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Risky Business: Pitching Prospects

Pitching prospects are a strange bunch.  Even ones that dominate the minors can make you want to pull your hair out during their first handful of starts at the big league level.  Many will experience a spike in homers allowed, walks, and runs that puts a huge wet blanket on projections that formerly contained all kinds of promise and optimism.  If the adjustment takes too long, then a buying opportunity arises.  Others can fly under the radar even when they are developing at a perfectly normal pace.  Here are a few names that fit the bill.

Jeff Hoffman, Rockies
At this point, Jeff Hoffman’s amateur pedigree and injury history are well documented so we’ll skip that stuff.  In my opinion, a TJ stigma, combined with his lack of bat missing ability thus far has dramatically reduced his price in fantasy circles.  The elephant is the room is also the proposition of calling Coors home.  I understand all of those concerns, but I’m not all that worried.  JHoff is dripping with talent, and talent typically wins out.  Hoffman’s scouting reports continue to glow with the promise of multiple plus pitches in his arsenal.  Per MLB Statcast, he has above average spin rate on all his pitches, with the rates on his offspeed pitches approaching plus territory.  Hoffman’s HR rate more than doubled during his time in the bigs when compared to his minor league career.  I’m chalking that up to nerves from a young player pitching against the toughest competition of his life, and should change as he adjusts to facing big league hitters. I am intrigued to say the least, and would not be surprised to see him make a Jon Gray-like jump in his 2nd season.
Robert Stephenson, Reds
Another owner of a pair of plus pitches, to say Robert Stephenson has struggled recently would be an understatement.  Still, the Reds have every reason to keep developing him as a starter, and he should figure it out in time.  He reminds me a lot of Ryan Dempster, another live armed, high walk pitcher that took several years to find his way in the majors.  If Cinci can be patient with him, the rewards could be tremendous.  On a rebuilding Reds team, he should get several chances to stick in the rotation. And on the off chance he’s moved to the bullpen, Stephenson could make one heck of a relief ace one day.  At that point, he could ditch the change and go FB/CB.  Although dealing him for an owner willing to pay top-100 value isn’t unwise, the talent is too tantalizing to sell for anything short of that.
Luis Ortiz, Brewers
One player yet to debut in the majors, Luis Ortiz has often found himself underrated in dynasty league circles..  I won’t often talk about my fantasy teams here without being asked, but I was able to nab him for a 5th round pick in next year’s first year player draft in one league.  That was before he swapped teams, which seems to have lowered his perceived value even further.  At 6’3″, Ortiz has ideal size for a workhorse starter provided he can keep his weight under control and stay on the field.  He has struggled at times to stay healthy and logged a mere 90.2 innings in 2016, on the heels of a 50 IP 2015. With health, though, Ortiz could be ready to help the big club as early as next season. That said, he’ll likely have innings limits in place for the next couple seasons, so it’s best to temper expectations on his big league impact for a bit. But once (if?) he’s up to full strength, Ortiz could be a good one. Right now, I’m buying him in fantasy, as he’s one of the more unheralded pitching prospects around.

The Author




  1. […] looks at three pitching prospects that are developing at a normal pace, Jeff Hoffman, Robert Stephenson and Luis […]

    • Simon mcpherson
      December 6, 2016 at 10:04 am

      But they are, by definition, a risky business because they are pitching prospects. Even assuming they are developing normally doesn’t negate that

  2. December 3, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Yeah, and I like Julio Urias, Alex Reyes and Brent Honeywell. (Note: please attach a tone of sarcasm when reading).

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