As Spring Training winds down, teams are beginning to make final roster decisions for the upcoming MLB season. One of the most significant areas of focus is often the back end of a starting pitcher rotation. While established stars may anchor the front end, the back end is often filled with unproven, up-and-coming players looking to make their mark. In this article, we will take a closer look at six pitching prospects who are vying for a spot in the back end of their respective team’s starting rotation at some point during the coming season.
6 Pitching Prospects to Add to Your Watch List
1. Bryce Miller, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Bryce Miller has been impressive in Spring Training, showcasing a powerful fastball and slider. However, concerns about his command and stamina have raised questions about his future role on the Mariners’ pitching staff. Despite probably being ready for the bullpen right now, many are hoping he’ll be given a chance to start, and his recent outing against Jacob DeGrom provides hope that he may get more opportunities.
Fantasy baseball enthusiasts are excited about Bryce Miller’s potential as a top-of-the-rotation starter, with projections of pitching around 130 innings and becoming a star like Spencer Strider. However, if Miller is assigned to the bullpen, managers should be cautious, as he may end up like Matt Brash, who spent more time in the minor leagues than with the Mariners and wasn’t relevant for fantasy purposes.
Overall, Miller’s combination of power and movement makes him an exciting young pitcher with plenty of potential, but his consistency and role in the pitching staff will need to be monitored closely. If Bryce Miller does crack the Opening Day roster, fantasy managers should pounce. He has ace potential and for where you can get him in the draft should still be a good return on investment. While his command and stamina have been inconsistent at times, his upper 90s fastball and upper 80s slider make him a formidable presence on the mound. Miller’s skills and potential make him an exciting prospect to watch in the coming years, and if he can improve his control and command, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter or even an ace.
2. Cole Wilcox, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Cole Wilcox was selected by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 2020 MLB draft and later traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Blake Snell deal. Wilcox possesses a strong arsenal of pitches, such as his plus 95 MPH fastball, plus 85 MPH slider, and average changeup. During his debut Single-A season, he excelled with a 2.00 ERA, 52 strikeouts, and just 5 walks.
Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021, Wilcox made a speedy return to the mound, pitching in seven low-A appearances and tallying 24 strikeouts with minimal walks, although his performance was affected by slightly diminished stuff. The Rays have expressed a positive outlook on Wilcox’s future, publicly stating their belief that his velocity will increase as he continues to recover.
While he’s likely not a re-draft league draft target initially, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on how the Rays handle Cole Wilcox’s workload and whether they decide to put him on the 40-man roster (since he’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft). If they do, it’s a good sign and you might want to follow their lead.
A reasonable best-case scenario for Wilcox would be around 100 innings pitched, 130 strikeouts, a few wins, and a stable ERA, no matter if he’s used as a starter or long reliever. Think of how the Astros used Christian Javier last year.
3. Jordan Wicks, LHP, Chicago Cubs
Jordan Wicks, a left-handed pitcher drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round of the 2021 MLB draft, possesses a diverse four-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball, a plus changeup, an average slider, and a slow curveball. He displays excellent command of his pitches, consistently using them to keep hitters off balance.
In his first professional season in the Cubs’ minor league system, Wicks posted impressive numbers, including a 2.00 ERA with 34 strikeouts and only five walks in 22 innings pitched across three levels of the minors. Wicks continued to impress during the Arizona Fall League, maintaining a sub-2.00 ERA while recording 16 strikeouts and only one walk in 10.2 innings pitched. With his advanced mechanics, multiple pitches, and competitive drive, many believe Wicks has the potential to become a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the major leagues, and he could be ready to join the Cubs’ rotation soon.
From a fantasy baseball perspective, managers can expect Wicks to provide SP4 production with approximately 120 innings pitched. While he may not be worth reaching for early in the draft, he could be a solid choice for those looking for upside and depth in the later rounds of the draft.
4. Clayton Beeter, RHP, New York Yankees
Clayton Beeter is a right-handed pitcher who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 2020 Major League Baseball draft. However, he was later traded to the New York Yankees in August 2022 in exchange for Joey Gallo.
During his college career, Beeter was primarily used as a relief pitcher and demonstrated an impressive ability to strike out batters, averaging over 16 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched in 2020. He also showed excellent control, with his 8:1 K:BB ratio being one of the best in his draft class.
Beeter has a powerful 99MPH fastball with great ride as well as a slider and a changeup. In 2022, he played in AA and had a 4.50 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched. However, his command has been an issue, as he has been giving up around 4 or 5 free passes per start. He did show some improvement in this area after being traded to the Yankees, with his walk rate dropping by about half.
For the 2023 baseball season, it is expected that Clayton Beeter will pitch approximately 120 innings, with his playing time being divided between AAA and the MLB. He is considered to be a potential candidate for spot starts with the New York Yankees, and if he performs well, he could earn himself more playing time. However, it is recommended that fantasy baseball players exercise caution when considering Beeter as a trade target, as he has yet to prove himself at the Major League level. It may be wiser to keep an eye on him and look for opportunities to acquire him off the waiver wire instead.
5. Colby White, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Colby White is a right-handed pitcher who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 6th round of the 2019 draft. His fastball is his best pitch, clocking in at 98 MPH with a tailing movement. He also has an above-average slider and a splitter that he uses against left-handed hitters.
Although White had to undergo Tommy John surgery in early 2022, the Rays expect him to make a significant impact in the MLB soon. If he performs as well as he did in the MiLB in 2021, when he posted a sub 2.00 ERA with over 100 strikeouts in only 40 or so appearances, he will be a valuable asset to any team.
On March 13, 2023, the Tampa Bay Rays made the decision to option White back down to the MiLB in order to prioritize his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Although this move may have disappointed some fans, analysts are optimistic that White will be able to make a valuable contribution to the team later in the summer. In the meantime, there is a possibility that White may be moved to the 60-day injured list if the Rays need to free up space on the 40-man roster. If this happens, he could be a strategic addition to fantasy teams with available spots on their injured list.
When White does make his debut for the Rays, he may not accumulate as many saves as some fans hope. However, he has the potential to earn consistent strikeouts, maintain a good ERA, and contribute wins and holds to your team.. He could provide a sneaky boost during the second half of the season, making him a solid “quality” play rather than a “quantity” play for fantasy baseball enthusiasts.
Overall, while White’s current move down to the farm may not have been the news that some fans were hoping for, there is still reason to believe that he will be a valuable and strategic asset to fantasy teams.
6. Gavin Stone, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Gavin Stone is a right-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, standing at 6’1″ and weighing 175 pounds. While there were concerns about his slight build potentially hindering his ability to handle a starter’s workload, Stone proved those concerns wrong in 2022. He excelled in AA/AAA, relying heavily on his remarkable changeup, which features both significant sink and run. He complements this pitch nicely with his 95 MPH fastball, and he also possesses a pretty good slider that breaks in the opposite direction of his changeup.
Stone threw over 120 innings last year and continued to improve at every level. While it may be a stretch to compare him to the legendary Pedro Martinez, it should be noted that Stone’s changeup is truly exceptional and gives fantasy analysts genuine optimism about his future potential. At the very least, he is an exciting player to watch, and we can only hope that he will make some starts for the Dodgers soon.
It is difficult to predict how much time Stone will spend in the Major Leagues, but a reasonable estimate would be around 15 starts. He has the potential to contribute to your fantasy team with wins, strikeouts, and a solid ERA.
For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!