If you were hoping to see the next set of unheralded prospects in this week’s report, that’s been bumped a week as Howard Bender and I decided to write companion articles this week between his Buzz Cuts: Preparing For Innings Limits and my weekly prospect report. So this week we’ll talk about pitchers who might be closer to coming up than previously thought as teams try to protect arms and top prospects in the age of injuries and service time.

We’ve already seen a bevy of injuries to big name pitchers this year and with seemingly more and more bullpen games happening every week, it’s time to look at some of the lesser known pitching prospects that are sitting in the upper minors and just need an opening to get a taste of the majors.

Matt Manning RHP DET - Manning doesn’t necessarily fit the bill of what the piece was intended to be about, however he was called up earlier this week to make his MLB debut and take the roster spot of Matthew Boyd so it’s worth noting. Manning is the top pitching prospect for the Tigers with Mize having graduated at this point and he has the stuff to be a number-two starter down the road for the TIgers, however right now that’s a bit out of reach. The righty has two plus pitches and a third above-average one that all miss bats well in any count, the problem is the control of the pitches and consistency of the delivery aren’t there to have him reach his potential. That’s been prevalent at Triple-A Toledo this year too with an 8.07 ERA and 1.55 WHIP along with a 39:10 K:BB ratio. He will get a shot but once Boyd is healthy, expect Manning to go back down much like Nate Pearson did for Toronto.

Brendan McKay LHP and Joe Ryan RHP TB - With the loss of Tyler Glasnow for at least a part of the rest of the year, Tampa might need another arm in the rotation and considering they likely won’t want to burn Brent Honeywell or Shane Baz, who just reached Triple-A, but a few other arms are on the cusp of coming up. First the southpaw McKay, that’s right, remember him as the 1B/LHP who was first up in 2019? Well, he’s been forgetting about being a hitter since going back to the minors and working on his stuff as a pitcher and it’s paying dividends through 32 innings at Triple-A. A 0.84 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and 40:9 K:BB are the evidence that he’s finding his frontline starter stuff again. The stuff was never really in question, it was just a matter of could he do both pitching and hitting and now that he’s focusing on just pitching his number-two starter upside is within reach. Ryan is more unknown compared to McKay, but he’s perhaps a bit more likely to come up if Glasnow is moved to the 60-day IL. Ryan has the makings of a mid-rotation starter with two plus pitches in a fastball and slider rounded out with a curveball and changeup which are both just below-average. The stuff and command has been good enough to strikeout 270 hitters in 185.2 total innings. This year at Triple-A Durham he’s posted a 36:7 K:BB ratio in 25.2 innings over five starts and six appearances. If the Rays don’t want to use one of their top arm prospects, Ryan or perhaps Drew Strotman will get the call.

Jasseel De La Cruz RHP ATL - Kyle Muller is an option to fill the role recently vacated by Tucker Davidson landing on the IL, but since he’s already up and in the bullpen for the Braves, let’s talk De La Cruz instead. Signed in 2015, he’s been meandering through the Braves’ system since and didn’t make a splash until 2019 when he went through three levels of the system. Using a three-pitch mix of a plus-fastball, a borderline plus-slider, and a still developing changeup, he’s managed to rack up 290 strikeouts in 317.2 innings pitched. Granted that’s not a sexy ratio but it does mean that he’s learned to pitch rather than throw and rely on power stuff as evidenced by a solid 3.74 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in that same span. He likely profiles as a backend starter at best but more likely a bullpen arm. However with the need currently being in the rotation for the Braves until, Davidson or Huascar Ynoa or Mike Soroka or Touki Toussaint return from the IL.

Washington Nationals - The Nationals are in a world of hurt right now sitting in fourth place in the division and having just lost their top two pitchers to injuries with undefined time frames, though Scherzer’s appears to be a quicker recovery. So let’s take a look at who some of the guys are that could come up and fill some spot roles or even a fifth starter role depending on how injuries and the trade deadline goes for Washington. All of the options in Triple-A at the moment are much further down the prospect list in guys like Seth Romero, Ben Braymer, Steven Fuentes, and Sterling Sharp who all have pros and cons but right now none of them have looked particularly great at Triple-A. The most appealing one is perhaps Seth Romero who has been up for stints with the big club previously and does have the best control of the group, though he’s currently rehabbing a cracked rib and hasn’t thrown much, if at all, this year. The next guy up might be Sterling Sharp who is back with the Nats after having been taken in the Rule 5 Draft by Miami but wasn’t able to stick with the Marlins. He’s posted a 2.80 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 35.1 innings at Triple-A this year with a 22:14 K:BB ratio. Now 26, the former 22nd-round pick from 2016 could get a crack in the rotation for a few starts sooner rather than later.

Scott Moss, LHP CLE - The loss of Shane Bieber was a blow to the Indians’ rotation to be sure, especially since their top arms are all in the lower minors. Moss is a lefty in Triple-A and the best selling point with Moss is that he’s topped 130 innings in each of the three seasons prior to 2020. So far he’s had some control issues at Columbus with a 1.65 WHIP in 14 IP having given up a hit per inning plus nine free passes. He does have a nice combo of a fastball, changeup, and slider that are all at least average to above-average offerings and are capable of striking out hitters at a better than K/IP rate. No one else the Tribe have tried in the back end of the rotation as really stuck and so expect them to give as many guys a shot as possible.

Edwin Uceta, RHP LAD - Signed in 2016, Uceta has been a bit of slow burner type as he’s learned the craft of pitching at each stop rather than overpowering hitters with his stuff and moving on. The righty is slight-of-frame at 6’0 and 155 pounds but he still commands three pitches well enough to be a number-four type starter eventually and has produced 376 punchouts in 340.1 innings over his minor league career. He’s currently at the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City and did a stint with the Dodgers earlier this year. If they want to protect Tony Gonsolin or Julio Urias from a jump in innings later this summer, the righty could get some run in the rotation to show what his mid-90s late-breaking fastball and plus changeup can do with a hint of an above-average curve mixed in.