Just about into the third full week of the MLB season, one thing has been quite clear, well aside from a lot of early injuries, that pitching depth isn’t what we’ve seen in the past. There are a few teams that have very deep pitching staffs, but the rest are seemingly up in the air on a nearly daily basis and there are far more bullpen games and tandem pitching days than there were even in 2019. Whether that’s due to teams being conservative early in the year with starters because of the short season last year or there’s just not enough good starting options is up for debate. However, with that in mind, we’re going to look at the next starting pitching options who are likely to come up this year to help their teams.

Spencer Howard, RHP PHI - Howard was the buzz of camp last year, twice, but never really did much for the Phillies last year. This year it’s the same thing as Howard spent time working on his repertoire at the Alternate Training Site and getting better with his control. He has four above-average pitches including a plus-fastball. That combination of pitches has led to him striking out 281 in 211 minor league innings while walking 74. The problem recently though has been the jump in walk rates that he has to get under control. If he can get that back to where he was before 2019, he’s a top-two starter in a rotation and will add depth the Phillies need to really compete in the NL East the rest of the way. Update - he was called up on Wednesday for the Phillies.

MacKenzie Gore , LHP SD - Gore needs very little introduction at this point as he’s been the top pitching prospect in baseball for most of the last three seasons. He’s got a bevy of weapons in his arsenal that all lead to him being an ace-caliber prospect and one that has been on that path since high school in North Carolina. The Padres will be needing pitching depth coming up at the back of their rotation as Dinelson Lamet is coming off the elbow issue and Chris Paddack still doesn’t look right not to mention they want their guy to have bullets for the playoffs. Gore should be up in mid-May and should stick the rest of the time in the rotation. He’s a stash now and in keeper leagues his real value will start to show next year.

Logan Gilbert, RHP SEA - Gilbert was broken down in the first prospect report as a guy likely to come up soon and that path still remains for Gilbert. He has the stuff and size to be a future top-of-the-rotation arm including his 97 mph fastball with excellent late life and two plus and distinct breaking pitches. Gilbert is from Stetson, which produced Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom previously, and the big righty looks like he could be on a similar path in being a big time front line starter for the Mariners. Seattle is in first in the AL West and could boost their pitching with Gilbert within the next month.

Tim Cate, LHP WAS - Cate has what most, including myself, consider the best secondary pitch in the Nationals system with his curveball. It’s a true plus-pitch and is an out pitch for him and one he can throw in any count. The velocity on the fastball is typically just under 90 mph with a tick or two higher from time to time. The changeup is the third pitch and flashes above-average but is certainly good enough to keep hitters off-balance. The lefty profiles as a Kyle Hendricks type who could hit a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter with solid strikeout numbers. The Nationals rotation is lacking in depth right now and with some other bigger name options getting talked about, Cate might be the one closest to making his debut.

Cade Cavalli, RHP WAS - Cavalli, while in the same system as Cate, is a far higher profile name with him being a frontline caliber starting prospect. He was taken in the first round from Oklahoma with an arsenal of four pitches that are all at least above-average on the 20-80 scale. The fastball and curveball are the two best pitches he possesses with the slider and changeup not far behind. Cavalli has spent his time in the Nationals system mainly at the Alternate Training Site after being drafted last year so there really isn’t any known stats for him but reports from everyone that’s had access to the alternate sites say Cavalli has really impressed and in fact, several people inside the organization suggested that he wasn’t that far off at the end of spring training. Now with the Nationals’ pitching woes, Cavalli is a name that’s picking up steam.

Matt Manning , RHP DET - Manning has long been a known name as part of the Detroit trifecta of pitching prospects along with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Manning is the one that isn’t up with the major league team yet, but is perhaps the best overall prospect of theirs on the mound. The righty has better pitchability than Mize and has similar grade stuff, though with the fastball Manning’s is actually better. The 6’6” righty sits upper-90s and routinely touches 100 deep into starts. The curveball and changeup are the secondary pitches in the arsenal with the curveball being plus and the changeup flashing plus at times but squarely sitting in the above-average category. Over his 331.2 innings in the minors to this point, Manning has a 3.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and a 410:121 K:BB ratio. While he’ll likely be second in the rotation to Mize, he has the stuff and pitchability to be just as good as, if not better than, Mize in the long run.

Jackson Kowar, RHP KC - Kowar’s future rotation teammate was mentioned in this piece a couple of weeks ago in Daniel Lynch, but Kowar might be a tad closer to getting the call as he’s been in the system a year longer and thus 2020 affected him less. The best pitch at his disposal is the elite changeup that sits in the mid-80s with excellent deception and fade and generates a ton of swings and misses from hitters from both sides and it pairs well with the plus-fastball that ranges from 94-98. The curveball developed very nicely at the alternate training site in 2020 to the point where it’s now an above-average pitch and raises his ceiling to what he can be in the rotation for the Royals. He was teammates with Brady Singer at Florida as co-anchors of the rotation for the Gators and now he looks to be the number four starter of the future for Kansas City as he slots in behind Asa Lacy, Daniel Lynch, and Singer but a number four starter who is more in the mold of a number three.

Tyler Ivey, RHP HOU - Ivey is perhaps the most interesting prospect in this piece this week as he profiles as a solid strikeout starting pitcher for a team that desperately needs pitching depth, but one who also likely has an innings cap on him due to his odd delivery and the risk that he possesses if the delivery goes awry. Ivey has four pitches that he mixes quite well and they play up because of the deception in the delivery and the high spin rate he generates but in general most of the pitches are just a tick above average except for the curveball which is a plus pitch. The key to Ivey is his changing the batter’s eye level during at-bats with a high fastball with riding life that sits about 92-93 on the radar gun and then using a downer curve in the upper-70s to keep hitters off-balance. The slider and cutter give different looks to hitters too but neither is anything better than major league average. If the delivery gets out of whack, the strike zone becomes harder for him to find and thus makes him less effective and so that’s why many believe that he’ll be a guy who can get about 20 starts in the rotation and then work out of the pen later in the year. He’s one to watch as Houston needs arms, but he comes with perhaps more question marks than anyone else.

Simeon Woods-Richardson, RHP TOR - Woods-Richardson went to Toronto in the Marcus Stroman deal and he’s started to really started to show what he can do. The 20-year-old righty has a four-pitch mix that rivals anyone in their system including Nate Pearson and looks like a future number two starter behind Pearson for the Jays. The 6’3” starter gets great extension in his delivery which adds riding life to his mid-90s heater as well as generating great movement on both of his breaking pitchers in a top-to-bottom curveball and a tight-breaking slider. The changeup completes the mix but shouldn’t be slept on as it’s the best in Toronto’s system. While he’s still young, the stuff, size, and pitchability are all there already for Toronto to utilize him in their rotation if they need a boost to make a run at the AL East title. He may be the furthest from coming up of the guys in this piece, but he’s been at the alternate training site both in 2020 and to start 2021 so that should tell you something about how the Jays view their young righty.