Thus far, we’ve seen a lot of prospects ranked. A lot of these players will have an impact and some may carry fantasy teams to glory. When it comes to pitching, there are many players to go around. In recent years, some made great impacts in their first or second season, such as Tim Lincecum, David Price, Craig Kimbrel and Yordano Venura. Realistically, these guys became fantasy assets during their second season in the Big Leagues. MLB organizations are flooded with pitching talent. Let’s turn our focus to Round 3 of Minor League Maestros: NL Pitchers.
- Lucas Giolito (Washington Nationals) ETA: Late 2016
Giolito was drafted #1 overall in 2012 and quickly succumbed to Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2014 with fantastic numbers, earning him a trip to the Futures Game in Minneapolis. He posted a 10-2 record with 110 strikeouts in 20 starts. He has the size at 6’6” and 205 lbs to be a true workhorse in the Majors. His fastball hovers around 94-96 mph and can reach 98. He had a great 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. With the Nationals signing Max Scherzer this off-season, their starting rotation looks destined for a great season. With Jordan Zimmerman a free agent after the 2015 season, Giolito will have a shot during Spring Training of 2016 to earn a spot in the starting rotation.
- Archie Bradley (Arizona Diamondbacks) ETA: 2015
Bradley has been the on the MLB radar for a few seasons. The 2014 season looked to be his year to get his call to the Diamondbacks, but he missed two months dealing with an elbow injury. Following his return, his stuff wasn’t the same. The velocity was there but the movement was not. His numbers this past season weren’t mind boggling due to the injury and his walks were high. Bradley will get a chance to compete with Allen Webster for a spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation. I can see Arizona not being in a hurry to start him, so an ideal situation would be for Bradley to start at AAA-Reno. Being a projected top-of-the rotation guy, there is no doubt Bradley sees his debut early in the 2015 season, if not out of Spring Training.
- Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets) ETA: 2015
What is there not to like about Syndergaard? He throws 95+ and can easily carry a 200-inning workload. His curveball is a classic 12-to-6 and he may have a third pitch if he can refine his changeup. It looked like he was on his way to make his debut in 2014, but minor injuries kept him from making the jump. The Mets have a good, young rotation in regards to Matt Harvey (making his return from Tommy John), Zack Wheeler, and 2014 Rookie of the Year Jacob DeGrom. I don’t see Syndergaard making the rotation out of Spring Training, but if one of the projected starters goes down, he could easily get the call. If the Mets decide to move Bartolo Colon, at any time throughout the season, Syndergaard should be the first to arrive in Queens.
- Jon Gray (Colorado Rockies) ETA: 2015
Gray has moved fast through the minor league system, spending 2014 at AA-Tulsa. He racked up 113 strikeouts in 124 innings pitched, seeing his fastball reach 100 mph. I look for Gray to be a top-of-the-rotation guy for the Rockies for seasons to come. It will be interesting to see how Colorado handles Gray. As with many starters, I see Gray having the chance to win a job out of Spring Training, but absolutely making his debut this season.
- Julio Urias (Los Angeles Dodgers) ETA: 2016/2017
Coming out of Mexico, Urias was signed at 16. Although small in stature, standing at just 5’10”, Urias has great stuff on the mound. He sports a low-to-mid 90s fastball accompanied by a good curveball, average changeup and occasional slider. Pitching from the left side, he hides the ball well during his delivery. Only 18, Urias has all the time in the world to master his pitching repertoire. Last season, at High-A ball, Urias had 109 strikeouts in nearly 83 innings. He sported an impressive 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. What impresses me is that he only surrendered 37 walks over those innings. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses within the next few seasons. If he continues to shine as he has, he will be with the Dodgers in no time.
- Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh Pirates) ETA: 2016/2017
Picked between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2010, Taillon looked to make his Pirates debut in 2014. In April, he underwent Tommy John surgery which forced him to miss the entire season. I’ve seen rankings that have him lower than I do, but I still think the potential is there for a dynamic pitcher. A hard thrower with a sharp curveball, Taillon has the confidence to pitch at the Big League level. Keep an eye on how he responds post-surgery and rebounds in 2015. He turned 23 at the end of 2014, so he is still quite young. This entire season will be spent in the minors, but I believe Taillon will compete in Spring Training next season for a spot in the Pirates rotation.
- Tyler Glasnow (Pittsburgh Pirates) ETA: 2016
Just like with their outfielders, the Pirates have an abundance of pitching in their minor league system. After going through rankings, I’m very impressed with how the Pirates have responded after years of finishing at the bottom of the National League Central. Glasnow was a highly touted high school prospect that has held up during his time in the minor leagues. He’s increased his fastball from the high 80s to mid to high 90s. In 2014, his 157 strikeouts were good enough for ninth in the minor leagues. His main concern is growing into his lanky body. Still young, he has a lot of time to work on his command and delivery. I see him starting in AA this upcoming season, and he will have a shot breaking the Pirates rotation in the near future. A.J. Burnett turned 38 in January, so he’s on his way out of the league. That being said, the Pirates could sport a rotation next season featuring Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, Vance Worley, and Taillon or Glasnow.
- Robert Stephenson (Cincinnati Reds) ETA: 2015/2016
Stephenson is an interesting prospect. He has a rocket arm with power curveball. In 2014, he did have a high number of walks (74) to go with his high strikeout (140) total. His delivery needs work and his finish is the main culprit. He finishes very stiff and high rather than completely following through and getting over his front side. The stuff is there to make him an ace. If the control is there, I see him making spot starts this season, especially if Cueto is moved. I can’t see the Reds forking out the cash for Cueto after they overpaid for Homer Bailey. If control issues continue, I see Stephenson being a big time reliever, but not taking over the closer role from Aroldis Chapman.
9. Tyler Kolek (Miami Marlins) ETA: 2018
Kolek is an absolutely monster. At 6’5” and 260 lbs, Kolek reminds me of the former first round Tampa pick Jeff Niemann. Out of high school, his fastball was consistently topping 100 mph. He has a classic 12-to-6 “Uncle Charlie” and a sharp slider. He is a work in progress due to always trying to overpower hitters. Once he learns how to mix his pitches, he has some of the best minor league potential to be a front line starter. The Marlins can be sitting pretty with a lot of young position players to go with Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, and Tyler Kolek in the rotation.
10. Eddie Butler (Colorado Rockies) ETA: 2015
Last season, Butler pitched 5.1 innings for the Rockies. Those innings were forgettable. I still have high hopes for Butler along with Jon Gray. A shoulder injury definitely lead to this dismal call up. A high 90s pitcher with a nasty slider, Gray has a three-quarter pitching slot that allows the great action on his slider. He’ll have a chance to compete for a spot in the Rockies rotation. At the very least, he can become a dominate setup man. That’s a great problem for the Rockies to have.
11. Braden Shipley (Arizona Diamondbacks) ETA: 2015
I’m very intrigued with the next two prospects, both in the Diamondbacks organization. Not so much mechanically, but in terms of ability, Shipley reminds me of Woody Williams: A converted shortstop that has the potential to make in impact as a middle of the rotation guy. His changeup is his best pitch and he can reach mid-90s often. His better than average curveball gives him three pitches. The only knock on Shipley is his fastball. It doesn’t have much movement which leads to him being homer-prone. This may be an issue playing in Arizona, but hopes are high. They have some good pitching prospects in Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, and the next man on the list.
12. Aaron Blair (Arizona Diamondbacks) ETA: 2015
Reports suggest Blair could end up the best pitcher out of their top three prospects. Every report gives praise to Blair’s work ethic. This is huge at the Major League level. At AA-Mobile, Blair sported a 1.94 ERA with 46 strikeouts to 16 walks. His fastball is clocked in the low-90s, but has good sinking action. He teams this up with his changeup, his best pitch, and an improved curve. I see Bradley and Blair having the most immediate impact on the Diamondbacks’ rotation.
13. Aaron Nola (Philadelphia Phillies) ETA: 2016
When it comes to Big League readiness, Nola was one of the tops in the 2014 draft. In terms of size, he’s not the biggest guy on the mound, but he knows how to mix his pitches well. I like the fact that he isn’t afraid to use his breaking ball at any point in a pitch count. He looks projected to be a No. 3 starter and can be called up as early as April. He will absolutely be the first pitcher called up for the Phillies. It’s only a matter of time before Cole Hamels is moved, followed by Cliff Lee. After, Nola looks like the only Phillies pitcher to have an impact on fantasy baseball rosters. He looks like a decent piece for a franchise that will be looking to rebuild in years to come.
14. Mike Foltynewicz (Atlanta Braves) ETA: 2015
It seems like yesterday when we thought of guys named Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Neagle, and Hampton. Those days may be gone, but the Braves have a few young arms that are something to smile about. Julio Teheran is the real deal and I absolutely love the acquisition of Shelby Miller. Along with Alex Wood, the Braves have good, young pitching. Foltynewicz got the call last September as an Astro. Acquired in the Evan Gattis trade, Foltynewicz has the upside of a high-end starter. Refining his arm slot will be the key to success. The Braves have a long history of developing pitching and I don’t see Foltynewicz as an exception. His mechanics and potential remind me of those of Nathan Eovaldi. I don’t see him making the Big League club out of Spring Training, but the Braves will be patient and give Foltynewicz all the necessary time to develop into a strong starter. If not, he will be a dynamite reliever.
15. C.J. Edwards (Chicago Cubs) ETA: 2015
I have Edwards ranked higher than most. A very late draft pick, Edwards has been nothing short of spectacular since being traded to the Cubs for Matt Garza. How does a 2.35 ERA sound? Edwards posted that in 53.2 innings pitched last season. I’m not fond of his 25 walks to 54 strikeouts, but he has the stuff to develop into a nice middle-of-the-rotation starter. He’s not a big guy, but he excels at keeping his fastball down in the zone. We will see a lot of him this Spring Training and he will definitely make his appearance with the Cubs in 2015. I see him pitching out of the bullpen this season as well as making spot starts. Theo Epstein may have again used his “golden touch” landing Jake Arrieta and Edwards. I’ve always been fond of guys like Matt Clement and Derek Lowe. They aren’t No. 1’s or No. 2’s, but are so vital to a rotation. Look for Edwards to have an impact like they did. For a low draft pick, Edwards has plenty of upside.
16. Marco Gonzales (St. Louis Cardinals) ETA: 2015
Gonzales is your prototypical left-hander. He’s command over power. He throws his fastball, changeup, and curve for strikes and it’s vital to his success. In 2015, he’ll look to trust his stuff rather than nibble at the corners. Playing in the National League, he’ll hit and he’s shown he can swing the bat, too. It’s been a few years since a prospect can show he’s no easy out at the plate. He’s absolutely ready for a rotation spot, but there is a bit of a jam in the Cardinals rotation. I see him starting out in the Cardinals’ bullpen, but will absolutely get his fair share of spot starts.
17. A.J. Cole (Washington Nationals) ETA: 2015
Cole has history with the Nationals. They’ve acquired him twice and are obviously fond of him. The Nationals have arguably the best rotation in the Major Leagues. Now, they’ll look for bullpen help to solidify their pitching staff. Last season in the minors, Cole started 24 games. He had 111 strikeouts accompanied with only 32 walks. He had a respectable 3.16 ERA. I see Cole having a major impact in the Nats’ bullpen the next few seasons. He’ll be in line for spot starts and could easily become a starter if Zimmerman leaves next off-season.
18. Kyle Crick (San Francisco Giants) ETA: 2015
I see Crick having a similar impact for the Giants as Cole will for the Nats, but with a better chance of becoming a starter sooner rather than later. He’s a strikeout pitcher that had 111 of them in 2014. His walks were a bit high with 61 in 90 innings pitched, but he has a nice repertoire sporting a nasty slider and developing changeup. In 2013, he led Giants’ Minor League starters with 12.45 strikeouts per nine innings. More than likely, he comes out of the bullpen for the defending champions and can have an immediate impact with a solid bullpen. With an aging starting rotation after Madison Baumgartner, Crick could easily find himself getting starts if there are dismal performances from Tim Hudson, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy or Tim Lincecum.
19. Nick Kingham (Pittsburgh Pirates) ETA: 2015
The Pirates have obviously done their homework. Kingham’s projected as a middle-of-the-order guy, but his stuff may be good enough to see him at the top of the rotation. He has quite the control for a pitcher throwing in the mid-90s. His changeup has improved each season, making it his second-best pitch. His curveball allows him to use three pitches frequently. He was a workhorse last season, pitching in 159 innings while striking out 119 batters. Being exposed to the NL Central my entire life, I can honestly say the Pirates are an intriguing franchise. Taillon, Glasnow, and Kingham have their work cut out for them, but make it easy on the Pirates if they have issues anywhere in their rotation. I see Kingham starting in the bullpen, but easily stepping into the rotation if A.J. Burnett breaks down this season.
20. Joe Ross (Washington Nationals) ETA: 2016/2017
The brother of Padres pitcher Tyson, Joe was part of the trade that landed Wil Myers in San Diego. He’s one of the few ground balls pitchers in the Minor League system. He brings a low-to-mid 90s fastball and excellent changeup. The Padres changed his arm slot which let to a better slider. A guy who doesn’t lack control, Ross looks to be a pretty solid lower-end starter. He definitely gives the Nationals pitching options for years to come.
Other Notable Players:
Reynaldo Lopez (Washington Nationals)
Alex Reyes (St. Louis Cardinals)
Grant Holmes (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Tyrell Jenkins (Atlanta Braves)
Rob Kaminsky (St. Louis Cardinals)
Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies)
Max Fried (Atlanta Braves)
Matt Wisler (San Diego Padres)
(Click the Blue link below to listen Live)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday February 22nd from 7pm-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by SportsPalooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596 If we don’t get to right away just hang tight. A big component of our show is making the callers part of the discussions.