We continue our prospect rankings with a look at the future of the starting pitcher position. As he has throughout this series, Andy Germani joins me to rank the top minor league pitching prospects. Our rankings will be consolidated to give you our final site rankings, but you can see where Andy and I ranked them in the table as well. These are fantasy rankings, and I remind you that Andy and I are not scouts, just simply heavy followers of baseball prospects. We hope you enjoy the rankings!
|8||Jose De Leon||Dodgers||23||2016||8||10|
|T9||Anderson Espinoza||Red Sox||17||2019||9||11|
|20||Carson Fulmer||White Sox||22||2017||N/A||15|
The following players received one vote: Hunter Harvey, Orioles (Andy 22), Michael Fulmer, Tigers (Paul 25), while Brady Aiken, Indians received two 24th place votes.
Who is your favorite pitching prospect to break out in 2016?
Andy: Hunter Harvey missed all of last season so he only has 113 innings under his belt. In his limited action, Harvey allowed 33 walks and racked up 139 strikeouts, with 106 of them coming over 87 2/3 innings at high-A in 2014. If Harvey returns to the mound healthy we might be talking about a top 10 pitching prospect by the time midseason rankings come out.
Paul: With the leap that Francis Martes has made up prospect lists, one might argue his breakout came in 2015. I might even agree, as he pitched in three levels finishing up in AA at just 19 years of age. While his overall numbers were solid (102 IP, 83 H, 28 BB, 98 K), his K rate didn’t start to spike until half way through the season. Featuring a high 90’s fastball and a plus curve, Martes still needs to improve his change-up in order to take that next step forward. After the growth he showed last year, I suspect we’ll see that development and be talking about one of the game’s best pitching prospects before too long.
What prospect could make a surprising contribution to fantasy teams in 2016?
Andy: There are some obvious guys to contribute this year like Kenta Maeda, Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Giolito,etc. but if you are looking for a non obvious option Zach Davies might be a good guy to grab. He isn’t a big name in the prospect world, but he is almost guaranteed to log a decent amount in 2016, although the Chase Anderson trade will probably bump him out of the starting rotation to start the season I expect him to be the first option when someone needs rest or goes on the DL. In 6 starts last season he had a 3.71 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. The strikeout numbers aren’t great, but if you want a solid pitcher with an ERA in the mid to upper 3’s and a solid WHIP Davies is a really cheap option for 2016.
Paul: It’s been a long time since the Tigers have had a prospect like Michael Fulmer, and with their lack of starting pitching depth it may not be long before he makes a big league impact. Fulmer pitched 125 innings last year, striking out 125 hitters while walking just 30. With some room for innings growth, Fulmer shouldn’t be on too short of a leash in 2016 if the Tigers need a starting pitcher. While Verlander and Zimmermann can be counted on for 200 innings, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfry and Daniel Norris are anything but locks to provide big innings in 2016. Shane Greene, Matt Boyd and Kyle Ryan are the other options for the Tigers; none of which have the same potential to hold on to the job as Michael Fulmer does. Between the stuff and potential opportunity, Fulmer is an easy choice for me here.
What lesser-known prospect should fantasy owners put on their radars now?
Andy: Anyone remember Lucas Sims? The once top prospect is now way off of everyone’s radar because of the new kids on the block the past two seasons. Sims struggled in 45 innings between the rookie league and high-A. However when he got the call to AA he improved. Sims had a 3.21 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He followed that up with 17 innings of solid pitching in the Fall league with a 2.12 ERA and 17 strikeouts. It feels like Sims has been around forever; he was drafted in 2012, but he is still only going to be 21 when the season starts in April. There is a lot of promise still left in his arm and his 4 years of maturing in the minors put him closer than a lot of the other guys that I did rank.
Paul: The Phillies farm system went from one of the worst in baseball to one of the most exciting in very short order, and Franklyn Kilome will only help to boost its profile moving forward. Kilome is a big 6’6″ RHP who throws in the mid 90’s with a curveball that already flashes plus potential. When you factor in the distance to the major leagues to the inherent risks of pitching prospects, it’s easy to disregard most pitchers who haven’t thrown above A ball. Kilome has a very high ceiling though and could very well be worth the risk of a roster spot now.
What prospect would it not surprise you if he fell significantly in the next year?
Andy: Dylan Bundy, Jameson Taillon, Hunter Harvey, Brady Aiken, Sean Newcomb, and Robert Stephenson all have great upside, but they also come with a lot of risk. The first four come with obvious injury concerns, but Stephenson and Newcomb have me worried about their control. Newcomb’s walk rate keeps climbing year after year while Stephenson’s is sitting in the high 4’s in walks per nine. Control is a big issue when going through the minors. It is one thing to have a low walk rate in the low levels like the rookie league when great stuff can get batters to chase, but when the walk rate is up to nearly 5 BB/9 it is worrisome. Hitters get better eyes as you rise up the levels and getting behind in the count will hurt a lot more when you are throwing a 3-1 fastball to the likes of Bryce Harper rather than some random AA player. If Newcomb can’t figure out how to lower that walk rate I expect his homers allowed number to take a big jump in AA and AAA this season.
Paul: It might not be fair to list Dylan Bundy here, but after his elbow issues turned into shoulder worries I am less than optimistic. Add in the fact that he’s out of options and likely to pitch out of the bullpen for the Orioles this year, and I think there’s a better chance than not that he never realizes his potential as a big league starter. It’s too bad.
Come back next week when we will publish our Top 100 prospects for 2016.
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 2016 season and the best baseball links available.