For previous editions, follow the links below:
- Get to Know: Catcher Prospects
- Get to Know: First Base Prospects
- Get to Know: Second Base Prospects
- Get to Know: Third Base Prospects
- Get to Know: Shortstop Prospects
- Get to Know: Outfield Prospects for 2015
- Get to Know: Outfield Prospects for 2016 and Beyond
There are too many starting-pitcher prospects. So many, in fact, that we’ll need to cover them for you in two installments. And so many that Craig and Ben decided to split each article, rather than take the 2015 and 2016-plus groupings separately.
The cutoff point here was fairly arbitrary, but we stopped giving players full write-ups once their ceilings maxed out at no. 4/5 starter status. That being said, ask us about anyone we missed in the comments and we’ll be happy to answer. Or at least will answer. Probably.
Ben took the AL players this time around, while Craig took the players from the NL because he is old. Tomorrow, they’ll engage in some role reversal when they bring you the starting pitching prospects who’ll matter in 2016 and beyond.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets
My personal top pitching prospect in the minors, Syndergaard has a bunch of quality depth to overcome before he arrives in the majors. Of course if he’s deemed ready, the Mets could use that depth to acquire a solution to their gaping hole at shortstop I mean upgrade on Wilmer Flores. He should be able to contribute in strikeouts in short order while not hurting you in ERA or WHIP.
Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
The use of “quality” before depth in Syndergaard’s blurb is no accident, because the Diamondbacks have beefed up their starting pitching depth without adding much quality. Hellickson, Collmenter, De La Rosa, Webster, Cahill, Anderson, Nuno, and Ray are all ahead of Bradley on the depth chart as of right now, and Aaron Blair could even get the call before him. Still, that’s not an imposing list and Bradley’s slider/cutter that he unveiled in the AFL gives him another weapon to attack batters with. He took a step backward last year, but he’s still a high-end prospect.
Jonathan Gray, Rockies
It’s hard to know if Gray’s reduction in velocity was the product of a conscious effort to pitch to contact as some have stated, or if he just didn’t have the same gas he did in college, throwing every fifth day rather than once a week. It’s possible that the truth encompasses some of both, but unless the Rockies development team loosens the reins and/or Gray can rediscover some of his swing-and-miss tendencies, we have to view him a bit differently at the moment. It’s possible that means this is a good buy-low period, but he’s still going to be pitching in Coors, and it’s unlikely he gets more than even half a season.
Dylan Bundy, Orioles
If you asked fantasy players to name the five best pitching prospect in the minors two years ago, they probably would’ve said “Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan and Dylan.” Bundy’s status has taken a bit of a hit sense thanks to Tommy John surgery and the uninspiring numbers he posted in a short sample in High-A last season. That being said, he’s still only 22, his old stuff did flash at its previous level at times in 2014 and he still has among the highest upside of any starter in the minors. It would be nice to see the Orioles take the reins off, let Bundy throw his cutter and really see what he can do now that he’s fully recovered.
Carlos Rodon, White Sox
The best fantasy prospect taken in the 2014 draft (yes including Kyle Schwarber, put your hand down Bret), Rodon landed in a pretty solid organization for our purposes, as the White Sox have done well developing young left-handers and tend to push their prospects aggressively. Long-term, Rodon has all the tools needed to thrive as a no. 2 fantasy SP, even in the AL. For 2015, he’s likely to break into the majors as a reliever, but he could see starts in the second half of the year.
Robert Stephenson, Reds
Stephenson spent all of 2014 at Double-A as a 21-year-old, so while his 4.75 ERA is a bit unsightly, it’s tolerable given the context. It also doesn’t hurt that he whiffed more than a batter per inning at the level. What got him was a previously unseen lack of control, as he walked nearly five batters per nine innings, while his previous full-year career-high in that total was 2.8 per nine. This is obviously trending in the wrong direction – but then development isn’t always linear and clean. He’s a highly talented arm who could be an impact fantasy starter if he can find his control (and command). If he can’t, he can still contribute from the pen.
Jameson Taillon, Pirates
Prospect-watchers are a “what have you done for me lately” type of crowd, and the fantasy subset perhaps even moreso. It’s easy to put Taillon into the out of sight, out of mind bucket, but we shouldn’t forget that he reached Triple-A prior to undergoing Tommy John and that 2015 will be just his age-23 season.
It’s worth remembering just how good a prospect he’s been for how long. There were some who preferred him to Gerrit Cole. He’s not held in that regard now, for the most part, but he’s still got a world of talent.
Alex Meyer, Twins
Meyer is a giant with spotty command and occasional trouble repeating his delivery, and because of this he’s often pegged as a future reliever. Maybe that’s true, but his gaudy minor-league strikeout numbers and favorable projected contextual factors mean fantasy owners should hope he stays in the rotation for the time being. Meyer is already 25 and has experienced success in Triple-A, so he should definitely see MLB time at some point this season. The Twins have every reason to give him a season or two to try and figure it out as a starter, and he as no. 2/3 fantasy SP upside.
Mark Appel, Astros
Is Appel the potential future ace some saw when the Astros took him first overall in 2013? Probably not. He’s also far from the bumbling starter we saw struggle in High-A last season, and if someone in your fantasy league doesn’t realize this, now’s a good time to buy low on Appel. A plus-plus fastball and two potential-plus complementary offerings give Appel the weapons he needs to succeed as a no. 2/3 starter, and while his contextual factors are less than inspiring, he’s still likely to be a major fantasy asset. The Appel hasn’t fallen that far from the pedigree. I’m sorry.
Daniel Norris, Blue Jays
The good: Norris is left-handed, demonstrated an impressive ability to miss bats in the minors, has a fairly high fantasy floor and should see substantial MLB time in 2015. The bad: Norris lacks plus command, could hurt your WHIP early in his career, doesn’t have a huge ceiling and has some tough contextual factors to deal with in Toronto. He took huge steps forward last year and is a nice-looking fantasy arm (and bod), but recognize that his ultimate projection comes with limitations.
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays
Is Sanchez going to be an elite fantasy closer or an erratic-yet-effective mid-rotation fantasy SP? We can’t know today, but Sanchez has two clear paths to value and is likely to contribute meaningfully to your fantasy squad in some way in 2015. Yes, there’s a chance he either heads back to the minors to start or functions as a setup man in the big-league bullpen to start the year, but it’s hard to imagine that Sanchez won’t have a more meaningful role by, say, June or July. The WHIP might be an issue, but he’s gonna miss plenty of bats.
Andrew Heaney, Angels
Some guys get stuck pitching in hitter’s ballparks for their entire career. Heaney’s been the property of the Angels, Dodgers and Marlins since joining the professional ranks, and while the move to the AL hurts a bit he’s still got solid contextual factors in his favor from a fantasy POV. Heaney lacks huge upside but he’s ready now, has a pretty high floor, plays for a good team and is arguably the best bet of any pitcher on this list to see 25-plus starts in 2015. He’s not a savior, despite his new affiliation, but he can be a mid-rotation mainstay for years.
Henry Owens, Red Sox
“He’s not a savior, but he can be a mid-rotation mainstay for years” applies to Owens just as much as it does to Heaney. Unfortunately, we’re not evaluating these guys in a vacuum, and Owens will have to tackle Fenway Park (or Citizens Bank Park, if you want to troll Phillies fans) as well as refine his command and his curveball if he wants to hit his ceiling. The world seems to be splitting into “Owens has near-ace potential” or “Owens is a back-end starter” camps, but neither outcome is as likely as Owens settling in as an MLB no. 3 and a fantasy no. 4/5 starter. He could be in the bigs for good by July or August.
Kyle Zimmer, Royals
Zimmer’s got a higher floor than a few of the pitchers we’ve already discussed in this piece. Unfortunately, he’s got an injury history that would make a Drew brother blush, barely threw at all in 2014 and had offseason surgery to clean up his shoulder. When Zimmer is healthy, he shows all the ingredients needed to profile as a no. 2 MLB starter. That’s a bigger “if” than with most pitchers, though, and there’s a chance he gets pushed to the bullpen if his arm injuries persist. Still, if all pitchers break, you might as well target the ones with the most upside.
Matt Wisler, Padres
Wisler’s stuff ticked back a bit in 2014, and while the stats weren’t particularly kind in Triple-A, the PCL has as much to do with that as he does. Wisler still has the potential for three above-average pitches, and has a bat-misser in his slider. Going from Reno to Petco should act as the Gas-X to his bloated ERA, but he’s going to have to refine his command before he can get to San Diego. As it stands, too many of his in-zone pitches are getting tagged with hard contact.
Aaron Nola, Phillies
Often tabbed as the quick-moving, mid-rotation arm that leaves people interested but not excited, Nola gets undersold. He has the potential for three plus pitches, and while he will ultimately call Citizens Bank Park home, he has the stuff and command to survive there. He’s often labeled as a low-90s pitcher, but he ran it up to 96 MPH consistently at LSU. While his arm angle can be brutal on right-handed hitters, it gives lefties a good look at the ball. Fortunately, Nola’s advanced changeup gives him a weapon against left-handed batters. He has already reached Double-A, and if he looks like he did at LSU, he could be in the majors by the second half of the season.
A.J. Cole, Nationals
After firing 63 innings in Triple-A last year, you have to put Cole in the 2015 bin, since in almost any other org he’d likely receive a big league trial. With the Nationals however, he’s at least seventh on the starting pitching depth-chart, and could be behind a few other guys depending on how they want to handle his service time, etc. He’s not someone to be counted on for value this year, but if everything breaks down ahead of him, he should be ready to contribute. He’s more likely to be a bulk-innings/strikeouts guy than anything impact, but those guys are necessary.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox
The Orioles ascribed to the Flags Fly Forever theory when they coughed up Rodriguez for a few months of Andrew Miller last season. Given E-Rod’s uninspiring results in Bowie, that’s understandable, but the soon-to-be 22-year-old was a different beast in Portland, striking out 39 and allowing just four earned runs in 37 1/3 innings. Reports surfaced of an uptick in velo and sharper secondary stuff once Rodriguez was traded, the type of arsenal that gives him no. 3 starter upside from the left side. It’s probably more likely he ends up as a back-end starter, and while Fenway won’t do him any favors he should be ready soon.
Aaron Blair, Diamondbacks
Sharpening his breaking ball has paid off big-time for Blair, who most saw as a durable innings-eater coming out of the draft. While he still boasts that label, he’s missed more bats and had crisp stuff since signing with Arizona, giving them another high-floor, solid-ceiling arm in their system. He lacks the ceiling that Braden Shipley has, but has a bit more probability to him. He could beat Archie Bradley to the majors if he keeps performing as he has been, but as with Bradley, the river of sewage that he has to crawl through/over before attaining a rotation spot rivals that of Andy Dufresne.
Mike Foltynewicz, Braves
Could land anywhere from mid-rotation starter to Nate Eovaldi clone (this isn’t a good thing) to high-end closer. He’s been starting thus far, so we leave him in this role, and landing in Atlanta might help him with that. The fastball is 80-grade, and the curveball appears anywhere from a plus-plus pitch to something George Costanza would eat (above the rim on a garbage can). He telegraphs the curve, which is an issue, but Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell has done fine work with other guys, and could help Foltynewicz with his arm slot too.
Brandon Finnegan, Royals
Finnegan burst onto the national prospect scene when he went from the College World Series to the real one in a matter of a few months in 2014. He gave everyone a taste of his impressive arsenal in the playoffs, and you have to like his fastball/slider combo coming from the left side; a lot of same-side hitters will be left flailing in Finnegan’s wake. The TCU product’s size, developing third pitch and questions about his ability to sustain velocity over multiple innings leave some to believe he’s a better option in the rotation, though. The Royals have seen first-hand how effective shifting fringy starters to relief roles can be, but Finnegan still has a fighting chance to stay a starter, especially in 2015.
Eddie Butler, Rockies
Butler has the advantage of pitching in the majors already, even if it wasn’t at full strength. The Rockies of weighted down the end of their rotation with Kyle Kendrick, which is akin to putting a shoe on a corner of a blanket on a windy day. When healthy, he’s still got the heavy fastball and cross-fire delivery that gives batters fits. He compliments the heater with a bat missing breaking ball and his change is least usable for sequencing if not more. The problem is he pitches in Colorado, and shoulder injuries are always tricky. He’s a solid option if you can avoid starting him on the road.
Luis Severino, Yankees
Listing Severino here is generous both in terms of ETA and his ultimate role. The fastball is NSFW and Severino masks his changeup well, giving him big strikeout upside. Unfortunately, he’s got a frame that doesn’t lend itself to starting, his secondary pitches lack refinement, and he’s yet to succeed in the upper minors. Plus, even if he does make it as a starter, he’ll have to throw in Yankee Stadium. There’s a chance it all clicks and he’s Yordano Ventura 2.0, but the odds are he’s permanently in a bullpen by mid-2016.
Marco Gonzales, Cardinals
Gonzales has the upside of a mid-rotation starter, though he’s not likely to play to that level in your fantasy rotation. One of his best qualities is his polish, and while that’s great in getting a prospect to the bigs, it’s not usually a distinguishing factor once there. He won’t miss as many bats as most guys on this list, and might end up pitching in relief in 2015, depending on how the Cardinals rotation shakes out. He’ll be a capable SP4 once he gets a starting job.
Nick Kingham, Pirates
He’s as electrifying as a windmill, but the value comes from his immediacy and context. Pitching in front of a Pittsburgh defense won’t hurt him once he arrives, and while he might not be exciting, he’s got enough stuff to last as a mid-rotation type. His curve will miss bats while his fastball will be effective as long as he keeps it down. When he can’t, he’ll have rough nights, like most fourth starters.
Michael Lorenzen, Reds
He’s caught a wave of support since signing with Cincinnati, and while the consensus has shifted from “future reliever” to “should be able to start” it’s hard to know what to make of him from a fantasy standpoint. While he holds his mid-90s velocity deep into games and can flash a bat-missing slider, he ultimately whiffed just 84 batters in 120 2/3 innings this year. By strikeout rate, Matt Barnes was better at Triple-A Pawtucket than Lorenzen was at Double-A Pensacola, and their values are trending in drastically different directions. Obviously strikeout rate isn’t everything, but Lorenzen has more of a flirting relationship with the strike zone than a serious one, and groundballs only make up for so much. He’s a better real-life bet than a fantasy one.
Matt Barnes, Red Sox
We’ve talked a lot about some of these guys having two paths to value, and Barnes is another player who has the potential to be useful as a starter or reliever for our purposes. If he remains in the rotation, Barnes has the arsenal to miss bats, but he’s going to give up a fair number of homers in Fenway and his ERA and WHIP will probably be closer to average than special. If he’s a reliever, he’ll lose the bulk innings, wins and a good amount of the Ks, but he could eventually close. Barnes’ star is down considerably from when he was drafted and there are good reasons why, but he’s not devoid of value just yet.
Pierce Johnson, Cubs
Hey the Cubs have a pitching prospect! Pierce Johnson rode his presidential name, rough arm action, and four-pitch mix to a selection in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft. He’s cruised through the minors thus far, tossing 91 2/3 innings of 2.55 ERA ball at Double-A last year, missing plenty of bats along the way. It’s worth noting that at 23 years old, he was advanced for the level, but this isn’t merely a case of beating up on younger competition, as there’s quality stuff here. Johnson will sit in the low 90s from the right side and touch 95, and complements two-seam look with a cutter that was getting whiffs in the low minors. His curveball can flash plus to slightly above, but lacks consistency, as does his change which occasionally shows depth and fade but lacks command. He has a mid-rotation ceiling but development of the changeup and refinement of the command will be paramount to keeping him in the starting rotation.
Zach Lee, Dodgers
At this point the excitement in monitoring Lee is in waiting to see if the Dodgers will ever actually promote him, or if they’ll just leave him in Triple-A as a potential option to possibly pitch one day maybe. Lee has a four-pitch mix but with nothing to miss bats, it’s like mixing four bland ingredients into a bowl and calling it dinner. Technically, sure, but you’re gonna want something with some kick to it if you wanna go to flavortown. I’ve lost my path here, but the point is that Lee, while likely qualified to be a back end starter has about eight quality-if-not-injury-prone starters ahead of him. Unless he rediscovers the gains he made with his slider in Double-A or learns a new pitch a la Jake Odorizzi, don’t expect him to accrue value as long as he’s in LA.
Rafael Montero, Mets
While mastering Triple-A Las Vegas is a feat in and of itself, the transition to the majors didn’t go smoothly for Montero. Despite the switch from the PCL to a spacious Citi Field, Montero’s numbers backslid thanks to his troubles with the strike zone and the long ball. Walking almost 12 percent of batters and giving up 1.62 HR/9 is no way to go through life. The Mets have pitching in spades and Montero could conceivably help out of the bullpen, so it’ll be interesting to see how they approach his role as the season wears on. His ability to miss bats makes him an intriguing option in fantasy leagues, as does his home park, but his inability to find the strike zone could wreak havoc on your WHIP.
Jesse Biddle, Phillies
No discussion of Biddle’s 2014 season should be had without mentioning or focusing on his concussion and subsequent frustrations with the game of baseball. Once he returned from his rehab in August, Biddle was a drastically different pitcher than the one who toed the rubber the previous four months. He’s always had the ability to miss bats, while questions have popped up about his efficiency and ability to control the strike zone. 2014 didn’t really answer those questions, but it’s also difficult to parse thanks to the injury. It’s worth giving Biddle a mulligan on last year in terms of evaluation and see what he can do going forward, now that he’s healthier. A mid-rotation arm with the swing-and-miss stuff that Biddle boasts is a worthwhile asset in fantasy, even if it comes with questionable walk totals.
Anthony DeSclafani, Reds
The primary return for Mat Latos, DeSclafani got lambasted in 33 major-league innings in 2014. He was solid in Triple-A though, and showed the ability to rack up strikeouts thanks to his low 90s heat and a potential plus slider. The development of his changeup will be crucial to his hopes of remaining in the rotation, as the late life on his fastball and sharp break on his slider give him a solid foundation. If the change fails to develop, he could be a useful asset out of the bullpen for Cincinnati, though that robs him of all fantasy value.
Others: Ben Lively, PHI; Trevor May, MIN; Kendall Graveman, OAK; Sean Nolin, OAK; Adalberto Mejia, SF; Alex Colome, TB; Nick Tropeano, LAA; Edwin Escobar, BOS; Mike Wright, BAL; Brian Johnson, BOS; Tyler Anderson, COL; C.J. Edwards, CHC; Enny Romero, TB; Casey Kelly, SD; Manny Banuelos, ATL; Justin Nicolino, MIA; David Holmberg, CIN; Taylor Jungmann, MIL; Tim Cooney, STL; Clayton Blackburn, SF; Christian Binford, KC
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