Prospect Values: Pitchers

It has been almost 14 years since Baseball Prospectus declared there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. Over time people have caught on. The top pitching prospect in all of baseball was lost in the past couple weeks to Tommy John Surgery and is now looking at nearly a year and a half before he will be pitching in baseball games again.

Hitters don’t have the risks pitchers do. It is very rare for something to knock a hitter out for more than two months, let alone affect him for nearly two seasons.

Pitchers also don’t have as much flexibility to be able to provide just one category and be valuable. Batters can hit .230 but hit 30 home runs and have value, or have no power whatsoever and be owned because they can steal bases like Billy Hamilton or Ben Revere. If a pitcher strikes out a batter an inning but can’t keep the ERA under 4.5 and WHIP under 1.30, that pitcher is barely ownable.

The best pitching prospects to invest in are the low-cost pitchers in the low levels of the minors or the ones on the verge of making it to the majors.

If you have any questions on any players feel free to ask about them in the comment section below or on Twitter

If you are looking for the prospect pitcher rankings, click here. We will continue to have prospect rankings on Friday’s and my values the following week.

Undervalued

Triston McKenzie: McKenzie dominated to start the season at low-A Mahoning Valley, allowing only three earned runs in 49 1/3 innings while striking out 55. In our original write-up, I considered McKenzie as my breakout arm before choosing Allard.

McKenzie, like Allard, is at that point in the minors where he is about to pop up on the radar and fly up boards. Low-level arms (A+ and lower) tend to get overlooked, and rightfully so because they are so far from being a fantasy asset and there are a lot of roadblocks on the way.

McKenzie should see time in AA this year. I don’t know if the majority of his minor league time will be there (he is still just 19), but once a pitcher hits AA, the idea of being a major league pitcher becomes a reality.

He is 6’5” and 165 pounds, so there is still a lot of projection with him. I don’t think he has one standout pitch, but he has a nice three pitch mix, and his height helps the low 90s fastball get the downhill trajectory. This will probably be the last time to get McKenzie relatively cheap in dynasty leagues unless he suffers the dreaded torn UCL.

Cal Quantrill: Speaking of the dreaded torn UCL, Quantrill tore his in 2015, missed all of his 2016 college season, and was still the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft. He made his pro debut in June, and his workload was limited, never topping 70 pitches. This season will be more of a test for Quantrill as he should be pushed a little more in his first full minor league season.

Quantrill has an excellent fastball/changeup combination that should be able to blow through the minor leagues when he is allowed to go all out in his starts.

The downside here is that he is already 22 and will still likely be a little limited as it is his first full season since the surgery. We might be seeing Quantrill in the majors at the end of the 2018 season or early in 2019 as a 23 or 24-year old that will probably still be on an innings limit. That being said: 24 isn’t old, so don’t let deter you from getting Quantrill in your leagues. You might even be able to use it to your advantage.

Dylan Cease: I seem to be higher on Cease than most as you will see on Friday when our top-100 is released.

Cease has one of those can’t-teach heat fastballs where he hits the mid to high 90s with ease and can hit 100 on occasion. He used that fastball, along with an excellent curveball and an average changeup, to strike out 66 batters in just 44 2/3 innings last season. I think Cease could be a future top of the rotation type starter – number one or two in a major league rotation, yet he is not being treated that way.

The risk with Cease is he is “just” 6’2” and throwing as hard as he is, so maybe he doesn’t stay healthy, but we can say that for just about any pitching prospect. The good news, perhaps, is that he has already had Tommy John Surgery and is back throwing heat.

Alex Reyes: Just in case you were considering trading him, don’t. The only way I could see moving Reyes is to get something that puts you over the top to win a title or if you can retain top-30 prospect level value.


Overvalued

Robert Stephenson: I have never really been super high on Stephenson, or at least as high as everyone else has been. He has always had a bad walk rate, and the strikeouts were never at the “blow me away” level like Tyler Glasnow for example.

Since his age-20 season, spread between class-A, high-A, and AA (mostly class-A) he has walked at least 12 percent of the batters he faced. For what it is worth, below is a FanGraphs chart on pitcher walk rates

Stephenson’s 12 percent is so far off the chart it isn’t even worth noting. I would do whatever I could to flip Stephenson for anything I could get. It probably helps that he is on the cusp of the majors; use that to your advantage.

Sean Newcomb: Newcomb is similar to Stephenson, but the worry isn’t as high right now. He has been able to strike out enough batters to keep his terrible walk rate a little quiet. The good news for Newcomb is that he was able to lower his walk rate to 12 percent, but his strikeouts also dropped.

Newcomb is 23 now, in AA, and still having trouble walking less than 10 percent of the batters he faces. His age and his level don’t make me think he is even close to the majors like it typically would. I wouldn’t be surprised if the young arms that were at Rome last season pass him on the organization ladder.

Newcomb does have good stuff so if he does is able to figure out how to get the walk rate under eight or nine percent, he could have a decent major league career. But even at eight or nine percent, he is far from being a pitcher you would really want to own.

*****

If you have any questions or players at a position I haven’t gotten to yet also leave them in the comment section below and I can do some digging and maybe they will be included when I get to that position.

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Andy Germani
I am a lifelong Pittsburgh sports fan and a graduate from Penn State. Baseball was my first love and I still play to this day in an adult baseball league. I always love helping people with their questions on Twitter so feel free to follow me and ask questions.