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Bogfella's Notebook: The Bogfella Watchlist

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

For more than 25 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.

This Week's Scouting Tip: The Bogfella Watch List - Kids on Parade

Every year I compile a list of arms I want to monitor closely. Actually the list never really goes away, it's just renewed and refreshed on an ongoing basis. Once a pitcher has established himself as a major league player (or shows me he is unlikely to do so), they are removed and others who have caught my eye jump on. I'll admit, it's pretty exclusive company - some highly touted prospects never find their way onto the watch list.
 
As we head into September, several pitchers on the list will arrive in the major leagues for a trial. Others will see opportunities begin to open up as veterans drop off the major league depth charts via anything from trades to free agency, and occasionally a new pitcher will explode onto the scene and get himself added. It's a great time to evaluate new talent in the never ending quest to be one up on the competition heading into next year. Some players in keeper leagues will be able to grab these guys now in anticipation of protecting them going into next year's draft while others will just want the list handy on draft day so they can grab one or two in the late rounds.
 
Now for the parameters ... This is something of a mixed bag with regard to qualifications. Most are players who are currently in the minor leagues or have just been recalled with the expanded rosters, some will be recent draftees, and a small number could be pitchers still attempting to establish themselves after a few short visits to the major leagues or perhaps following a significant injury that kept them out of the spotlight for an extended period of time. In the majority of cases they will be in the consideration set to break camp with the big team next spring while a few are more likely to be called up at some point after the season begins.

Put These Guys On Your Watch List

Stephen Strasburg (WAS)- Yes, he is at the top of the list even though he should not be a secret in any league. All signs have been go throughout his rehab and he should make a handful of starts this month in preparation for 2012. This guy is a once in a decade-type of talent so pursue him aggressively if he is somehow available. The only possible downsides would be concerns over health long term, and more importantly, a likely innings cap next season as the Nationals protect their headliner. Even with an innings limit, he will be a huge strikeout force, should put up a very good WHIP and ERA, and might actually provide a good number of wins for a Nationals team that figures to improve significantly as many of their young players mature.

Yu Darvish (JAPAN)- The leagues with really aggressive owners will already be aware of Darvish, but there will be many leagues where he is virtually unknown. That said, you want him very high on your list. Darvish is probably the best pitcher to have ever taken the mound in Japan, and he has indicated he will consider signing in the U.S. next year. Virtually every major league team has scouted him, several have already indicated a keen interest, and somebody will pay a lot of money just to negotiate with him. If he signs, he has the talent to have the highest impact of any Pacific Rim import. Beware, as a move here becomes more imminent, his hype will likely skyrocket. And, a couple of other names just to keep in mind - starter Hisashi Iwakuma and closer Kyuji Fujikawa.

Matthew Moore (TB)- He has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues although rumors persist that the Rays will call him up at some time this month to let him have a taste of the big leagues. In the past, they have preferred to use their top pitching prospects in relief in September but he is and will be in the rotation. His command is still a work in progress, but it is certainly major league level now, and strikeouts are likely to be his biggest asset. Tampa Bay does face financial restrictions so his arrival could be delayed to avoid earlier arbitration, or they could choose to fill the seats by promoting his Strasburg-like abilities. He's probably that good, but that approach harbors risks too.

Shelby Miller (STL)- Miller has cruised through the Cardinals system but is likely still viewed as a mid-2012 call-up unless he really impresses next spring. He has very good command of a full array of pitches and really needs maturity as much as refining of his stuff. He has been gradually moving up my list and now finds himself at the top of the tier right behind what I consider the big three. He should generate a good amount of strikeouts and has the quality assortment of pitches to avoid many of the pitfalls of most young pitchers when they make their first appearances at the major league level.

Jarrod Parker (ARZ)- Most analysts would have him a bit lower on the list, but label me a believer. He missed all of last season, and the Diamondbacks have been cautious with his rehab. The velocity came back rather quickly, and the command is also returning, although not as quickly. It wouldn't surprise to see him get a look this month, but Arizona is pointing to the playoffs so they are not as likely to test the mettle of their prized kids as liberally as they might have without playoff consequences.

Trevor Bauer (ARZ)- The Diamondbacks are literally loaded with exceptionally talented arms. Bauer was their first round pick in this year's draft, and he is so polished they are already talking about a September look, and consideration for next year's rotation. He has similar upside to Parker and could very possibly join the best of their more experienced arms (Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson) in the near future. He features excellent command of a full array of pitches and should transition pretty easily once they turn him loose.

James Paxton (SEA)- This is another guy consistently moving up on the watch list. He has a rather unorthodox "reach back" motion that appears to confuse hitters as he hides the ball well and then explodes. He is a little riskier than some of the others, but I keep seeing things I like, so I find myself bumping him up another notch or two with each evaluation. He will have the benefit of pitching in a friendly home park looks like he is nearly ready for prime time.

Jacob Turner (DET)- He has stumbled a bit in a couple of cameo appearances in Detroit this season, but don't be fooled, he is the real thing. I'll be honest - he is a better dynasty pick than a straight keeper league option. The Tigers like to throw their young arms into the lion's den very early in their careers, so it's normal for them to face their share of adversity (i.e. Rick Porcello, who I still see as having a solid if not spectacular future). He has a lot of upside, but expect a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Mike Montgomery (KC)- Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, and a few others give the Royals reason to be optimistic, but there are talented arms in the system too. Montgomery just needs to learn to throw strikes more consistently as the velocity and movement are already there. I have Montgomery, Danny Duffy, and Aaron Crow, who will transition into the rotation next year, as the best of a pretty good group so patience is the word here too. Like Turner, this lefty will have his good and bad days when he arrives, but the long term prognosis is very good. As I have mentioned before, lefties typically develop a bit slower, but he should arrive sometime in 2012.

Jameson Taillon (PIT)- There is only one reason he is not considerably higher on this list - he is younger and less experienced so he may not see a major league mound until about this time next year. The Pirates took Gerrit Cole out of UCLA with the first overall pick in this year's draft, and I think Taillon has a higher ceiling. That's saying quite a bit. It would be very surprising - though not impossible given his skill set - to see Taillon taking a regular turn before 2013, but some guys are worth tracking for a long time. He is one of those.

Liam Hendriks (MIN)- With Kyle Gibson going under the knife and missing all of next season as he rehabs, Hendriks steps into Twins best pitching prospect role. Not to worry, I had him ahead of Gibson anyway. The Aussie has very good but not great stuff. His calling card is command. It is extremely rare to see someone at his level who can repeatedly hit his spots with quality pitches. He pounds the zone and that should result in a lot of success in the big leagues. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in Minnesota this week, so I'll be anxious to see how he fares.

Manny Banuelos (NYY)- The Yankees were shopping for some veteran talent again this year, and Banuelos was among the first names mentioned by prospective trading partners. There is a reason. This guy has it together. He jumped onto my radar this past spring with a mound presence well beyond his years and a quality repertoire to go with it. The Yankees will be glad he is still wearing pinstripes in the near future.

Arodys Vizcaino (ATL)- While Julio Teheran is generally considered the top pitching prospect in the Braves system, I actually like Vizcaino a bit better. I am a sucker for a nasty curveball (I was when I played too, lol), and he has one of the best. He still needs to find a little more consistency and he has to show he can stay healthy (he has a history of being somewhat fragile), but he has a lot of upside so he is worth stashing if your roster allows it.

Danny Hultzen (SEA)- When I was evaluating this year's pitching talent for the first year draft, I couldn't make up my mind whether I liked Bauer or Hultzen best. I finally decided I liked Hultzen just a bit better, but that Bauer was much closer to the finished product. He has a nice fastball in the low to mid 90s and a sharp slider, but it's an awesome changeup with amazing command for a young southpaw that will be his ticket to the major leagues. He will likely move up this list quickly.

Zach Lee (LAD)- Lee is another very young, but very polished young pitcher who just needs a little time to develop and mature. He's very athletic and should soon be adding his name to the long list of top tier Dodgers pitchers. I don't think he has the ceiling of Clayton Kershaw, but he would slot nicely right behind him in the rotation. Again, late 2012 would be a best guess for his debut, but he could accelerate that timeline.

Julio Teheran (ATL)- As recently as this past spring, Teheran was ranked by many as the best pitching prospect in the game. I never really saw that, and while he is certainly a very good one, I have quite a few ahead of him on my watch list. He has been up with the Braves for an occasional spot start, but he will be looking for a regular turn beginning next year. He should get it. I have him just behind Vizcaino, but ahead of Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, and Brandon Beachy in a very deep system.

Tyler Skaggs (ARZ)- Skaggs would be the toast of the pitching prospects in most organizations, but he falls in behind Bauer and Parker here. Its close; as he could pass either of them if he continues to progress, but first, second or third on the Arizona list is still exceptionally promising. The Diamondbacks coveted him in the 2009 draft but the Angels beat them to him, so Arizona asked for him as the centerpiece of the Dan Haren deal. A lefty, he is developing a bit more slowly, but the progress has been consistent and he shouldn't be too far behind Bauer and Parker in making it to the show.

Martin Perez (TEX)- He has all the tools, if he can just get them all together. Yet another lefty who has required more time to get his feet on the ground, Perez might have progressed to rapidly early on. He still just 20, but he has had his share of adversity since making it to Double-A as an 18 year old. Don't forget about him. He has shown signs of making the necessary adjustments and it could "click" with him at any time. He was moved up to Triple-A earlier this year so he is getting close.

Anthony Ranaudo (BOS)- I really liked what I saw of him in college but he had some elbow problems that slowed his progress. Still, if the health issues are behind him, he can throw hard and has quality secondary pitches. He has shown good command down in the zone and is adept at moving the ball in and out. Ranaudo hasn't flashed gaudy numbers in High-A ball so he might be someone who is flying under the radar in your league. If he stays healthy and takes a step forward, he could be up by sometime in 2012 and would be a nice addition to the Red Sox rotation.

Dustin McGowan (TOR)- If you have been a regular reader of the Notebook, you already know my thoughts on McGowan. The Blue Jays just activated him, although they have not specified a role for him this month. He was one of the most exciting young arms in the game before shoulder problems sidelined him. His rehab has gone well, and Toronto will want to see how he might fit in next year. If he is all the way back, he is a front line starter. It's a very big "if" but well worth following, just in case. I think they would like to see him back in the rotation, but he has closer stuff if they think his arm can handle that kind of stress.

Do you want to know some of the names that just missed? Here are a few more names to file away (in no particular order): Gerrit Cole (PIT), Ross Detwiler (WAS), Randall Delgado (ATL), Alex Meyer (WAS), and here are a couple of relievers/reliever types I have been tracking, Jake McGee (TB), Phillippe Aumont (PHI), Chi-Jen Lo (HOU),and of course Kenley Jansen (LAD).

That's my watch list. Who makes yours?

For some of the most in-depth coverage of all things pitching in fantasy baseball for 2011, visit www.bogfella.com and be sure to follow @RotoWire and @bogfella on Twitter.