Monthly Prospect Update: Pitchers, April 2019
Each month, The Dynasty Guru will provide a prospect update, including 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 April, TDG reviewed early assignments, injuries, and notable rankings movement for infielders, outfielders, and pitchers. 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 Rising Major League Pitching Prospect
Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres. With a lights out spring performance, Paddack earned an aggressive promotion to the majors without any experience above Double-A. Now, through his first 7 starts, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, his fastball and change-up place second and third, respectively, in Fangraphs pitch values. Remarkably, his fastball velocity has improved even further, touching 98 mph on Monday and averaging 94.4 mph. Of course, Paddack’s bread and butter pitch is his devastating, double-plus, fading, low-to-mid-80s change-up, which has generated 21.2% whiffs. Meanwhile, his mid-70s curveball has been serviceable and an effective change-of-pace offering. Given the jump in the quality of his arsenal and early returns, Paddack is now the top pitching prospect in baseball, surpassing Forrest Whitley.
Chris Paddack's 11Ks from Last Night (in under 20 seconds). 🤠 pic.twitter.com/1Kb4cZCuHn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2019
The Rising Minor League Pitching Prospect
Casey Mize, Detroit Tigers. The first overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Mize is living up to the hype. Prior to the season, I ranked him as the top fantasy prospect in 2019 First Year Player Drafts. This minority opinion is looking good! Between High-A and Double-A in April, Mize has been incredible, allowing just 1 earned run, 7 hits, and 2 walks in 35 innings. In his first Double-A start, he threw a complete game no-hitter. Of course, Mize is an advanced college pitcher who should do well in the lower minors, but his performance thus far is better than expected. His repertoire remains the same, including a mid-90s fastball, an upper-80s, diving split-finger change-up, a low-80s slider with 11-to-5 slurve movement, which he occasionally throws in the upper-80s for cutter-like movement. Nick Brugh at 2080 Baseball provides an excellent look at Mize’s stuff from his no-hitter.
ICYMI: The SeaWolves made @SportsCenter last night after a NO-HITTER from Casey Mize, in his Double-A debut!
— Erie SeaWolves (@erie_seawolves) April 30, 2019
Zac Gallen, Miami Marlins. The Pacific Coast League is a notorious hitters’ haven, but Gallen has found little resistance over the first month. Through April, he allowed just 3 earned runs in 32 1/3 innings with a sparkling 38-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. An increase in sitting velocity from 90-92 mph to 92-94 mph (touching 96-97) may be responsible for his fast start. While he lacks a plus pitch, Gallen keeps hitters off balance with above-average command of a deep repertoire with four average-to-above offerings. As such, he profiles more as a back-end starter than a mid-rotation piece. However, such pitchers still can make a significant fantasy impact, and it is only a matter of time before Gallen makes his major league debut.
Zac Gallen talks about hitting 96-97 mph and how much of that has to do with the adrenaline of facing a lineup as loaded as the Astros. pic.twitter.com/1MZxnqwPSW
— jeremy taché (@jeremytache) March 7, 2019
The Graduated Pitching Prospect
Alex Reyes, St. Louis Cardinals. It only took one out for Reyes to exceed rookie limits. Unfortunately, he lasted just 8 more outs before landing on the injured list yet again (fractured left pinkie). Prior to the injury, Reyes issued 6 walks in 3 innings and threw just 49.3% strikes. His stuff remains excellent, but command and bad injury luck have held him back.
Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins. After a stellar start to Alcantara’s season, the wheels have fallen off, with a 21-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio (14.5%) over his last 30 1/3 innings. Despite his poor performance, he flashes four above-average pitches and above-average swinging strikes (11.5%). Like Reyes, however, Alcantara has potentially debilitating command problems.
Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals. While Hudson found success in the bullpen last year, he has struggled in his return to the rotation. As a starter, his velocity is way down (two-seam 2 mph, four-seam 3 mph, and cutter 4 mph). In addition, he has the highest home run-to-fly ball ratio in the majors (34.8%). At least, Hudson continues to churn out ground balls, trailing only Luis Castillo in ground ball rate (56.1%).
Others of Note:
- Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels
- Thomas Pannone, Toronto Blue Jays
The Major League Pitching Prospect
Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves. The Braves rotation has been a pitching prospect carousel this year. However, Soroka may be the first prospect to stick. With a well-built and durable frame (6’5″ and 225 pounds), he is a prototypical, physical, workhorse starter. Soroka pounds the zone and induces a healthy dose of ground balls (59%) with three potential above-average-to-plus offerings.
Mike Soroka held a pitching clinic on Monday night.
Everyone was invited. pic.twitter.com/kyJqUmF9Bc
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) April 30, 2019
Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners. The high-profile Japanese import has enjoyed a strong debut (3.98/1.16 ERA/WHIP). Notably, his control has been a pleasant surprise, issuing just 9 walks (5.5%) in 40 innings. Kikuchi has a three-pitch repertoire, including a mid-90s fastball (93.9 mph), an upper-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. His slider has been as advertised, eliciting 22.8% whiffs. The rest of his arsenal does not miss many bats, cratering his swinging strike rate (9.2%). As predicted, both his fastball and curveball play to average. Kikuchi profiles as a solid 3- or 4-starter given his early control gains, deceptive delivery, and impressive slider.
Spencer Turnbull, Detroit Tigers. A 26-year-old rookie, Turnbull has impressed thus far (2.31/1.18 ERA/WHIP). He relies on a four-pitch arsenal, headlined by a lethal four- and two-seam fastball combination. Further, his slider provides a potential plus, swing-and-miss weapon (20.9% whiffs). A shift in usage of his cutter (dropped), four-seam fastball (nearly quadrupled), and two-seam fastball (nearly halved) appears to have elevated Turnbull to a legit rotation piece.
Nick Margevicius, San Diego Padres. In one of many surprise moves by the Padres, Margevicius received a promotion to the majors to start the year despite no upper minors experience. An excellent first three starts clouded many to his actual ability. Margevicius has a below-average, upper-80s fastball, three average (give or take) secondary pitches, and average-to-above command. Ultimately, he profiles as a back-end starter or LOOGY.
Others of Note:
- Josh James, Houston Astros
- Jon Duplantier, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels
- Cal Quantrill, San Diego Padres
- Trent Thornton, Toronto Blue Jays
- Erik Swanson, Seattle Mariners
- Framber Valdez, Houston Astros
- Yoan Lopez, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Adrian Houser, Milwaukee Brewers
- Elvis Luciano, Toronto Blue Jays
- Richard Lovelady, Kansas City Royals
- Yency Almonte, Colorado Rockies
The Good: Top 240 Pitching Prospect
MacKenzie Gore, San Diego Padres. The third overall pick of the 2017 Draft, MacKenzie Gore carved up the hitter-friendly California League in April (1.37/0.72 ERA/WHP and 38-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 1/3 innings). To start May, he hurled five hit-less innings. There are few pitching prospects better than Gore, who potentially has plus command of a deep, plus 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.
MacKenzie Gore high fastball (4/5/19) pic.twitter.com/McrlIcW03p
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) April 6, 2019
Nate Pearson, Toronto Blue Jays. After a wild, but dynamic, performance in the Arizona Fall League last year, Pearson appears to have harnessed his elite stuff. In High-A, he had a superb 30-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 innings in April (0.95/0.63 ERA/WHIP). Thus far, he has alternated 2- and 5-inning starts, likely in an effort to limit his total innings after missing most of last year. Pearson regularly sits in the upper-90s, touching 103 mph, with an upper-80s slider, touching 95 mph, an upper-80s change-up, and a change-of-pace, mid-70s curveball. With size (6’6”), arm strength, and a promisingly deep repertoire, he is a potential frontline starter. Yesterday, Pearson officially received a promotion to Double-A.
Hans Crouse, Texas Rangers. Like Pearson, Crouse is silencing questions regarding his control, with 0 walks over his first 15 innings in Low-A. His violent delivery remains a concern, but his stuff is electric, including a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider.
Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles. In April, Rodriguez allowed just 1 earned run in 16 2/3 innings with a 28-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. I just happened to witness the lone run, a home run by Rodolfo Castro. In addition, I provided a detailed scouting report of Rodriguez over two weeks ago. For a 19-year-old in Low-A, he already exhibits tremendous poise, command, and repertoire depth.
Others of Note:
- Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays (2.41/0.86 ERA/WHIP, 18 2/3 IP, 33/4 K/BB)
- Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers (2.83/0.73 ERA/WHIP, 28 2/3 IP, 41/7 K/BB)
- Brusdar Graterol, Minnesota Twins (2.30/1.02 ERA/WHIP, 27 1/3 IP, 28/12 K/BB)
- Dustin May, Los Angeles Dodgers (1.50/0.96 ERA/WHIP, 24 IP, 27/7 K/BB)
- Spencer Howard, Philadelphia Phillies (2.25/1.00 ERA/WHIP, 20 IP, 30/4 K/BB)
- Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners (1.83/0.71 ERA/WHIP, 19 2/3 IP, 30/5 K/BB)
- Ryan Weathers, San Diego Padres (1.82/0.97 ERA/WHIP, 24 2/3 IP, 31/3 K/BB)
The Good: Non-Top 240 Pitching Prospect
Zach Plesac, Cleveland Indians. Multiple observers (Eric Logenhagen and Adam McIntuff) have noted a big boost in velocity for Plesac this year, jumping from the low-90s to now sitting around 94 mph. It took several years since his Tommy John surgery in 2016 for his velocity surge to manifest. Now, he sports an above-average fastball to pair with his three average secondary offerings and above-average command. Consequently, Plesac is having his way with the Eastern League (0.86/0.70 ERA/WHIP and 28-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio).
Ljay Newsome, Seattle Mariners. The minor league leader in strikeouts (54 in April) has issued just 4 walks (1.47/0.85)! A former 26th round pick, Newsome made some noise last year by issuing just 13 walks in 138 2/3 innings in Low-A. However, he also got hit around (172 hits, .294 BAA, and 24 HRA) behind a well below-average mid-to-upper-80s fastball. This year, Newsome reportedly is throwing in the low-90s with a solid slider. His improved velocity allows his below-average change-up to play up a bit more, especially in tandem with his elite command.
Tyler Phillips, Texas Rangers. Over his last 157 innings, Phillips has walked just 17 batters! This year, he has an exceptional 23-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 2/3 innings in High-A (1.14/0.82 ERA/WHIP). With a sturdy 6’5″ frame and three average-to-above pitches, Phillips profiles as a ground ball-inducing (58.6%), workhorse starter.
Luis Gil, New York Yankees. Another flame throwing young Yankees hurler, Gil possesses a high spin rate, mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a sharp, low-80s breaking ball. The rest of his game is raw, including his firm change-up and shaky command. Low-A hitters are having no luck with his arsenal, with just 7 hits and 26 strikeouts over his first 17 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, he also has issued 11 walks.
Others of Notes:
- Simeon Woods-Richardson, New York Mets (1.23/0.75 ERA/WHIP, 14 2/3 IP, 22/0 K/BB)
- Jordan Balazovic, Minnesota Twins (2.18/0.92 ERA/WHIP, 20 2/3 IP, 33/4 K/BB), promoted to High-A)
- Wil Crowe, Washington Nationals (0.96/0.86 ERA/WHIP, 28 IP, 25/7 K/BB)
- Anthony Kay, New York Mets (1.85/0.99 ERA/WHIP, 24 1/3 IP, 29/11 K/BB)
- Cristian Javier, Houston Astros (0.90/1.00 ERA/WHIP, 20 IP, 26/10 K/BB)
- Bryan Mata, Boston Red Sox (1.40/0.97 ERA/WHIP, 25 2/3 IP, 26/7 K/BB)
- Eli Morgan, Cleveland Indians (1.29/0.61 ERA/WHIP, 28 IP, 37/4 K/BB)
- Parker Dunshee, Oakland Athletics (1.74/1.03 ERA/WHIP, 31 IP, 28/10 K/BB)
- Cody Bolton, Pittsburgh Pirates (0.96/0.86 ERA/WHIP, 28 IP, 29/7 K/BB)
- Johan Oviedo, St. Louis Cardinals (1.60/1.22 ERA/WHIP, 33 2/3 IP, 35/12 K/BB, promoted to Double-A)
- Josh Winckowski, Toronto Blue Jays (1.04/1.12 ERA/WHIP, 26 IP, 26/9 K/BB)
- Jasseel De La Cruz, Atlanta Braves (2.25/1.13 ERA/WHIP, 24 IP, 28/6 K/BB, promoted to High-A)
- Rico Garcia, Colorado Rockies (1.82/1.05 ERA/WHIP, 24 2/3 IP, 35/12 K/BB)
- Tyler Beede, San Francisco Giants (1.99/1.06 ERA/WHIP, 22 2/3 IP, 34/10 K/BB, briefly promoted to MLB)
- Yerry Rodriguez, Texas Rangers (1.71/1.05 ERA/WHIP, 21 IP, 24/4 K/BB)
- Ricardo Sanchez, Seattle Mariners (0.84/0.94 ERA/WHIP, 32 IP, 26/6 K/BB)
- Griffin Jax, Minnesota Twins (0.66/1.02 ERA/WHIP, 27 1/3 IP, 20/9 K/BB)
- Tucker Davidson, Atlanta Braves (0.95/1.05 ERA/WHIP, 19 IP, 17/13 K/BB)
- Jason Bahr, Texas Rangers (1.69/0.94 ERA/WHIP, 21 1/3 IP, 21/9 K/BB)
- Jake Woodford, St. Louis Cardinals (1.20/1.00 ERA/WHIP, 30 IP, 25/15 K/BB)
Dominant Low-A College Pitching Prospect
Like Logan Gilbert above, polished college arms often dominate in Low-A before earning quick promotions to High-A or above. The Royals struck gold in the 2018 MLB Draft with eight college arms in the first six rounds. While the Royals assigned the top three picks (Singer, Kowar, and Lynch) to High-A Wilmington, they also assigned several college arms to Low-A Lexington. Thus far, most of those arms are excelling. Most notably, Kris Bubic (CBA) leads the minors in swinging strike rate (21%) and enjoyed a huge April (1.86/0.79 ERA/WHIP, 29 IP, 45/7 K/BB). In addition, Zach Haake (6th) is fourth in swinging strike rate (18.5%), with a strong start as well (1.73/0.88 ERA/WHIP, 26 IP, 36/9 K/BB). Meanwhile, Jonathan Bowlan (2nd) also sported a sexy 30-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in April. Royals fans have lots of exciting pitching on the way!
Others of Note:
- Ryan Rolison, Colorado Rockies (1.01/0.83 ERA/WHIP, 26 2/3 IP, 25/4 K/BB, promoted to High-A)
- Josiah Gray, Los Angeles Dodgers (1.96/0.86 ERA/WHIP, 23 1/3 IP, 26/7 K/BB)
- Blaine Knight, Baltimore Orioles (0.87/0.58 ERA/WHIP, 20 2/3 IP, 26/4 K/BB)
- Tim Cate, Washington Nationals (1.65/0.95 ERA/WHIP, 27 1/3 IP, 31/10 K/BB)
- Konnor Pilkington, Chicago White Sox (2.01/0.76 ERA/WHIP, 22 1/3 IP, 28/7 K/BB)
- Jake Wong, San Francisco Giants (2.78/1.01 ERA/WHIP, 22 2/3 IP, 22/6 K/BB)
- Cole Sands, Minnesota Twins (2.37/1.26 ERA/WHIP, 19 IP, 22/9 K/BB)
The Bad Pitching Prospect
Kyle Wright, Atlanta Braves. Since Wright broke camp in the starting rotation, he has been a disaster. Between the majors and Triple-A, he allowed 17 walks and 7 home runs in 24 2/3 innings in April (9.12/1.95 ERA/WHIP). Despite mid-90s velocity (94.4 mph), his fastball gets destroyed in the majors (.450 BAA, .600 ISO). This likely is due to ongoing command issues, which need serious remedying before he will find success in the majors.
Riley Pint, Colorado Rockies. Last year, Pint missed most of the season with forearm tightness. Now in his third straight season in Low-A Asheville, the former fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft has completely lost any semblance of command and control. Over five April outings, he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and issued 13 walks. It may be time to move on from Pint in even the deepest of leagues.
Alex Lange, Chicago Cubs. Over four April starts, and 9 innings pitched, Lange allowed 27 hits (.491 BAA), 7 walks, and 21 runs! Ouch.
Others of Note:
- Forrest Whitley, Houston Astros (7.71/1.43 ERA/WHIP, 14 IP, 18/6 K/BB)
- Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks (10.03/2.06 ERA/WHIP, 23 1/3 IP, 20/12 K/BB, 6 HRA)
- J.B. Bukauskas, Houston Astros (12.75/2.58 ERA/WHIP, 12 IP, 16/14 K/BB)
- Sean Reid-Foley, Toronto Blue Jays (10.71/2.38 ERA/WHIP, 21 IP, 30/22 K/BB)
- Luis Medina, New York Yankees (9.64/2.64 ERA/WHIP, 14 IP, 15/13 K/BB)
The Injured Pitching Prospect
Tommy John Surgery
The following pitching prospects underwent Tommy John surgery (date of surgery in parentheses) and are still recovering:
- 12+ months recovery: Brent Honeywell, Tampa Bay Rays (2/27/18); A.J. Puk, Oakland Athletics (4/11/18); Cole Ragans, Texas Rangers (3/28/18); Steven Gingery, St. Louis Cardinals (2/18)
- 9+ months recovery: Jay Groome, Boston Red Sox (5/16/18); Anthony Banda, Tampa Bay Rays (6/14/18); Sam Carlson, Seattle Mariners (7/3/18); Kyle Cody, Texas Rangers (7/18)
- 6+ months recovery: Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox (9/18/18); Franklyn Kilome, New York Mets (10/25/18); Seth Romero, Washington Nationals (9/3/18); Travis MacGregor, Pittsburgh Pirates (9/18)
- 3+ months recovery: Jairo Solis, Houston Astros (1/2019)
- 0+ months recovery: Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds (4/9/19); Dane Dunning, Chicago White Sox (3/18/19); Anderson Espinoza, San Diego Padres (4/23/19); Owen White, Texas Rangers (5/1/19)
Other Notable Injuries
- Timetable: Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics (shoulder, 4-6 weeks, 3/21/19); Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians (back, 6 weeks, 3/12/19); Franklin Perez, Detroit Tigers (tendinitis, 4-6 weeks, 3/29/19); Taylor Hearn, Texas Rangers (elbow inflammation, shut down 3 weeks, 4/27/19)
- Indefinite: Michel Baez, San Diego Padres (shoulder inflammation); Luiz Gohara, Atlanta Braves (shoulder); Eric Pardinho, Toronto Blue Jays (elbow soreness); Stephen Gonsalves, Minnesota Twins (elbow strain); James Kaprielian, Oakland Athletics (lat strain); T.J. Zeuch, Toronto Blue Jays (lat strain); Michael King, New York Yankees (setback from stress reaction in right elbow); Dean Kremer, Baltimore Orioles (oblique); Kyle Funkhouser, Detroit Tigers (right shoulder impingement); Jacob Nix, San Diego Padres (strained UCL); Resly Linares, Tampa Bay Rays (forearm strain); Jean Carlos Mejia, Cleveland Indians (abdominal strain); Chris Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels (back discomfort); Aaron Civale, Cleveland Indians (lat); Yohander Mendez, Texas Rangers (strained UCL); Gregory Santos, San Francisco Giants (shoulder strain); Brendon Little, Chicago Cubs (lat strain); Pedro Avila, San Diego Padres (elbow strain); Osvaldo Hernandez, San Diego Padres (shoulder); Nick Burdi, Pittsburgh Pirates (strained biceps)
- Minor/Undisclosed: Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers (side); Dennis Santana, Los Angeles Dodgers (undisclosed); Adbert Alzolay, Chicago Cubs (side); Brock Burke, Texas Rangers (blister); Clarke Schmidt, New York Yankees (sickness); Garrett Whitlock, New York Yankees (finger); Trevor Stephan, New York Yankees (undisclosed); Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies (undisclosed); Freicer Perez, New York Yankees (undisclosed); Yadier Alvarez, Los Angeles Dodgers (undisclosed); Dillon Tate, Baltimore Orioles (undisclosed); Keegan Thompson, Chicago Cubs (undisclosed); Nick Nelson, New York Yankees (undisclosed); Nick Green, New York Yankees (undisclosed)
Additional Pitching Prospect Notes
- Deivi Garica, New York Yankees had 33 strikeouts (45.2%) in 17 2/3 innings in High-A, earning a promotion to Double-A to begin May.
- Notable season debuts: Sixto Sanchez, Miami Marlins (High-A, 5/3/19); Jose Suarez, Los Angeles Angels (Triple-A, 5/5/19); Matt Tabor, Arizona Diamondbacks (Low-A, 5/5/19); Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay Rays (High-A, 5/4/19)
- Notable promotions: Bryan Abreu, Houston Astros (High-A to Double-A); Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels (Double-A to Triple-A); Daulton Jefferies, Oakland Athletics (High-A to Double-A); Oscar De La Cruz, Chicago Cubs (High-A to Double-A)
- Flourishing relief transitions: Alec Hansen, Chicago White Sox; Domingo Acevedo, New York Yankees; Luis Escobar, Pittsburgh Pirates; Jordan Sheffield, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Notable suspensions: Tyler Ivey, Houston Astros (14 games, 4/26/19); Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants (80 games, 5/1/19); Griffin Roberts, St. Louis Cardinals (50 games, 12/14/18)