Top 10 Pitchers Under 25 Years Old

Phillip BrownSenior Analyst IIDecember 19, 2011

Top 10 Pitchers Under 25 Years Old

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    Every team in the majors wants a young stud pitcher at their disposal but only a handful of teams have that. Young pitchers that can step up from the minor leagues into the major leagues are hard to come by. I think we all know who will be No. 1 on this list but who else will fill out the top 10?

    I only considered players with at least 50 innings of experience in the majors so sorry Matt Moore will be on this list, no matter how dominant he looked in his short stint in the majors.

Honorable Mentions

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    Daniel Hudson

    Jhoulys Chacin

    Drew Storen

    Neftali Feliz

    Jordan Walden

    Kenley Jansen

    Chris Sale

10. Trevor Cahill

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    2011 Stats:
    207.2 IP, 12-14, 4.16 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 147 K, 82 BB

    Trevor Cahill was just traded from Oakland to Arizona in a deal that sent Jarrod Parker, among others, to Oakland for Cahill.

    Cahill will be moving out of spacious O.Co. Coliseum in Oakland to a very hitter-friendly Chase Field in Phoenix. Will this change in ballpark size be offset by his move from the AL to NL? I think it will. Pitching in the NL without the DH is a pitcher's dream.

    Cahill will also move from the AL West where there are teams like the Rangers and Angels with very good offenses to the NL West, which is led by the offensively inept San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Cahill's 4.16 ERA may make you ask why he is on this list but in 2010 he pitched 196.2 innings, went 18-8, posted a 2.97 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Cahill is a workhorse with a high ceiling, and I think his move to the NL will help him reach it.

9. Michael Pineda

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    2011 Stats:
    171 IP, 9-10, 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 173 K, 55 BB

    Michael Pineda was considered a lock for the AL Rookie of the Year Award when he posted a 3.03 ERA in 113 innings prior to the All-Star break. Pineda cooled down in the second half of the season, to say the least, but he has shown that he can pitch effectively in the majors. He just needs to show that he can pitch for an entire season.

    Pineda has great peripherals for anybody, especially a 22-year-old, his 9.1 K/9, 3.15 K/BB and .211 BAA are incredible. He also has mid-90s fastball than can touch 99 mph and is physically imposing at 6'7" 260 pounds.

    Pineda does have a few flaws. The large outfield at Safeco Field protects him from his incredibly low 36 percent ground-ball rate and he really only has two pitches. He uses his fastball 65 percent of the time, his slider 32 percent of the time and a very weak changeup three percent of the team.

    Michael Pineda has the potential to be a great No. 2 pitcher behind Felix Hernandez but he has a few major issues to work out first.

8. Mat Latos

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    2011 Stats:
    194.1 IP, 9-14, 3.47 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 185 K, 62 BB 

    Mat Latos was just traded from the San Diego Padres to the Cincinnati Reds for a multitude of top prospects and an All-Star pitcher so he must be great, right? Latos has the pure stuff to be a front-line pitcher but there are concerns about his maturity.

    Latos had the luxury of pitching in the NL and a huge Petco Park in 2011. This showed in his home/away splits because he had a 3.24 ERA at home and a 3.68 ERA on the road. Latos also posted a 5.32 ERA against the AL, albeit in only 23.2 innings, but he did not play a tough AL schedule. Those four starts came against the Seattle Mariners (twice), Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox.

    At only 24 years old Latos showed his upside with a 8.57 K/9 and 2.98 K/BB.

    If you thought Latos had a lucky or breakout season in 2011 think again because in 2010 Latos pitched 184.1 innings, posted a 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 189 strikeouts and 50 walks. This kid looks like the real deal. Let's just hope he has a successful transition to a smaller ballpark in Cincinnati.

7. Madison Bumgarner

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    2011 Stats:
    204.2 IP, 13-13, 3.21 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 191 K, 46 BB

    Madison Bumgarner does pitch in arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the majors (AT&T Park) but unlike Michael Pineda he does not rely on it. In 2011 Bumgarner had a respectable 48 percent ground-ball rate. That is not to say that his 3.21 ERA is not helped by AT&T Park but it does not help by much.

    Bumgarner was not given enough hype during the season because of the amazing San Francisco Giants pitching staff around him. Brian Wilson and his beard made headlines, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were two of the best pitchers in the majors once again and who could ignore Ryan Vogelsong's amazing comeback? Bumgarner quietly posted a 2.52 ERA after the All-Star Break in 2011.

    Bumgarner has a chance to be great but can he repeat his 2011 season in 2012?

6. Craig Kimbrel

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    2011 Stats:
    77 IP, 46 SV, 2.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 127 K, 32 BB

    Craig Kimbrel is the only reliever on this list and he deserves it.

    Kimbrel won the NL Rookie of the Year Award by leading the NL, tied with John Axford, in saves with 46 and posting the lowest ERA of any rookie pitcher in 2011.

    He did post a 4.76 ERA in September but he was very impressive throughout the season.

    Most relief pitchers dominate for two to three seasons before they flame out so a dominant closer that can stay at the top of his game for years is a valuable commodity. I think Kimbrel is that kind of closer; he has the potential to be a Jonathan Papelbon-type pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.

5. Vance Worley

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    2011 Stats:
    131.2 IP, 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 119 K, 46 BB

    Vance Worley gave the Philadelphia Phillies the fourth ace they were looking for when Roy Oswalt struggled in 2011 due to injuries.

    Worley did not have the aid of a large ballpark. Citizens Bank Park slightly favors hitters, but he did pitch in the NL so he did not have to pitch against a DH. On top of that the NL East does not have a single offense that scares me.

    Worley could have been higher on this list if he showed that he could pitch for an entire season and deeper into games, he averaged 5.1 innings per appearance. He only pitched one game in April, three games in June and four games in August.

    He also stumbled down the stretch by posting a 4.26 ERA, including the postseason, after July 30th.

    Despite my nit-picking I still think Worley has the potential to be a great pitcher, and he might even replace Cole Hamels if the Phillies cannot afford a big enough contract extension.

4. Ivan Nova

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    2011 Stats:
    165.1 IP, 16-4, 3.70 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 98 K, 57 BB

    Ivan Nova was a a huge surprise in 2011 by coming out of nowhere and winning 16 games with a 3.70 ERA. Nobody saw that coming, he was not a highly-touted prospect, and he was not praised as a long term answer by the Yankees' organization.

    Nova can hit 97 mph on his fastball, but it normally sits around 93 mph. Nova will only get better with more experience, and he flashed his high potential last season.

    Nova went 8-0 and posted a 3.09 ERA after July 1st despite being sent back down to Triple-A to make room for Phil Hughes in the rotation in July. Joe Girardi refused to give him a permanent spot in the five-man rotation, instead he had a six-man tryout rotation at the end of the season. Despite this when it came down to it Ivan Nova was made the Yankees' number two starter in the postseason. 

    Perhaps the most impressive thing about Nova was his Game 1 (part two) start in the ALDS. Nova went 6.1 innings of shutout ball before Luis Ayala came in and gave up back-to-back hits to let two runs score.

    In 2011 Nova showed that he can pitched in high pressure situations in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium in the AL against great offenses.

3. Jeremy Hellickson

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    2011 Stats:
    189 IP, 13-10, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 117 K, 72 BB

    The Tampa Bay Rays seem to keep reloading their rotation with a young stud pitcher almost yearly, and Jeremy Hellickson is no exception. Hellickson won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2011, and at only 24 years old, he looks to be a future ace atop the Rays rotation.

    Hellickson may not get the five-year deal Matt Moore got last week, but he has done one thing Moore has not. He has gone through an entire season in the major leagues and remained dominant throughout the season. Hitters did not figure out Hellickson's stuff, and he did not tire out as the season wore on; he stayed sharp.

    You can point to the large outfield of Tropicana Field or the large disparity between his xFIP (4.72) and ERA (2.95), but the fact of the matter is simple, he dominated and got the job done.

2. Stephen Strasburg

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    2011 Stats:
    24 IP, 1-1, 1.50 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 24 K, 2 BB

    Stephen Strasburg was the first overall pick by the Washington Nationals in the 2009 MLB Draft out of San Diego State University. After only 55.1 innings pitched between Double-A and Triple-A, where he went 7-2 with a 1.30 ERA, he was sent to the majors.

    Strasburg missed most of 2011 due to Tommy John surgery, but when he came back he was as dominant as ever.

    His velocity did drop from 2010 to 2011 but not by as much as you think. In 2010 he averaged 97.6 mph on his fastball and topped out at 100 mph but in 2011 he averaged 96 mph on his fastball in 2011 and topped out at 99 mph. With another offseason rehab and a little trust in his elbow to remain healthy he should be back to his old form.

    Despite his drop in velocity Strasburg may have had a better season in 2011 than 2010. Yes, the sample size is very small but he almost halved his 2010 ERA (2.91) in 2011 (1.50). His K/BB more than doubled in 2011 as well going from an already incredible 5.4 K/BB to an insane 12.0 K/BB.

    Strasburg will be a legitimate ace and Cy Young contender in 2012.

1. Clayton Kershaw

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    2011 Stats:
    233.1 IP, 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 248 K, 54 BB

    Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the majors right now, even at 23 years old.

    There is not much to say about Clayton Kershaw that you do not already know. He won the NL Cy Young Award and pitcher's triple crown in 2011. At only half of a million dollars, that is the biggest bargain in the majors. True aces are not easy to find, but 23-year-old triple crown winning aces are once-in-a-lifetime type players.

    Yes, he pitched in the NL in a very pitcher-friendly Dodgers' Stadium but how are you not impressed by this kid?

    Do not think this was Kershaw's breakout season because he has posted an ERA under 3.00 and pitched 170-plus innings for three straight seasons. Kershaw is here to stay and will be the best starting pitcher in the majors for the next decade.