Top 25 Starting Pitcher Prospects: #11-25 (Preseason 2016 Edition)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Last week we kicked off our Top 25 Starting Pitcher Prospect Rankings (click here to view), but who just missed cracking the Top 10?  Which prospects could be flying under-the-radar for some?  Let’s take a look at who fills out our Top 25:

11) Robert Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds
#1 prospect for Reds
Grade – B+

No one is going to question the pure stuff, as Stephenson’s arm is electric and he already has three potentially above average pitches. Splitting time between Double & Triple-A last season he posted a 9.4 K/9 (9.8 over his minor league career), but his control has gone off the rails over the past two seasons:

  • 2014 – 4.9 BB/9
  • 2015 – 4.7 BB/9

Couple that with potential home run issues (0.80 GO/AO in ’15, 28 HR over 231.1 IP at Double-A) and there is reason to believe he will ultimately fall short of reaching his ceiling.  He has the highest upside of any Cincinnati prospect, but there is still development to be done.

12) Aaron Blair – Atlanta Braves
#4 prospect for Braves
Grade – B+

He split time between Double and Triple-A last season, showing control (BB/9 of 2.48 and 3.16) and the ability to generate groundballs (1.42 GO/AO).  He saw his strikeout rate fall last season, which is something we’ll need to monitor, as he posted K/9 of 6.91 and 6.55.  He had shown a lot more than that coming up through the minors, so there is reason for optimism.  At 6’5″ and 230 lbs. there’s little reason to think that he can’t stick in the rotation and he’s another high upside arm to what is truly becoming an impressive group.

13) Taylor Guerrieri – Tampa Bay Rays
#2 prospect for Rays
Grade – B+

The Rays are always a team that seems to have a plethora of young pitchers, and while Guerrieri is arriving later than expected (thanks to Tommy John surgery) his time is quickly approaching.  He tossed 78.0 innings across two levels last season, reaching Double-A, posting a 1.85 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  Even better was his 8.31 K/9, 2.19 BB/9 and 2.72 GO/AO (2.99 over his minor league career).  In other words, now healthy the once top prospect is showing the skill set that could thrive in any environment.  It’s easy to forget about him, but he’s going to come quickly and has the underlying makeup of a pitcher we want to own.

14) Jeff Hoffman – Right-Handed Pitcher
#4 prospect for Rockies
Grade – B+

Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the Troy Tulowitzki trade, Hoffman had a strong showing as he returned from Tommy John surgery. Over 104.0 IP he posted a 2.3 BB/9 and 1.37 GO/AO. While the strikeouts weren’t there, 6.5 K/9, the stuff is better than that. He has the prototypical size teams look for, at 6’5” and 225 lbs., and could emerge as a top-of-the-rotation arm. He may have gone earlier in the draft had it not been for the injury, though the fact that the Blue Jays were still willing to use the ninth overall selection on him speaks volumes about his potential.

15) Kolby Allard – Atlanta Braves
#5 prospect for Braves
Grade – B+

Had he not been injured (he suffered a stress reaction in his back) he likely would’ve been drafted significantly earlier than he was (he went 14th, but could’ve been among the top two or three selections). That alone tells you the upside, and the southpaw certainly presented himself well in his first taste of professional baseball (12 K, 0 BB, 1 H over 6.0 IP). Obviously we aren’t going to draw any conclusions off of those numbers, but in a system that has numerous high upside arms, Allard’s upside looks like it’s the highest. At 18-years old he’s going to need time to develop and prove the injury isn’t a long-term concern, but the potential is there to be a top of the rotation starter.

16) Anderson Espinoza – Boston Red Sox
#2 prospect for Red Sox
Grade – B+

This is an aggressive ranking, but there is a ton to like about this 17- year old (he will turn 18 in March) who has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. He produced 65 K vs. 14 BB over 58.1 IP this past season and should continue to gain in his “stuff”, as he grows (only 160 lbs. right now). As it is he already reaches the upper 90s with his fastball, so further growth is pretty scary. Don’t be surprised to start hearing his name in comparison to the Dodgers’ Julio Urias.

17) Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals
#2 prospect for Cardinals
Grade – B+

Selected in the first round of the 2014 draft, Flaherty certainly presented himself well in his first full season of professional baseball. Over 95.0 IP at Single-A he posted a 2.84 ERA courtesy of a 9.19 K/9 and 2.94 BB/9, cementing his role as a starting pitcher (he was also a third baseman in college, though at this point that appears to be in his rearview mirror). He has the size (6’4”, 205 lbs.) and stuff, plus we all know the Cardinals’ track record in developing pitchers. He belongs on all radars and could really take a step forward in his development in 2016.

18) Erick Fedde – Washington Nationals
#3 prospect for Nationals
Grade – B+

As he returned from Tommy John surgery Fedde split time between Low-A and Single-A in ’15 posting a 3.38 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 64.0 IP of work.  The underlying metrics are also extremely promising, even though it was a small sample size and he was old for the levels (22-years old):

  • Strikeouts – 8.3 K/9
  • Walks – 2.2 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 1.62 GO/AO

Drafted in the first round of 2014 (he fell to 18th due to the injury), the fact that his control was that good right out of the gate is a great sign.  The upside is certainly there and while he currently flies under-the-radar for most, that’s not going to last very long.

19) Hunter Harvey – Baltimore Orioles
#1 prospect for Orioles
Grade – B+

There’s little doubt about Harvey’s potential, but a lengthy list of injuries have helped to sabotage his outlook and a visit to Dr. James Andrews creates even more questions.  When he was on the mound in 2014 he showed just what type of potential he has (106 K over 87.2 IP), but since then he’s battled:

  • Strained flexor mass (ended his ’14 season in July and flared back up late in ’15)
  • Fractured fibula

At this point we obviously have to be skeptical, especially for 2016, though the overall outlook remains.  If he can get healthy he has the upside of a top of the rotation arm, but that’s a major if at this point.

20) Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays
#3 prospect for Rays
Grade – B+

The 2014 draft pick wasn’t quite as impressive as Snell or Guerrieri, but how much does that mean?  In 130.1 innings between Single-A (65.0 innings) and High-A (65.1 innings) he posted a 3.18 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning (129).  He also showed much better control, with a 1.87 BB/9.  For a 20-year old to show that type of walk rate is impressive at any level, and the hard thrower has the potential to rise quickly.  He’s likely another year or two away, but look for him to start garnering a lot more attention in 2016.

The Next 5:

21) Tyler Jay – Minnesota Twins
22) Sean Manaea – Oakland A’s
23) Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies
24) Dylan Bundy – Baltimore Orioles
25) Michael Fulmer – Detroit Tigers

Grading System (still in development):
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 Top 10 Prospect Lists:

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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