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 MLB.com 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.