Last week, I talked about the importance of the outfield. While there’s no questioning the importance of outfielders, the same can be said, if not even more true, about pitchers. Pitching is the lifeline to a team. The vitality of pitching cannot be matched, as pitching truly does win championships. If we look back at the 2015 season, both the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals had phenomenal pitching staffs. The Mets’ young arms led the way, dominating each round of the playoffs. The Royals, who were able to be present in back-to-back World Series, finally pulled off the best-of-seven series. I attribute their success to their dominant pitching staff, especially their bullpen. The Yankees took a lesson from these two teams’ pages and solidified their bullpen by adding arguably the most dominant closer in baseball. As the season plays on, we will see how vital of an addition Aroldis Chapman turns out to be. Now, let’s focus our attention on the next wave of stellar arms in the 2016 version of Minor League Maestros: Pitchers 2016.
1. Lucas Giolito, RHP (Washington Nationals)
At 6’6″ 255lbs, Giolito has the ideal size for a starting pitcher.The 2012 number one overall pick has come back from Tommy John surgery and hasn’t looked back. His fastball sits in the high-90s and brings a dynamite curveball. If Giolito can master his changeup, he will have an artillery to get any batter out. In 2015, the big right-hander accumulated 131 strikeouts in 117 innings of work. For a second consecutive season, the Nationals’ top prospect average 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Giolito needs to be on every fantasy baseball player’s radar. He will make an immediate impact and will be a call-up at some point during the 2016 season, and should stick around for years to come.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 7-7/131 K/3.15 ERA
2. Julio Urías, LHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Cracking my top 5 in 2015, Urías jumps all the way to number two in 2016. Urías doesn’t possess ideal starting pitching size at 5’10”, but he sports a low-to-mid 90s fastball, accompanied by a good curveball, average changeup, and slider that he throws from time to time. He is as good as it comes in terms of hiding the ball during his delivery. Only 19, Urías pitched at three different minor league destinations, including the Arizona Fall League, posting a 3.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and [88:22] K:BB in 80.1 innings pitched. There’s no question Urías will make his debut in 2016. Just like Giolito, Urías will make an immediate impact at the Major League level, and every fantasy baseball owner should have Urías high on their radar.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 3-5/88 K/3.81 ERA
3. Tyler Glasnow, RHP (Pittsburgh Pirates)
A lot of credit has been given to the Chicago Cubs minor league organization, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are an organization that have a plethora of talent in their own right. Tyler Glasnow made my top 10 in 2015, but was not the top-rate Pirates pitcher. I had Jameson Taillon listed before him. As Taillon works his way back from Tommy John (April 2014), Glasnow gets the top spot in the Pirates organization. The righty increased his fastball from the high 80s to the high 90s. Following a successful 2014 season, Glasnow went 7-5 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 109.1 IP. This is the production the Pirates will need from a young arm that will ultimately keep the Pirates on pace with a National League Central that already features a dominant St. Louis Cardinals organization and up and coming Chicago Cubs team. With an ETA of 2016, Glasnow is another young arm that can be targeted in the final rounds of drafts or off the waiver wire as the season progresses.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 7-5/136 K/2.39 ERA
4. Jameson Taillon, RHP (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Following Tommy John surgery in 2014, Taillon was forced to miss 2015 due to surgery to fix an inguinal hernia. Now, there’s no questioning Taillon’s stuff. Taillon is a hard thrower that brings a hard curve ball. He’s another pitcher, at 6’5″ 245lbs, that looks to be able to shoulder the work load of a starter. At 24, Taillon is seasoned in the minor leagues, and is ready to take the next leap to MLB. A strong Spring Training will help the righty, as he will get his call during the 2016 season. I wouldn’t target Taillon during drafts, but would recommend acquiring him as soon as he gets called up.
2013 (Minor League) Stats: 5-10/143 K/3.73 ERA
5. José Berríos, RHP (Minnesota Twins)
Berríos was a pitcher that I thought the Twins would call up in September of last season. He possesses all the tools that could’ve given the Twins’ starting rotation a boost. That never happened, and now it looks like 2016 will be Berríos’ time to shine. One of Berríos’ key attributes that sticks out is his quick arm motion that leads to him continually reaching mid 90s with his fastball. His curveball has gotten better each season and he’s become comfortable throwing it during any count. Unlike many young pitchers, the righty’s changeup is just as effective as his other two pitches. This gives him a trifecta in his repertoire. Look for Berríos to put the Twins in a tough position in terms of their starting rotation out of Spring Training. He has all the makings of becoming a top of the line starter.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 14-5/175 K/2.87 ERA
ETA: Early 2016 (He’s my pick for AL ROY)
6. Alex Reyes, RHP (St. Louis Cardinals)
It wouldn’t be a top prospects ranking without a St. Louis Cardinal. This organization is a factory for Major League talent. Reyes is looking like the next hard thrower to land on the Cardinals’ roster within the 2016 season. If injuries occur, Reyes could see his call sooner rather than later. However, the call will have to come after Reyes serves his 50-game suspension, due to a failed drug test while pitching in the Arizona Fall League. 2015 saw Reyes throw 101.1 innings while collecting a 5-7 record with a 2.49 ERA and amazing WHIP of 1.17. His 96 strikeouts in FSL A (Advanced) saw him around the top 10 in 2015. As with many young flame throwers, command is a minor issue. Once he figures this out, he will strikeout mass amounts of hitters. He’s another arm that needs to be on fantasy radars going into 2016.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 5-7/151 K/2.49 ERA
7. Blake Snell, LHP (Tampa Bay Rays)
Tampa Bay is starting to become an organization that knows how to develop pitching. Yes, they’ve swung and missed on a bunch of prospects, but they’ve gotten it right with David Price, Matt Moore, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi. Snell is looking like the next solid left-handed pitcher to come out of the Rays’ organization. He sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but can reach back from time to time and hit the upper 90s. His secondary pitch is a sharp slider that was his out pitch in 2015. As with many young starters, his changeup is a work in progress. Control will be the main factor in determining when he gets the call to the Major Leagues. Through three different levels in 2015, Snell held opposing hitters to a .182 average. It’s safe to say he’s the real deal in terms of top pitching prospects.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 15-4/163 K/1.41 ERA
8. Braden Shipley, RHP (Arizona Diamondbacks)
A converted high school shortstop, Shipley possesses the athleticism to excel on the mound. As I mentioned last season, Shipley reminds me of another converted shortstop who had a successful Major League career: Woody Williams. He’s looking like a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but one that can excel in that role. He can reach mid-90s, and his best pitch is his changeup. His curveball, which is above average, gives him another pitch to rely on during each batter he faces. The only knock on Shipley is the lack of movement on his fastball. Pitching in Arizona, he’s going to have to gain some movement or home run pitches may never land. In 2015, Shipley struggled with a 4.50 ERA in the first half, but bounced back after the All-Star break with a 2.66 ERA. I tip my hat to their minor league pitching coaches for fixing a mechanical flaw. 2016 should be the year the 23-year-old finally gets his call.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 9-11/118 K/3.50 ERA
ETA: Mid-to-Late 2016
9. Steven Matz, LHP (New York Mets)
Matz would’ve lost prospect eligibility if it wasn’t for a latissimus dorsi injury that forced him to miss many weeks of baseball. Before, he had made a great impression during his first starts at the Major League level. The lanky lefty sits in the low 90s, but can occasionally hit the high 90s. The plus of his fastball is the sink he has on it leads him to get many ground balls. He brings a solid, sinking changeup and over-the-top curveball that aided in his brief stint with the Mets. There’s no questioning Matz should lock up a starting role in the Mets 2016 rotation out of Spring Training.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 8-4/107 K/2.05 ERA
2015 (Major League) Stats: 4-0/34 K/2.27 ERA
ETA: 2016 out of Spring Training
10. Robert Stephenson, RHP (Cincinnati Reds)
A rocket arm with a power curve is exactly what you will get with Stephenson. Command has been an issue that the 22-year-old has faced during his time in the minors. Still, that’s to be expected with a guy that can hit the high 90s continuously. In 2015, Stephenson threw 134 innings, accumulating an 8-11 record with an ERA of 3.83 to go along with 140 strikeouts. As I mentioned last season, Stephenson has the makings of a top-line starter, assuming he commands his fastball well. If not, he could be a dominant setup man or closer at the Major League level. I have a feeling he will push for a spot with the Reds out of Spring Training.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 8-11/140 K/3.83 ERA
11. Sean Manaea, LHP (Oakland Athletics)
Manaea is my last prospect that looks to make an impact in 2016. Part of the deal that sent Ben Zobrist to Kansas City, Oakland got a dynamite arm that will greatly help their rotation. The organization is known for developing pitching, and Manaea will get a shot to show what he can do this season. His fastball sits at mid-to-high 90s to go along with a hard slider and changeup that keeps progressing each season. Manaea had a dynamite 2015, going 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA and 2[36:80] K:BB. The numbers show he’s a strikeout machine. The lefty lead the Arizona Fall League with 33 strikeouts in 25.2 IP.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 14-9/236 K/2.94 ERA
12. Marco Gonzales, LHP (St. Louis Cardinals)
Gonzales looked to be a call-up during the 2015 season before he dealt with a left pectoral injury. He’s a crafty lefty that won’t blow hitters away with his fastball, but he has a great changeup and a mediocre curveball that he throws for strikes. While he throws strikes, he has had trouble keeping the ball low during his time with the Cardinals’ Major League club. The signing of Mike Leake hurts his chances out of Spring Training, but the rotation is an injury away from Gonzales being called back to the Cardinals.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 1-5/61 K/4.69
2015 (Major League) Stats: 2.2 IP
The first 12 pitchers will get the call in 2016, and should make an immediate impact on their Big League clubs. They need to be targeted in all fantasy leagues, as they could be the boost you need at the end of your draft or off the waiver wire. Pitchers ranked 13-20 are still a season or two away from being called up, but will most certainly help in fantasy baseball, as well as with their Major League teams.
13. Sean Newcomb, LHP (Atlanta Braves): Brought over in the Andrelton Simmons trade, Newcomb is a big lefty that looks to be headed for the top three spots of a starting rotation.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 9-3/168 K/2.38 ERA
14. Carson Fulmer, RHP (Chicago White Sox): Drafted with the eighth overall pick in 2015, Fulmer is a hard thrower (93-97 MPH) that will be a successful top-of-the-rotation starter. If the White Sox are in the hunt in October, I can see Fulmer getting a call out of the bullpen in 2016.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 9 Games Started/26 K/1.96 ERA
15. Tyler Jay, LHP (Minnesota Twins): Chosen sixth overall in the 2015 draft, Jay was a dynamite reliever at the University of Illinois. While he only tallied 18.1 IP in the minor leagues for 2015, Jay is another prospect that I feel can get a call earlier than expected. If Glen Perkins runs into any trouble at all, and Jay is mowing down hitters in the minors, Jay could get the call to close out games for the Twins.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 18.1 IP/22:8 K:BB
16. Kolby Allard, LHP (Atlanta Braves): The Braves have restocked their once minor league system, that was known for their pitching prospects. Through trades, they landed Sean Newcomb and Aaron Blair, and drafted Allard with the 14th overall pick in 2015. While he’s still a few years away from arriving in MLB, Allard has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, with a plus curve and changeup.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 6.0IP/12:0 K:BB/0.00 ERA
17. Aaron Blair, RHP (Atlanta Braves): Brought to Atlanta in return for Shelby Miller, Aaron Blair is ready for the Major Leagues now. He should land a starting job in their rotation out of Spring Training, but I feel there will be a lot of growing pains, due to a repertoire that shows a low 90s fastball, plus changeup, but developing curveball. Once he figures out his curve release, he should be able to keep guessers hitting. Until then, he may give up a lot of hard hit balls. There’s no questioning his potential, but it’s a matter of figuring it out at the Major League level.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 13-5/120 K/2.92 ERA
18. Anderson Espinoza, RHP (Boston Red Sox): The Red Sox signed arguably the two best international players in Yoan Moncada and Anderson Espinoza. Only 17, his fastball has been clocked at 100 MPH. He sits around 94-97, with a dominant curveball and changeup that has great sink. He probably won’t get a call until at the earliest 2018, but Red Sox fans could be feasting their eyes on the second coming of Pedro Martinez.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 58.1 IP/65 K/1.23 ERA
19. Jose De Leon, RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers): With Julio Urías dominant from the left-hand side, De Leon gives the Dodgers another top prospect, but from the right-hand side. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, but it’s his changeup that keeps hitters guessing. He still needs to polish his slider, but it’s become another effective pitch for the young righty. It’s possible that De Leon could get his call this season, barring any setback to the Dodgers’ rotation.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 6-7/163 K/2.99 ERA
20. Dillon Tate, RHP (Texas Rangers): Taken fourth overall in 2015, Tate possesses a lively fastball paired with a sharp slider. His changeup is a work in progress, but he has potential to become the ace of the Rangers’ rotation as early as 2017.
2015 (Minor League) Stats: 9.0 IP/8:3 K:BB/1.00 ERA
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 31st, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #7 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss everything fantasy and MLB related in the N.L. Central.
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