Top 30 Pitching Prospects (2019 Preseason): #16-30: Is There Any Potential Aces Ready To Emerge?

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Early this week we took a look at our Top 15 Pitching Prospects (click here to view), but who comes next? Who may be falling under-the-radar, but have significant upside and could emerge? Let’s take a look:

RankPlayerCurrent TeamCurrent Grade
1.Forrest WhitleyHouston AstrosA
2. Jesus LuzardoOakland A'sA
3.Brandon McKayTampa Bay RaysA-
4.Dustin MayLos Angeles DodgersA-
5.Ian AndersonAtlanta BravesA-
6.A.J. PukOakland A'sA-
7,Kyle WrightAtlanta BravesA-
8.Alex ReyesSt. Louis CardinalsA-
9.Sixto SanchezMiami MarlinsA-
10.Mitch KellerPittsburgh PiratesB+
11.Dylan CeaseChicago White SoxB+
12.MacKenzie GoreSan Diego PadresB+
13.Michael KopechChicago White SoxB+
14.Touki ToussaintAtlanta BravesB+
15.Justus SheffieldSeattle MarinersB+
16.Brent HoneywellTampa Bay RaysB+
17.Brusdar GraterolMinnesota TwinsB+
18. Tristan McKenzieCleveland IndiansB+
19.Casey MizeDetroit TigersB+
20. Matt ManningDetroit TigersB+
21. Michael SorokaAtlanta BravesB+
22. Hunter GreeneCincinnati RedsB+
23.Jonathan LoaisigaNew York YankeesB+
24. Chris PaddackSan Diego PadresB
25. Adrian MorejonSan Diego PadresB
26.Jon DuplantierArizona DiamondbacksB
27.Bryse WilsonAtlanta BravesB
28. Matthew LiberatoreTampa Bay RaysB
29.Brailyn MarquezChicago CubsB
30.Griffin CanningLos Angeles AngelsB

16) Brent Honeywell – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
Things would be different if Honeywell hadn’t missed all of 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, as he likely would’ve debuted in 2018 and could’ve been an A- type prospect.  As we’ve said, while we all like to assume that pitchers are going to recover and return to being the pitcher they were prior to surgery, is it a guarantee? 

That said in 2017 he spent a little time at Double-A (13.0 IP), but spent the bulk of his time at Triple-A (123.2 IP) showing most of the skills we like to see from a pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 11.06 K/9
  • Control – 2.26 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 41.2%

We’d like to see a little bit more in terms of groundballs, especially pitching in the AL East where home runs could be an issue.  That said there’s more than enough in terms of strikeouts and control that will make him an extremely strong option when the time comes (though he could be limited in his first season back).

17) Brusdar Graterol – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
Minnesota has often seen it’s pitching prospects fail to live up to the hype, and while Jose Berrios has a chance to buck that trend it could ultimately be Graterol who does so.  He’s a prospect on the rise after splitting time between Single-A and High-A, combining for a 2.74 ERA and 1.15 WHIP across 102.0 innings and showing all of the skills we look for from a pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 9.44 K/9 (10.9% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.47 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 54.4%

Reports have his fastball capable of reaching triple digits with a slider that’s developing into a wipeout pitch.  He hasn’t quite developed his changeup, though he hasn’t needed to, but as he advances he will need that to continue to thrive.  If he does, and it appears that he can, the stuff is electric and he could emerge as a Top 5 pitching prospect in short order.

18) Tristan McKenzie – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
McKenzie spent the year at Double-A, though a forearm injury led to a delayed start and limited him to 90.2 IP.  When healthy he posted a 2.68 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with his strongest skill being his control (2.78 BB/9).  While the upside is there, he faces a slew of questions:

  • Strikeouts – 8.64 K/9 (10.1% SwStr%)
  • Groundballs – 33.2%
  • Size – 6’5” and 165 lbs.

Now 21-years old, McKenzie has yet to fill out physically and there are obvious home run questions.  He did show more potential at High-A in ’17 (41.8%) and there is a lot of upside in the strikeout department (11.71 K/9 in ’17).  Assuming he’s healthy the stuff is there to take that next step and arrive in Cleveland this season, though there’s still development to be done.

19) Casey Mize – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
Mize was selected first overall in the 2018 draft, and while it’s easily argued that he wasn’t the best talent available that shouldn’t be taken as a knock.  It just means he may not have ace-type stuff, but he could still develop into a #2 type starter and one that could arrive quickly.  That said, it wouldn’t be surprising if by mid-season he’s no longer viewed as the team’s best prospect. 

20) Matt Manning – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
Manning pitched across three levels in ’18, including making a pair of starts at Double-A, posting an impressive 3.29 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 117.2 IP.  While he struggled with his control while at Single-A, it’s intriguing that the 20-year old (he just recently turned 21) improved his BB/9 as he advanced:

  • Single-A (55.2 IP) – 4.53
  • High-A (51.1 IP) – 3.33
  • Double-A (10.2 IP) – 3.38

Pair the improved number with strikeout stuff (11.78 K/9, courtesy of a 13.9% SwStr%) and enough groundballs (42.9%), though we’d like to see the latter improve, and it’s easy to envision a top of the rotation stud developing.  Standing at 6’6” and 190 lbs. there’s still room for further maturation with his stuff, and he obviously has the size teams look for.  Don’t be surprised to see him truly breakout this season.

21) Michael Soroka – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
Soroka saw his season end in June due to a shoulder injury and never returned, and that it a serious concern that has to have an impact on his grade/ranking.  That said, before the injury he was showing just how good he could be as he forced Atlanta’s hand and arrived in the Majors as a 20-year old.  Not only that he was pitching well over his 25.2 innings, with 21 K, 7 BB and a 44.0% groundball rate.  Those are solid numbers, and right along the lines of what he produced at Double-A in ’17 (153.2 IP):

  • Strikeouts – 7.32 K/9
  • Control – 1.99 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 46.2%

There is more upside in his strikeout rate, including a 10.6% SwStr% in ’17, and his control has always appeared to be elite.  His health and whether or not he can fully tap into his strikeout upside, though, keep his ranking suppressed for the time being.

22) Hunter Greene – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
The second overall selection in 2017, Greene made 18 starts at Single-A and posted an underwhelming 4.48 ERA.  Further complicating things was that he was shutdown late in the year with a strained ligament in his elbow, a sign that Tommy John surgery could be on the horizon.  That would obviously be a setback for the flame thrower and is really the only “headline” worth mentioning.  We’ll have to wait and see how things progress, but don’t be surprised if 2019 becomes a lost season.

23) Jonathan Loaisiga – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B+
Loaisiga burst onto the scene in 2018, despite some underwhelming numbers (5.11 ERA, 1.54 WHIP over 24.2 IP).  The skills were obvious, both in the Majors and the minors:

Level K/9 SwStr% BB/9 GB%
Minors 10.77 12.3% 1.29 43.4%
Majors 12.04 13.0% 4.38 49.2%

Health is the big question (you would think the groundballs would be a concern, though he owns a minor league GO/AO of 1.25) and his season was cut short due to injury.  Standing 5’11” people are going to wonder if he can hold up to a full workload, and thus far he hasn’t proven capable.  If he can he should get an opportunity, with James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia making up 60% of the rotation.  The stuff is there, he just needs to show it off consistently.

24) Chris Paddack – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
Paddack was on the verge of emerging as a significant prospect before injury struck in ’16, and he ultimately needed Tommy John surgery that wiped out his 2017 season.  Sometimes when a pitcher returns to the mound there’s a struggle to regain his control, but not for Paddack.  In 90.0 innings he picked up right where he left off, with an impressive 12.00 K/9 and 0.80 BB/9.  We can’t expect him to maintain that type of ratio as he moves up to the higher levels of the minor leagues…  Or can we?  He did make seven starts at Double-A last season, with a 0.96 BB/9.

Even with a small step backwards, his elite control and ability to get swings and misses will play exceptionally well.  He may not have truly elite stuff, but he knows how to get the most out of what he has.

25) Adrian Morejon – Left-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
Morejon only threw 65.1 innings last season, mostly at High-A (62.2 IP), but the 19-year old (he’ll turn 20 in February) showed off all of the skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 10.19 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.4% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.31 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 52.7%

He was limited due to arm issues and there also is going to be concerns regarding his size (he’s listed at 6’0”) and ability to maintain his groundball rate.  In 2017, his first year with the Padres’ organization, he had a 36.6% groundball rate over 63.0 IP.  There is no questioning the pure stuff and he does have the potential to evolve into a force in the rotation, assuming he can overcome the obvious concerns.

26) Jon Duplantier – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
Arm issues sidelined Duplantier in ’18, limiting him to 74.0 IP in the minors.  That clearly stopped his march through the minors, though when he was on the mound he was impressive with a 2.55 ERA and 1.18 WHIP while showing off all three skills we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 9.36 K/9
  • Control – 3.65 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 52.2%

There’s arguably more upside in both his strikeouts (13.0% SwStr% in ’18, 10.5 K/9 over his minor league career) and walks (3.2 BB/9 over his minor league career, including a 2.8 in ’17).  Staying healthy is going to be the key, and if he does he should make an impact before long.

27) Bryse Wilson – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
After generally flying under-the-radar Wilson reached the Majors last season (7.0 IP) after pitching across three levels of the minors and posting a 10.24 K/9, 2.58 BB/9 and 46.8% groundball rate.  While he had shown impressive groundball stuff in the lower minors, seeing it regress to 44.0% at Double-A (77.0 IP) and 44.6% at Triple-A (22.0 IP) is a bit of a concern.  His control also wavered enough at Double-A (3.04 BB/9) that if he can’t rediscover his groundball stuff the results may not be there.

28) Matthew Liberatore – Left-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
The Rays selected him 16th overall in the 2018 draft and he delivered immediately, with a 1.38 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 32.2 IP.  Obviously it’s an incredibly small sample size, but he has the ideal size (he’s listed at 6’5” and 200 lbs.) and already has a strong arsenal that should only get better as he matures/develops both physically and on the mound.  The upside is there to develop into a #2 starter, and at 19-years old he has the time to develop into that.

29) Brailyn Marquez – Left-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
The unheralded southpaw didn’t pitch a significant amount in 2018, making 10 starts at Low-A and another 2 at Single-A, but the results across the board were impressive as he showed signs of all three skills that we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 9.71 K/9 (courtesy of a 16.1% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.63 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 49.3%

Pitching as a 19-year old, those numbers are going to get you excited.  Standing at 6’4” and 185 lbs., there’s still plenty of room for him to fill out physically and the steps forward he took last season are highly impressive.  While he still is getting little attention right now, don’t be surprised if his value and the hype quickly start to build.

30) Griffin Canning – Right-Handed Pitcher – Grade – B
Canning struggled upon reaching Triple-A, with a 5.49 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 59.0 IP (13 starts).  That said an overall 9.93 K/9 and 3.49 BB/9 are solid and show his potential, and his issues at Triple-A were truly due to some poor luck considering his .376 BABIP.  Last season was also his first taste of professional baseball, after being selected in the second round of the 2017 draft, so you have to wonder how much of his struggles late were due to fatigue.

You can say we’d like to see a few more groundballs (44.3% overall), but a 13.0% SwStr% and with his control actually improving as he advanced (3.36 BB/9 at Triple-A) there is reason for optimism.  The Angels have an obvious need in the rotation and Canning should get an opportunity to step in at some point in the coming year.

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

Make sure to check out all of our 2019 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

4 COMMENTS

    • I understand your opinion and others will have him higher. I do have concerns about the limited repertoire and how it will translate to the highest level. The injury history is there as well, though those concerns are quickly being silenced.

      Trust me, I’d love for him to prove me wrong

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