From The Fantasy Oracle 2016 MLB Draft Guide Is Here! 

Oracle Report: 2014 Prospect Pitcher Review

Ray Flowers review the Fantasy Alarm 2014 rookie prospect preview piece by taking a look at the pitchers.

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Back in the preseason we released the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide to rave reviews. There were 200 pages of analysis, rankings and insight. Most of it was done by yours truly, so of course it was great (I'm such an egomaniac). One of the best pieces in the Guide – of the ones not written by me – was by Howard Bender. He wrote an excellent preview some of the top prospects in baseball. I thought I would review the pitchers on that list as we get ready for the All-Star break. You all love young pitchers, but have they come through to this point of the 2014 season? Will the data stop you from drafting rookie pitchers every year? No chance I know, but I'm still going to write this piece. Hopefully you get something out of it. 

*NOTE: At the end of this article I will reproduce the first-class preview written by Mr. Bender. This article will only contain the pitchers he reviewed. A following article will speak about the hitters. Also realize that Howard is an expert at this. Just goes to show you how hard it is to predict how young players will develop. As I say all the time, the learning curve is not always linear – hence the term “curve.” 

The ETA's listed where Howard's preseason expectations.

Jake Barrett, SP, Diamondbacks (ETA: 2015)
He's made a total of 33 appearances – 25 in Double-A and eight in Triple-A. It hasn't gone well. Jake's posted a 3.71 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and struck out just 29 while walking 18 over 34 innings. At least he has 14 saves, though that's less than halfway to the mark of 29 he posted last year. 

Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona (ETA: 2014)
His season has been a disaster. Some were predicting he would open the year in the D'backs rotation. He didn't. He looked solid to start the season, but the Diamondbacks didn't want to rush him. From April 15th. "I would not bring him up in this environment the way we're playing," said GM Kevin Towers. "I know how it would be perceived if he came up: 'Archie is going to save us.' I don't want to do that to a 21-year-old kid.” Less than two weeks later he was placed on the DL with a minor flexor strain in his elbow. He was out of action for about six weeks before returning to the mound in mid-June. All told he's made nine minor league starts and rarely has he looked like the elite prospect everyone thinks he is (he was listed inside the top-10 prospects in baseball by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and before the year). He has a 3.95 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 22 walks in 41 innings and a horrific 1.50 K/BB ratio. Might still see him this year in the majors, but it's been a disappointing campaign.

Eddie Butler, SP, Rockies (ETA: 2014)
Sidelined by an injured shoulder, he's been shutdown since June 9th with inflammation in his rotator cuff. The 23 year old made two starts in the big leagues and the results where hideous (10.13 ERA, 2.44 WHIP, 6 R, 2 K in 5.1 IP). Eddie was effective at Double-A this season with a 2.62 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 11 starts. Still, he struck out just 5.2 per nine, had a 2.11 K/BB ratio – and that was at Double-A. Counting on any Rockies arm to produce is so risky given their home park, no matter how talented the arm is. 

A.J. Cole, SP, Nationals (ETA: 2016)
Ranked inside the top-60 prospects in baseball by Baseball America & Baseball Prospectus, the 6'5” Cole has made 17 starts in the minors (14 at Double-A, three at Triple-A). He's 7-3 with a 3.08 ERA, and 1.37 WHIP as his K/9 rate has really fallen off (7.5 per nine this year versus 9.2 for his career). He's pitched effectively but certainly not forced the Nationals into a position where they had no choice to call him up. 

Edwin Escobar, SP, Giants (ETA: 2015)
The 22 year old has gone 3-8 with a 5.06 ERA, 1.48 WHIP over 105 innings. He does have eight strikeouts per nine and a solid 2.74 K/BB ratio. The PCL isn't an easy place to pitch, but this has still been a disappointing run for Escobar. 

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, SP, Phillies (ETA: 2014)
He was supposed to throw 95 mph and with his history in Cuba he was looked at as someone who could contribute right away. Not so much. When on the hill he's been awful with a 3.98 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and 11 Ks in 20.1 innings. That's right, 20.1 innings. He's dealt with a myriad of arm woes virtually all year but test after test has shown there to be no structural issues to blame. The first year of his three year, $12 million deal with the Phillies has been an unmitigated disaster.

Carlos Martinez, SP, Cardinals (ETA: 2014)
An elite arm. Period. The Cardinals started him in the pen, but when injuries struck they moved the 22 year old into their starting rotation. He's looked sharp at times, but overall in his 59 innings of work he's posted sub par ratios (4.12 ERA, 1.36 WHIP), walked too many batters (3.8 per nine) and gone 2-3. About the only positive thus far is his 7.9 K/9 mark. 

Adalberto Mejia, SP, Giants (ETA: 2016)
This 21 year old has had a rough go of it with the Giants Double-A club in the Eastern League (Richmond). He's gone 4-6 in his 15 starts with a 1.51 WHIP and 5.90 ERA. Woof. He's only walked 20 batters in 71.2 innings leading to a solid 2.95 K/9 mark thanks to an “it will play” 7.4 K/9 ratio. Nothing fancy, no signs of growth, but not horrible given his age.

Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Orioles (ETA: 2015)
This Venezuelan born lefty has yet to throw a pitch above Double-A. After making 11 starts in the Eastern League last season he's made 13 at the same level this year. His ERA is up half a run to 4.81. His WHIP is up from slightly below the league average to 1.44. His K/9 rate is down a full batter to 7.6. His walk rate is down half a batter per nine to 3.1, so at least there is that. Nothing to hand your hat on at the moment.

Bruce Rondon, RP, Tigers (ETA: 2014)
Looked at as a future closer, the Tigers brought in Joe Nathan crushing Rondon's short-term outlook. Then Rondon injured his elbow and ended up having to undergo Tommy John surgery. The guy owns a big arm that has led to a 10.1 K/9 mark over 170 minor league outings but he may not see the big leagues until mid-2015 now. 

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Kyle Smith, SP, Astros  (ETA: 2016)
This 21 year old is honing his craft. He had seven outings at High-A ball before progressing to Double-A for 11 trips to the bump. Overall he's made 12 starts (18 appearances) posting a 3.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and striking out 10.1 per nine. He's kept the walks under control as well leading to an impressive 3.96 K/BB ratio. A strong start to the season. 

John Stilson, SP, Blue Jays (ETA: 2015)
He began his career as a starter but he hasn't made a start since 2012. In 25 outings this season he's worked 34 innings with a 3.18 ERA, 1.62 WHIP and 32 Ks. His lack of control has shown with the 18 walks leading to nearly five walks per nine innings. For his career that mark is 3.6, so he clearly has some work to do with refining the location of his pitches. 

Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets (ETA: 2014)
It was thought he would be up this year but things are now trending to him being nothing more than a September callup at best. The 21 year old stands 6'6” and weighs 240 lbs, and he pitches like it bringing dominating stuff to the bump. Unfortunately 2014 hasn't gone to plan. In late May he was placed on the DL with a mild flexor pronator strain in his elbow. Once recovered he returned to the hill. Ten days later it was his shoulder that was bothering him. Luckily it was his non-throwing arm but he was still forced to the DL to recover. A top-20 prospect in baseball according to pretty much everyone, Noah has made 16 unpalatable starts this season for Las Vegas of the PCL. To reiterate what I noted earlier the PCL is a tough league to pitch (his home park is brutal), but his effort has still been terribly disappointing. In 16 starts his ratios blow (5.31 ERA, 1.51 WHIP) though at least he has 82 Ks in 79.2 innings. Bright future though muddled short-term outlook. 

Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates (ETA: 2014)
His elbow went caplooee so he required Tommy John surgery to repair his right wing. Given that the surgery was in April it's quite possible that he won't be ready to make his big league debut until the second half of next season. 

Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Yankees (ETA: 2014)
Stupendous. Tanaka has been everything even his most ardent backer could have expected as he turned in an elite first half. Tanaka is 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 135 Ks in 129.1 innings. He's also, get this, walked 19 batters in 18 starts. The only negative with his performance is 15 homers allowed. Unfortuantely he has a minor tear of his UCL (there really are no minor tears of the UCL). He will try rest/rehab for six weeks. At that time a determination will be made as to whether or not he needs Tommy John surgery. If I had to render a guess I would say he undergoes surgery and isn't back in the big leagues until well after the All-Star break next season. 

Yordano Ventura, SP, Royals (ETA: 2014)
Dealt with an elbow issue that caused the Royals to push him to try and ease into games a bit more, pitch a bit more, and worry less about the strikeout. It's working, but it's also robbing him of some fantasy value. Ventura has struck out five or fewer batters in eight of his last nine games (he struck out six in the other outing). Hard to get too upset with a rookie who has a 3.28 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 101.2 innings. Given the failures of others on this list his effort has been a huge victory. 

Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners (ETA: 2014)
Hurt, healthy, hurt, healthy, hurt healthy. Its been that way all damn year for Walker. Is it me or did he literally suffer about seven setbacks with his shoulder? Healthy now, he's been sent down to the minors to make two starts so he can keep throwing during the All-Star break. He should be back up and part of the rotation after the mid-summer's classic. In eight minor league starts he has a 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 46 Ks in 40 innings pitched. He's also walked only 12 batters. His two starts in the minor have been passable as he has a 3.60 ERA and nine Ks in 10 innings. Gotta do something about those seven walks though. 

Matt Wisler, SP, Padres (ETA: 2014)
The 21 year old could see some big league time in the second half. A top-50 prospect, the righty has been on an off as frequently as a light switch in a restaurant bathroom. In 12 starts at Triple-A El Paso he's the unhappy owner of a 5.63 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He's also lost a batter an a half off his K-rate (it's 7.1 per nine) while his walk rate is up nearly a full batter (3.2 per nine). Talented but simply unable to find the consistency tab this season. 

Kyle Zimmer, SP, Royals (ETA: 2016)
Like myself a fellow USF Don, Zimmer has as huge arm, an impresive fastball, and a filthy yacker with hard downward movement. He's also been injured as frequently as Andrew Cashner. His season started slowly over some concern with his shoulder. Then he had a lat strain in late May. It keeper him out of action for about six weeks. He's just been given the go-ahead to start throwing. Given the physical setbacks it would be surprising if he were to reach the bigs this year even for a cup of coffee (did Howard know something with his 2016 prediction?). To this point the 2012 5th overall selection has yet to throw an official pitch in 2014. 

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Prospecting the Prospects
By Howard Bender

*** Remember, what follow was part of the 2014 FantasyAlarm Draft Guide. This is the kind of analysis you missed out on if you didn't get a copy of The Guide.

As children, there was nothing more exciting than a brand new toy. It didn’t matter if it was a new Tonka truck, a new bicycle, or a new Superman action figure, brand new toys were the best. Well, those of us who play fantasy baseball haven’t outgrown that feeling one bit. Instead of our affection being a new Lego set, it’s fantasy baseball rookies. To pinpoint exactly when this obsession became more mainstream is difficult, but one can’t help but remember the overwhelming joy experienced by the guy who landed Albert Pujols back in 2001. The quest to find the next big thing often becomes more of a distraction than anything else, but for the sake of feeding your insane compulsion to put rookies with upside ahead of proven major league talent, here’s a look at the top-40 rookies for 2014.

Jake Barrett, SP, Diamondbacks – He’s considered by many to be the future closer in Arizona and after notching 29 saves with a 1.21 ERA with a 10.21 K/9 over 52 innings between High-A and Double-A you can easily see why. With the club’s offseason trade for Addison Reed, the sense of urgency to fast-track Barrett has dissipated. However, his talent won’t allow them to slow-play it too much. He could open the season in Double-A again, but the more likely scenario is that they leave him in Triple-A for the year while he matures and prepares himself for such a grueling task. 
ETA: 2015 

Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona – If you were wondering why the Diamondbacks were so quick to deal the likes Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs, it’s this guy. Bradley looked okay in Low-A in 2012 posting a 3.99 ERA (3.83 FIP) with a 10.03 K/9 over 140 innings but simply laughed at High-A the following season with a 1.26 ERA (1.91 FIP) and 13.50 K/9 over five starts before immediately being shuttled up to Double-A. He struggled with his command a bit and his K/9 dropped to 8.68, but he still managed a 1.97 ERA over 123.1 innings. There’s definitely a chance he earns a spot right out of camp, but he’ll likely open the year at Triple-A Reno and then find his way up to the majors in the second half. Still a slight work in progress, his true impact may not be felt for another year or two. That doesn’t mean he can’t help give you a boost this year though. 
ETA: 2014 

Eddie Butler, SP, Rockies – Some sources actually have him as a potential favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year despite not pitching above Double-A yet, but given the way the Rockies have handled their young arms in the recent past, it’s awfully tough to bet on him. He’s definitely shown that he can dominate in the minors so far though. With a solid three-pitch arsenal that is highlighted by a mid-90s fastball, Butler moved very quickly through the system last year. He opened the year in Low-A ball, made a quick jump to High-A and then wrapped up his year with just two runs allowed in 27.2 innings for Double-A. At each stop he notched just under a strikeout per inning and showed excellent command with each increased level. The Rockies have two rotation spots seemingly up for grabs still, but it is
more likely that Butler opens the year in Triple-A. Given the struggles at the back-end of the Rockies' rotation, you’ll want to keep tabs on Butler. 
ETA: 2014

A.J. Cole, SP, Nationals – The young right-hander found his way back to the Washington organization during the last offseason and put together a solid showing with a 151 strikeouts and 33 walks over 142.2 innings between High-A and Double-A to vault right back up near the top of the Nationals’ top-prospects list. Cole has an impressive fastball that sits in the low to mid-90s, but also possesses and excellent curve and solid change-up. There’s a chance that he opens the year at Triple-A, but it’s more likely that he starts in Double-A again and steadily works his way up. The Nats will watch closely as he moves up a level given the fact that it took him more than just a few starts to acclimate to the Double-A hitters. It could be more of the same with a potential mid-season bump to Triple-A. 
ETA: 2016

Edwin Escobar, SP, Giants – Just 21 years old, Escobar has advanced quickly through the Giants minor league system thanks to an ERA and FIP both under 3.00 at each stop from Low-A through Double-A over the last two seasons. He’s improved his command and limited the walks between the two seasons which is imperative considering his fastball comes in between 88-92 mph. His curve is solid and his change-up is also improving, so expect the Giants to test him out in 2014 up at the Triple-A level. If he can excel, then he could be in line for a late-season call-up, but he may need the full year in Fresno before he’s ready.
ETA: 2015

Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Phillies – The latest Cuban import is a 27 year old right-hander with a mid-90’s fastball and an array of secondary pitches he is capable of mixing in at any time, including a cutter, a splitter, a slider and a change-up. Some think he can make an immediate impact and earn a spot as a potential No. 2 or 3 starter while others see him starting in more of a relief role. The biggest issue is that Gonzalez hasn’t pitched professionally in nearly two years. He had issues with his defection, he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, and the Phillies sent him to their instructional league upon signing him rather than have him pitch competitively. They didn’t even send him off for winter ball. Gonzalez was the top pitcher for Cuba’s World Cup teams in 2009 and 2011 so we know the talent is obviously there. How much of it we see this season though is what we’re all still waiting on.
ETA: 2014

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Carlos Martinez, SP, Cardinals – The 22 year old right-hander has an outstanding arm, throwing a mid-90’s fastball with a solid curve and an improving change-up. He’s worked as a starter throughout his time in the minors, often posting more than a strikeout per inning, but was used predominately out of the bullpen during his time in the majors last season. He had some early season struggles while being shuttled back and forth between St. Louis and Memphis, but seemed to get stronger as the year went on as evidenced by an increasing K-rate through the month of September. The Cardinals are expected to give him a shot at a rotation spot this spring and he stands a good chance at landing the job. However, should he not, he’ll likely stay up as a reliever working the late innings. He obviously has more value as a member off the rotation, but can still help out with ratios, strikeouts and, potentially, holds if your league counts them.
ETA: 2014

Adalberto Mejia, SP, Giants – With the club’s decision to transform Mejia from reliever to starter, the 20 year old southpaw put together a fantastic first season at the High-A level as he made 16 starts and posted a 3.31 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 23 walks over 87 innings. He was so sharp that the club wanted to see him against better competition so they gave him one start at the Triple-A level where he tossed five innings, gave up two runs, and struck out two. The home run is his Achilles heel right now and he’ll need to stop leaving pitches up in the zone when he’s trying to get ahead in the count, but these are things that will come in time. The important thing is the raw skill set and that he has. His fastball sits in the low-90s, his slider is strong and he is gradually improving his change-up. With a little more seasoning, he should be ready to advance quickly.
ETA: 2016

Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Orioles – He continues to rise within the prospect ranks in Baltimore and looked incredibly strong after making the jump from High-A to Double-A midway through the season. In fact, he actually missed more bats after his promotion, posting a 8.90 K/9 in Double-A compared to a 7.02 K/9 in High-A ball. He’s sporting a strong three-pitch arsenal and could actually make his way to the majors if he continues to improve as rapidly as he has. However, he is more likely to open the season in Double-A and close it out in Triple-A, but there’s obviously always hope.
ETA: 2015

Bruce Rondon, RP, Tigers – While everyone knows Rondon from his near successful run at the Tigers’ closer role last spring, he still comes in under the innings maximum for rookie status. He still had some command issues to work through last season, but looked strong down in Triple-A posting a 1.52 ERA and 12.13 K/9 over 28.2 innings. He was moved up to Detroit where his strikeout rate came down a bit, but it was his improved command that caught many people’s eye. Unfortunately a flexor tendon strain in his elbow was diagnosed in October and he was only cleared in late December to resume throwing. The Tigers expect him to be ready for spring training and he is expected to compete for a job in the eighth inning as a setup man.
ETA: 2014

Kyle Smith, SP, Astros – A fourth-round pick in 2011 by the Kansas City Royals, Smith had a 96 to 29 K:BB over 104.1 innings (19 starts) working out of the rotation at High-A Wilmington before being dealt to the Astros in exchange for outfielder Justin Maxwell. He’s shown solid strikeout potential at the lower level , but more important is his impeccable command. He’ll likely start the season at Double-A and the team will evaluate his performance then before considering a move up a level.
ETA: 2016

John Stilson, SP, Blue Jays – The 23 year old right-hander struggled in the Jays lower levels initially, but after being moved full-time to the bullpen, he’s looked like a new man. He opened the 2013 season in Double-A, but was quickly promoted after just two appearances – two dominant appearances. He spent most of the year with Triple-A Buffalo where he compiled a 2.09 ERA with a solid 8.94 K/9 over 47.1 innings. There’s a strong chance that he makes his way up the ladder even more this season, but with the Jays strong pen, another year of honing his craft seems more likely.
ETA: 2015

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Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets – He was a highly-touted arm when he came over from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade, and after going 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 rate in 23 starts between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton his outlook continues to improve. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his curve, a sharp 12-6 breaker, is absolutely fierce. He is in the process of developing a change-up, but that’s still a work in progress. In fact, his estimated time of arrival in the majors likely depends on it quite a bit. Considering his performance last year, he’ll likely open the season at Triple-A in 2014. Should his change develop, he could get himself a nice mid-season callup, although there is sure to be a serious innings cap put on him given what happened to Matt Harvey.
ETA: 2014

Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates – Despite a lack of truly overwhelming numbers, Taillon was invited to major league camp during spring training which usually indicates a club’s strong desire to have him in the bigs before the year is out. His fastball and curve are both rock solid and he’s developing a change-up which the club hopes to see against tougher competition this spring. Given the team’s depth in the rotation, Taillon can develop further in the minors and make a bigger splash with a mid-season callup.
ETA: 2014

Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Yankees – He was the crown jewel in the Yankees barrage of free agent signings this winter and now takes those incredible Japanese credentials and puts them to the test in the Bronx. He’s got pinpoint command and a splitter that some call the best in the world, but don’t expect a world of strikeouts. His career 4.50 K/BB in Japan is impressive but the K/9 was only 8.50, so if you were thinking Darvish-like numbers, think again. You can’t help but be excited to watch him pitch, but the home park is a hitter’s haven so don’t be surprised if a few extra long balls make their way into that short porch in right.
ETA: 2014

Yordano Ventura, SP, Royals – The 22 year old fireballer has quickly ascended through the Royals system thanks to a mid to upper-90’s fastball, a solid curve and a developing change-up. He’s posted more than a strikeout per inning at each stop and though he only had a 6.46 K/9 during last season’s 15.1-inning cup of coffee, he is still projected to have awesome strikeout totals. His command has been decent, but could obviously use a touch of improvement, and he’ll need to stop leaving those secondary pitches up in the zone. Ventura should get an opportunity to compete for a rotation spot this spring and stands a fairly good chance, unless the Royals sign a veteran free agent, of winning the No. 5 starter job.
ETA: 2014

Taijuan Walker, SP, Mariners – Given the skill set, should he earn a rotation spot this spring he’s got a legitimate shot at the AL Rookie of the Year award this season. He breezed through the Mariners farm system and seems more than ready to bring that sweet four-pitch arsenal to the big stage for a full season. He’s had strong strikeout numbers through the minors and while he seemed to experience some command issues at Triple-A last year, he looked sharp during his cup of coffee, posting a 2.65 FIP over three late-season starts. It seems more than likely that he’ll land that rotation spot this spring, but if he doesn’t, fear not, he’ll be up with the big club much sooner than later.
ETA: 2014

Matt Wisler, SP, Padres – The young right-hander absolutely dominated at both High-A and Double-A last season, making 26 starts and combining for a 2.79 ERA with a 8.80 K/9. He has pinpoint command of his fastball and has a nasty curve that made a number of youngsters look over-matched at the plate. What was even more impressive was the fact that he only got stronger as the season progressed. Twelve of his 20 Double-A starts came after the league’s All Star break and he went 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 67 strikeouts and 13 walks in 62 innings. The Padres may have some question marks in their rotation, but there’s a very strong chance Wisler stays in Triple-A for the year as they monitor his innings.
ETA: 2015

Kyle Zimmer, SP, Royals – After a solid post-draft debut in 2012, Zimmer opened up the 2013 season at High-A Wilmington where he posted a 4.82 ERA over 89.2 innings with a 11.34 K/9. While the ERA might give you pause, keep in mind that he also had a 3.12 FIP and the Blue Rocks led the Carolina League in errors. He was bumped up to Double-A to close out the season and that’s where things really started to take off for him as he improved both his walk and strikeouts rates and posted a 1.93 ERA over four starts. Zimmer has an impressive four-pitch arsenal, a rarity for a pitcher his age, but even more impressive is his strong command and ability to throw each one for strikes. He’ll likely open the year at Double-A and should all go well, push for a move to Triple-A by mid-season. If the Royals don’t sign another veteran hurler, he could be fast-tracked but we’ll keep the estimate on the conservative side once again.
ETA: 2016


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