Don’t go getting all excited. I’m not updating my rankings quite yet. That will come around the All-Star break. What I am doing is taking a look at the top minor league pitching prospects to see how they’re performing in the minor leagues so far this season. Think of this as one of the appetizers to my mid-season rankings update. The side salad with ranch dressing on the side, if you will. Around this time next month, you’ll get your second appetizer, likely some soup, before getting the prime rib of prospect updates in early July. And don’t worry, there will be other entree options for all the vegetarians out there.
The first month-plus of the season sure has been a doozy for pitching prospects. We’ve already had some suspensions, season-ending injuries, and plenty of promotions. But enough intro blab, let’s get right to it. We’ve got a lot to cover below.
Rankings are from my pre-season top-100.
Top Pitching Prospects and Performers
#6 Shohei Ohtani (SP/DH – LAA)
2018 Stats (Level):
I’m starting to think Ohtani was just messing with us in Spring Training. After looking like hot garbage for all of March, Ohtani has turned it on during the regular season on both sides of the ball. He’s hitting .341 with four home runs and a better than expected strikeout rate (25.5%) while showcasing his dominant array of pitches on the mound, including a filthy splitter. Back-to-back bad starts have ballooned his ERA to 4.43, but there’s no doubting Ohtani is going to be an ace in this league. I still doubt his ability to hit for a high average, though.
#9 Michael Kopech (SP – CHW)
2018 Stats (AAA): 4 GS, 2.14 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 12.4 K/9
If you’re in the Charlotte area, I’d recommend getting out to a Knights game to see Kopech pitch. The flame-throwing righty is one of the most talented pitching prospects in recent memory, and isn’t going to be in the minors much longer. It’s obvious that Kopech’s stuff is too much for minor league hitters. It’s just a matter of time before the White Sox call him up to the Windy City to replace one of their lackluster rotation options. Spotty control is no longer holding Kopech back, as his walk rate has dropped for the second consecutive season down to 3.0 through his first four starts. He should be up before Memorial Day.
#12 Alex Reyes (SP – STL)
2018 Stats (MLB): HAS NOT PITCHED
Now more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Reyes is inching closer to a return to the mound. That’s great news and all, but Reyes’ 2018 fantasy outlook isn’t great. Regardless of his role, the Cardinals are going to baby their prized pitching prospect to make sure he’s fully ready for 2019. He should provide elite strikeout rates and a solid ERA, but the limited number of innings he’s expected to throw caps his value for this season. In 2019 and beyond, the sky is the limit.
#16 Forrest Whitley (SP – HOU)
2018 Stats (Level TBD): HAS NOT PITCHED
After a dominant 2017 performance that had him rated as one of baseball’s top few pitching prospects, Whitley has yet to pitch in 2018 due to a suspension for violating the minor league’s drug program. He is due back in early-June.
#18 MacKenzie Gore (SP – SD)
2018 Stats (A): 1 GS, 6.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 12.0 K/9
Gore could muster only one start before hitting the DL with a blister issue almost three weeks ago now. The southpaw often gets overlooked due to his lack of a truly elite pitch, but there’s legit ace upside here. Don’t underestimate him.
#20 Hunter Greene (SP – CIN)
2018 Stats (A): 4 GS, 14.63 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 6.8 BB/9, 19.1 K/9
Oh jeez, where to begin. In the interest of time, I’ll keep this brief. Greene is the perfect example of a high-upside project. The upside here is enormous, but there’s plenty of work to be done for Greene to reach his full potential.
#23 Walker Buehler (SP – LAD)
2018 Stats (AAA): 3 GS, 2.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
2018 Stats (MLB): 2 GS, 1.80 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
The level he’s pitching at is irrelevant so far. Buehler dominated Triple-A hitters in three starts and is blowing away Major League batters with his high 90s cheese and plus assortment of off-speed pitches. The Dodgers assumed Rich Hill was going to return when the optioned Buehler back to Triple-A, so now he has to wait 10 days before getting recalled. You know what assuming does, don’t you? Make sure Buehler’s not floating around on your waiver wire. He’s going to be a fantasy asset whenever he’s up this season, which is likely to be often with how fragile the Dodgers pitching staff is.
Walker Buehler with the 99mph tailing fastball for the strikeout. Brutal. pic.twitter.com/fo2syvWwGe
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) April 24, 2018
#24 Luiz Gohara (SP – ATL)
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 3 GS, 4.76 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 4.8 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
If you’ve been hanging onto Luiz Gohara, the wait is nearly over. The portly southpaw is expected to make another two starts in the minors before rejoining the Braves rotation in mid-May.
For a full Gohara writeup, check out my live scouting report from his second rehab start on 4/22 in Pawtucket.
#27 Brent Honeywell (SP – TB)
2018 Stats: OUT FOR SEASON
Honeywell isn’t due back until sometime in early-2019 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery back in March. If everything goes well, he should make his debut later in the 2019 season.
#30 A.J. Puk (SP – OAK)
2018 Stats: OUT FOR SEASON
Same story here. Puk is done for 2018 and will look to continue his ascent to the top of the Oakland rotation in 2019.
#32 Sixto Sanchez (SP – PHI)
2018 Stats (A+): 3.71 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.9 K/9
Sixto is nasty. Don’t believe me? Look below. For a 19-year-old in High Class-A, Sanchez is pitching as well as anyone could expect. And with his arsenal, the strikeouts will start coming in bunches.
Sixto Sanchez K's Estevan Florial for the 2nd time. 1st AB: 3 straight heaters topping 101. This sequence was brilliant: 89 CH, 84 SL, 91 CH, 99 FB, and then a plus 91 CH for the K#Phillies#Yankees pic.twitter.com/kh5P6eKIZd
— Peace, love, and dirty feet (@mufuhkajones) April 22, 2018
#41 Brendan McKay (SP/1B – TB)
2018 Stats (A): 4 GS, 1.93 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 0.6 BB/9, 15.4 K/9
Talk about some video game quality numbers. McKay can handle the lumber just fine, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that his future as a star is on the pitching mound. Single-A hitters have been no match for McKay so far (49% K rate), and it likely won’t be long before you see his name near the top of the Rays rotation.
#50 Jack Flaherty (SP – STL)
2018 Stats (AAA): 3 GS, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
2018 Stats (MLB): 2 GS, 3.60 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
Flaherty deserves a full-time rotation spot in St. Louis. You know it, I know it, everybody besides St. Louis knows it. Okay, I’m sure they know it, but they can’t seem to end their love affair with Adam Wainwright who hasn’t been productive since 1956. Flaherty has considerable upside whenever he’s starting for the Cardinals this season and has SP2 upside long term as a fantasy starter.
#62 Mike Soroka (SP – ATL)
2018 Stats (AAA): 4 GS, 1.99 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
This ranking is now way too low. The one thing holding back Soroka was the lack of an elite strikeout rate, which he has vastly improved on this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. Soroka was scratched from his start on Sunday to get ready for a potential Major League debut tomorrow if Julio Teheran is unable to make his start. Even if it’s not tomorrow, Soroka’s debut is imminent. He’s one of a handful of pitching prospects that could impact fantasy rosters in the short term and he has the stuff to succeed out of the gate.
#63 Jon Duplantier (SP – ARI)
2018 Stats (AA): 2 GS, 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9, 12.6 WHIP
Let’s all do ourselves a favor and throw some love Duplantier’s way. All the man has done since being drafted two years ago is dominate at every level. His current 1.80 ERA is his highest at ANY level so far in his minor league career. With the season-ending injury to Taijuan Walker, it’s not crazy to think we might see Duplantier with the Diamondbacks later this season if he keeps pitching well.
#68 Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK)
2018 Stats (A+/AA): 4 GS, 1.83 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 13.7 K/9
Here’s another one of the pitching prospects you’re going to see much higher in my mid-season rankings update. With each passing start, my man crush on Luzardo grows stronger. He’s got great control, a nasty change-up and elite strikeout numbers. What’s not to love? See that #68 next to his name? Cut that in half and you’ll be in the ballpark of his new ranking mid-season if he keeps this up.
NR Shane Bieber (SP – CLE)
2018 Stats (AA): 5 GS, 1.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 0.3 BB/9, 8.7 K/9
You didn’t think you were getting out of this without more love for the Beebs, did you? Well, Bieber finally walked a batter this season. That brings him up to a grand total of 13 in 228.1 career minor league innings. You can do a lot of good when you can locate your pitches wherever you want to like Bieber can. A promotion to Triple-A will happen sometime this summer, and a Major League debut later this season isn’t out of the question. You’re damn sure going to see his name inside my top-100 in July.
NR Fernando Romero (SP – MIN)
2018 Stats (AAA): 3 GS, 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 8.6 K/9
The 23-year-old righty will make his Major League Debut tomorrow against Toronto. Romero carries decent fantasy upside if he can stock in the rotation and has the upside of a #2 starter long-term.
Other Top-100 Pitching Prospects
#35 Michel Baez, SD, A+: 2 GS, 5.63 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
#36 Mitch Keller, PIT, AA: 4 GS, 2.78 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 4.8 BB/9, 9.1 K/9
#38 Triston McKenzie, CLE, A+: HAS NOT PITCHED
#46 Kolby Allard, ATL, AAA: 4 GS, 2.57 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
#49 Jay Groome, BOS, A: HAS NOT PITCHED
#57 Dylan Cease, CHW, A+: 4 GS, 2.79 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 5.6 BB/9, 11.2 K/9
#61 Chance Adams, NYY, AAA: 5 GS, 5.11 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
#70 Matt Manning, DET, A: 2 GS, 4.70 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 9.4 BB/9, 18.8 K/9
#72 Kyle Wright, ATL, AA: 5 GS, 4.66 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
#73 Justus Sheffield, NYY, AA: 4 GS, 2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, 12.3 K/9
#76 Joey Wentz, ATL, A+: 5 GS, 3.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
#81 Alec Hansen, CHW, AA: HAS NOT PITCHED
#83 Stephen Gonsalves, MIN, AA: 4 GS, 1.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
#84 Franklin Perez, DET, AA: HAS NOT PITCHED
#86 Ian Anderson, ATL, A+: 4 GS, 7.07 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 6.4 BB/9, 11.6 K/9
#87 J.B. Bukauskas, HOU, A: 2 GS, 7.94 ERA, 2.47 WHIP, 6.4 BB/9, 11.1 K/9
#90 Anderson Espinoza, SD, A: HAS NOT PITCHED
#94 Adrian Morejon, SD, A+: 4 GS, 4.15 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
#96 Shane Baz, PIT, RK: HAS NOT PITCHED
#97 Tyler Mahle, CIN, MLB: 6 GS, 4.32 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 10.3 K/9
Thank you for reading another edition of Dynasty Dugout here on Fantrax. Shoutout to Jason Woodell and Pitcher List for their great video on Sixto Sanchez and Walker Buehler. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Ask below or follow me on Twitter and ask there.