We’ve seen a slew of promotions via September call ups this year. It’s depleted the upper minors quite a bit but there are still some interesting prospects coming up the pipeline. This will be a two-part series examining players who have ceilings and floors that are pretty far apart for a variety of reasons, be it health, age or profile. This week we will look at five pitchers with serious upside and risk:
Josh Hader, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Go outside for a moment and listen intently to the wind. In between the gusts you’ll hear the echoes of the whispers of the dreams about what Josh Hader could be if he learns how to consistently command his arsenal. Being left-handed and pumping gas in the upper 90s earns you a long shelf life in baseball. Adding a plus slider to the profile will get baseball people excited about where you’re going. Hader’s one-two punch is electric and he rode his fastball/slider combination from Double-A to Triple-A where he ran into some issues in harsh pitcher’s environment. For most of the arms listed in this section command is going to be the topic du jour, and it is the main detractor in Hader’s profile. He’s an advanced arm but the risk is real with Hader as his change is still a work in progress and his command has just not gotten under control over the past year. Still, Hader managed to strike out 29.3 percent of hitters while walking 12 percent which is pretty hard to do.
Cal Quantrill, RHP, San Diego Padres
Towards the end of the year we got a look at Quantrill in the Midwest League and he showed the characteristics that made him an enticing draft prospect ahead of the 2016 draft. Tommy John Surgery derailed him in 2015 and he spent the entirety of the 2016 season working back from injury. The risk with Quantrill resides in questions about his health. The stuff was premium before the surgery and he flashed it in limited innings as soon as he started pitching in pro ball. The next steps revolve around building arm strength back up while upping his workload in a responsible manner. Quantrill didn’t pitch more than 4 2/3 innings in 2016 which is understandable considering where he is on the Tommy John timetable.
Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
The Quad Cities River Bandits have been good to me in recent years, as the Astros have sent just about every high-upside prospect they have through Low-A before advancing them to the upper minors. It looks like I could see another talented player in 2017 with Forrest Whitely coming up Houston’s pipeline. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, Whitley has a big, sturdy starter’s frame and pumps heat in the mid-to-upper-90s. He backs it up with two solid breaking balls and some feel for a change. Whitley has a limited professional resume and he’s just a teenager which adds a considerable amount of risk to the profile, but I’ve had some scouts tell me he’s the most talented arm in Houston’s system which includes some heavy hitters in Francis Martes, Albert Abreu and my personal favorite, Franklin Perez.
Sandy Alcantara, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
I wrote about Alcantara last week for the Midwest League wrap up. I talked about his upside, which is considerable, but let’s talk about the other factors in his profile which center around projection with his body and the stuff. Alcantara has a tapered waist and broad shoulders with a frame that suggests a lot of positive projection with the body. As he adds strength, specifically through his core, there’s hope that he will be able to maintain his mechanics more consistently which should add repeatability which in turn should add command. Alcantara falls off line leading to missed spots and higher than average walk totals. He is reliant on projection more so than most, so there’s a considerable amount of separation between his floor and his ceiling but the tools show a ton of promise.
Riley Pint, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Along the way somewhere, in between Aroldis Chapman appearances and Yordano Ventura starts, premium velocity became something we got a little too comfortable with. We got kinda spoiled with the upper-90s velocity readings and overall velocity has been trending upwards over the past few years. All that said, 100 mph is still 100 mph and Riley Pint can touch 102. There’s a bastard of a breaking ball in the profile as well, which inspires some pretty lofty heights for the young righty. It comes with a bucketload of risk, which is to be expected with a 19-year-old. Pint’s mechanics coming out of the draft were high-effort and difficult to repeat, leading to erratic command. There’s a long, long road between where he is now and where he could be and it’s littered with high-upside arms who could never tame their mechanics. Pint has the upside; it remains to be seen if he can mitigate the risk.
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