Farm Futures: Top 10 Pitching Prospects Of The Decade

Farm Futures: Top 10 Pitching Prospects Of The Decade

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

These rankings are a reflection of how much I liked these specific players as prospects. Unlike prospects featured in the hitter rankings from last week, a pitcher's prospect value often requires much more projection. We know power often develops late with hitters, but with pitchers, we need to know size, injury history, current pitch grades, future pitch grades, command, command projection, workload, etc... And a lot of that stuff won't show up in a single-season stat line. 

1. Stephen Strasburg

Best MiLB season: 1.30 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 65:13 K:BB in 55.1 IP as a 21-year-old at Double-A and Triple-A

There hasn't been a pitching prospect like Strasburg since I started ranking prospects. Not only was he more coveted in the draft than any other pitcher this decade, but he breezed through the minors in just 11 starts before making his highly anticipated debut in 2010. Each of his starts that year were appointment television, and in those days, prospects were less hyped than they are now. 

2. Matt Moore

Best MiLB season: 1.92 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 210:46 K:BB in 155 IP as a 22-year-old at Double-A and Triple-A

This may seem like a crazy ranking for Moore, especially for those who weren't following prospects a decade ago. However, the fact remains he was ranked ahead of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper by and Baseball Prospectus at the peak of his prospect hype prior to the 2012 season. That ranking didn't make sense to me then, but just the fact that he was even being considered on that level is a testament to how much evaluators liked him as a prospect. That pedigree has carried him to more second, third and fourth chances than would be afforded to the typical failed starting pitcher.

3. Dylan Bundy

Best MiLB season: 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 119:28 K:BB in 103.2 IP as a 19-year-old at Low-A, High-A and Double-A

I absolutely adored Bundy before the awful game of baseball started to chew him up physically, eventually spitting out the version we've seen in the majors. He's the gold standard for recent prep pitching prospects – someone with a bevy of 70-grade pitches and elite command projection. He is also a cautionary tale.

4. Noah Syndergaard

Best MiLB season: 3.06 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 133:28 K:BB in 117.2 IP as a 20-year-old at High-A and Double-A

Syndergaard is my favorite pitching prospect to come along since I've been ranking prospects for RotoWire. He had premium size, premium stuff and I loved the way he pitched. I really hope he didn't peak in 2016, but it's possible he did. Still, he can hardly be labeled a bust, and I'm holding out hope that he still develops into a true ace. This will only be his age-27 season, which is around when most pitchers enter their prime.

5. Forrest Whitley

Best MiLB season: 2.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 143:34 K:BB in 92.1 IP as a 19-year-old at Low-A, High-A and Double-A

Whitley is my second-favorite pitching prospect I've ever ranked. His prospect value peaked after the 2017 season, but I still think he will become an ace. When I ranked the top 15 pitchers under 26, my biggest takeaway was that we really shouldn't expect any pitchers under 23 or 24 to be good at all in the majors. Whitley turned 22 in September, so he's hardly behind schedule, he's just going through the type of growing pains we should expect any 6-foot-7 pitcher with electric stuff to go through at his age.

6. MacKenzie Gore

Best MiLB season: 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 135:28 K:BB in 101 IP as a 20-year-old at High-A and Double-A

The impetus for this week's list and last week's hitter list was my friend Ralph Lifshitz saying on Twitter that Gore is possibly the best pitching prospect of the decade. I don't even think he's the best current pitching prospect, but I understand I'm on a bit of an island there, so I wanted to do the work and see where Gore actually does stack up. Obviously this is still a subjective list, but I can't imagine even someone incredibly high on Gore making a case for him over Strasburg or Moore as prospects. He is the only player on this list who has never dealt with adversity, because he's the only pitcher on this list who has not pitched above Double-A. EVERY other pitcher in this top 10 either dealt with one or multiple significant injuries or underperformed following their prospect peak. Will Gore be the first elite pitching prospect in a decade to not only stay healthy but have success all the way up the ladder and sustain that success in the majors? Possibly, but I don't think we should expect it.

7. Lucas Giolito

Best MiLB season: 2.20 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 110:28 K:BB in 98 IP as a 19-year-old at Low-A

Back in 2014 and 2015 I always ranked Giolito and Julio Urias right by each other, and always had Giolito slightly ahead because of his size and my confidence in his ability to handle a starter's workload. His prospect value actually peaked in the lower levels, as warts started to show at Double-A, with the Nationals eventually cashing him out. There are a lot of negative cautionary tales on this list, but Giolito should serve as a positive reminder of why it's important to be patient (to an extent) with guys with this level of pedigree, assuming there are not major health issues.

8. Julio Urias

Best MiLB season: 2.36 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 109:37 K:BB in 87.2 IP as a 17-year-old at High-A

It's really pretty crazy going back and remembering how young Urias was at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A when he was coming up. He still seems like a prospect from an experience and age standpoint, just because all of his big-league stints have been spread out between small parts of four seasons. If he were prospect eligible, I would rank him just after Jesus Luzardo, but a good amount of shine has come off since 2014-15.

9. Alex Reyes

Best MiLB season: 2.49 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 151:49 K:BB in 101.1 IP as a 20-year-old primarily at High-A and Double-A

To date, Reyes has been the biggest bust on this list, and it's all health related. With perfect health, he probably would have already developed into an ace, but he has been incredibly unlucky. I'm completely out on him at this point – the Giolito Rule does not apply, as there is zero evidence he can handle a starter's workload and the injuries have negatively affected his raw stuff.

10. Jose Fernandez

Best MiLB season: 1.75 ERA, 0.925 WHIP, 158:35 K:BB in 134 IP as a 19-year-old at Low-A and High-A

Fernandez's 2012 season might have been the best statistical season on this list, but his prospect star didn't quite reach the heights of the names ahead of him. It certainly would have if he had spent the following year at Double-A and Triple-A, like a normal pitching prospect, but the Marlins wisely decided to have him bypass those levels entirely, setting up one of the most surprising and exciting rookie seasons by a pitcher in recent memory. I remember spending most of 2013 making godfather offers for him in keeper and dynasty leagues and getting rebuffed nonetheless.

Honorable Mention:

Shelby Miller

Gerrit Cole

Brian Matusz

Julio Teheran

Michael Pineda

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James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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