RotoWire Partners

House of Shlain: Return Ticket

Nick Shlain

Nick analyzes prospects for RotoWire and focuses on the Midwest League during the season.

Itís still early in the season, but itís been a tough road for readily available young pitchers so far. Marcus Stroman was called up only to be sent to the bullpen and Trevor Bauer hasnít been able to crack the Indians' rotation on a full-time basis. This week, Kevin Gausman got a chance to start in the majors and it didnít work out at all as he was sent back to Norfolk on Thursday. Still, thereís a chance all three are occupying rotation spots by the end of the season or even the All-Star break. This week Iím starting off with a former prospect who finally does have a rotation spot with a major league team.

Drew Pomeranz

The former fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Pomeranz has been traded twice (in 2011 along with Alex White for Ubaldo Jimenez and this past offseason for Brett Anderson) and now finds himself in the rotation for one of the best teams in baseball with the opportunity to pitch half of his games in one of the best ballparks to pitch in. In his first two starts (both in Oakland), heís thrown 10 innings of shutout ball with five hits, two walks, and 13 strikeouts. Now 25, Pomeranz has a good curveball, but his fastball has been the difference-maker if you ask me. Heís touching 95 mph on occasion these days and according to FanGraphs heís averaging 92 mph with the pitch. The only left-handed starters in the American League with a higher average fastball velocity (Min. 20 innings) are David Price, Chris Sale, and Scott Kazmir. The Athletics recently sent Dan Straily to Triple-A and heíll likely be back at some point this season, but Pomeranz may pass Tommy Milone on the depth chart by then.

Kevin Gausman

Gausman was put in a tough spot by the Orioles as he was called up to pitch on short rest with many speculating that Baltimore was afraid to pitch lefty Wei-Yin Chen go against Detroit. Gausman, who recently recovered from pneumonia and had a 14.1-inning scoreless streak in Triple-A before he was recalled, got away with throwing gas in the first two innings of his 2014 debut. Then he fell apart in the third and fourth innings as his velocity went down and the Tigers feasted on his fastball for five runs on six hits and two walks. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had a great fourth inning Wednesday, as one of the hits came when Danny Worth executed a suicide squeeze and the Orioles neglected to cover first base. Even though he was sent back to Triple-A, I consider Gausman to be a good stash at this point since we could see him pitching well in the majors later this year. Next time he's given an opportunity with Baltimore, heíll need to throw his secondary pitches more often and effectively.

Kohl Stewart

The fourth overall pick in last yearís draft, Stewart has massive upside. He turned 19 in October and is the youngest pitcher in the Low-A Midwest League. In seven starts this year, he has a 2.34 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 34.2 innings with 26 strikeouts. With his fastball and slider he has two plus pitches and the potential to rack up strikeouts like a fantasy ace down the line. Heíll also have the benefit of pitching half of his starts at Target Field in Minnesota.

Anthony DeScalfani

It was quite a debut for DeScalfani against the Dodgers on Wednesday as he struck out seven, and walked one while giving up two runs on seven hits over six innings. All of his strikeouts came on curveballs save for the one time he caught Justin Turner looking with the fastball. DeScalfani sits in the 90-94 mph range, but he was still hitting 94 mph in his last inning Wednesday. Ultimately, he could be a swingman reliever type because he lacks power stuff, but it seems like heís at least getting the chance to start. Iíd like to see more, but for now he could be a good WHIP pitcher to have around if he gets more turns in the rotation. With the addition of Randy Wolf, it may take longer than expected for that to materialize.

Rymer Liriano

After missing all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery, Liriano is back to crushing the ball. After homering twice Wednesday, he has nine home runs in 38 games in Double-A. Itís just great to see him healthy and hitting. Liriano also has five stolen bases so far. When he was the player of the year in the Midwest League in 2011, Liriano stole 65 bases (he was caught 20 times). He wonít steal that many bases at the next level but he could probably steal 15-20 at his peak while providing power in the middle of the Padres' lineup.