Top 20 Right-Handed Pitching Prospects: #1-10 (Preseason 2017 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

As you would expect, some of the premier prospects in the game can be found on this list.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be questions, especially when it comes to control, and the injury to Alex Reyes does put a damper on things a little bit.  Still, when you start looking at the names you see the future and it’s bright.  Let’s take a look at how they stack up heading into 2017:

 

1) Lucas Giolito – Chicago White Sox
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived

Giolito made his debut in 2016, though it was rather underwhelming (6.75 ERA, 4.64 K/9, 5.06 BB/9).  No one is about to question the pure stuff, including a minor league career 9.7 K/9, though he did have some issues with his control while at Double-A (4.3 BB/9 over 71.0 IP).  That raised a bit of a red flag, though it hasn’t been the norm (3.0 BB/9 for his career).  At 6’6” it is possible that it takes him a little bit of time to fully harness his stuff, but last year’s issues should not be viewed as a significant red flag.

He also struggled with the long ball in the Majors (2.95 HR/9), though a 1.48 GO/AO in the minors again indicates that it isn’t a significant concern.  He has the stuff to be one of the elite starters in the game, in time.  Just be patient and allow him to develop.

 

2) Tyler Glasnow – Pittsburgh Pirates
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived

Glasnow got his first taste of the Majors in 2016 (23.1 IP), after appearing in Double and Triple-A, struggling with his control at every stop:

  • Double-A (6.0 IP) – 9.00 BB/9
  • Triple-A (110.2 IP) – 5.04 BB/9
  • Majors (23.1 IP) – 5.01 BB/9

With a 4.4 BB/9 over his minor league career, the struggles shouldn’t have come as a surprise.  Then again, listed at 6’8” control will likely be the last thing that the 23-year old discovers.  There’s no questioning his stuff, as it is elite and can be seen in his minor league career 11.6 K/9.  He also brings more than enough groundballs (0.91 GO/AO), so when the control develops he has the potential to be one of the best in the game.

Will that development come in 2017?  Will it come in 2018?  Will it ever come?  That’s the million dollar question, but the arm is one that simply can’t be ignored.

 


 

3) Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived

Reyes arrived in the Majors in 2016 with much fanfare, and while he did spend some time pitching out of the bullpen (12 appearances, 5 starts) he showed off his electric stuff en route to a 10.17 K/9.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions, as he continually has struggled to find his control:

  • High-A (2015) – 4.38
  • Double-A (2015) – 4.67
  • Triple-A (2016) – 4.41
  • Majors (2016) – 4.50

Just 22-years old (he’ll turn 23 in August), there’s obviously still time for him to figure things out.  However we’d like to see some sort of growth, otherwise a move to the bullpen where he could emerge as an elite closer isn’t out of the question.  There was also the 50-game suspension to open the season for testing positive for marijuana, just adding another thing to keep an eye on.

(Note: Had it not been for the injury Reyes likely would’ve been #1 or #2 on this list)

 

4) Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017

Generally known for an ability to develop young pitching, Honeywell is a name that people need to become accustomed with in short order.  Selected in the second round of the 2014 draft he’s shown an impressive ability to both generate strikeouts and control the strike zone since being selected:

  • Strikeouts – 9.2 K/9
  • Walks – 1.9 BB/9

He’s listed at 6’2” and 180 lbs., so there’s room for him to grow and further add velocity as he continues to mature (he’ll turn 22-years old just before the start of the 2017 season).  Couple that with a screwball, which is rarely seen (and he is highly effective with), changeup and curveball and you get the makings of a top of the rotation star.  While we’d love to see a few more groundballs, it’s splitting hairs. Blake Snell has gotten all of the attention, but Honeywell deserves his share and the dup provide significant hope for the team’s long-term outlook.

 

5) Anderson Espinoza – San Diego Padres
Grade – A-
ETA – 2019

He will turn 19-years old prior to the start of the ’17 season, making the numbers that much more impressive.  Splitting time between two different Single-A teams (thanks to the trade from Boston), he put up the following numbers:

108.1 IP, 4.49 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 100 K, 35 BB, 1.11 GO/AO

Maybe the numbers weren’t that impressive, though consider his age and the potential for him to continue to grow and mature (he’s currently listed at 6’0” and 160 lbs.).  The stuff is there, but he needs to be given time to learn/develop.  There are going to be bumps along the way, but look for him to learn from them and continue to improve.

 


 

6) Francis Martes – Houston Astros
Grade – A-
ETA – 2017

Acquired from Miami back in 2014, Martes was impressive in his first full season at Double-A as he posted a 3.30 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.  His control took a small step backwards, though no one is going to complain about a 3.4 BB/9 (he was at 2.5 in ’15) when you generate a 9.4 K/9 and 1.00 GO/AO (he owns a 1.19 mark over the course of his career).

A hard thrower, reports have his curveball as being his best secondary offering with his changeup taking dramatic steps forward as well.  If he can master the latter the upside is tremendous, though being listed at 6’1” is going to give some people concern.  Regardless he has ace-like stuff and could arrive before long.

 

7) Jose De Leon – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – A-
ETA – Already Arrived

De Leon has gone from a 24th round draft pick to one of the premier pitching prospects in the game.  While his four starts in the Majors weren’t anything special, he showed an elite skill set over 86.1 IP at Triple-A:

  • Strikeouts – 11.57 K/9
  • Walks – 2.08 BB/9

With a minor league 12.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 it’s clear that he owns both of these skill, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t concern.  Now pitching in the AL East there’s a very real possibility that home runs become an issue.  Last season he posted a 0.62 GO/AO an owns a minor league career mark of 0.87.  It’s not an issue that’s going to disappear, and until he proves that he can keep the ball in the ballpark in the Major Leagues, it’s going to be a question hanging over him.

 

8) Mitch Keller – Pittsburgh Pirates
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019

A 2014 second round pick, Keller spent the bulk of 2016 at Single-A and impressed with a 9.48 K/9, 1.30 BB/9 and 1.50 GO/AO.  Standing at 6’3” and 195 lbs., there’s the potential that he continues to develop physically and sees his stuff improve a little bit more (aka adding more velocity).

For a 20-year old to show this type of control, while also showing the ability to generate a significant number of groundballs, the upside is clearly there.  With the potential for the stuff to improve, given his age and projectability, there’s the potential for him to fully breakout in 2017.
 

9) Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox
Grade – B+
ETA – 2018

He missed the start of the season after breaking his pitching hand, and the incident (when coupled with last year’s suspension) certainly brings question to his maturity.  It’s certainly fair, though there’s no questioning the actual talent.  Pitching at High-A he racked up 82 K over 52.0 IP this past season and owns one of the biggest fastballs in the minor leagues.  His control is a question (5.02 BB/9), though there are reports that the team is working on his delivery to help him find consistency.  If he can get there, the upside of a true ace is there.  The upcoming season is going to be a telling one, but he has the potential to develop into a Top 10 pitching prospect overall.

 

10) Erick Fedde – Washington Nationals
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017

After returning from Tommy John surgery in 2015, Fedde was fully rounding back into form in 2016 between High-A and Double-A:

  • High-A (91.2 IP) – 9.33 K/9, 1.87 BB/9, 1.35 GO/AO
  • Double-A (29.1 IP) – 8.59 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.90 GO/AO

We aren’t going to read too much into the Double-A numbers, as they came in a small sample size.  In 185.0 innings since returning from surgery he’s racked up 182 K, 45 BB and a 1.35 GO/AO.  It’s impressive across the board, and at 23-years old (he’ll turn 24 in February) he should move quickly.  After the Nationals traded away much of their MLB ready pitching depth, Fedde should debut in Washington at some point in the second half.

 

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Frangraphs, Baseball Reference

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Grading System:
Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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