2019 Top 210 Fantasy Pitching Prospects, Part 1
There is no such thing as TINSTAAPP! Pitching prospects exist just as much as hitting prospects. All prospects carry risk, including injury risk, and no prospect is a sure thing. Major league teams regularly carry 12-13 pitchers; therefore, pitching depth is crucial. As such, the list of pitching prospects is expansive; so expansive it warrants two separate articles. This article focuses upon the cream of the crop, the top 30 pitching prospects. Part 2 details the remaining 180 pitching prospects, from high upside, high risk teenagers to intriguing prospects on the cusp of majors, but often considered “organizational depth.”
The prospect rankings schedule and a guide to fantasy tool grades can be found here. In addition, to see where the pitching prospects below fall in the overall rankings, you can obtain access to the updated Top 600 Dynasty League Players with a small donation.
Top 30 Fantasy Pitching Prospects
|1||Forrest Whitley HOU||RHP||21.54||AA||2019|
|2||Jesus Luzardo OAK||LHP||21.49||A+, AA, AAA||2019|
|3||Alex Reyes STL||RHP||24.58||A, A+, AA, AAA, MLB||-|
|4||Sixto Sanchez PHI||RHP||20.66||A+||2020|
|5||Casey Mize DET||RHP||21.91||GCL, A+||2020|
|6||MacKenzie Gore SD||LHP||20.09||A||2021|
|7||Mike Soroka ATL||RHP||21.65||AAA, MLB||-|
|8||Mitch Keller PIT||RHP||22.98||A+, AA, AAA||2019|
|9||Michael Kopech CHW||RHP||22.91||AAA, MLB||-|
|10||Brent Honeywell TB||RHP||23.99||N/A||2019|
|11||Kyle Wright ATL||RHP||23.49||AA, AAA, MLB||-|
|12||Brendan McKay TB||LHP||23.28||GCL, A, A+||2020|
|13||Chris Paddack SD||RHP||23.22||A+, AA||2019|
|14||A.J. Puk OAK||LHP||23.93||N/A||2019|
|15||Hunter Greene CIN||RHP||19.64||A||2022|
|16||Yusei Kikuchi SEA||LHP||27.78||NPB||2019|
|17||Justus Sheffield SEA||LHP||22.88||AA, AAA, MLB||-|
|18||Ian Anderson ATL||RHP||20.91||A+, AA||2020|
|19||Dylan Cease CHW||RHP||23.25||A+, AA||2019|
|20||Triston McKenzie CLE||RHP||21.66||AA||2019|
|21||Matt Manning DET||RHP||21.17||A, A+, AA||2020|
|22||Jonathan Loaisiga NYY||RHP||24.41||A+, AA, MLB||-|
|23||Brusdar Graterol MIN||RHP||20.59||A, A+||2020|
|24||Touki Toussaint ATL||RHP||22.77||AA, AAA, MLB||-|
|25||Josh James HOU||RHP||26.06||AA, AAA, MLB||-|
|26||Michel Baez SD||RHP||23.19||A+, AA||2019|
|27||Luiz Gohara ATL||LHP||22.66||AA, AAA, MLB||-|
|28||Jon Duplantier ARI||RHP||24.71||AZL, AA||2019|
|29||Adrian Morejon SD||LHP||20.09||AZL, A+||2020|
|30||Bryse Wilson ATL||RHP||21.27||A+, AA, AAA, MLB||-|
1. Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros
The seventeenth overall selection in the 2016 Draft, Forrest Whitley has exceeded already high expectations. Last year, he became one of four high school draftees this century to reach Double-A in their first professional season. If not for a 50-game suspension and a series of minor injuries (oblique and lat), which limited him to 8 starts, Whitley may have even debuted in the majors this year. Given his abbreviated season, he showcased his talent in the Arizona Fall League, where he dominated (2.42/0.96 ERA/WHIP with a 36-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 innings).
Whitley has a large and imposing 6’7″ frame, which allows all his stuff to play up due to elite extension and a steep downhill plane. His bread-and-butter pitch is a double-plus, 93-98 mph fastball with above-average natural movement. In addition to his heater, Whitley possesses three potentially plus secondaries, including a 12-to-6 curveball, a power slider, and a diving change-up. Due to his large frame and long levers, however, he has inconsistent command and can struggle to hit spots. Nevertheless, his repertoire alone already rivals the top arms in the majors, and, with further refinement of his command, he is a future ace.
2. Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics
|A+, AA, AAA||2.88||1.09||23/23||109 1/3||129/30||7|
During his draft year, Jesus Luzardo underwent Tommy John surgery in March, causing him to fall to the opportunistic Nationals in the third round. A year later, he was the centerpiece in a trade with the Athletics for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Despite never even appearing in full-season ball, Luzardo received an invitation to Spring Training, where he impressed in 6 scoreless innings. As a result, the Athletics aggressively assigned him to High-A, and he quickly ascended all the way to Triple-A by August.
Luzardo possesses elite velocity from the left-side, with a 94-98 mph, tailing fastball. Arguably his best pitch, however, is a low-80s, fading change-up. While both his fastball and change-up are plus (or better) pitches, his curveball is inconsistent, lacking sharp bite, and used primarily as a show-me offering. Even so, his repertoire is excellent, and, when paired with strong command, which some project to plus, Luzardo is a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.
3. Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals
|A, A+, AA, AAA||0.00||0.61||4/4||23||44/7||0|
Over the last three years, Alex Reyes has endured one setback after another, including a 50-game suspension in 2016, Tommy John surgery in 2017, and a torn lat tendon in 2018. In fact, the timing of his latest injury allowed him to narrowly retain rookie eligibility at exactly 50 innings-pitched. Prior to his injury, Reyes had returned to form, and he was back in the majors after four dominant rehab appearances. On November 1st, the Cardinals activated him from the 60-day disabled list, and he is reportedly on track for Spring Training.
When healthy, Reyes throws gas, with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball (averaged 95 mph in his lone start). In addition, he utilizes three different off-speed pitches, headlined by a knee-buckling, upper-70s curveball. Both his mid-80s slider and firm, upper-80s change-up profile as solid average offerings, though the change-up flashes above-average with more separation. While his repertoire is deep and electric, Reyes has struggled with command and control throughout his career (∼11% BB). Consequently, he may profile best as an elite closer or multi-inning reliever. Regardless, he possesses substantial upside. Now, Reyes just needs to stay healthy!
4. Sixto Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies
In early June, the Phillies shut down Sixto Sanchez due to right elbow inflammation. Prior to the injury, he was on a roll over his last four starts in High-A, allowing just 2 earned runs, 15 hits, and 4 walks in 25 2/3 innings (0.70/0.74 ERA/WHIP). Unfortunately, his injury held him out of action for the rest of the year, and a separate, minor injury (right collarbone soreness) kept him from participating in the Arizona Fall League. Despite the specter of his injuries, Sanchez should be ready by Spring Training.
Despite his smaller 6’0″ frame, Sanchez has a huge, 94-98 mph fastball, which he can manipulate to sink or cut. In support of his fastball, he sports two above-average off-speed pitches: an upper-70s, 11-to-5 curveball and a mid-80s, sinking change-up. Notably, Sanchez exhibits an advanced feel for pitching, repeats his athletic delivery, and exercises uncanny command over all his pitches, especially his fastball. Given his slight frame, power arm, and present injury concerns, however, Dr. Mike Tanner notes “you may as well bake in a year off for Tommy John into any future projection.” Nonetheless, Sanchez has a special combination of arm talent, athleticism, and polish.
5. Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers
|GCL, A+||3.95||1.17||5/5||13 2/3||14/3||2|
Following a dominant college season in the difficult Southeastern Conference, Casey Mize was the first player selected in the 2018 Draft. Despite some late-season struggles, he still posted an incredible 156-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As the stats suggest, Mize is a command and control artist with an excellent repertoire. Although he sports a running, mid-90s fastball, his best pitch is an upper-80s, diving split-finger change-up. In addition, he throws a mid-80s slider with 11-to-5 slurve movement, which he occasionally throws in the upper-80s for cutter-like movement. Most importantly, Mize is able to consistently locate each pitch within the zone.
Despite his excellent season, however, Mize carries some risk. During his sophomore year, he missed time due to a tired arm and a flexor strain in his forearm. In addition, Mize allowed ten home runs, and his fastball occasionally lacks movement. Finally, no pitch in his repertoire creates much velocity separation, speeding bats up. All the same, Mize possesses advanced pitchability, plus stuff, and excellent command, and he should quickly move through the minors.
6. MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres
The third overall pick of the 2017 Draft, MacKenzie Gore had a successful full-season debut, despite battling minor hand issues (blister and fingernail). Although his statistical performance was underwhelming, he was working on various pitches all year. Those pitches form a deep and elite repertoire, including a 92-97 mph fastball (four- and two-seam), an upper-70s, 1-to-7 curveball, an upper-80s slider, and a low-80s, fading change-up. Each pitch projects to plus or better, except the slider, which he uses primarily as a change-of-pace offering. Further, Gore employs an unorthodox leg kick reminiscent of Dontrelle Willis, creating deception and extension. Despite his unusual, graceful delivery, he has exceptional command. His combination of stuff, command, and mature feel for pitching provide him as much upside as any pitching prospect.
7. Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves
Mike Soroka is a prototypical, physical, workhorse starter. With a well-built and durable frame (6’5″ and 225 pounds), he pounds the zone (47.4% in debut), often pitching to contact and generating a healthy dose of groundballs (60% in 2018). His arensal is solidly average-to-above, with a four- and two-seam, low-90s fastball (93 mph average in debut), a mid-80s slider (85.5 mph), and low-80s change-up (82.6 mph). Most importantly, Soroka has excellent command and control of each of his pitches, as evidenced by his career 5.3% walk rate. Given his approach and repertoire, he is unlikely to accrue large strikeout totals, but he should pile up quality innings. While Soroka missed over half the season due to right shoulder inflammation, Dr. Mike Tanner does not consider the injury serious, describing it as a mild nerve injury. Injury notwithstanding, he profiles as a reliable, innings-eating 3-starter.
8. Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates
|A+, AA, AAA||3.48||1.30||25/25||142 1/3||135/55||10|
Despite his less-than-stellar statistical performance this year, Mitch Keller transitioned well to the upper minors. After a strong 14-start first half in Double-A (2.72/1.12 ERA/WHIP), including a nearly untouchable June (0.69/0.81 ERA/WHIP), he received a promotion to Triple-A. There, Keller hits some bumps in the road, but he settled down over his final five starts (2.20/1.26 ERA/WHIP). With two potential plus pitches (93-97 mph fastball and 11-to-5, 78-82 mph curveball), he spent much of the year developing his mid-80s change-up, which now projects to average. Further, observers remain impressed with his command and control, despite an increased walk rate (9.2% BB). Added to the 40-man roster in November, Keller likely debuts in the majors as soon as mid-season. Ultimately, he has 2- or 3-starter upside, depending on the further development of his change-up.
9. Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
At the beginning of his career, Michael Kopech impersonated Rick Vaughn, getting into trouble and throwing uncontrolled gas. Indeed, he received a 50-game suspension in 2015 and broke his right hand in a fight in 2016, all while regularly touching triple-digits as high as 105 mph. Over time, he slowly began harnessing his electric repertoire, including a plus, mid-80s slider and an improving, upper-80s change-up. Consequently, his walk rates fell from 14.7% in 2016 to 11.8% in 2017 to 10.1% in 2018. Indeed, a disastrous two-month stretch this year (47 walks in 55 1/3 innings) inflated his walk rate. After the All-Star break, something clicked for Kopech, and he started throwing more strikes. Over his last 11 appearances, he posted a 74-to-6 strikeout-to-walk in 58 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, he fell victim to Tommy John surgery amid his major league debut. Should his improved control continue, Kopech is a potential ace.
10. Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays
After a dominant performance in Triple-A last year (152-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio), Brent Honeywell was on the fast track to the majors. Sadly, he underwent Tommy John surgery in late February. Last month, he threw off the mound for the first time since the surgery. By all accounts, Honeywell is on pace to return mid-season. When healthy, he is well-known for a filthy screwball, passed down from his father’s cousin, Cy Young Award winner Mike Marshall. However, he is far from a one-trick pony, with a mid-90s fastball and three additional solid off-speed pitches (change-up, curveball, and slider). Further, Honeywell has outstanding control (5.6% BB), and his command has steadily improved year-to-year. Should his repertoire and command return following the surgery, he looks the part of a 2- or 3-starter.
11. Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves
Kyle Wright made his major league debut a little over a year after the Braves selected him fifth overall in the 2017 Draft. A polished college arm, he made quick work of the upper minors this year, earning a brief cup of coffee in September. Wright has a deep repertoire, arguably with four above-average pitches, including a mid-90s, sinking fastball (94 mph average in debut) which generates tons of groundballs. Of his secondaries, his sharp, mid-80s slider is king, and a potential plus pitch, while his 12-to-6 curveball and fading change-up both project as average-to-above. While he has better control than command at present, and he can struggle with inconsistency, he should develop average command and control over time. Given his expansive repertoire and ideal size (6’4″), Wright profiles well as a high-volume, durable 3-starter.
12. Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays
|GCL, A, A+||2.41||0.88||19/17||78 1/3||103/14||3|
The fourth overall pick of the 2017 Draft, Brendan McKay is a potential two-way player, and likely a superior pitching than hitting prospect. Between bouts with an oblique injury, he dominated on the mound, cruising through the lower minors. Notably, McKay displayed advanced command and control (4.7% BB) and improved velocity, sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball. In addition, he has three (or even four) potential above-average off-speed pitches, notably including a low-80s, 1-to-7 curveball, an upper-80s cutter, and a mid-80s change-up. With control over a solid, polished repertoire, he has mid-rotation potential. Click here to read about McKay as a hitter!
13. Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres
To start 2016, Chris Paddack enjoyed an epic 6-start run in Low-A (0.39 WHIP!), leading the Padres to acquire him from the Marlins for Fernando Rodney. Just three starts after joining his new organization, he underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2017 season. Upon his return this year, Paddack picked up where he left off, finding little resistance through Double-A. Incredibly, he issued just 8 walks over 90 innings (2.4%)! Clearly, his control is top-notch, and he consistently peppers the strike zone (69.1% strikes). Further, Paddack has a solid repertoire, led by a double-plus, fading, low-80s change-up, nearly indistinguishable out of his hand from his low-90s fastball. The continued development of his mid-70s curveball, which remains inconsistent and may only be average, will dictate is ceiling as a potential mid-rotation starter.
14. A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics
This spring, A.J. Puk was lights out in the Cactus League, hurling 10 straight scoreless innings. By all indications, he was likely to debut in the majors early in the season, or even break camp with the Athletics. Regrettably, his last spring outing was a disaster and, ultimately, a harbinger of Tommy John surgery. As such, Puk missed the entire 2018 season.
When healthy, the former sixth overall pick is a strikeout machine (34.5% in 2017). A lanky and athletic 6’7”, he delivers mid-90s fastballs with excellent extension and run. In addition, Puk throws three above-average secondaries, including a sharp, upper-80s slider, an upper-70s curveball, and a low-80s change-up. Impressively, his repertoire spans four different velocity bands, keeping hitters off balance. Due to his size and inconsistent mechanics, he occasionally struggles to repeat his delivery and his command suffers. Regardless, Puk projects as a mid-rotation starter with massive fantasy upside due to his strikeout potential.
15. Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds
The second overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Hunter Greene has the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect. Already, he sits in the upper-90s (95-98 mph), regularly touching triple-digits. Indeed, his fastball projects to be a rare 80-grade offering at maturity with elite velocity and plus command. In addition to his fastball, Greene has three promising off-speed pitches (mid-80s slider, mid-80s change-up, and upper-70s curveball). Notably, his slider showed significant improvement, and now projects as a potential plus pitch. In addition, his change-up displayed better separation (it was low-90s previously) and command. Given his premium athleticism, clean delivery, and work ethic, Greene also projects to develop above-average command and control. All told, his raw talent, emerging repertoire, and improving command foretell of a potential ace.
In his full-season debut in Low-A this year, Greene struggled over his first five starts (13.97/3.21 ERA/WHIP), before settling down (2.95/1.00 ERA/WHIP with a 71-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Scarily, his season ended in late July due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, which can lead to Tommy John surgery. Instead of surgery, he is pursuing rehab, and, by all accounts, he appears on track for Spring Training.
16. Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners
Hours before the New Year, the Mariners signed the next Japanese pitching sensation, Yusei Kikuchi. As an initial matter, he is not Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, or even Kenta Maeda. Rather, he resembles a poor man’s Patrick Corbin, heavily utilizing a low-90s fastball (91.5 mph average in 2018) and a wipeout, mid-80s slider (85.7 mph). In fact, only four major league pitchers threw a slider more often than him last year, and each found success (Corbin, Chacin, Severino, and Junis). Like Corbin, Kikuchi sparingly throws two additional average off-speed offerings (curveball and change-up). Meanwhile, his command lags behind more recent imports from Japan (Maeda and Miles Mikolas), and he missed time this year with shoulder soreness. Regardless, Kikuchi is the only pitching prospect with a guaranteed spot in a major league rotation in the immediate future, and he has intriguing strikeout potential due to his devastating slider.
17. Justus Sheffield, Seattle Mariners
Since the Indians selected Justus Sheffield in the first round of the 2014 Draft, he has changed organizations twice as part of blockbuster trades. The Yankees acquired him for Andrew Miller in 2016 then shipped him to the Mariners this off-season for James Paxton. Following his strong performance in Triple-A (2.56/1.16 ERA/WHIP), Sheffield is on the cusp of the majors, and even briefly debuted this year. Despite lacking ideal size (5’11”), he brings heat, sitting around 93-95 mph and touching 97 mph (94.4 mph average in debut). In addition, he has a plus, mid-80s, power slider (84.5 mph) and an improving, but firm, upper-80s change-up (89.8 mph). Given his size and questionable control (10.8% BB), many still project Sheffield in the bullpen. Regardless, he is a major league-ready arm with mid-rotation upside should his command and change-up continue to improve.
18. Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves
|A+, AA||2.49||1.14||24/24||119 1/3||142/49||2|
The third overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ian Anderson is yet another precocious Braves hurler. As a 20-year-old for most of the year, he breezed through High-A and Double-A. In fact, Anderson allowed one earned run or less in all but one of his last 10 starts (1.33/0.88 ERA/WHIP). Arguably, the most impressive part of his performance the last two years is he has only allowed 2 home runs in 202 1/3 innings (0.09 HR/9)! A lean and projectable 6’3”, Anderson already delivers a mid-90s fastball (92-96 mph) with excellent downhill plane from an over-the-top delivery. Further, both his 12-to-6, upper-70s curveball and diving, mid-80s change-up flash plus. While his walk rates remain high (9.9%), it has dropped by over two percent since last year. With remaining projection, improving command, and three potential plus pitches, Anderson is a future 2- or 3-starter.
19. Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox
Dylan Cease fell to the sixth round of the 2014 Draft due to an arm injury which resulted in Tommy John surgery. Three years later, the Cubs shipped him across town to the White Sox in a package for Jose Quintana. After an excellent season, including a dominant, 10-game performance in Double-A (1.72/0.99 ERA/WHIP), Cease is now on the 40-man roster and likely will debut later in 2019.
A power pitcher, he has huge fastball, sitting 95-97 mph touching triple-digits. Long a two-pitch pitcher, relying on his fastball and plus, 12-to-6 hammer curveball, Cease is showing more confidence in his low-80s change-up, while developing a mid-80s slider. In addition, his control continues to improve, as evidenced by a reduced walk rate (10.2%). However, his command remains below-average, and his electric stuff has offset poor location within the zone. Still, Cease has made significant gains in the past year, and his progress allows projection on his command and change-up to profile as a mid-rotation starter.
20. Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians
Triston McKenzie missed the first two months of the season with the scary diagnosis of “forearm soreness.” Upon his return, his velocity was down, sitting in the upper-80s. Later in the year, however, reports indicate his velocity was up to the low-to-mid-90s (92-96 mph). At the same time, he excelled in Double-A at just 20 years old (2.09/0.97 ERA/WHIP over his last 11 starts).
Resembling Jack Skellington, McKenzie is scary thin, listed at 6’5” and 165 pounds. Despite the disparity between his height and weight, he lacks much projectability due to his narrow frame. Nevertheless, he creates excellent extension with advanced command, allowing all his pitches to play up. In addition to his fastball, McKenzie shows superb feel for an 11-to-5, upper-70s curveball, and he is developing more consistency with a firm, mid-80s changeup. If McKenzie adds weight (he must, right?!) and velocity, he is a potential 2-starter. If he does not, his advanced feel for pitching, extension, and control still provide him a future as a 3- or 4- starter.
21. Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers
|A, A+, AA||3.29||1.20||22/22||117 2/3||154/51||7|
The ninth overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Manning Manning is tall (6’6″), athletic, and projectable. Considered a raw, but electric arm, he still advanced three levels this year, reaching Double-A at just 20 years old. Due to his elite two-pitch mix, including a mid-90s mph fastball and an upper-70s, 12-to-6 curveball, Manning consistently piles up strikeouts (31.6%). Further, he has made progress with strike throwing and control (66.4% strikes and 8.2% walk rate after May). However, his inconsistent mechanics, command, and upper-80s change-up, firm and lacking much movement, portend future struggles. Regardless, his athleticism, projection, and current progress portend gains in each of these problem-areas. With further refinement, Manning possesses top-of-the-rotation upside and massive strikeout potential.
22. Jonathan Loaisiga, New York Yankees
Do not let his small stature (5’11” and 165 pounds) fool you, Jonathan Loaisiga is a power pitcher. Incredibly, his fastball regularly sits between 95-97 mph (96 mph average in debut). In addition, he supports his fastball with two potential above-average pitches, an 11-to-5, mid-80s, power curveball and an improving, firm, upper-80s change-up. Most impressively, he displays excellent control of his arensal (3.2% walk rate the last two years). The main knocks on Loaisiga are his durability (he totaled a career high 80 2/3 innings this year), and, obviously, his size. As such, it is difficult to envision him holding up in the rotation over a full major league season. Regardless, his advanced command of his electric repertoire provides significant upside in any role.
23. Brusdar Graterol, Minnesota Twins
In his stateside debut last year, and return from Tommy John surgery, Brusdar Graterol wowed, with a huge increase in velocity. Now, his fastball sits in the upper-90s, touching triple-digits! Further, he possesses three promising off-speed pitches (slider, curveball, and change-up), which vary in effectiveness game-to-game, each flashing above-average at times. The general consensus is his mid-to-upper-80s slider, his preferred secondary, is a potential plus offering. Notably, Graterol peppers the strike zone, exhibiting advanced control (6.7% BB) for such a young arm. Given his huge velocity and solid control, he easily mowed down hitters in the lower minors this year. Like Loaisiga, however, durability remains a concern for Graterol, and he missed time this year due to back issues. With further development of his off-speed pitches and gains in command, he is a potential 2-starter.
24. Touki Toussaint, Atlanta Braves
|AA, AAA||2.38||1.13||24/24||136 1/3||163/53||7|
A first round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Touki Toussaint has come a long way since his days as a raw prep arm. Each year, 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, Toussaint dominated Double- and Triple-A, and, while his walk rate escalated during his major league debut, he impressed. Long known for his plus fastball/curveball combination, he now also features a lethal, mid-80s change-up with splitter-like, late diving action. All told, Toussaint has a potential dominant three-pitch mix. Whether he is able to make further gains in command and control will determine his ultimate role, either as a mid-rotation starter or late-inning arm.
25. Josh James, Houston Astros
|AA, AAA||3.23||1.12||23/21||114 1/3||171/49||9|
One thousand five (1005) players went ahead of Josh James in the 2014 Draft! Since then, his velocity has steadily improved, from low-90s just a couple years ago to averaging 97.5 mph in his major league debut. In addition to his fastball, he attacks hitters with two above-average off-speed pitches (slider and change-up). Notably, his fading change-up has improved to the extent he relies on it more than his slider, and it elicited 23% whiffs in his debut. The main concerns for James are his questionable command and control (10.4% BB) and repeating his delivery. As such, many observers project him to the bullpen long-term. With only Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole returning to the Astros rotation, however, he should receive an opportunity to stick in the rotation next year. Fantasy owners in all formats should target James as a low-cost investment who could provide huge strikeout upside.
26. Michel Baez, San Diego Padres
The Padres signed Michel Baez for $3 million from Cuba in December 2016. Last year, he dominated Low-A with an incredible 82-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While a back injury delayed the start of his season, and his control backed up (10% BB), Baez survived the hitter-friendly California League (2.91/1.22 ERA/WHIP) and debuted in Double-A. A gigantic 6’8”, he generates impressive extension, elevating his already blazing 94-98 mph fastball. Further, Baez flashes three potential above-average secondaries, a sharp, upper-80s slider, a 12-to-6, upper-70s curveball, and a mid-80s changeup. Due to his size and long levers, he struggles to repeat his delivery, and his command suffers at times. As he transitions to the upper minors, he will need to sharpen his location within the zone. Given his loud stuff, Baez is a potential top-of-the-rotation arm if he can harness his arsenal.
27. Luiz Gohara, Atlanta Braves
Prior to last year, the Braves acquired Luiz Gohara from the Mariners as part of the Mallex Smith three-way trade. Following the trade, he responded by advancing all the way from High-A to the majors in one year. Unfortunately, he experienced an emotional and injury-riddled 2018 season. His father passed away in December and his mother had heart surgery in late May. Further, injuries (ankle sprain and shoulder soreness) bookended his season. At his best, Gohara has a double-plus, upper-90s fastball (97 mph average in debut), a sharp and sweeping, mid-80s slider, and a promising, upper-80s changeup. However, his down season, recent shoulder injury, and continued struggles with weight (listed 6’3″ and 265 pounds) dampen his stock. Still, his superb two-pitch combination and solid control provide Gohara substantial upside as a mid-rotation starter or shutdown reliever.
28. Jon Duplantier, Arizona Diamondbacks
A shoulder impingement which forced Jon Duplantier to miss the entire 2015 season has haunted his early career. Due to the injury, he fell to the third round in the 2016 Draft. The next year, he silenced skeptics with a healthy and dominant 136 innings. This year, however, Duplantier returned to the disabled list, notably missing nearly two months with right biceps tendonitis. Any injuries raise red flags, especially for a player with such a frightening injury history. Luckily, he returned healthy and finished strong, including an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League (3.32/1.52 ERA/WHIP with 32 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings).
Duplantier finds his success from a deep, four-pitch repertoire. Specifically, he throws three potential above-average-to-plus pitches, including a heavy, mid-90s fastball, a plus, power slider, and a tumbling change-up, while he utilizes his curveball as a change-of-pace offering. His control is inconsistent, and his command comes and goes. With improved command, which many project due to his excellent athleticism, Duplantier projects to be a mid-rotation starter.
29. Adrian Morejon, San Diego Padres
|AZL, A+||3.44||1.27||14/14||65 1/3||74/24||6|
The Padres went on an international spending spree in 2016, and Adrian Morejon was the $11 million headliner. At just 19 years old, he found little resistance in High-A, before hip and triceps soreness limited him to just 7 2/3 innings after mid-June. Despite his youth, Morejon possesses a mature approach on the mound and an advanced feel for pitching. As such, he makes the most of his above-average repertoire, including a low-to-mid-90s mph fastball, an upper-70s, 1-to-7 curveball, and a low-80s changeup. Each pitch receives potential plus grades from various observers. Further, his clean delivery, athleticism, and composure provide above-average command potential. Although Morejon lacks elite upside, he should develop into a steady and reliable mid-rotation starter.
30. Bryse Wilson, Atlanta Braves
|A+, AA, AAA||3.44||1.19||25/23||125 2/3||143/36||9|
Bryse Wilson is a well-built and sturdy workhorse starter. Indeed, in just his first full season last year, he tallied 137 innings at 19 years old! Then, the Braves aggressively promoted him throughout this year, and, ultimately, he arrived in the majors at just 20 years old. His performance and quick ascent evidence a polished prospect with major league-ready tools. Wilson flashed some impressive stuff in his brief debut, with a plus, mid-90s fastball (95 mph average in debut) and two promising off-speed offerings. In addition, his control is steady (6.8% BB in 2017 and 2018), and his command continues to improve. How his secondaries develop will determine his future role. Both his mid-80s slider and upper-80s change-up flash above-average on any given day, but are more comfortably average pitches. Overall, Wilson is a solid, but unspectacular, pitcher, profiling similarly to Michael Fulmer.
Jesse Roche's 2019 Prospect Series
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Next up, Part 2 of the Top 210 Fantasy Pitching Prospects. Stay tuned!
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