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Prospect Positional: SP

by Matthew Foreman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

This week’s Prospect Positional will cover starting pitchers, a position in which there have been two graduations, much struggling among the top prospects and a bunch of prospects that could be in the major leagues in September.

 

Note: All statistics are current through Sunday, July 6.

 

Updated top-15

 

Updated 5/19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
1 1 3 Noah Syndergaard Mets Las Vegas (AAA)
2 2 6 Jon Gray Rockies Tulsa (AA)
3 3 8 Lucas Giolito Nationals Hagerstown (Low-A)
4 4 4 Archie Bradley Diamondbacks Mobile (AA)
5 7 12 Dylan Bundy Orioles Frederick (High-A)
6 12 N/R Hunter Harvey Orioles Delmarva (Low-A)
7 10 24 Andrew Heaney Marlins New Orleans (AAA)
8 13 19 Kohl Stewart Twins Cedar Rapids (Low-A)
9 8 10 Robert Stephenson Reds Pensacola (AA)
10 15 17 Julio Urias Dodgers Rancho Cucamonga (High-A)
11 N/R N/R Braden Shipley Diamondbacks Visalia (High-A)
12 N/R N/R Nick Kingham Pirates Indianapolis (AAA)
13 Bubble N/R Jose Berrios Twins Fort Myers (High-A)
14 Bubble 16 Tyler Glasnow Pirates Bradenton (High-A)
15 Bubble 20 Henry Owens Red Sox Portland (AA)

 

Graduates

 

May 19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team
6 N/R Trevor Bauer Indians
14 14 Eddie Butler Rockies

 

It’s easy to forget that Trevor Bauer won’t turn 24 until 2015.  He has not dominated the way the Indians would have hoped, but his walk rate is a respectable 3.4 BB/9, and he has not had any true “clunkers” in his ten starts in 2014.

 

After getting hit hard in his major league debut, Eddie Butler was placed on the disabled list with rotator cuff inflammation.  He threw live batting practice on Saturday, and should be back in the major leagues before the end of July.

 

Small sample size

 

Updated May 19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
5 7 12 Dylan Bundy Orioles Frederick (High-A)

 

Dylan Bundy has made three starts with Short Season-A Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League before making one with the Frederick Keys of the High-A Carolina League.  The Orioles are taking it very slowly with him, and it looks unlikely that he could be back in the major leagues before August.

 

Superb performance

 

Updated May 19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
3 3 8 Lucas Giolito Nationals Hagerstown (Low-A)
6 12 N/R Hunter Harvey Orioles Delmarva (Low-A)
12 N/R N/R Nick Kingham Pirates Indianapolis (AAA)
13 Bubble N/R Jose Berrios Twins Fort Myers (High-A)
14 Bubble 16 Tyler Glasnow Pirates Bradenton (High-A)

 

In 2014, Lucas Giolito has been everything he was advertised to be heading into the 2012 draft.  He has bounced back from Tommy John surgery, holding opposing batters to an .180/.253/.315 line while putting up a 9.6 K/9 ratio.  For the first time as a professional, he pitched seven innings on July 2.  He could be up as soon as late-2016, as the Nationals will be very careful with his workload.

 

Hunter Harvey bounced back from his worst outing as a professional to have three consecutive solid outings for the Delmarva Shorebirds.  Harvey has been shutting down batters in the Low-A South Atlantic League, putting up a 10.8 K/9 while holding opposing batters to a .202/.305/.296 line.

 

Nick Kingham has used a mid-90s fastball, a hard-breaking curve ball and an average change-up to carve up Double-A and Triple-A batters in 2014. He projects as a solid No. 3 pitcher, but has the potential to be a No. 2 if everything comes together.  He could be up as soon as September.

 

Through May 18, opposing batters were hitting .248/.314/.338 against Jose Berrios while striking out in 22.0 percent of their plate appearances.  Since then, they have hit .197/.241/.282 while striking out in 32.7 percent of their plate appearances.  The 20-year old Berrios could be in line for a promotion to Double-A New Britain before the end of the season.

 

For the season, Tyler Glasnow has allowed 37 hits, 37 walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 79 in 69 innings.  He has legitimate frontline potential, but his poor command leads him to high pitch counts and too many base runners.  He is unlikely to reach the major leagues until 2016, but could turn into a closer if he is unable to improve his command.

 

Holding serve

 

Updated May 19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
2 2 6 Jon Gray Rockies Tulsa (AA)
4 4 4 Archie Bradley Diamondbacks Mobile (AA)
7 10 24 Andrew Heaney Marlins New Orleans (AAA)
8 13 19 Kohl Stewart Twins Cedar Rapids (Low-A)
9 8 10 Robert Stephenson Reds Pensacola (AA)
10 15 17 Julio Urias Dodgers Rancho Cucamonga (High-A)
11 N/R N/R Braden Shipley Diamondbacks Visalia (High-A)
15 Bubble 20 Henry Owens Red Sox Portland (AA)

 

For the season, opposing batters have hit .252/.310/.400 off Jon Gray.  Despite his solid 8.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, he has been oddly hittable, allowing 8.4 H/9 and .148 isolated power.

 

After returning from the DL, Archie Bradley had one start with the Rookie-level AZL Diamondbacks, and has been pitching for the Double-A Mobile BayBears.  Despite a solid 1.42 ERA, he has been oddly hittable, as opposing hitters have hit .262/.404/.310 against him in his three starts.  Bradley should be pitching for Triple-A Reno soon, and could be in the major leagues by September.

 

After thoroughly dominating Double-A and Triple-A, Andrew Heaney learned that hitters in the major leagues are really, really good.  After failing to get out of the fourth inning in his fourth start, he was sent back to Triple-A New Orleans.   Often, failure such as this can be very good for a young pitcher, as it can help show the pitcher (and the organization) areas in which they need to improve.

 

Kohl Stewart has been pitching well all year, holding opposing batters to a .228/.304/.309 line in his first full professional season.  However, his 6.4 K/9 is lower than expected for a pitcher who has the potential to be a solid #2 pitcher.  Stewart’s ability to induce weak contact is a great sign, as is shown by the .081 isolated power.

 

Robert Stephenson has pitched well in his first full introduction to Double-A, holding opposing hitters to a .215/.309/.377 line while putting up a 9.0 K/9.  His undoing has been his 4.9 BB/9 that has inflated his WHIP to 1.310 despite a solid 7.1 H/9.  If he can improve his command, he could turn into a solid #2 pitcher.

 

Julio Urias is 17 years old and has a 9.6 K/9 and a 1.305 WHIP in a league where the average age is roughly 23 years old.  The fact that he is not making a complete fool of himself is amazing, and the fact that he’s doing pretty well is even more amazing.  Urias will turn 18 in mid-August, and could be in the major leagues by the end of 2015.  He has the potential to be a #2, but will likely struggle in his introduction to major league hitters.

 

Braden Shipley is best known for his fluid delivery, mid-90s fastball and above-average fastball that has shown good fade.  His last two starts for Visalia have left something to be desired, but he has the makings of a solid #3 pitcher.

 

Through May 19, Henry Owens held opposing batters to a .190/.300/.302 line with 57 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings over nine starts.  Since then, he has held opposing batters to a .177/.227/.247 line with 54 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings over seven starts.  If he can keep striking out nearly one batter per inning while keeping his OPS below .500, he could spend time with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox before the end of July, and spend time in Boston before the end of the year.

 

Struggling

 

Updated May 19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
1 1 3 Noah Syndergaard Mets Las Vegas (AAA)

 

Noah Syndergaard has struggled in 2014, and the offense-friendly hitting environment in Las Vegas is not totally to blame.  Opposing batters have hit .303/.349/.459 off him, which includes a poor .342/.368/.523line since he returned from the disabled list in early June.  He dominated the Albuquerque Isotopes on July 6, striking out eight batters while allowing six hits and one run.  The Mets could still promote him soon, but it would be nice to see Syndergaard string together a few more good starts.

 

On the Bubble (listed alphabetically)

 

Updated May 19 Pre-Season Name MLB Team MiLB Team
Bubble 9 7 Mark Appel Astros Lancaster (High-A)
Bubble 11 11 Max Fried Padres AZL (Rookie)
Bubble N/R N/R Rob Kaminsky Cardinals Peoria (Low-A)
Bubble N/R 28 Alex Meyer Twins Rochester (AAA)
Bubble N/R N/R Daniel Norris Blue Jays Dunedin (High-A)
Bubble N/R N/R Alex Reyes Cardinals Peoria (Low-A)
Bubble Bubble 21 Aaron Sanchez Blue Jays New Hampshire (AA)
Bubble Bubble 9 Jameson Taillon Pirates N/A
Bubble N/R N/R Lewis Thorpe Twins Cedar Rapids (Low-A)
Bubble 5 5 Kyle Zimmer Royals N/A

 

Mark Appel has pitched better since his disastrous outing on May 31 in which he allowed ten hits and two walks while only retiring four batters.  The problem is that “better” is an opposing .310/.333/.493 slash line and 11 strikeouts in 18 innings.  His potential is still there, but it would be nice to see success for the pitcher who was the best pitching prospect for two consecutive drafts.

 

Max Fried made his 2014 organized baseball debut on July 3, allowing three hits and one run while striking out one batter in one inning of work.  He made his second appearance on July 6, striking out three while allowing one single and one walk.  He should be pitching for High-A Lake Elsinore within the next few weeks.

 

Rob Kaminsky has dominated the Low-A Midwest League, holding opposing batters to a plebeian .177/.249/.227 line while putting up an 7.7 K/9.  The knock on Kaminsky is that he’s small for a starting pitcher, at 5’11” and 190 pounds, but he has a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a curveball that is one of the best in the minor leagues and a change-up that could turn into an above-average offering.

 

Due to a strained throwing shoulder, Alex Meyer threw only 78 1/3 innings in 2013.  In 2014, he has already thrown 83 1/3 innings in Triple-A, holding opposing batters to a .232/.329/.340 line and putting up an impressive 10.0 K/9.  Meyer primarily employs his mid-90s fastball and power-curve to stymie opposing batters, and he also has a low-90s sinker.

 

Daniel Norris has responded to his promotion from High-A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire by increasing his K/9 from 10.3 to 13.8 while his opposing batters’ lines increased slightly from .209/.264/.259 to .175/.266/.333.   Norris projects as a solid #3 starter who has the potential to be a #2.  He uses his low-90s fastball, snapping slider and above-average change-up.  He also throws a curveball that could be average.  Norris’ walks have been a bit high, and increased from 2.4 BB/9 in High-A to 3.3 BB/9 in Double-A.  He could be in the major leagues as soon as the end of 2015.

 

Alex Reyes was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, but moved to live with relatives in the Dominican Republic in order to circumvent the draft rules and sign as an international free agent.  The Cardinals gave him $950,000, and he has flashed the potential to be a number 2 starter.  Reyes employs his low-to-mid-90s fastball, and an above-average breaking ball.  His third pitch is a change-up, which needs substantial work before it will be an average pitch.  The main knock on Reyes is his command, the amount of work he needs is clearly shown by his 6.1 BB/9 ratio for the Peoria Chiefs of the Low-A Midwest League.

 

After being promoted to Triple-A Buffalo in mid-June, Aaron Sanchez has pitched well, but his strikeout rate has further decreased (from 7.8 K/9 to 6.5).  His walk rate has remained elevated (5.5 BB/9 in AA, 5.1 BB/9 in AAA) and his WHIP has increased due to a spike in hit rate (1.394 in AA to 1.595 in AAA).  The primary concern for Sanchez is his command, and he will likely need a full season in Triple-A before he makes his major league debut.

 

The 22-year old Jameson Taillon has missed the entire season with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  If he were healthy, he would likely be approximately one month into his major league career.  He should be pitching by early 2015, and could be in the major leagues by the end of 2015.

 

Minnesota Twins lefty Lewis Thorpe employs a low-90s fastball, a fading change-up, a down-breaking curveball and a slider to dominate Midwest League batters as an 18-year old.  His first few starts were not noteworthy, other than his age (18) compared to the age of his competition (the average player is nearly 22), but he struck out eight batters in 4 2/3 innings in his fifth start.  Thorpe has the potential to be a solid #2 pitcher, but he is unlikely to reach the majors until late-2017.

 

Kyle Zimmer is scheduled to start a throwing program on July 15, and it looks highly unlikely that he will pitch in the major leagues this year, as he will need substantial time to rebuild his arm strength.  He has the makings of a solid #2 pitcher, but the string of injuries, including one to his shoulder, are worrisome.

Matthew Foreman
Matthew Foreman is a baseball prospect writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.