Top 30 Pitching Prospects (2020 Preseason): #11-20: Who Could Be Primed To Take The Next Step Forward?

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We all know the risks when it comes to pitching prospects, as you just never know when the next highly regarded pitcher will go down due to Tommy John surgery (or another issue). Among the Top 30 there are some players currently working their way back (and while we want to assume that they will return just as good as they were before, is it really guaranteed).

Earlier this week we took at look at the Top 10 pitching prospects (click here to view), so let’s take a look at how the next 10 fall:

RankingNameGradeTeam
11Brendan McKayB+Tampa Bay Rays
12Sixto SanchezB+Miami Marlins
13Jackson RutledgeB+Washington Nationals
14Edward CabreraB+Miami Marlins
15Daniel LynchB+Kansas City Royals
16A.J. PukB+Oakland A's
17Hunter GreeneB+Cincinnati Reds
18Clarke SchmidtB+New York Yankees
19Tarik SkubalB+Detroit Tigers
20Deivi GarciaB+/BNew York Yankees

11) Brendan McKay (LHP) – Tampa Bay Rays
Grade – B+

Will he continue to operate both on the mound and as a hitter?  That’s the big question, though he’s clearly more advanced on the mound.  After thriving at both Double and Triple-A last season, he did struggle upon reaching the Majors as he posted a 5.14 ERA over 49.0 IP.  Part of that was poor luck (.331 BABIP, 64.0% strand rate), and his 90.1% strand rate in the minors made it obvious that a regression was likely regardless of the level he was pitching in.

The big thing to watch is how his SwStr% regressed as he continued to advance:

  • Double-A – 17.8%
  • Triple-A – 13.2%
  • Majors – 10.8%

Obviously we need to give him time to adjust, but it will be something to monitor as he was hit hard in the Majors (42.4% Hard%) and struggled to generate groundballs (35.2%).  It was a small sample size and we don’t want to draw definitive conclusions (he still has strikeout stuff, good control and the ability to generate enough groundballs), but it does leave a sour taste in our mouths that can’t be ignored.

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12) Sixto Sanchez (RHP) – Miami Marlins
ETA – 2020

Part of the return in the JT Realmuto trade, Sanchez spent the bulk of ’19 at Double-A (103.0 IP) pitching to a 2.53 ERA.  While the strikeout rate wasn’t a “blow away” mark, an 8.48 K/9 is enough when paired with a 1.66 BB/9 and 47.9% groundball rate.  Control and groundballs have always been a strong suit for Sanchez, having posted a 2.12 BB/9 and 52.3% groundball rate at High-A in ’18.  He did show a drop in his SwStr%, which is something that’ll have to be monitored:

  • 2018 – 13.0%
  • 2019 – 11.3%

Whether he can maintain his strikeout stuff is going to be key, especially for a pitcher listed at 6’0”.  Will he be able to continue to get downward plane on his fastballs, generating groundballs, or will he start to have home run trouble as he advances?  We haven’t seen the problem, yet, but if the strikeouts drop even a little bit and home runs start to rise he could fall well short of expectations.

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13) Jackson Rutledge (RHP) – Washington Nationals
Grade – B+

Selected 17th overall in 2019, Rutledge pairs a big fastball (with reports having to hit 101 mph) with a “plus” slider as well as a curveball and changeup (all of which have the potential to be plus pitches or better).  That’s the type of repertoire that we are always looking for from a top arm, and standing at 6’8” and 260 lbs. it plays up that much more.  While his control is still a work in progress, that’s always to be expected for a pitcher of his size.  With time and development he could figure it out and turn into one of the few elite pitching prospects.

It was only 37.1 IP last season in the minors, but his 9.40 K/9 and 15.2% SwStr% are impressive.  There’s risk with any pitching prospect, but at the very least Rutledge should be a back of the bullpen arm.  If the control develops, the combination of size and stuff could lead to a Top 20 starting pitcher.

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14) Edward Cabrera (RHP) – Miami Marlins
ETA – 2020

Cabrera doesn’t get the attention of other prospects, but it should be just a matter of time.  The 21-year old (he’ll turn 22 in April) can already touch 100 mph, and at 6’4” and 175 lbs. he should continue to fill out and potentially improve.  That’s a scary thought, considering the impressive numbers he posted between High-A (58.0 IP) and Double-A (38.2 IP):

  • Strikeouts – 10.80 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.3% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.89 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 47.7%

Sure the SwStr% was “only” 11.4% at Double-A, but is anyone going to complain?  The biggest improvement was in his control, after he posted a 3.77 BB/9 in ’18.  As his secondary pitches continue to develop (changeup and curveball), after taking a step forward already, he’s only going to get better.  Cabrera has the potential to develop into a true ace, something that’s not easy to find, making him well worth the investment.

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15) Daniel Lynch (LHP) – Kansas City Royals
Grade – B+

Selected in the first round of 2018, Lynch missed time due to an arm issue but was able to return and look healthy (including 19 K vs. 4 BB over 14.0 IP in the Arizona Fall League).  While the injury does put a small red flag, it’s hardly enough as he showed all the skills over 96.1 IP:

  • Strikeouts – 8.97 K/9 (13.9% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.71 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 49.6%

At 6’6” it’s a positive to see the control already solid, and it’s possible that he could improve as he continues to mature.  Being a southpaw makes it that much better and as he continues to develop his secondary pitches he could emerge as one of the better pitching prospects in the game.  Opening the year at Double-A and being healthy, don’t be surprised if Lynch takes that type of step forward in 2020.

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16) A.J. Puk (LHP) – Oakland A’s
Grade – B+

The sixth overall selection in the 2016 draft, Puk underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018 and was limited to 25.1 IP in the minors and 11.1 IP in the Majors last season as he recovered.  He has the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm, though there are questions with his control that’s going to help hold him back at least a little bit.  Couple the injury with his height (6’7”) and that makes sense (3.4 BB/9 over his minor league career, 3.97 in the Majors last season).

He also runs the risk of being home run prone, something we saw last year (8 HR allowed).  Pitching half his games in Oakland will help, but not completely solve the issue.  That, along with the control, could limit him more to a mid-rotation starter as opposed to an ace. 

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17) Hunter Greene (RHP) – Cincinnati Reds
Grade – B+

The second overall selection in 2017 missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and that will likely cost him time at the start of 2020.  While he posted a 4.48 ERA over 68.1 IP at Single-A in ’18, he showed the skill set that we look for:

  • Strikeouts – 11.72 K/9
  • Control – 3.03 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 41.2%

While we’d love to see a better groundball rate, the skills are there to be a top of the rotation stud.  That’s no guarantee, especially coming off surgery, as we’ll have to give him time as there’s no guarantee that he completely returns to the pitcher he was before it. 

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18) Clarke Schmidt (RHP) – New York Yankees
Grade – B+

If Schmidt was ready to handle a normal workload there wouldn’t be a question as to whether or not he would arrive in the Majors in 2020.  However after being drafted in 2017 he needed Tommy John surgery (which the Yankees knew at the time), so his workload has been minimal thus far:

  • 2017 – 0.0 IP
  • 2018 – 23.1 IP
  • 2019 – 90.2 IP

He’s only thrown 19.0 IP above High-A (all at Double-A), and while he will be 24-years old on Opening Day he could still be a year away from arriving.  That said when he was on the mound he showed why the Yankees were willing to utilize a first round pick, even with the known surgery coming.  He showed strikeouts (10.13 K/9, courtesy of a 14.7% SwStr%), control (2.78 BB/9, and considering the missed time it’s possible it gets better as evidenced by his 1 BB over 19.0 IP at Double-A) and a good groundball rate (53.6%). 

It will be interesting to see how the production comes against more advanced prospects, but at this point a full breakout wouldn’t be surprising.

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19) Tarik Skubal (LHP) – Detroit Tigers
Grade – B+

Skubal was among the biggest breakout prospects of 2019, spending time at High-A (80.1 IP) and Double-A (42.1 IP) and showing elite strikeout stuff along the way (13.13 K/9 courtesy of an 18.1% SwStr%).  That doesn’t mean that Skubal is going to continue to thrive as he continues to advance, as his control took a significant step backwards against more advanced hitters (2.13 BB/9 to 3.83) and he struggled to generate groundballs at both levels:

  • High-A – 39.1%
  • Double-A – 40.6%

He has solid stuff, though it’s his control that allows it to really play up.  That step back in his walk rate, albeit in a small sample, is a bit of a warning sign and there’s the potential that he struggles with home runs.  The upside is clearly there and he could continue to develop into a future third piece of what has the makings of an elite rotation.  How he performs against more advanced hitters in 2020 will be telling.

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20) Deivi Garcia (RHP) – New York Yankees
Grade – B/B+

There were cries for him to join the MLB roster by some, though that never came to fruition.  Instead the 20-year old was pushed to Triple-A (he appeared at three levels in ’19) and struggled to a 5.40 ERA as he split his time between the rotation and bullpen.  His control was an issue regardless of the level he pitched (4.37 BB/9 over 111.1 IP) and we saw his groundball rate regress as he advanced:

  • High-A (17.2 IP) – 46.7%
  • Double-A (53.2 IP) – 43.0%
  • Triple-A (40.0 IP) – 37.4%

Listed at 5’9” he does have the stuff, but as we saw at Triple-A home runs could become a significant issue (1.80 HR/9).  When you couple that with his control questions it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ultimately transition to the bullpen, where he does have closer potential. 

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Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 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
PositionLast Updated
Catcher04/13/20
First Baseman--
Second Baseman04/15/20
Shortstop04/17/20
Third Baseman04/20/20
Outfield04/24/20
Pitcher--

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