by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We are all always looking for the next great pitcher who will hit the ground and dominate. Given the injuries around the league it would certainly appear like there’s another wave of youngsters coming, the question is how productive can they be upon arrival? Let’s take a closer look at three pitchers who may not be long for the Majors and determine their potential outlook:
Jacob Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – Right-Handed Pitcher
The Rays are known for developing pitching, and when you think of the current crop it’s Brett Honeywell who steals the spotlight. However Faria has quietly pitched well at Triple-A and could get the first opportunity when a need arises. Just look at the numbers over his first six starts of ’17:
31.2 IP, 4-0, 3.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 45 K, 13 BB
He’s struck out at least six in each of his starts, including an 11 K outing on April 28. It’s easy to say that the strikeout mark is a bit inflated, but he owns a minor league career 9.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He also has seen his groundball rate increase thus far, with a 1.00 GO/AO (0.80 for his career). If he can maintain that, along with the other skills, the upside is there.
One of the biggest questions facing him has been his control, though he was quoted by MILB.com as saying this after his 11 K outing:
“The main thing me and Kyle Snyder, the pitching coach, have been working on is using my lower half, and that’s helped everything become more consistent,” the 2011 10th-round pick said. “Being able to throw strikes with that has helped everything. My last game, I kind of fell out of that and reverted back to what I had been doing in the past and it made my command go astray again. This whole last week leading up to today, I was really focused on getting back to using the lower half.”
With 19 starts at Triple-A under his belt, his time is growing closer. There could easily be some bumps along the way, but given the strikeout potential and the discovery of his control, the upside is there as well.
Sean Newcomb – Atlanta Braves – Left-Handed Pitcher
It took him 100 pitches to get through 4.0 innings in his most recent outing, as he allowed 3 R (1 earned) on 8 H and 0 BB, striking out 6. No one is going to argue the strikeout stuff Newcomb brings to the table, the question has always been his control. With 15 BB over 30.1 IP overall this season it would appear that he’s continuing to struggle (4.8 BB/9 over his minor league career, 4.6 at Double-A last season). However he has issued just 2 BB vs. 17 K over his past 11.0 IP, so there’s hope that he’s starting to figure it out.
Newcomb had seen a “step back” in his strikeout rate at Double-A, though no one would complain about a 9.8 K/9. That said, seeing his early season success should ease any concerns people had that he could struggle against upper level hitters.
If that is the case, there’s little doubt that he could arrive shortly and make an instant impact. While the Braves had stacked their rotation with veterans (R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia), it’s easy to imagine at least one of them being traded away. They also are utilizing Mike Foltynewicz, who is no guarantee, so the opportunities should be there.
He’s going to need to show that he can maintain his improved control before he’s promoted to the Majors, but the Braves have the option to give him some time to develop. Keep a close eye, because there will be an opportunity, it’s just not coming yet.
Yohander Mendez – Texas Rangers – Left-Handed Pitcher
Prior to the season he was our top ranked Rangers’ prospect, and the fact that he opened the season at Double-A is a bit deceiving (he pitched 31.1 innings at Triple-A and 3.0 in the Majors last season). That has helped the speculation that he could be recalled to fill the void left by Cole Hamels, but it’s not like he’s been dominating in 2017 (3.72 ERA).
Our concern entering the season was that he had seen a drop in his strikeout rate as he moved up levels, and his 7.93 K/9 doesn’t help to change that (8.87 at Double-A last season). He also has struggled with his control, with a 3.96 BB/9, so while his groundball rate has improved (1.39 GO/AO) it’s not enough to overlook the issues.
There’s upside long-term, but don’t look for him as a short-term solution.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: