This is the final portion of my positional prospect rankings for 2015. My plan is to release the Top 100 Prospect List within the next 10 days.
While pitching prospects are inherently riskier than their hitting counterparts, there are a great number of must-own young pitchers listed below. In fact, there are top-100 prospects not even listed among the top 30. What makes these pitchers risky is not only the injury risk associated with the position, but the high standard for starting pitchers as broken down by Kevin Jebens. Those are some ridiculous numbers! Luckily for us, pitching isn’t just plentiful in the majors.
A reminder that I am not a scout. I watch a lot of video and read a ton of information as a fan of all things minor leagues. There are no eye-witness accounts of the players listed below, and they are ranked based on their fantasy value only. I hope you enjoy! For more starting pitching prospects, check out the Prospect Grid.
The Best of the Best
20-year-old Lucas Giolito is the best pitching prospect in baseball after dominating A ball in his first full professional season. After another year removed from Tommy John surgery, look for Giolito to progress quickly with his high 90s heat, outstanding curve and good change-up.
Left-handed pitchers Julio Urias, Daniel Norris and Carlos Rodon follow. Urias is just 18 years old and can already add “dominated the California league” to his resume. Equipped with 3 plus pitches, this left-hander is much closer to the bigs than his age shows. Norris, 21, breezed through 3 levels last year before getting a September call-up with the Blue Jays. With three plus pitches and the ability to strike out batters at a ridiculous rate, Norris could very well be the next big left-handed pitcher in the majors. Finally, Rodon has a knockout slider to go along with a mid 90s fastball from the left side. Drafted 3rd overall in 2014, Rodon is in a good situation with the White Sox’s strong coaching staff. Expect him to debut sometime in 2015.
Noah Syndergaard and Dylan Bundy may both have opportunities later in 2015. Syndergaard is a big right-hander, standing at 6′ 6″, 240 lbs. He has high 90s heat, a plus curveball, and a good change-up, all of which is paired with his very good command. Syndergaard looks like the 6th man in New York currently, but should be up at the first opportunity – assuming David Wright approves. Bundy looks to pitch without restrictions in 2015 as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. With 3 plus pitches (not even including his wipe-out cutter), Bundy will be ready for the majors later this year with some improvement in his velocity and command.
One is right-handed, the other left-handed, but both are big-time arms that almost appear unhittable. Tyler Glasnow is a hard-throwing 6’8″ right-hander who allowed just 74 hits in 124 innings in High A last year after allowing just 54 hits in 111 innings in A ball in 2013. With his high 90s fastball and plus curve, look for Glasnow to continue dominating next season in AA. Henry Owens is a big 6’6″ left-handed pitcher who features an outstanding change-up to go with a low 90s fastball and an improving curve ball. Owens greatly improved his control last year, cutting his BB rate by 25%, while still striking out batters at nearly 10 per 9 innings.
Finally Archie Bradley and Alex Meyer are two high-ceiling arms with spotty command. Bradley had one of the best fastball/curveball combinations in the minors before an elbow injury sent his 2014 season into a tailspin. He pitched well in the AFL and looks to put last year behind him. Meyer is a 6’9″, 220 lb right-handed pitcher who can touch 100mph with his fastball. He also features a knockout slider, but he walked almost 1 batter every 2 innings. Meyer is 25 years old and is looking to open the season in the Twins rotation, though a June call-up seems more likely.
While these 10 pitchers may be in the second tier, each has front of the rotation potential.
Luis Severino has a mid 90s fastball to go with a plus change-up and a developing slider. Just 21 years old, Severino was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 and has progressed far beyond expectations. Across 3 levels last year, he struck out 127 batters in 113 innings with just 27 walks. He could see a brief call-up late in 2015.
Jon Gray and Robert Stephenson both had success in AA last season and are nearing their big league debuts. Gray has a high 90s fastball, power slider and decent change-up. He pitches up in the zone, which may cause him to be home run-prone in Coors. His command is just average, but his arsenal is so good he can get away with it. Stephenson has electric stuff, featuring a high 90s fastball, a plus curve and an average change-up. His command took a step back in 2014, as he issued 74 walks in 137 innings. Stephenson just turned 22 last week, and with a full season of AA behind him, his debut won’t be far off.
Mark Appel has a mid 90s fastball, an outstanding slider and a pretty curve change-up. Despite his troubles in early 2014, Appel performed well in his AA call up and in the Arizona Fall league. His ceiling is closer to a 2/3 than a 1/2, but reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
Youngsters Hunter Harvey and Jose Berrios check in next. As a 19-year-old, Harvey dominated A ball last year, striking out 106 batters in just 88 innings. He has a plus fastball and curveball already with a promising change-up. Harvey experienced some elbow soreness late last season and was shut down, but he’s in spring training and has thrown some bullpen sessions already. If all goes well, 2015 should be his big coming out season. Just 20 years old, Berrios went from High-A all the way to AAA last year. His mid to high 90s fastball is one of four above average pitches. Berrios may not have ace upside, but he looks like a safe bet to be a solid major league arm.
Two pitchers to watch in 2015 are Braden Shipley and Alex Reyes. Shipley has a mid 90s fastball with an excellent change-up, and a curve that needs more development. Like many of the other young power arms, he has trouble commanding his pitches. He’s still relatively new to pitching, but it seems a safe bet that he can handle that challenge as well. I wrote about Reyes last year and continue to be very high on this young Cardinal right-hander. Just 20 years old, Reyes should start the season in AA and could be a huge climber on prospect lists this year.
Aaron Sanchez‘s role in 2015 is still very much in the air, with the club taking a wait and see approach until mid-March. In the bullpen, Sanchez was dominant last year with opponents hitting just .126 against him. As a starter he has a plus fastball, a plus curve and a good change-up, but his control was spotty in the minors. If he ends up as the closer, he could end up being one of the best in the game.
Jameson Taillon will be returning in 2015 after missing last year following Tommy John surgery. When he was healthy, he had a mid 90s fastball, outstanding curve, and an average change-up. Patience is likely in order as he tries to regain his form this year.
These are third tier prospects here, but they’re all easily top 100 prospects.
First round picks from 2013 and 2014, respectively, Kohl Stewart and Tyler Kolek both should make big steps forward this year. Stewart was drafted #4 overall in 2013 by the Twins out of high school. He has a mid 90s fastball and a plus hard slider to go with a developing curve and change-up. This may be the last opportunity to acquire Stewart at a discounted price. 19-year old Kolek is a big right-hander, standing 6’5″, 260 lbs. He was drafted #2 overall last year by the Marlins, highlighted by a 100 mph fastball. His command is still a work in progress, but he has ace potential if he can improve that and develop his curveball and change-up.
Big left-handers Sean Newcomb and Sean Manaea could skyrocket up this list in the next 12 months. Newcomb is 6’5″, 240lbs and was selected #15 overall by the Angels last year. He has a mid 90s fastball to go with an above average curveball and change-up. The command may not be there yet, but the stuff is promising. Manaea is also 6’5″ weighing 235 pounds. He throws a mid 90s fastball that is virtually unhittable to go with a decent slider and average change. Manaea struck out 146 batters in just 122 innings in the High A Carolina league.
Another Angels pitcher follows with Andrew Heaney, who was traded twice this offseason and finally landed with Anaheim. He throws in the low 90s but has a very good slider to go with excellent command. Heaney is competing for the 5th spot in the Angels rotation this spring.
Jake Thompson was traded to the Rangers last season after being the Tigers top pick in 2012. He has a mid 90s fastball and a devastating slider. His change-up and curve still need some work.
Some potential September call-ups round things off with Aaron Blair, Aaron Nola, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Eduardo Rodriguez. Blair is a big 22-year-old right-handed pitcher with a mid 90s fastball and a good curve and change. The lesser of the three Diamondbacks pitching prospects, he’s the safest bet to be at least a mid-rotation arm in the big leagues. Blair struck out 171 batters last year across 3 levels — the second most strikeouts recorded in the minors last year. Nola was the 7th pick overall in the 2014 June draft out of college. He has excellent command of three above-average pitches and looks like a solid #3 big league arm. Chi Chi Rodriguez, a 2013 first-round pick, has a mid 90s fastball, a plus slider and average curve ball and change-up. He gets heavy sink on his fastball generating huge ground ball rates. He may not have the highest ceiling but he’s nearly ready and looks like a solid #3 starter. Finally, three potentially plus pitches from left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez make him a potential steal for the Red Sox, as he was traded for a free agent reliever. Rodriguez saw his stuff improve with at the end of the year with his new club; whether or not it keeps up in 2015 is another question.
Honorable Mentions : Too many to mention, including A.J. Cole (Nationals), Steven Matz (Mets), Kyle Zimmer (Royals), Marco Gonzales (Cardinals), C.J. Edwards (Cubs), Matt Wisler (Padres), Brandon Finnegan (Royals), Pierce Johnson (Cubs)
Still need more rankings, head on over to Fantasy Rundown where Goose has compiled Prospect Rankings from all the top sites on the web along with rankings for the 2015 season and the best baseball links available.