great depth among starting pitchers, Gibson's path to the major leagues is currently blocked (unless he can hit, or something).

    Gibson fell to the 22nd overall pick in 2009 due to forearm concerns which many believed would eventually lead to Tommy John surgery.

    He thwarted hitters in college, however, going 11-3 with 131 strikeouts and just 19 walks over 106 innings during his junior year.

    Gibson is 6'6" and throws a nasty low 90's sinker with an even better low 80's slider. The slider has tight, late break and it will probably become his best attribute. He can throw it for strikes consistently as well.

    He's spent all of 2011 in Triple-A Rochester, with a 59:11 strikeout to walk ratio over 55 innings; numbers right in line with his minor league averages. 

    Gibson is more than ready for the next, and final step up.

Matt Harvey, New York Mets

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    Drafted two spots after Pomeranz last season, 2010's seventh overall pick, Matt Harvey, has a bright future in New York with the Mets.

    The North Carolina product had a solid yet unspectacular career in perhaps college baseball's toughest conference.

    During his junior year, Harvey posted a 102:35 strikeout to walk ratio over 14 starts and 96 innings.

    His skills have translated well to the minors, however, as Harvey owns a 71:20 rate over his first 59 professional innings at High-A.

    Although he's prone to the long ball, Harvey throws an explosive upper 90's fastball and also owns a curveball, slider, and change-up.

    Although he threw the curve a lot more early in his career, he's tending toward the slider of late. When it's on, he's deadly.

    Although Harvey has control issues at times, he has a smooth mechanics and is a front of the line starter when all of his pitches are working.

    Many scouts thought the Mets reached for Harvey with the seventh overall selection. It could in fact turn out to be a value pick.

    This is definitely one to watch.

Manny Banuelos, New York Yankees

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    Probably the only thing keeping Manny Banuelos in the minor leagues is his sometimes questionable control.

    Nobody is doubting the talent or the heart of this 20-year-old lefty, however.

    Listed at just 5'11" and 155 pounds, Banuelos doesn't look like a professional athlete in street clothes.

    But with a vicious demeanor on the mound, and a low 90's fastball with identical arm movement on his change-up, this Mexican pitcher has found himself on a lot of top prospect lists.

    Banuelos owns 270 strikeouts in 262 minor league innings, proving the quality of his stuff.

    But he's walked 34 batters in his first 61 innings at Double-A, a number which obviously needs to come down.

    He's still a very young pitcher who is already knocking on the doorstep of the major leagues.

    If he can become more consistent with his control, especially with his curveball, then the Yankees won't hesitate to bring him to the parent club.

Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets

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    News that Jenrry Mejia will miss all of the 2011 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery is devastating news to Mets fans.

    This leaves the National League New Yorkers with their top major league pitcher (Johan Santana) and top minor league pitcher (Mejia) on the DL following major elbow surgery.

    Mejia, a 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, had three major league ready pitches with great movement (fastball, curveball, change-up) and posted some fantastic numbers in the minors.

    Although he struggled with his control at times, his issues were believed to be solvable with more time.

    Now, the Mets must wait and see if their top prospect can even re-gain the velocity he had (92-94 MPH) prior to surgery.

Dellin Betances, New York Yankees

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    Before the end of possibly this season, Dellin Betances could become the next cult-hero in pinstripes.

    Betances, 23, is a New York native who watched David Wells 1998 perfect game from the Yankee Stadium bleachers.

    The Yankees drafted him in the eighth round in 2006, and paid him a cool million dollars to prevent his matriculation to Vanderbilt University.

    Betances is an enormous righty (6'8, 255 pounds) with an explosive high 90's fastball and a sharp 12 to 6 curveball with late movement.

    His change-up, which shows a lot of downward break, could serve as a third plus pitch in the future.

    Betances is already fearless on the mound, willing to challenge hitters with his heater up in the zone. This has helped him to a 10.4 K/9 rate over 345 minor league innings.

    Betances could stand to improve his control, as he already walks over 4 batters per nine innings and he's a 23-year-old in Double-A.

    He'll be given every chance to work as a starting pitcher (started 74 of 75 career minor league games), but could eventually serve as Mariano Rivera's successor if the control issues don't subside.

    His career path will be an interesting one to follow considering the mistakes that the Yankees made with Joba Chamberlain.

Jarred Cosart, Philadelphia Phillies

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    The last thing that the Philadelphia Phillies need right now is pitching, which is what makes Jarred Cosart a very valuable trade chip for their organization.

    And that's not even considering the fact that Cosart was taken in the 38th round of the 2008 entry draft.

    His draft position is a little deceiving, considering the fact that Cosart had a firm commitment to college but was bribed away for $550,000.

    Cosart has had a troubled injury history, missing time separately with shoulder and elbow issues in 2009 and 2010. But he throws a mid nineties fastball with good sink, and has excellent control over his curveball and change-up.

    Although the secondary pitches could stand to improve in their bite, Cosart posted a 4.81:1 strikeout to walk ratio over 71 innings in Single-A last season (77:16).

    He owns a 15-8 record with a 3.13 ERA, and a 153:48 strikeout to walk rate over 30 professional starts and 161 innings. Cosart has only surrendered six homers in that span, a testament to his ability to keep his pitches down.

    The injury history may hurt his trade value, but Cosart is certainly a talented pitcher. If he stays in Philadelphia, he should have a great veteran core in front of him as he learns the ropes of the big leagues.

Jameson Tallion, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Washington Nationals' phenom Bryce Harper may have been the clear-cut No. one overall pick in the 2010 draft, but the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the second pick, may in fact have had an easier selection.

    That's because Jameson Tallion, the top prospect remaining on the board, had been called "The best pitching prospect since Josh Beckett" by Fangraphs.

    At 6'7", Tallion is a towering and imposing pitcher. He uses his large frame to generate upper 90's velocity on his fastball, and to get great depth on his curveball and slider; both of which are plus pitches.

    Combined with a developing change-up, Tallion is an absolutely devastating pitcher. He struck out 19 in a no-hit effort against his rival high school last season.

    He's off to a fast start in his professional career, owning 27 strikeouts to just four walks in his first 34 innings at Single-A West Virginia.

    He'll be given a legitimate chance to make the Pirates roster as early as next season, and could eventually prove to be on the level of fellow tall righty Josh Johnson.

Casey Kelly, San Diego Padres

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    Casey Kelly was the centerpiece acquisition for the San Diego Padres in the offseason blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.

    Kelly was Boston's top prospect, and upon arriving in San Diego he claimed that status with the Padres as well.

    The Red Sox initially had a tough time convincing Kelly that his future was on a major league mound.

    The team and the player couldn't reach an agreement after the 2008 draft until the Red Sox guaranteed Kelly that he'd be given a chance to play his way up as a shortstop.

    He showed flashes of brilliance with his glove, but Casey's bat never came around and he eventually conceded to pitch full-time in 2010.

    Kelly's 6'3, 195-pound frame provides him with room to add strength; which could get his average fastball speed up from the low to the mid 90's.

    He complements a sinking four-seamer with an improving mid 80' changeup, and a dominant high 70's 12 to six curveball.

    The latter serves as his out pitch, has plus-plus potential and will become well known around the league after it appears countless times on Baseball Tonight's, "That's Nasty".

    He's struggled a bit since making the jump to Double-A, but Kelly is still inexperienced as a pitcher and is still working mostly off of his natural talent right now.

    Once he learns to pitch, rather than just throw, he could be really special.

Zach Wheeler, San Francisco Giants

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    Zach Wheeler is the next young Giants' pitcher who should soon be ready to make an impact at the big league level.

    Wheeler, 21, was taken with the sixth overall pick by the Giants in 2009. He's impressed over 114 innings in the low minors, fanning 135 hitters over 114 innings between Single-A and High-A.

    Wheeler throws his fastball around 91-94 MPH with a sharp tail that really bears in on right handed hitters. He's great when pitching inside, but has trouble locating on the outside part of the plate.

    His best pitch is his curveball which has late, two-plane break and would already be a plus-pitch at the major league level.

    Two pitches, however, will not cut it in the jump to Double-A. He must improve his change-up, starting by fixing issues he's had with dropping his arm slot on the third offering.

    Major league hitters will make batting practice out of a change-up if it's coming from a noticeably different angle than the fastball.

    Wheeler's ETA probably isn't until late 2012 at the earliest, but he could become the next in what is now a long line of young and talented Giants' pitchers.

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Shelby Miller was selected 19th overall by the Cardinals in the 2009 amateur draft.

    Considering the fact that this 20-year-old made his first start in Double-A this week, Miller is on the fast track to the major leagues.

    Over 166 minor league innings, this 6'3" righty has struck out 228 batters and walked just 57; good for an eye-popping 12.3 K/9 rate with a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

    Miller is primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher whose best stuff sits in the 91-93 MPH range. He also owns a developing curveball.

    I'd expect him to be a full-time member of the Cardinals rotation by this time next year.

Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Matthew Moore may share a name with a certain interception-prone NFL quarterback, but that's about where the comparison between the two athletes ends.

    Moore, 21, was drafted by the Rays out of Moriarty (New Mexico) high school in the eighth round in 2007; the same high school as Padres slugger Kyle Blanks.

    He's progressed slowly through the minors, finally reaching Double-A in 2011, but in that time the Rays have methodically developed Moore into a top 15 prospect.

    This four pitch lefty is highly regarded for his ability to touch 95 MPH with his fastball. He also throws a two-seamer and a change-up, but his best pitch is his curve.

    Because of its two plane movement, scouts have debated whether Moore's curveball is in fact a slider. It might be a slurve, or something else in between, but the pitch no doubt has plus-plus potential.

    It has helped him to a 12.8 K/9 rate in the minors. With his great control (3:41 K/BB ratio last year and 5.13:1 this season), Moore could be a devastating major league pitcher.

    The Rays front office continues to impress with their draft selections.

Martin Perez, Texas Rangers

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    Due to his nationality, handedness, and style, Martin Perez of the Texas Rangers has drawn a lot of comparisons to countryman Johan Santana.

    The lanky, 20-year-old Perez throws a mid nineties fastball, a sharp one to seven curveball, and a solid change-up.

    Like fellow lefty Mike Hampton, Perez is very adept at adding and subtracting a little to his pitches in order to keep hitters off-balance.

    Despite the fact that he throws in the mid nineties, Perez gets a lot of movement on his pitches and likes to pitch to contact. As a result, he tends to churn ground-balls (21 HR in 330 minor league IP).

    His walk rate, which is about 4.2 BB/9 right now, could stand to come down a bit. And it probably will as it does for most maturing lefties.

    But this international free agent has shown the ability to strike hitters out and keep the ball in the park.

    He's still at least a year away, but Perez should be the next big thing in Arlington. He may not ever be on Johan's 2004-2007 level (few ever have been), but his stuff is still legitimate.

Tanner Scheppers, Texas Rangers

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    Tanner Scheppers has had quite the odd path in his major league career.

    He is a player who has been drafted three times, and has fallen twice (in 2008 and 2009) due to concerns about his labrum which many teams felt would eventually require surgery.

    After falling to the Pirates in the second round in 2008, Scheppers chose to play independent baseball for a season and was selected by the Rangers in the supplemental first round in 2009.

    If not for his shoulder, he would have been a top ten pick in either year.

    Any hitter who steps in against Scheppers will have concerns far more serious than his shoulder, however.

    First, is his blazing upper 90's fastball which would have gained more notoriety had he not been draft eligible with 100 MPH-plus thrower and phenom Stephen Strasburg.

    He also owns an electric curveball that serves as his punch out pitch, and a change-up that is still being refined.

    The Rangers promoted Scheppers to Triple-A last season after just 11 innings at Double-A. He impressed, striking out over a batter per inning.

    He's currently out with a herniated disc in his back, but will likely be a call-up before the end of the year.

    When he does, grab this 24-year-old, who will get great run support, in all of your fantasy leagues.

Deck Mguire, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Deck Mguire wasn't considered among the highest upside arms in the 2010 amateur draft, but he may have been the safest choice to make it to the big leagues among all eligible players.

    Mcguire, 22, is a strike thrower who owns three major league ready pitches.

    He has a league average fastball, with little movement in the 91-93 MPH range, an 86 MPH plus power slider, and a smooth change-up about 8-10 MPH slower than his heater.

    Mcguire had excellent numbers in college, going 28-7 with 306 strikeouts to just 106 walks over 301 collegiate innings.

    Toronto selected him with the eleventh overall pick in last year's draft, and placed him in High-A to start the 2011.

    He's expected to rise quickly through the minors, and could be a fixture on Toronto's staff by this time next year.