Pitching Prospects Recap, American League: Mighty Manoah
It’s hard to believe that we’re over three weeks into the minor league season. And what a few weeks it’s been. We’ve already had a few high-profile MLB debuts and several more likely to come in the upcoming couple of months. Now that we have these few weeks of game action to work with, I felt it was a good time to recap it all and discuss some intriguing performances, both good and bad. Today, I’ll look into American league pitching prospects and cover the National League in the coming days.
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Pitching Prospect Update: American League
American League East
Both Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall have been dominant to begin the 2021 season. Hall is still walking too many batters for my liking, which has been his issue for a while now, but both have the stuff to develop into #2 starters at the MLB level. Rodriguez has been especially electric this season with a 38.1% K-BB through four High-A starts. With Rodriguez’s electric arsenal containing four 55+ grade offerings and above-average command and control as well, he’s going to be regarded as a top-5 overall pitching prospect in baseball before too long.
After being shut down weeks ago with an elbow issue, Tanner Houck recently began throwing again and should get back into minor league game action by early June. His big strikeout upside was put on display with Boston and he figures to get another shot later this summer. Meanwhile, former first-round pick, Jay Groome, has been struggling with his command and control this season, which isn’t surprising given his extensive time off due to injuries. If you’ve been holding Groome in dynasty leagues these last few years, don’t let these rough few starts change your opinion of him. Give him more time before cutting him loose.
The New York Yankees have a lot of pitching prospects throwing well right now. Deivi Garcia isn’t one of them. The diminutive right-hander has been battling command and control issues once again to start 2021 and has a concerning 17.4% walk rate through his first four starts. I’ve long been concerned by his command and control issues which is why I’ve never invested heavily in dynasty leagues. That’s not going to change now. I’d recommend selling while you can get some value out of the name.
While Garcia has been struggling, Luis Gil and Luis Medina have not. Medina is still battling some command and control issues, but is missing bats at a lofty clip (46.4%) and has a 1.45 ERA and 0.75 WHIP to his name through four starts in High-A. The jury is still out on whether he’s a starter or reliever longterm, but the upside is high here. Three lower-ranked arms in Glen Otto, Hayden Wesneski, and Ken Waldichuk are also making waves this season with Waldichuk striking out more than half of the batters he’s faced.
Don’t look now, but Shane Baz has a microscopic 2.9% walk rate this season through 17.2 innings. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but also very encouraging given his past control woes. This is one of the most electric arms in the minors with top-10 pitching prospect upside. Cole Wilcox has also impressed so far in his first four professional starts, but isn’t missing a ton of bats quite yet.
Both Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman are potential candidates to get the call to Tampa Bay this summer with Ryan being the more intriguing target for fantasy purposes. The ERA is pushing six, but Ryan has looked solid overall, posting a 30.5% K-BB. Brendan McKay is still working his way back from offseason labrum surgery and has yet to make his 2021 debut on the mound. Although, he has gotten some at-bats in.
As everyone has heard and gushed about, Alek Manoah will be making his Major League debut today against the New York Yankees. The big 6’6 right-hander has been making Triple-A hitters look downright foolish this season with his FB/SL/CH combination. That slider especially has been dominant. Through three starts, Manoah allowed only one earner run while posting a 4.5% walk rate and 40.9% strikeout rate. He needs to be added in all 10+ team leagues. Meanwhile, Nate Pearson has been dealing with a minor shoulder impingement issue and likely will need a bit more time to make his way back to Toronto. If you have the bench depth, I would still recommend stashing him.
— Geoff Pontes (@ProspectJesus) May 19, 2021
Another arm in the Toronto system impressing right now is Simeon Woods-Richardson. SWR has a 2.37 ERA and 38.8% strikeout rate through his first four Double-A starts flashing four above-average offerings. One of those is a new slider he’s started throwing this season in the mid-80’s with sharp bite. The pitch, along with his command, has been inconsistent, but SWR is pushing top-50 overall status and could be a factor for Toronto later this season.
Five of Simeon Woods-Richardson's eight strikeouts for the @FisherCats yesterday.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 7, 2021
American League Central
Unfortunately, Ethan Hankins will miss the remainder of the 2021 season, but Daniel Espino has looked good over his first three starts. The high-upside right-hander has recorded a 2.70 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 32.1% strikeout rate while keeping his walk rate in check. On upside alone, Espino has one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect in baseball thanks to four above-average or better offerings. If he can improve his command and control as he matures, the sky is the limit.
Move over Emmanuel Clase!!! #Indians 20yr RHP prospect Daniel Espino hit 100mph multiple times in the 1st inning tonight touching 101mph. Espino struck out 7 over 4.2 innings. Video of all 7 strikeouts.
— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) May 20, 2021
Even more impressive so far has been Logan Allen. The younger Logan Allen in this system has a 1.15 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 30.7% K-BB to begin his professional career. He’s one that could sneak up on some people. Keep an eye on Josh Wolf and Lenny Torres as well. Torres is a bit risky coming back from Tommy John, but he was a popular breakout pick before getting hurt. Both he and Wolf could rise up rankings quite a bit with strong performances in 2021.
There’s not a lot of positive notes to report in the White Sox and Tigers organizations right now on the pitching side of things. Top arm Matt Manning has already allowed a whopping nine home runs through his first four starts. You don’t need me telling you how much of a problem that is. I’m still very high on him longterm, but this is concerning.
As for the Royals, this org is quickly becoming one of the best in baseball when it comes to pitching talent and depth. Don’t let Daniel Lynch’s rough Major League showing change your opinion about him longterm. This is one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in baseball with a bright future ahead of him as a potential high-end SP3/back-end SP2. If you can acquire him for a discount due to those bad three starts, I’d highly recommend capitalizing on that. Lynch pitched very well last night, allowing one earned run over 5.2 innings with six strikeouts.
The other prized arm in this system, 2021 first-rounder Asa Lacy, is off to a wild start to his professional career with a 23.7% walk rate through his first four starts. This is an extremely small sample size and means nothing in the long run, but Lacy had experienced inconsistent command and control at times in his collegiate career. It’s just something to monitor for now. With that said, Lacy turned in his best outing as a professional last night, tossing four innings of one-run ball with one walk and five strikeouts. He’ll be fine.
At the Double-A level, Alec Marsh and Jonathan Bowlan are off to strong starts. Each has a K-BB% well over 30% right now and Marsh’s strikeout rate is sitting at a robust 42.2%. Both are currently borderline top-300 prospects overall for me and could make an impact with KC later this season. Jackson Kowar could make an even bigger impact and relatively soon too. Kowar has been dominating this season with a 1.25 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 38.1% strikeout rate and makes for a decent stash in deeper leagues.
Not a whole lot has gone right for the Minnesota Twins at the Major League level, but at least they’re getting some strong performances from some of their top pitching prospects. While Jordan Balazovic is currently on the IL and Jhoan Duran has only tossed three innings, Cole Sands, Blaine Enlow, Josh Winder, and Matt Canterino have all started the season pitching well. Canterino is the one I’m the most intrigued by. With three above-average to plus offerings in his arsenal that can all miss bats, Canterino has big breakout potential this season and could be a top-100 prospect by 2022. He’s off to an outstanding start this season with a 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, and a stellar 47.2% strikeout rate. Go get this guy!
American League West
Although he still profiles well as a starter, the Angels have been using Chris Rodriguez out of the bullpen this season where he’s found solid success. Whether it’s as a mid-rotation arm or a late-inning bullpen option, Rodriguez has the upside to make an impact in fantasy leagues long-term. You can likely get him for a reasonable price tag as well. The same can be said for Jack Kochanowicz who is off to a rough start this season. I’m still very high on the big right-hander longterm, so I’d still recommend buying in dynasty leagues.
If you’re looking for an arm that could help out later this season, Reid Detmers is a great target in deeper leagues. Drafted in 2020, Detmers was vaulted up to Triple-A and pitched a gem last night allowing just one hit and two walks with 10 strikeouts over six innings. While his ceiling isn’t elite, Detmers is an advanced arm with a high floor thanks to four average to plus pitches with above-average command and control.
The Oakland Athletics called up James Kaprielian last week and he’s impressed in each of his first two starts. Overall, Kaprelian has a 2.53 ERA and 1.13 WHIP through two starts and makes for a solid pickup in 12+ team redraft leagues if you need an arm. But longterm, Kaprelian profiles more as a back-end starter with limited upside. He succeeds more because of his ability to command his arsenal and limit walks as opposed to dominating hitters with plus pitches.
Down in Triple-A, AJ Puk has been used solely as a reliever which is where he’s likely going to end up longterm. That might not sound great for his value, but Puk’s FB/SL/CH combination is lethal from the left side and could allow him to develop into one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.
Moving onto Seattle, there are so many intriguing pitching prospects in this system. The headliners, of course, are Emerson Hancock, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby. Hancock and Kirby are performing as expected thus far. Hancock has an ERA below one through his first three starts and Kirby is up to his old elite command and control tricks once again with a 3.1% walk rate and 37.5% strikeout rate.
George Kirby @Mariners sat 98-100 (rumored a tick above.). Faced 8 thru the first 2 inn striking out 6 (2 team errors) Only hittable ball was Foscue who homered, but Kirby also got the best of him in an at-bat. Command all day & 3 plus pitches. Here's all 6 K's 🔥#ProspectOne pic.twitter.com/uyJ2CZwexd
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) April 13, 2021
Meanwhile, I’m sure if you picked up Gilbert in redraft leagues, you’re likely disappointed with the early returns. Stay patient. While he might not be helping you right now due to his command issues through his first three starts, Gilbert remains a top-10 pitching prospect in dynasty leagues. If you want to cut bait in redraft leagues, I wouldn’t blame you. However, last night’s outing was his best yet so he might be finding his footing.
One name I’ve been keeping a particularly close eye on this season is Sam Carlson. Tommy John surgery caused Carlson to miss all of 2018 and 2019 which turned into a three-year absence with the lost 2020 season. Carlson flashed mid-rotation upside with three above-average offerings before going under the knife so he’s worth targeting in leagues where 300+ prospects are rostered total.
Another great trade target in leagues that deep is Cole Winn. Once upon a time, Winn was my 2nd favorite pitching prospect in the 2018 draft class behind Casey Mize. Mechanical and command issues have hampered Winn as a pro, but it looks like he might’ve put those behind him here in 2021. The upside remains intriguing with four quality pitches that flash above-average when he’s able to command them. If Winn has righted the ship, he’s going to shoot back up rankings in a hurry.
Media Credit: Chris Welsh, Indians Prospective, Geoff Pontes, Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
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