No pitches have been thrown and, already, there a few concerns when it comes to pitching staffs. Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez are returning from Tommy John surgery, Kenley Jansen is out 8-12 weeks following foot surgery, and there is a huge question surrounding Masahiro Tanaka. It’s not a question of if, but when he will require Tommy John surgery. A sprain is actual tearing of elastic fibers. That being said, ligaments do not heal. They scar, and the scar tissue does not have the elasticity of normal, healthy tissue. I truly believe Tanaka will not make it out of Spring Training before deciding to go under the knife.
When it comes to pitching, there are a number of young arms in Major League organizations. Last week, I talked about many NL prospects that are ready to get their call. The AL has just as many prospects that are due to get the call and make an impact in the foreseeable future. I give you Round 4 of Minor League Maestros: AL Pitchers.
- Carlos Rodon (Chicago White Sox) ETA: 2015
The White Sox have a great complimentary piece to Chris Sale, another lefty, who was arguably the best college southpaw since David Price. He throws in the mid-to-high 90s and has a devastating slider. The potential is there for season after season of 200+ strikeouts. Last season, in 24.2 innings pitched, Rodon had 38 strikeouts and a dazzling 2.92 ERA. He is another dominant starter for a White Sox rotation that already features Sale, Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana. I will absolutely be shocked if he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training.
- Andrew Heaney (Anaheim Angels) ETA: 2015
Heaney pitched in 29.1 innings for the Miami Marlins last season and had a forgettable debut. He posted a 5.83 ERA while giving up 32 hits in those innings. He had 20 strikeouts to seven walks, but the main culprit were the hits allowed. A forgettable debut, yes, but he has the stuff to rebound. Dealt first to the Dodgers, and then to the Angels, it’ll be interesting to see how Heaney handles the American League. The American League has more power, and it does scare me how he performed in his initial call. His low 90s fastball along with a knockout slider will be the key to his success. If he masters his changeup, he will have another good pitch. I like that he will be teammates with C.J. Wilson. It’s another lefty he can learn from and hopefully gain confidence. I project him to be at the back end of the Angels’ rotation this season.
- Dylan Bundy (Baltimore Orioles) ETA: 2015
In 2013, Bundy was arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball. That year, he fell victim to Tommy John surgery, but was back in less than a year. His stuff didn’t have the dynamite it did prior to the injury. His velocity was back in the high 90s before the Orioles shut him down in August. He is one of few pitchers who generates great power from his lower half and has a great cutter that is his out pitch. I believe the potential to be a number one starter is still there. I look this Spring Training to see where his stuff as at, and if he has regained his once dominant fastball.
- Hunter Harvey (Baltimore Orioles) ETA: 2017
Another dominant arm in the Orioles’ system, Harvey definitely has what it takes to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. He hovers around mid-to-high 90s with a heavy fastball that has great movement and can lead to broken bats. This is the kind of life scouts love to see. He brings a power curve, but his changeup isn’t anything special. If he works on this pitch, it gives him another option to be one step ahead of hitters. As with many young pitchers, mechanics aren’t there yet. This is something, which over time, can become more fluid and really make Harvey a force. I see Harvey getting a call up next season or in 2017.
- Aaron Sanchez (Toronto Blue Jays) ETA: 2015
Sanchez had a pretty dynamite call up in 33 innings pitched. He sported a 1.09 ERA with 27 strikeouts and only nine walks. That’s extremely impressive. He was reaching the upper-90s and had great control of his breaking ball. Right now, he’s probably their dynamite short reliever, but there is absolutely no way he stays there forever. At 22, he has all the time in the world to develop into a great starter for the Blue Jays. Either way, he’s on my fantasy radar right now.
- Mark Appel (Houston Astros) ETA: 2015/2016
I have Appel in my top-10 because of what I like to call the “eye test.” Forget numbers. His ERA has always been in the mid-to-high 3.00, and his K:BB ratio has always been impressive. He has a classic wind-up and really reaches back during his delivery. I’ve read reports that suggest he needs to work on his mechanics out of the stretch. This can be an easy adjustment. He had an appendectomy early in the 2014 season, and it took some time for him to get back to his normal self. I see him getting his call early in the 2015 season, and he absolutely has a chance of pushing Dan Straily for the fifth spot in the rotation. I can see his potential as a front end of the rotation (not number one) starter and easily reaching 14+ wins on a regular basis.
- Henry Owens (Boston Red Sox) ETA: 2015
Owens had a great 2014 season. For AA-Portland and AAA-Pawtucket, Owens went 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA, amassing 174 strikeouts (fourth in the minors). His 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings is also very impressive. The best stat is the fact he had 22 decisions in 26 starts. It’s something special when you are able to keep your team in that many games. I’m not big into comparisons, but he has that Jon Lester feel. A big lefty that piles strikeouts. I feel Owens could be a sneaky sleeper if Boston requires starting help during the 2015 season. By the way, is it me or does he have sweet locks like Bronson Arroyo?
- Daniel Norris (Toronto Blue Jays) ETA: 2015
Norris was another prospect who had only a taste in his Major League debut. Five hits in 6.2 innings pitched with four strikeouts and five walks isn’t anything to be impressed with. The fact still remains that Norris has raw stuff and was fifth in strikeouts across all minor league levels. He’s a finesse pitcher, but was able to rack up the strikeouts with a plus slider and changeup. He should secure the fifth spot in the Blue Jays rotation, but could easily team with Marcus Stroman to bring a great one-two punch in the next few seasons.
- Kyle Zimmer (Kansas City Royals) ETA: 2015/2016
Finally, the Kansas City Royals have a prospect pitcher destined to be an ace. It’s been a long time since Zack Greinke, and Zimmer shows promise to be a top starter. I don’t think Royals’ prospects get enough love. Wil Myers was once a top prospect in their organization, but was quickly moved for James Shields and Wade Davis. Now, I look for Zimmer to reach his way to the top of a rotation that already features young gun Yordano Ventura. His fastball sits at the mid-to-high 90s range, and I love guys with vast repertoires. His complimentary pitches include a tight curve, a changeup with late movement, and a slider that remains a work in progress. His ceiling is as high as anyone’s on this list.
- Alex Meyer (Minnesota Twins) ETA: 2015
I’ve always viewed the Twins as a blue-collar team. They may not have the biggest payroll, but they always seem to be consistent. It’s been a few years, but they have the complimentary pitching prospects to coincide with some talented young bats already at the Big League level. A nice pickup in the Denard Span deal, Meyer brings a dynamite fastball that reaches hitters fast due to his 6’9” frame. He’s one of the first pitching prospects that I’ve come across with a sinker. More than likely, he’ll be a mid-level starter. A three-pitch artillery consisting of a fastball that can touch 100 mph, a great sinker and hard slider make Meyer someone to keep an eye on. At the very least, he would be one heck of a guy to have coming out of the bullpen.
- Kohl Stewart (Minnesota Twins) ETA: 2017
Stewart’s athleticism made him a top-5 pick in the 2013 draft. In my mind, two-sport athletes always seem to make the necessary adjustments without getting into a mental battle. Mechanics are the name of the game with Stewart, but what isn’t there to love about a guy that can throw 97 mph? Top that with a slider that can get swings and misses and you have a guy that can easily be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He has a few years of development left, but he’s a guy to keep an eye out for. Of this list, Zimmer and Stewart are two of my favorites.
- Eduardo Rodriguez (Boston Red Sox) ETA: 2016/2017
Acquired in the Andrew Miller deal, Rodriguez is a hard-throwing lefty. He’s not necessarily the most polished Minor League pitcher, but it’s always eye-opening to see a lefty that can hit mid-90s. Rodriguez’s downfalls include fastball command and a polished secondary pitch. A guy that could potentially be a top-two starter will get all the help he needs to reach his ceiling.
- Sean Newcomb (Anaheim Angels) ETA: 2017
Newcomb is one big boy. He stands at 6’5”, 240lbs and can easily handle the workload of a starting pitcher. He’s another hard-throwing southpaw that gets late tail on his fastball. I’m reminded yet again of Jon Lester, who can do some dirty things with a cutter. He’s quite young and didn’t eat up many innings in A-Ball, but had an impressive 11.3 strikeouts per nine in six games started. He’ll work on his delivery, but he’s a lefty with great potential.
- Luis Severino (New York Yankees) ETA: 2016
Arguably the Yankees top pitching prospect, Severino came out of nowhere to catch everyone’s attention. We are talking about a guy that, in 113 innings pitched, had 127 strikeouts to 27 walks and a 2.47 ERA. That’s absolutely unbelievable. He’s not big in stature, but wouldn’t it be funny if he became the modern Pedro Martinez with a mid-to-high fastball that reaches 98 mph? Especially for the Yankees? He compliments that with a pretty good slider and changeup. I’m really excited to see what a Yankees prospect can do after the season Dellin Betances had. I just learned, the other day, that he’s 6’8”, 260. Good Lord, that’s a big boy!
- Jake Thompson (Texas Rangers) ETA: 2016-2018
There are many players that could’ve been ranked here, but I had to give this spot to Thompson after the season he had. Acquired in the Joakim Soria deal, this big righty struckout 130 batters in 129.2 innings pitched in 2014 with only 47 walks. Again, with a lot of prospects, his delivery needs polishing as he needs to develop his changeup that he shies away from using because of his slider. He should be a solid middle rotation guy and that’s good news for the Texas Rangers.
Other Notable Players:
Jose Berrios (Minnesota Twins)
Vincent Velasquez (Houston Astros)
Sean Manaea (Kansas City Royals)
Luke Jackson (Texas Rangers)
Miguel Almonte (Kansas City Royals)
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 1st, 2015 from 7pm – 8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596 during the show. Our topics will be minor league pitchers/hitters who will have an impact this season in the majors the first half of the show, and the 1st base position the second half of the show.
Our guests this week include Bryan Luhrs, Kyle Amore, and Lou Landers. Bryan is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports and a writer with MLFS. His articles publish every Saturday morning. Kyle Amore is a writer with MLFS, and his artilces publish every Tuesday morning. Lou Landers is a veteran writer with MLFS, and his articles publish every Wednesday morning.
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