2012 Midseason Prospect Rankings: Starting Pitchers

SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 01: Pitcher Dylan Bundy #82 of the Baltimore Orioles poses for a photo during photo day at Ed Smith Stadium on March 1, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Over the next two weeks, the staff here at Fake Teams will be providing their top 20 prospects in the minors at each of the infield positions (C,1B, 2B, 3B, SS), and their top 50 outfielders and starting pitchers. Here's a bit of how our determinations were made:

- Each player ranked at a position is either currently playing there, or widely anticipated to end up there by the time they reach the major leagues. As an example, Billy Hamilton is not expected to remain at shortstop long-term based on the opinions of others within the field. As a result, he can be ranked at shortstop since he currently plays the position, and will also be ranked at second base, as he is most likely to end up at that position.

- Primarily, we are viewing prospects who remain in the minor leagues, or who have been up in the majors for less than one month at most. As a result of this, players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will not appear on the outfield rankings.

- Draftees are not necessarily being included within the main rankings, but each position will have a few players from the draft mentioned as players who potentially could be in the top 20/50 lists created during the upcoming offseason.

- In many cases, prospects ranked within a spot of each other could likely be switched and still be fine in my rankings. As with all rankings, they are a good look at how I see the group of players at the time of the list preparation.

1. Dylan Bundy (BAL) - Hi-A

A Bundy to top all others (sorry Al, Bobby and...err Ted), Dylan is my top pitching prospect in the minors. There's a valid case to be made for the phenom located directly below, so this isn't as cut and dry as you'd think given a talent like Bundy's. Bundy is a bit short of the ideal pitcher's frame which is about the only complaint one can make. Mid 90s heat that he can crank to 98 MPH, he uses a four-seam and a two-seam both with late life, a sharp high 70s curve, and a low-to mid 80s change up. He commands and controls all his pitches and picked apart the low minors. He was promoted to Hi-A where he's received his first taste of adversity, but I can't imagine he'll be held back for too long. Double-A could be a possibility by years end.

2. Taijuan Walker (SEA) - Double-A

Speaking of dominating and Double-A, Taijuan Walker has a claim to the best pitching prospect in the minors title. he's made his claim on the basis of a 9.3 K/9 IP and a 2.5:1 K:BB ratio. He's done that as a 19 year old (three months older than Bundy), pitching at Double-A for the full season. And the scouting report is more glowing than the numbers: Low- to mid-90s fastball with great plane and explosive life, and a hammer curve with two plane break that arrives in the mid-70s. His change is a bit firm, crossing the plate in the high 80s with some fade to it. The scary part is, while Bundy has a mature frame with present everything, Walker has a lot of present stuff with plenty of projection to go. He has room to add substantial weight to his frame, leaving room for additional velocity, and the ability to hold his stuff further into games.


Read more (much more) after the jump...

3. Trevor Bauer (ARI) - Triple-A - Profile

I also see little separation between Bauer and the prospect below, so if you want to argue one, over the other, I would just nod my head in agreement, no matter which side you argued for. If Bauer has a flaw, it is that his control sometimes eludes him, leaving him with a 4.4 BB/9 between Double- and Triple-A. However, since his promotion to Triple-A he's cut his BB/9 and raised his K/9. He also appears to have a personal philosophy re: walks, willingly putting a man on first with 2 out, if it means facing a weaker hitter with the next batter. Agree or disagree with the concept, it plays a part in his elevated walk numbers. More pertinent to his placement on this list and to fantasy leaguers in general are his 104 strikeouts in 85.1 IP.

4. Danny Hultzen (SEA) - Double-A (god only knows why though)

As good of a debate as Bundy vs Walker is, Bauer vs Hultzen seems to generate even more controversy. Originally billed as the most polished of the pitchers in the 2011 draft, Hultzen has shown that polish and backed it up with some impressive stuff of his own. Hultzen allowed 5 ER in his first start, and has allowed 5 ER total since then, resulting in a 1.19 ERA, to go with 79 strikeouts in 75.1 IP. He does have a 3.8 BB/9 which is more than acceptable, especially when considering 11 of his 32 walks came over a two start span. He'll pitch in the low 90s with an above average changeup and an above average curveball. None of his pitches will blow you away, but he can locate all of them. I have seen some #3 ceiling tags on him this year, which ultimately put him below Bauer for me. Hultzen, like Bauer could pitch in the majors tomorrow if called upon, and might be better in every aspect but strikeouts. The only question Hultzen has left us with is what is taking the M's so long to promote him to Triple-A.

5. Jameson Taillon (PIT) - Hi-A

Taillon gets a bit overlooked in my opinion. On pure ceiling he's a better prospect than Bauer or Hultzen, though he's further from the majors and significantly further from his ultimate ceiling. A powerful 6'6, 225 lbs, Taillon was brought along slowly by the Pirates, who limited the use of his curveball, along with his pitches thrown per game in his first season. They've backed off of those limits this year, with impressive results. He has 62 strikeouts in 67.2 IP, with a mere 17 walks. The massive 20-year old pitches in the mid-90s, touching 98 MPH when he needs it and supplements his fastball with a breaking ball that rates as a future plus pitch. Taillon has legitimate ace upside, something few can boast, but he's a long ways from it. A future troika of Taillon, Gerrit Cole and Mark Appel would be as easy on the eyes as a Primanti Bros sandwich on the tastebuds.

6. Archie Bradley, Jr (ARI) - Lo-A

Dylan Bundy's fellow Oklahoma prep product, Bradley brings to the table the few things that Bundy lacks. First, he has prototypical size at 6'4, 225 lbs, and second he brings a boatload of potential to the table. It's not that Bundy lacks potential exactly, but he's dramatically closer to his ceiling than Bradley is. Bradley got his career off to a blistering start, though he's fallen back to earth of late. He's still averaging 7.8 K/9 IP and yielding only 4.8 hits per 9 innings. On the flip side, he is walking a startling 5.7/9 IP and has uncorked 12 wild pitches on the season. Bradley's fastball ranges from 92-97 MPH and he has an absolute hammer of a curveball that arrives in the low 80s. He doesn't show much of a change at the moment, though with two potential plus-plus pitches, he might not need much of one. His early season performance had some accelerating his timetable, but his recent woes remind us that he's not a monster right now, he's a monster-in-the-making. Another prospect with legitimate ace upside, Bradley is a good 3 years from reaching the majors, and that might be aggressive.

7. Tyler Skaggs (ARI) - Double-A

The definition of projectable when he was drafted by the Angels, Skaggs was the prize piece in the trade that sent Dan Haren to Anaheim. So far in 2012 he's striking out more than a batter an innings while walking under three per nine. He sits in the low-90s but can pump it up to 96 MPH from the left side when he needs it. He has a plus curveball, and has added an above-average change up to his repertoire. While he's filled out plenty since being drafted, he's still lanky, and could stand to add some more weight. Already impressing with numbers and stuff at Double-A, I'd be surprised if Skaggs makes it two full seasons before making his debut, and that only due to Arizona's fantastic pitching depth.

8. Zack Wheeler (NYM) - Double-A

Wheeler is another top flight arm acquired in a trade, this one sending Carlos Beltran to the Giants. Wheeler was the Giants first round pick in 2009, and came as billed, with an electric arm. Wheeler can reach 97 MPH, but will sit 91-94, and complements the heater with an above-average curve. He can hold his velocity deep into games when he can get there. He would often bow out early due to command issues, though he's made progress in that area, lowering his walk rate to 3.8 per nine. If he can continue to improve his control, he could really break out, as he has the stuff to miss bats.

9. Carlos Martinez (STL) - Double-A

Martinez is a true flamethrower, able to reach triple digits with relative ease. He sits in the mid 90s with his plus-plus fastball and will miss bats with a tight curveball. His change can flash above-average, though it lacks consistency and deception. Martinez doesn't stand very tall and so can sometimes lack plane on his fastball. He's fallen in love with his two seam fastball, an impressive pitch in it's own right, when he would sometimes be better off served finishing batters off with the upper 90s four seamer. It's all a minor quibble given the whole package, though his stature and lack of physicality have some thinking he'd be better off in the 9th inning. Hurt for part of this year, Martinez was promoted to Double-A recently, and could break into the majors in the bullpen before returning to the rotation, if the Cardinals can resist the temptation to leave him there when he blows hitters away.

10. Gerrit Cole (PIT) - Hi-A

While his UCLA rotation-mate has moved faster, Cole was picked first and not without merit. He boasts three above-average and potentially plus pitches in his mid- to upper 90s fastball that can hit 101 MPH, a plus change and an above average breaking ball. While his fastball is as easy as Martinez's, it doesn't have the same kind of life hence the order they appear in this ranking. The change up is a plus pitch if he learns how to use it in sequence, selling the pitch with good arm speed and fade. The slider is another above-average offering from Cole, thrown in the high 80s with plenty of break. Cole didn't miss as many bats as you'd want while in college considering the arsenal he has. As a pro however, he's averaged over a strikeout per inning while starting his career in Hi-A, and limiting his walks to under three per nine. He has ace upside, though he won't move quickly for a college pitcher.

11. Shelby Miller (STL) - Triple-A

I have to admit, I thought I'd be leaving Miller off this list (due to arriving in the majors) before ranking him this low. Fact is, he might have cracked my top 10 overall before this season, and now he's on the outside looking in for starting pitchers alone. Why you may ask? The numbers are ugly - 6.00 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 (he never broke 3.4 before this year), 11.2 hits per 9 and a stunning 2.0 HR/9 IP. To put that last number in perspective, he never averaged more than .6/9 before this year. He is still posting a stellar strikeout rate of 10 per 9 innings, but all reports are that his stuff has regressed overall and his fastball has lost a full grade. He doesn't appear to be injured, but no one really knows the reason for the loss of stuff. An optimistic person might say that the home run rate is unsustainable and that even with diminished stuff, he is striking out plenty of batters at 21 years of age, but until Miller regains the velocity and movement on his pitches, he's going to keep on sliding down lists like these.

12. Julio Teheran (ATL) - Triple-A

Another 21-year old in Triple-A who has slid down the rankings, Teheran has seen his strikeout rate drop for the third consecutive season, currently resting under 7 per 9. He still pumps his fastball in the low- to mid-90s with ease, and still has a devastating change up. His problem has been and will continue to be his lack of an adequate breaking pitch. Until he can come up with a breaking ball that will miss bats, Teheran will continue with mediocrity instead of reaching the peak he was headed for. His trend of declining strikeout rates and rising walk rates are not helping his case either. On his side is his youth, and hope that he can develop a slider (the curve is either in the wrist or isn't) that can throw hitters off his otherwise impressive fastball/change combo.

13. Jose Fernandez (MIA) - Lo-A

Fernandez didn't attract much attention despite going 14th overall in a loaded draft class. That might have been a mistake in hindsight, as the thickrumped flamethrower is posting a phenomenal 1.59 ERA this season with 99 strikeouts and 18 walks in a mere 79 innings. He's allowing a paltry 5.8 hits per nine, and his K/BB is 5.52. All this said, his game is not without it's flaws. He boasts a plus low- to mid-90s fastball with late life that he throws down in the zone and complements it with an above-average slider that features two-plane break. He lacks a consistent change up however, and will find it tough sledding without one at the upper levels of the minors. Fernandez earns raves for his makeup, stemming from his brief time in jail as a teenager for attempting to defect as well as how he rescued his mother who fell overboard in their successful escape. Fernandez has #1 makeup, but his stuff profiles as more middle of the rotation with a chance (perhaps greater considering his excellent start) of a #2.

14. Joe Ross (SD) - Lo-A

Ross hasn't pitched yet, so you might find his placement within this ranking a bit questionable, and that's fair. But you should know, I'm a whore for upside and I love what I see out of Ross. The younger brother of Tyson, Joe doesn't feature the ugly arm action of his brother, and was an absolute steal at the 25th pick of last year's loaded draft. At 6'3, 185 pounds, Ross has room to fill out his frame but still throws an easy 90-95 MPH, and can touch 96. His change is advanced for a high school arm and is already an average pitch, with a chance to be plus down the line. He shows a feel for a breaking ball, it's more a slurve than anything right now, and was sharp with it in instructional league before being sidelined due to injury. Extremely athletic with exceptionally smooth mechanics, I love Ross' chances of adding weight/velo and improving his secondaries. Add that to his current future of half his games in PETCO, and I love him as a long term prospect in fantasy leagues.

15. Taylor Guerrieri (TB) - TBD

Another pitcher who has yet to make his professional debut, Guerrieri will likely take his sweet time in getting to the majors. That's likely exactly what he needs as a raw pitcher with electric stuff. Guerrieri could challenge Bundy and Bradley for best pure stuff from the prep class in the 2011 draft, but he doesn't have the polish of either and fell in the draft due to makeup concerns. Guerrier will sit 92-97 MPH and features heavy movement and sink on his fastball, and can spin a breaking ball that is good enough to miss bats, though he doesn't command his pitches well. There isn't a change up to speak of, and that will be key to reaching his ceiling as a starter. If he can develop a change and learn to command his pitches, he could well challenge Bundy or Bradley as the best prep pitcher from this draft, though there's more risk involved with Guerrieri, hence the difference in their draft positions.

16. Jake Odorizzi (KC) - Triple-A

Odorizzi has already received a promotion to Triple-A this year, but another jump to the majors might not be far off. Yet another top pitching prospect who was received in a trade, Odorizzi might end up being the most valuable of the four pieces Kansas City received in exchange for Zack Greinke. Odorizzi has always been long on stuff, and a bit shorter in terms of results, The lack of life on his low 90s fastball seemed to catch up to him last year in Double-A as he showed an elevated home run rate, but he's seemed to fix whatever issues he had, as he has reduced the home run rate to normal levels and is striking out 10/9 IP between Double- and Triple-A. He throws two breaking balls, a curve and a slider, perhaps each at the expense of the other. There has been a notion that he might be better off dropping one from his repertoire and focusing more on his change-up and remaining breaking pitch. Odorizzi has a #2 ceiling, and shows it when everything clicks, but doesn't seem to click often enough.

17. Tyrell Jenkins (STL) - Lo-A - Profile

Jenkins is an impressive athlete who turned down a scholarship to Baylor to sign for $1.3 million (we should all be so lucky). While his results haven't been groundbreaking, Jenkins is a project who will take his lumps at times in the minors before blossoming into the monster he could be. What is exciting about Jenkins is that, as raw as he is, he shows a low 90s fastball and an above-average breaking ball, while displaying impressive improvement with his change up in his first year in the Cardinals system. Jenkins showed impressive control last year, but has seen his walk rate more than double thus far in 2012. While he has a long way to go, Jenkins is a potential ace, which can only be said of so many prospects. His rawness is what ranks him so far below the other potential #1's and behind several #2's, but he can surpass or match most of those if it all comes together.

18. Matt Barnes (BOS) - Hi-A

Barnes could challenge Dylan Bundy and Jose Fernandez for the most dominant beginning to the 2012 season, striking out over 10 per 9 IP between Lo- and Hi-A (though he probably should have started in Hi-A to begin with), while walking less than 2 per 9 at each stop. Barnes has struck out an incredible 95 batters in only 72.2 innings on the 2012 season, while allowing only 5.6 hits per nine innings. He can hit 97 MPH with his fastball, though he generally sits in the 93-95 range, with explosion out of his hand and good life on the ball. His curveball shows signs of being an above-average pitch, especially since his promotion to Hi-A where he's mixed it in more often. His change is below-average right now, but could be a third average offering in time.

19. Aaron Sanchez (TOR) - Lo-A - Profile

If you want a deeper look at Sanchez, please look at his profile (above). Sanchez is still dealing in 2012, striking out over 10 per 9 innings, but struggling with his control, sitting at 5.4 walks per 9. Sanchez has #2 potential, but is clearly being brought along slowly. If you're the patient type, I'd consider snagging Sanchez now and reaping the rewards later.

20. Matt Harvey (NYM) - Triple-A

An enigma at North Carolina, Harvey has been fairly consistent thus far in his professional career. He brings the heat, ranging between 91-97 MPH with his fastball, and using his above-average change up to play off the fastball against righties and lefties. His breaking balls tend to mix, and Harvey could be another candidate to drop one of his breaking pitches in favor of focusing on the other. He's produced solid results so far in Triple-A, striking out a batter per inning but balancing that with a walk rate of above 4 per nine. If he keeps these steady results, a promotion to the majors won't be far off, though the Mets would like to see another breakthrough in terms of results. Harvey is a potential #2, but is more likely to settle as a #3 who can strike out batters and eat innings.

21. James Paxton (SEA) - Double-A - Profile

Again, to save time (both yours and mine) if you want an extended look at Paxton, please read his profile above. Since that profile was written, Paxton has seemingly lost all semblance of control, with his walk rate ballooning to 6.2 BB/9. It doesn't change his long term outlook, but certainly adversely affects his timetable. It's now unlikely that he sees time in the majors as anything more than a September callup this year.

22. AJ Cole (OAK) - Lo-A

Cole has long been a favorite of mine, and so perhaps his placement on this rankings list is a bit biased. The only one of the prospects so far to have been demoted, Cole was sent to Oakland as part of the trade that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington. Cole struggled mightily in Hi-A, getting knocked around to the tune of 14+ hits/9. His strikeout and walk rates remained in tact however, and despite a rough couple of starts upon his demotion to Lo-A, Cole has turned it around of late. He has an ideal pitchers frame and seems to get stronger as the season wears on, increasing his velocity to the point where he can hit 98 MPH regularly. He stands 6'4 and 180 lbs, so he can add a substantial amount to his frame. He has a #2 ceiling, even if it is a ways away.

23. Yordano Ventura (KC) - Hi-A

Another personal favorite, Venture burst onto the scene with his lack of height, incredible arm speed, and fastball reaching triple digits. Ventura stands at 5'11 and a startingly skinny 145, so despite his lack of an ideal pitchers body, he still as room to add strength. He has started to miss bats both in and out of the zone with his curve this year, and the separation he gets on his change (low 80s) is almost unfair given the speed of his fastball. While many see him destined for the bullpen due to the effort in his delivery, if he can dial it back and hold his velocity, he could be a front line starter.

24. Casey Kelly (SD) - Triple-A

A name everyone knows by now, Kelly had long been a favorite of scouts despite producing relatively disappointing results. It appeared as if Kelly had turned a corner this Spring, turning everything up a notch and getting the results to match. In the past, Kelley was the rare prospect who didn't pitch outside the zone enough to let his stuff miss bats. Everyone knew his pitches would be in the zone, so they didn't have to guess. In 12 innings before succumbing to injury, Kelley notched 14 strikeouts and 0 walks, evidence (though a very small sample) of his improved approach. I will be anxious to see what he can do upon his return.

25. Manny Banuelos (NYY) - Triple-A

Perhaps a victim of prospect fatigue, it's surprising to realize that Banuelos is merely 21 years old and already pitching in Triple-A. He was ineffective early in the season before succumbing to injury, though he's been better in his starts since. He's maintained his above average strikeout rate from previous seasons while also trimming his walk rate, though it's still a bit high. When healthy, Banuelos can toss it at 90-94 MPH from the left side, along with a curve that shows two-plane break and a change that flashes plus. At 21, it's an impressive package, and if he can refine his secondaries and pitch deeper into games, he could slot in nicely next to fellow homegrown products Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes.

26. Cody Buckel (TEX) - Hi-A - Profile

A 2012 breakout prospect.

27. Tyler Matzek (COL) - Hi-A

Seems to have made improvements since working with his HS coach. Still walking way too many.

28. Martin Perez (TEX) - Triple-A

An enigma as always. Did not know what to do with him here. 21 and plus stuff from the left side, in Triple-A.

29. Taylor Jungmann (MIL) - Hi-A

Rate stats aren't impressive but I believe in the stuff.

30. Tony Cingrani (CIN) - Double-A

Was viewed as a likely reliever is proving everybody wrong, and still succeeding in Double-A.

31. Wily Peralta (MIL) - Triple-A - Profile

Peralta hasn't lived up to expectations, but I prefer to look at what he's done over his career vs just this season

32. Jacob Turner (DET) - Triple-A

Turner is another disappointing story thus far in 2012, so I slotted him right behind Peralta. I still believe in the overall package, and time is on his side, but would like to see results soon.

33. Robbie Erlin (SD) - Double-A

Erlin has been hurt this year, but I profiled him in my top 12 SP for '12 piece before the season started.

34. Chris Reed (LAD) - Double-A

Conversion to starting going smoothly, although low IPs so far.

35. Chris Archer (TB) - Triple-A

Good results of late, but could be a bullpen piece in the end.

36. Mike Montgomery (KC) - Triple-A

Becoming less of a believer but his upside plants him on this list.

37. Trevor May (PHI) - Double-A

38. Sonny Gray (OAK) - Double-A

39. Zach Lee (LAD) - Hi-A

Solid results in the Cal League, but hasn't seen progression of stuff that one would like.

40. Garrett Gould (LAD) - Hi-A - Prospects

Back to back Dodgers, some have Gould ahead of Lee right now, so I bunched them together in this list.

41. Jarred Cosart (HOU) - Double-A

Electric arm but not getting the results you'd want given the arm.

42. Sean Gilmartin (ATL) - Double-A

Never a favorite of mine, but the polished lefty is getting results and deserves a spot.

43. Alex Meyer (WAS) - Lo-A

44. Trevor Rosenthal (STL) - Double-A

Under the radar arm who skipped Hi-A and is succeeding in Double-A.

45. Edwar Cabrera (COL) - Double-A

Last years strikeout king isn't getting the same results in his new league.

46. Kyle Crick (SF) - Lo-A

Walking too many, but an impressive full season debut.

47. Enny Romero (TB) - Hi-A

Plus stuff from the left side, but constantly fighting his control

48. Dan Straily (OAK) - Double-A

108 strikeouts and 23 walks in 85.1 IP

49. Johnny Hellweg (LAA) - Double-A

50. Clayton Blackburn (SF) - Lo-A

Another high ceiling arm for the Giants

HM: Justin Grimm (made his ML debut last week), Noah Syndergaard, Tyler Thornberg, Jason Adam, Jimmy Nelson

Instead of doing a light post on the draft prospects, I plan on doing a separate small post with a fuller write up than I gave you on the 3B prospects, so check back for that later in the week.

Source Material
BaseballAmerica
Keith Law/ESPN
Kevin Goldstein/Jason Parks/Baseball Prospectus
BaseballProspectNation
Fangraphs

Craig Goldstein doesn't write anywhere else because he works a mind-numbing day job and overvalues his sleep. You can follow him on twitter by clicking here

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