Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, August 2018
Each month, The Dynasty Guru will provide a prospect update that includes notable performances (good and bad), assignments, promotions, trades, injuries, and suspensions. Most importantly, the monthly update will examine prospects with increasing and decreasing fantasy value, from the elite to the obscure.
At the beginning of August, TDG reviewed July performances for infielders, outfielders, and pitchers. In addition, TDG updated the Top 240 Fantasy Prospects. Since then, several notable prospects exceeded rookie limits and others arrived in the majors. As this update only reviews performances for one month, please note this bright, flashing warning: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!
Notable Pitching Prospect Performances
The Injured Pitching Prospect
Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox. Last week, Kopech suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, and likely will undergo Tommy John surgery. Prior to the injury, he was on a roll, with a 68-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 55 innings, including his first three major league appearances. Improved command combined with his elite arsenal made for a dominant, top-of-the-rotation arm. Unfortunately, Kopech will now miss the entire 2019 season. Cue the pained cries of TINSTAAPP!
Seth Romero, Washington Nationals. During spring training, the Nationals sent Romero home for repeated curfew violations. Consequently, he did not debut this year until June. Then, in July, Romero began suffering elbow inflammation. Ultimately, he underwent Tommy John surgery in late August, and he likely will miss the entire 2019 season. Given his conditioning, off-field, and, now, injury issues, Romero has had a disastrous first professional season.
Others of Note:
- Luiz Gohara, Atlanta Braves (shoulder soreness)
- Adrian Morejon, San Diego Padres (hip)
- Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals (shoulder fatigue)
- Sam Hentges, Cleveland Indians (shoulder soreness)
- Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles (elbow discomfort)
- Keury Mella, Cincinnati Reds (oblique strain)
- Bryan Mata, Boston Red Sox (back)
The Graduated Pitching Prospect
Ryan Borucki, Toronto Blue Jays. After an excellent first 7 starts, capped by an 8-inning gem on August 3rd, Borucki came back down to earth. Over his next 6 starts, he allowed 23 earned runs and 5 home runs over 26 2/3 innings. Overall, Borucki has average command of an average repertoire, highlighted by an above-average change-up. He profiles as a backend, innings-eating starter.
Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins. On September 1st, the Marlins placed Lopez on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain. Prior to his injury, he showed promise, flashing above-average command and an above-average change-up. Like Borucki, Lopez profiles as a 4- or 5-starter.
Austin Gomber, St. Louis Cardinals. In early August, the Cardinals moved Gomber from the bullpen to the rotation. They choose wisely. Since then, he has been excellent, allowing just 8 earned runs over his last 35 innings. Although Gomber lacks a plus pitch (or even an above-average offering), he has a deep and solid, four-pitch repertoire. Forgotten among a crowded, young Cardinals rotation, he should enjoy a long career as a reliable backend starter.
Others of Note:
- Yonny Chirinos, Tampa Bay Rays
The Major League Pitching Prospect
Josh James, Houston Astros. When rosters expanded on September 1st, the Astros immediately promoted and started James. In his debut, he showcased his huge arm, firing 100 mph fastballs. Since then, the Astros moved him to the bullpen in favor of Framber Valdez (below). With Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton destined for free agency after the season, James may receive an opportunity to stick in the rotation next year. If he does, he could be a strikeout gold mine, as he accumulated 184 strikeouts (36.7%) in just 122 innings this year.
Framber Valdez, Houston Astros. Instead of flame-thrower James, the Astros are sticking with Valdez. A left-handed pitcher, he breaks up a predominantly right-handed staff. Like the other left-handed starter, Keuchel, Valdez generates tons of groundballs (58.8%) due to heavy reliance on a low-90s sinker. In addition to the sinker, he mixes in a four-seam fastball and above-average curveball. With just two effective pitches and a small frame (5’11”), Valdez likely profiles in the bullpen long-term.
Sean Reid-Foley, Toronto Blue Jays. Last year, Reid-Foley struggled in his first taste of the upper minors after a stellar 2016 campaign. Returning to Double-A this year, he reestablished himself as one of the top young arms in the Blue Jays system. A power pitcher, Reid-Foley amassed 150 strikeouts across 129 2/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. He has a deep, four-pitch repertoire, headlined by a mid-90s fastball. Reid-Foley’s secondaries are inconsistent, but have the potential to be average offerings. Alarmingly, in his first four starts, major league hitters have destroyed his fastball (5 home runs and .378 ISO!).
The Young Atlanta Braves:
A first round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Touki Toussaint has finally arrived. In each full season, he has steadily improved his poor control, reducing his walk rate from 12.8% to 12.4% to 10.0% to 9.4%. Although still below-average, his control has improved enough to allow his exceptional stuff to shine. Consequently, he dominated Double- and Triple-A (2.38/1.13 ERA/WHIP, 136 1/3 IP, 163/53 K/BB). Long known for his plus fastball/curveball combination, Toussaint now also features an above-average, diving change-up. In fact, his change-up has elicited 25% whiffs so far in the majors.
In addition to Toussaint, the Braves have three other top prospects in the bullpen, Kyle Wright, Kolby Allard, and Bryse Wilson. Notably, Wright is the first player from the 2017 MLB Draft to debut in the majors. Meanwhile, at just 20 years old, Wilson is the second youngest player in the majors.
Others of Note:
- Jonathan Loaisiga, New York Yankees
- Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers
- Stephen Gonsalves, Minnesota Twins
- Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins
- Cionel Perez, Houston Astros
- Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals
- Jalen Beeks, Tampa Bay Rays
- Luis Ortiz, Baltimore Orioles
- Erick Fedde, Washington Nationals
- Jacob Nix, San Diego Padres
- Daniel Poncedeleon, St. Louis Cardinals
- Zack Littell, Minnesota Twins
- Clay Holmes, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Yohander Mendez, Texas Rangers
- Thomas Pannone, Toronto Blue Jays
- Ariel Jurado, Texas Rangers
The Highlighted Pitching Prospect: Spencer Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies selected Howard in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft. In his debut, he flashed a plus fastball, sitting around 93-95 mph with three promising secondaries, but poor command. This year, Howard spent the entire season in Low-A. After a strong start, he struggled from early May to early July, outside of two brilliant 6-inning outings. In his other 8 starts, he allowed 43 hits, 21 walks, and 33 runs in 32 2/3 innings. For the rest of the season, however, Howard was exceptional. Over his last 10 starts, he allowed just 37 hits, 16 walks, and 10 earned runs over 57 1/3 innings (1.57/0.92 ERA/WHIP). In his final start, Howard tossed a 9-inning, complete game no-hitter!
Howard’s repertoire supports his performance, with a fastball now reportedly sitting at 95-96 mph and touching 100 mph. In addition, all three secondaries (change-up, curveball, and slider) flash above-average. Most importantly, he is making progress with improved command of his electric stuff. A high-upside arm, Howard could develop into a 3-starter with further refinement of his breaking balls and command.
The Rising Pitching Prospect
Deivi Garcia, New York Yankees. The rich keep getting richer, as the Yankees may be developing yet another potential top pitching prospect. A little-known 2015 international signee, Garcia has rapidly ascended through the minors, reaching Double-A in early September. In late July, he received a promotion from Low- to High-A, and threw seven, no-hit innings in his first August start. Less than a month later, Garcia again tossed five, no-hit innings in his first September start in Double-A. Given his diminutive size (listed at just 5’10” and 163 pounds) and lethal low-to-mid-90s fastball/plus curveball combination, he likely profiles best as a future reliever.
Tyler Phillips, Texas Rangers. With a projectable 6’5″ frame, Phillips is a high-upside arm making significant progress this year. Since the beginning of July, he has been dominant, issuing just 37 hits and 6 walks across 52 innings (0.83 WHIP). Consequently, he earned a promotion to High-A in September. Phillips works with a low-to-mid-90s, sinking fastball and much improved command and control. Both his curveball and change-up flash above-average, but remain inconsistent. In Low-A, Phillips posted a sparkling 2.7% walk rate, which likely overstates his command. Regardless, he boasts average to above-average stuff with superb control and developing command.
Joe Palumbo, Texas Rangers. Entering last year, Palumbo was receiving a lot of attention as a left-handed pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating curveball. After three sparkling starts in High-A, however, he suffered a torn UCL, requiring Tommy John surgery. This year, Palumbo finally debuted in June, and is already in Double-A. Between High- and Double-A in August, he struck out 30 batters in just 19 2/3 innings (0.92/0.81 ERA/WHIP). Fully recovered, Palumbo features a low-to-mid-90s fastball (sitting 93-94 mph) and a potentially plus curveball. Meanwhile, his change-up and command remain a work-in-progress.
Others of Note:
- Michael King, New York Yankees (1.15/0.67 ERA/WHIP, 39 IP, 31/6 K/BB, upon promotion to Triple-A)
- Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels (0.91/0.91 ERA/WHIP, 29 2/3 IP, 39/12 K/BB, promoted to Double-A)
- Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins (2.48/0.97 ERA/WHIP, 29 IP, 36/9 K/BB)
- Dean Kremer, Baltimore Orioles (2.36/1.19 ERA/WHIP, 34 1/3 IP, 42/12 K/BB)
- Cole Irvin, Philadelphia Phillies (1.41/0.97 ERA/WHIP, 38 1/3 IP, 25/10 K/BB)
- Trey Supak, Milwaukee Brewers (1.17/0.91 ERA/WHIP, 23 IP, 15/5 K/BB)
- Jonathan Hernandez, Texas Rangers (1.14/0.97 ERA/WHIP, 23 2/3 IP, 27/10 K/BB)
- Matt Tabor, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.50/0.83 ERA/WHIP, 24 IP, 19/5 K/BB)
- Yefri Del Rosario, Kansas City Royals (0.75/0.89 ERA/WHIP, 36 IP, 29/10 K/BB)
- Resly Linares, Tampa Bay Rays (1.20/0.90 ERA/WHIP, 30 IP, 31/6 K/BB)
- Brandon Bielak, Houston Astros (2.48/0.93 ERA/WHIP, 29 IP, 30/8 K/BB)
- Alex Wells, Baltimore Orioles (1.97/0.81 ERA/WHIP, 32 IP, 29/4 K/BB)
Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves. Since the beginning of July, few pitchers have performed better than Anderson. During that period, he allowed just 8 earned runs over 54 1/3 innings (1.33/0.88 ERA/WHIP), while receiving a promotion to Double-A. The fourth overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft may debut as soon as next year. Anderson may even be the best of the steady stream of young Braves arms.
Matthew Liberatore, Tampa Bay Rays. Thought to be a likely top-5 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Liberatore fell into the Rays lap at 16 overall. Thus far, he has impressed, with 6 scoreless outings in his last 7 starts between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues (0.58/0.97 ERA/WHIP). Liberatore is a projectable, left-handed pitcher, with a deep repertoire, and advanced pitchability, mound presence, and command for a high school pitcher.
J.B. Bukauskas, Houston Astros. After missing two months due to a back injury, Bukauskas returned to action in early July and has been nearly lights out ever since. In August, he breezed through High-A (1.61/0.93 ERA/WHIP), allowing just 13 hits in 28 innings (.138 BAA). At the start of September, Bukauskas received a promotion to Double-A, where he has been superb in two starts (12 IP, ER, 15 K, 4 H, 5 BB). An advanced college arm, he may even debut in the bullpen down the stretch for the Astros.
Others of Note:
- Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates (2.86/1.30 ERA/WHIP, 34 2/3 IP, 33/11 K/BB)
- Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians (2.48/1.03 ERA/WHIP, 29 IP, 31/10 K/BB)
- Dylan Cease, Chicago Whites Sox (0.51/0.85 ERA/WHIP, 17 2/3 IP, 29/9 K/BB)
- Brusdar Graterol, Minnesota Twins (1.80/1.10 ERA/WHIP, 30 IP, 25/7 K/BB)
- Jon Duplantier, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.67/1.11 ERA/WHIP, 27 IP, 22/14 K/BB)
- Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers (2.60/0.89 ERA/WHIP, 34 2/3 IP, 46/8 K/BB, promoted to Double-A)
- Adonis Medina, Philadelphia Phillies (2.57/1.18 ERA/WHIP, 28 IP, 30/8 K/BB)
- Logan Allen, San Diego Padres (1.63/1.23 ERA/WHIP, 27 2/3 IP, 26/13 K/BB, upon promotion to Triple-A)
- Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks (2.61/1.03 ERA/WHIP, 31 IP, 41/8 K/BB)
- Luis Patino, San Diego Padres (1.23/1.05 ERA/WHIP, 22 IP, 29/7 K/BB)
- Kyle Muller, Atlanta Braves (3.10/0.97 ERA/WHIP, 29 IP, 27/6 K/BB, upon promotion to Double-A)
- DL Hall, Baltimore Orioles (1.44/1.11 ERA/WHIP, 19 IP, 19/5 K/BB)
- T.J. Zeuch, Toronto Blue Jays (2.16/1.16 ERA/WHIP, 25 IP, 19/7 K/BB)
- Jackson Kowar, Kansas City Royals (1.06/0.76 ERA/WHIP, 17 IP, 18/6 K/BB)
- Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers (1.77/1.13 ERA/WHIP, 20 1/3 IP, 18/11 K/BB)
- Daniel Lynch, Kansas City Royals (1.29/0.81 ERA/WHIP, 21 IP, 30/3 K/BB)
- Zac Lowther, Baltimore Orioles (2.27/0.82 ERA/WHIP, 31 2/3 IP, 33/6 K/BB)
Alex Faedo, Detroit Tigers. Despite a solid performance this year (4.02/1.14 ERA/WHIP), Faedo has suffered reduced velocity and continuing concerns regarding his delivery. Most troubling, he has allowed 15 home runs in just 60 innings since his promotion to Double-A. Still, Faedo has a high floor, and likely will debut as soon as next year, profiling as a backend starter.
Chance Adams, New York Yankees. In early August, Adams briefly debuted in the majors, allowing 6 earned runs, 4 walks, and 3 home runs in 6 2/3 innings. Upon his demotion, he allowed 11 earned runs, 10 walks, and 5 home runs in 12 innings. All told, Adams gave up 8 home runs in just 18 2/3 innings this month! Now, he is working out of the bullpen, likely in the hope he can contribute down the stretch for the Yankees.
Alec Hansen, Chicago White Sox. The wheels have come off for Hansen. As such, the White Sox demoted him to High-A, hopefully to figure things out. He has not. Lacking any semblance of control, Hansen continues to walk batters at frightening rates. On the year, he has issued 59 walks in 51 1/3 innings!
Others of Note:
- Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics (7.31/2.00 ERA/WHIP, 16 IP, 18/7 K/BB, upon promotion to Triple-A)
- Michel Baez, San Diego Padres (7.36/1.85 ERA/WHP, 18 1/3 IP, 21/12 K/BB, upon promotion to Double-A)
- Peter Lambert, Colorado Rockies (6.99/1.62 ERA/WHIP, 28 1/3 IP, 18/10 K/BB)
- Luis Medina, New York Yankees (22 walks in 16 2/3 innings)
Additional Pitching Prospect Notes
- On September 5th, Forrest Whitley returned from the disabled list to pitch in the Double-A playoffs.
- MacKenzie Gore is once more on the disabled list with a minor hand injury (fingernail).
- The Yankees shifted Justus Sheffield to the bullpen in preparation for his presumed major league debut later this month.
- The Padres shutdown Chris Paddack after he doubled his prior highest minor league innings total.
- The Rays acquired Shane Baz as the PTBNL in the Chris Archer deal.
- Grant Holmes finally returned to action in late August from a season-long bout with a rotator cuff injury.
- Notable promotions: Dustin May (Double-A), Albert Abreu (Double-A), Cal Quantrill (Triple-A), Ryan Weathers (Low-A), Hans Crouse (Low-A), Luis Oviedo (Low-A), Garrett Whitlock (Double-A), Lewis Thorpe (Triple-A), Wil Crowe (Double-A), Darwinzon Hernandez (Double-A), and Emilio Vargas (Double-A).
- Notable AFL Participants: Forrest Whitley, Jon Duplantier, J.B. Bukauskas, Domingo Acevedo, Jordan Yamamoto, and Darwinzon Hernandez.