keyboard_arrow_uptop
Baseball Prospectus is looking for a Public Data Services Director. Read the description here.

Previous entries in this series:

Every single one of these players is sure to work out. There’s nothing smarter you can do than to invest heavily in fantasy starting pitcher prospects.

Lucas Giolito, Nationals
Someone has to usurp Clayton Kershaw some day. Giolito won’t in 2016, but he should reach the majors at some point.

Julio Urias, Dodgers
Urias has to get used to a heavier workload. That’s pretty much all the work he has left to do. Urias’ pitches are MLB-ready, he’s got a preternatural feel for his craft, he can repeat his delivery and he has already succeeded in Double-A. It might be a year or two before he can throw 200 innings a year, but if you dropped him in the majors tomorrow he wouldn’t look out of place. In time, he’ll be a fantasy SP1/2.

Steven Matz, Mets
You know the deal with Matz. He’s talented as all hell, ready now and still carries some risk because a) he’s a pitcher and b) he’s got a checkered medical past. Still, Matz is the easy pick for fantasy SP Rookie of the Year, and in time we could see him develop into a Jon Lester-like asset, albeit as someone who goes about his craft a very different way. You can go into 2016 with Matz as your no. 4 starter in a 12-team league and feel just fine.

Tyler Glasnow, Pirates
Glasnow probably has the second-highest upside of any pitcher we’re covering today, and it’s not hard to see why. The former fifth-rounder is a giant, he routinely touches 98 mph with his fastball, and his curveball is a true out pitch. He’s close to the majors, will play in a great home park and for a team that excels at developing pitching, and he’s a near lock to miss over a bet per inning. The problems? Glasnow lacks a third pitch, is likely to hurt your WHIP early in his career, and can’t always repeat his delivery. There’s more risk here than you’d like to see, but the upside is as a true fantasy SP2.

Jose Berrios, Twins
I’ve done a complete 180 on Berrios and I’m now a full believer in his potential as a no. 2 starter. Yes, he’s short, but Berrios has three plus pitches, outstanding numbers in the high minors, and he showed last year that he can log close to a full slate of starts across a season. He’ll play in a good ballpark and could very well be up at the midpoint of the 2016 season, and while he might not be an impact strikeout guy he could be in ERA and WHIP. It’s not like the Twins have much standing in his way.

Blake Snell, Rays
Bret, Craig and I are doing our best to not have this be the case anymore, but Snell entered the offseason on the short list of most underrated dynasty prospects in the game, at least among top-100 options. Snell reigned in his command in a big way in 2015, and while he’s always going to put a few batters on via the walk he’s good enough at preventing hits that it might not matter. He’s got upside as a no.3 fantasy starter—especially in that home ballpark—and he’s a decent bet to make 15-plus MLB starts this year. He could end up being the 2015 Steven Matz of 2016.

Cody Reed, Reds
Reed was dominant in High-A with the Royals and in Double-A with the Reds last season, riding a potent fastball/slider combo en route to the no. 38 spot on Bret’s Dynasty 101 list. Reed’s third pitch needs further refinement and his success is so newfound that I’d like to see him do it again in 2016, but we could be looking at a bigger, slightly better version of Eduardo Rodriguez who pitches in the National League. The contextual factors here aren’t great, but almost everything else is.

Robert Stephenson, Reds
Do you like to gamble? On a good day, Stephenson is a no. 2 fantasy starter who can miss more than a bat per inning and keep the ball down in the zone. On a bad day he’s a likely reliever who misses with his spots and doesn’t seem to have mastered sequencing. This isn’t a unique profile for a fantasy prospect, but just remember that for every Yordano Ventura who figures it out there are a few Alex Meyers who don’t. I guess the best way to sum up Stephenson is through this sentiment; I’m both bummed and relieved I don’t own him in any leagues.

Sean Manaea, Athletics
There are a wide range of potential outcomes with Manaea. If we want to be lazy and just go with former A’s comps, he could be anything from The Good Gio Gonzalez to Drew Pomeranz to Liam Hendriks, from a fantasy POV. Inconsistency and an inability to stay on the mound have held back Manaea to this point—just shocking for a pitcher—but he flashes the stuff of a no. 2 and it’s hard not to be excited about his potential in Oakland. He’s one of the riskier higher-end fantasy arms out there right now, but given his relative proximity to the majors and the flashes of brilliance he shows he’s an enticing fantasy asset.

Jake Thompson, Phillies
Thompson is a whirlwind of plusses and minuses from a fantasy POV. He has three above-average pitches, a workhorse build and proximity to the majors all in his favor. He has poor command, poor contextual factors and inconsistent performances all weighing against him. Add it all up and you get a high-variance fantasy asset who could top out at a no. 3 starter or end up as high-WHIP waiver wire material. His strikeout potential makes him a valuable asset, but I don’t expect the early days of his career to involve a lot of smooth sailing.

Jon Gray, Rockies
If I am Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gray is my Anakin Skywalker. I thought he would bring balance to Coors Field. Instead he will cast it into further darkness. I truly thought Gray would be *that* pitching prospect who was too good for even Coors/Rockies player development to tame, but I was wrong. Gray’s command has never taken a step forward, and while he still flashes otherworldly stuff he can’t always harness it. That’s a deathknell in Colorado, and moves Gray from someone who I’d prefer to Stephenson on neutral ground to an asset who might not make my top 101. He is my pitching Garin Cecchini.

Jorge Lopez, Brewers
I think there’d be a lot more Lopez buzz if he wasn’t slated to play half off his games in a bad ballpark and all of his games in front of a bad team. WHIP might be an issue, but Lopez can miss bats and log innings, and he was downright dominant in Double-A last season before his cup of coffee in Milwaukee. The contextual factors probably limit him to a no. 5/6 fantasy starter right now, but as he settles into his career there’s the potential for more. In terms of arms who will contribute in 2016, he’s one of the better bets to produce on this list.

Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
Were Bradley’s 2015 struggles a direct result of his injuries, or are we now looking at a pitcher who’s both inconsistent *and* has a checkered medical past? That’s the million-dollar (or, like $20 for your buy-in or whatever) question for dynasty-league owners. Bradley still has two potential plus-plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, but, as he showed us last year, he can’t always use them. Factor in his home park and his shoulder troubles, and it’s easy to see why Bradley has fallen from a top-20 dynasty league prospect to someone on the back half of a top 100. If you own Bradley, don’t sell low on him. But if you don’t own Bradley, I wouldn’t go crazy trying to acquire him either.

Jameson Taillon, Pirates
Your guess is as good as mine. The ingredients for a fantasy no. 3/4 are still here, but so too is the possibility that Taillon will never be more than just a dream. I prefer gambling on this type of upside to hedging bets on non-impact arms, but understand that Taillon is a pretty massive gamble at this point.

Michael Fulmer, Tigers
Fulmer has yet to top 125 innings pitched in any season, as injuries and and inconsistencies have dogged him in professional ball to this point. But when it’s all clicking, Fulmer is a potential mid-rotation fantasy asset with the stuff to miss bats and the frame to log innings. He’s a fairly risky investment for someone without a sky-high upside, but he could put up numbers just good enough to justify considering him a top-100 name. High-leverage reliever is a possibility here, too.

Braden Shipley, Diamondbacks
Shipley serves as the cutoff on this list for me as a player with significantly more MLB value than fantasy value. If he reaches his ceiling he’s probably a no. 3 starter and no. 5/6 fantasy arm, but if he ends up as more of a back-end option he’s going to be fairly vanilla for our purposes, especially in Chase Field. Shipley still has more upside than players who will follow, and he’s also a safer bet than some of the next names we’re getting to as well. But he doesn’t really excel in any one area, and while his newness to pitching is a fine excuse for him in real life, it won’t help your ratios.

Kyle Zimmer, Royals
Zimmer is a lower probability arm than a few of the players listed below him here, but I’d rather gamble on his upside than settle for someone I know will struggle ever to be more than a backend starter. Zimmer can’t stay healthy, throwing just 217 innings total in his three-year career, and while he’s been dominant at nearly every stop he’s also only logged 66 2/3 innings above High-A. If Zimmer can stay on the mound he’s a potential fantasy SP3, but he’s probably only one more injury-shortened campaign away from a move to the bullpen.

Aaron Blair, Braves
Ever wish Mike Leake had spent his early years in a pitcher-friendly ballpark? You’ll love Aaron Blair! Perhaps this big righty has the chance to walk fewer batters and miss a few more bats, but not many, and he’ll be pitching for a pretty bad team for the next few years. He’s a borderline top-100 name because of his proximity, but talents like Blair are dime-a-dozen in deeper keepers.

Mark Appel, Phillies
I’m taking a pass on Appel. With so many conflicting reports from so many sources about Appel’s present ability and future potential, there’s nothing dynasty league owners can do but exercise caution. When Appel looked like a potential no. 2 starter, the uncertainty was tolerable. Now that he looks more like a mid-to-back-end option or a reliever, I’ll let someone else gamble on him, especially in Philadelphia.

Josh Hader, Brewers
Yes, Hader is *probably* a long-term reliever, but at this point we need to treat him like a starter until the Brewers move him to the ‘pen. Command issues and a delivery that’s going to give Doug Thorburn a stroke are real issues here, but Hader keeps striking people out and no one doubts the quality of his stuff. Dylan Bundy needing to move to the pen and Hader getting to stay a starter would be a very baseball thing for baseball to do to us.

A.J. Cole, Nationals
Cole probably has more name value than actual fantasy value at this point, but he still has the makings of a decent asset as a back-end fantasy SP, he should be ready soon and figures to pitch in the NL. Don’t invest heavily in players like this in any format, but feel free to snag him if you think you’ll need rotation depth and you roster 150-plus minor-leaguers. Conversely, if you already own Cole, see if someone still values him as the top-50 name some thought he was once upon a time.

Marco Gonzales, Cardinals
Like Cole, but with more risk thanks to shoulder fatigue and with a lower overall ceiling. He’s fine if you’re rostering 150-200 prospects because odds are he does see some MLB time as part of a good team in 2016. But in moderate to shallow leagues you can find guys like this on the waiver wire.

Colin Rea, Padres
There’s one thing separating Rea from everyone listed in “Others,” and that’s Petco Park. There’s no upside here, but there’s a decent floor if you’re desperate for IP.

Others: Miguel Almonte, KC; Tyrell Jenkins, ATL; Joe Musgrove, HOU; Pierce Johnson, CHC; Zach Davies, MIL; Ben Lively, PHI; Tim Cooney, STL; Yoan Lopez, ARI; Brian Johnson, BOS; Zach Eflin, PHI; John Gant, ATL; Clayton Blackburn, SF; Mike Wright, BAL; Christian Binford, KC

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
zekehiggins
2/26
BenC22
2/26
He'll be featured Monday in the 2017 and Beyond group
ares1800jr
2/26
This is awesome info. Thanks
TroJim
2/26
Vincent Velasquez, Phillies, lost prospect status by 5 innings last year. Where would he fit, if at all, on this list?
BenC22
2/26
This list isn't quite meant to be a straight ranking, but I'd have him right in the Thompson/Gray/Lopez area. Potential for lots of Ks and a high WHIP, still might be a reliever.
TroJim
2/26
Thanks
seansmallman
2/26
Who's highest on the list this year for redraft leagues?
BenC22
2/26
Definitely Matz. Has a job and is very good. I'd probably go Snell, Lopez and Berrios next with Bradley as a darkhorse.
MiguelPZ
2/28
Giolito?
BenC22
2/28
Giolito has the highest upside of any pitcher in the minors but he won't see as much time as Matz in 2016
MiguelPZ
2/28
Agreed, but from Matz you go to Snell, Lopez and Berrios. Bradley as a dark horse. No mention of Giolito.
BenC22
2/28
... because I don't think Giolito is going to have much of an impact this year.
MiguelPZ
2/28
Got it. Thought he might. Thanks.
tcfatone
3/29
You're not thinking a Super Two call up, then? June?
erprice
2/28
Where would Alex Reyes fit on this list? No chance of appearing in 2016? Thanks!
BenC22
2/28
I don't think Reyes is going to contribute meaningfully for fantasy this year. In terms of overall SP prospects, he's in the top 5.