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Mound Musings: The Best Prospect Pitchers

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

In a couple of my leagues, I've already folded on 2010, trading high-priced high performers for cheap guys with upside that can help me long term. In our staff keeper league a couple years ago, I traded an MVP candidate in Chase Utley for a young pitcher by the name of David Price and a lesser prospect, Jason Heyward. Utley lasted just three months on his new fantasy team due to his huge salary, but Heyward and Price are cornerstones for me. These are the types of deals you have to make in order to turn around a flailing fantasy team. Yeah, there's a risk that many of these guys won't work out, but choose wisely and you'll be set.

Here we'll look at my top 25 pitching prospects in the minors. Which of these guys are you not as high on as me and who would you replace them with?

Close to the Big Leagues

Jeremy Hellickson, TB –
In any other organization, he'd already be in the big league rotation, but despite Maddux-like numbers for Triple-A Durham this year (2.19 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9), there's no room at the inn. Wade Davis is the most vulnerable of the TB top five, but he's fared better recently, so we may have to wait for an injury or unexpected trade. Still, there's no better pitching prospect left in the minors, so make sure you know the name.

Aroldis Chapman, CIN –
Latest rumblings have Chapman working out of the bullpen soon. He's been passed by Travis Wood (promoted this week) and the Reds still have Edinson Volquez (elbow) coming back very soon. Chapman (10.7 K/9 but a 5.2 BB/9) may have some value next year as a post-hype sleeper, but this year? Probably not so much.

Simon Castro, SD –
Castro isn't generally thought to have the upside of a Mat Latos, but he's not far behind. The 6-foot-5 22-year-old is still filling out, but the current product isn't too bad either – 2.69 ERA, 71:27 K:BB in 80.1 Double-A innings. He's probably in line for a late-season call-up if his success continues, and as we've seen with Latos, the Padres won't hesitate to "rush" a player if they deem him ready.

Dan Hudson, CHW –
I don't know why he has a 6.00 in away games, but focus more on the 97:27 K:BB in 82.1 innings. Hudson is big league ready and is just waiting for an injury or, just as likely if not more so, a move by GM Kenny Williams to blow up the team.

Tanner Scheppers, TEX –
The thought of fast-tracking him to the big leagues as a reliever appears to have gone by the wayside, as the Rangers have used him as a starter in his last four Triple-A appearances. Scheppers has a great arm (11.4 K/9, .192 BAA), but there are long-term concerns about his violent delivery. Still, if he makes it to Texas this year, he's worth attention for the strikeouts.

Chris Sale, CHW –
Chicago's 2010 first-round pick signed quicker than expected and could be on the fast track to the White Sox bullpen. It seems unlikely he'd find his way to closer status, but with Trader Kenny, one never knows. Long-term Sale profiles as a No. 2 starter, and that could happen as early as next year.

Early-to-Mid 2011

Jordan Lyles, HOU –
A bit under the radar, Lyles was a 2008 first-round pick out of high school. After dominating the Sally League in 2009, the Astros aggressively jumped him to Double-A this year, and he's not missed a beat. In 93.1 innings, he's posted a 2.60 ERA with an 85:22 K:BB. You rarely find a 19-year-old with this much polish and success at the Double-A level. Once Roy Oswalt departs, he's Houston's best bet for an internal ace candidate.

Kyle Drabek, TOR –
Drabek, of course, was the big piece that came over in the Roy Halladay deal. He could probably hold his own in the majors right now, though a 3.49 ERA and 77:43 K:BB in 98 innings at the Double-A level is nothing special. Drabek could potentially get hot and debut in August/September, but he's been scuffling in June, so that seems unlikely. Long-term, Drabek profiles as a mid-rotation starter.

Mike Minor, ATL –
The seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, Minor was considered a bit of an overdraft, but no more. Four starts and a 0.64 ERA in Low-A last year, 15 starts and a 103:34 K:BB in 87 innings in Double-A this year, and now Minor has just been promoted to Triple-A. That puts him on the cusp of the big leagues, and though the Braves' rotation is a bit crowded, he could find himself in Atlanta later this year.

Bryan Morris, PIT –
Morris came over from the Dodgers in the Manny Ramirez/Jason Bay deal, and it's looking like he, not Andy LaRoche, may be the key piece for the Pirates in that deal. Morris posted a microscopic 0.60 ERA in eight High-A starts prior to his Double-A promotion. There he hasn't been quite as good, but a 3.35 ERA and 42:15 K:BB in 45.2 innings isn't chopped liver. Morris has the upside of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter if the Pirates don't ruin him first.

Zach Britton, BAL –
With all the young pitching at Baltimore's disposal, Britton has gone a bit overlooked, but that may be changing. Britton is a left-handed, third-round pick and in 87 innings has a 2.48 ERA and 68:28 K:BB. He's actually been slightly better from a BA-against perspective versus right-handers, something I generally consider a pretty good sign. Britton also has a 0.66 ERA in four June starts, so expect him to finish the year in Triple-A and compete for a rotation spot as early as next spring.

Late-2011

Mike Montgomery, KC –
I'll try and remain optimistic here, as Montgomery is 6-5, left-handed and very talented. That said, his reoccurring elbow problems are troubling, and he's on the DL. Montgomery has a 2.01 ERA in 10 starts with a strong 58:14 K:BB in 53.2 innings. He's also just 20 and has already reached Double-A. Few pitchers on this list have his upside, so if the elbow doesn't turn out to be a long-term issue, the Royals might actually have a second decent starter in their rotation by 2011/2012.

Matt Moore, TB –
Moore's inconsistency (7.00 ERA in May) is the only thing "holding him back," but witness what he's done in his last three starts – 19 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 31 K. Command has been an issue throughout his minor league career (5.1 BB/9 a year ago), but Moore has made strides this year, and the lefty has a chance to be at least a No. 3 starter in a year or two.

Alex White, CLE –
White was the 15th overall pick in last year's draft, and he's been even better than advertised so far this year:

High-A: 2.86 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, .204 BAA
Double-A: 1.72 ERA, 5.2 K/9, 2.7 K/9, .195 BAA

Not spectacular numbers, but enough to give us some encouragement at least. White had a distinguished college career, and there's enough here to suggest that he's good enough to foresee a No. 3 starter (or slightly more) come 2011.

2012 and Beyond

Julio Teheran, ATL –
Overall, I have Teheran as the No. 2 pitching prospect (behind Jeremy Hellickson) left in the minors. In 2010, Teheran has a 97:18 K:BB in 83.2 innings with a 2.04 ERA between the two Class-A levels. Teheran's upside is enormous considering his elite stuff and age (19). He's also listed at 6-2 and just 150 pounds, so imagine where his velocity (already low 90s), will be once he adds 25 pounds of muscle. The Braves may have traded away Neftali Feliz, but here's a viable replacement.

Christian Friedrich, COL –
The No. 25 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Friedrich put himself in the top-10 prospects discussion last year via a 2.41 ERA and 159:43 K:BB in 119.2 innings in the tough Cal League. This year things haven't gone quite as well in Double-A - 5.59 ERA, 46:23 K:BB in 58 innings. Friedrich has had some elbow concerns this year, which is obviously a red flag, but his 2009 numbers should keep him on your radar.

Jacob Turner, DET –
We saw how quickly the Tigers rushed Rick Porcello to less-than-stellar results, so expect Turner to be treated a bit more carefully. Turner's (2009 No. 9 overall pick) full-season debut has gone quite well. He was just promoted to High-A after a 51:9 K:BB in 54 innings in Low-A, and as a top-10 draft pick, Turner's ceiling remains high.

Tyler Matzek, COL –
2009's No. 11 overall pick has had an up-and-down full-season debut, posting a 2.31 ERA in 35 innings with a 39:24 K:BB. Matzek has held hitters to a .189 BAA, but the walks are obviously on the high side. Matzek is more of a long-term keeper league option, but the left-hander's upside isn't surpassed by many.

Arodys Vizcaino, ATL –
Vizcaino is about to take a tumble down prospect lists after Wednesday's news that he has a partial tear in his pitching elbow. Vizcaino has shot up prospect lists this year via a 2.71 ERA and 77:12 K:BB in 83 innings, but that's all moot at this point. Fortunately the Braves have an unparalleled stable of pitching prospects ready to fill the void if necessary.

Martin Perez, TEX –
Perez has been incredibly inconsistent this year (5.19 ERA), but he's a 19-year-old left-hander in Double-A, so ‘nuff said. In his last two starts, Perez has tossed 12 scoreless innings with a 15:3 K:BB, so consider that 7.56 May ERA in the past. Perez could see big league time as early as 2011, but the Rangers would be well-advised to let him the lefty simmer in the minors awhile longer.

Shelby Miller –
The Cardinals are wisely treating their 19-year-old 2009 first-round pick with kid gloves, with Miller averaging less than four innings a start so far this year. Those 44.1 innings have yielded a less-than-stellar 4.67 ERA, but focus more on this – 12.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9. Miller's upside is tremendous, but just keep in mind he's nowhere close to the big leagues.

Casey Kelly, BOS –
Perhaps some (a lot?) of Kelly's hype has to do with the uniform he hopes to eventually wear, but real scouts still do love his upside. Kelly is a 20-year-old pitching in Double-A, which is enough to tell you what the Red Sox think of his upside. Kelly has been predictably inconsistent, posting a 5.05 ERA with a much better 53:21 K:BB in 57 innings. He's proven far too hittable (11.2 H/9), but focus more on the long term here.

Alexander Colome, TB –
Yes, yet another Rays pitching prospect. The 21-year-old Colome has a 2.84 ERA and 82:31 K:BB in 83.1 innings. He's probably about due for a promotion from Low-A, as he's held batters to a .207 average and the right-hander has been even better against lefties than righties. The Rays have zero incentive to rush Colome considering their depth, but he's still one to watch.

Randall Delgado, ATL –
The 20-year-old Delgado is more than holding his own in High-A, with a 2.76 ERA in 16 starts (94.2 innings), including an impressive 97:22 K:BB in 94.2 innings. Delgado is a bit less-heralded that other Atlanta pitching prospects, but that doesn't mean he's that much (if at all) less talented. He's also already in High-A and should be ready sometime in 2012.

Chris Withrow, LAD –
I thought about fellow Dodgers prospects Aaron Miller and Ethan Martin here as well, but former first-rounder Withrow gets the nod for now. The 21-year-old Withrow has been very inconsistent, but I'm a big age v. level guy, so I'll cut him a bit of slack for his 4.80 ERA. Withrow had a 7-4-0-0-1-10 outing recently, but he's also walked five in three of his last five outings.