We released our consensus top 50 pitching prospects two weeks ago, and the biggest thing that we tend to look at in preparing that list is upside. If a pitching prospect has true #1 upside, but is pitching in Low-A, he is still likely to be more valuable to fantasy owners than a pitcher who reached AAA but looks more like a back-of-the-rotation type. But that back of the rotation pitcher still absolutely has value, depending on what happens and what type of league you are in. With that in mind, here are three pitching prospects were not on our top 50 list for any number of reasons, but each could find themselves on fantasy rosters for substantial portions of 2013.
Straily skyrocketed through the Athletics' farm system last season, starting the year in AA but finishing up with 7 starts for the Major League club. Across all three levels, he notched 222 strikeouts, 58 walks, and 146 hits allowed in 191 innings pitched. The knock on Straily has been that his repertoire does not really project at this point to be much more than a mid-rotation starter (which is still valuable), but more importantly that this was the first year of this level of performance by Straily. Add in that he does not appear to have a good shot at a role in the rotation, and concerns about his single-year value are rampant. That said, if he makes 25 starts this year, I can see around 125-135 innings pitched with a sub 4.00 ERA, sub 1.25 WHIP, and approaching a strikeout per inning pitched.
McPherson reached the Majors for the Bucs last year primarily as a reliever, but worked as a starter the rest of his minor league career. This is entirely a speculative pick, as the back end of the Pirates' rotation is a work in progress at best. Primarily a fly ball pitcher (0.60 GO/AO) and already age 25, McPherson doesn't really stand out as a potential prospect, but with a history of low walk rates matched with solid strikeout rates, he could be a nice sleeper in NL-only leagues.
Thornburg made 3 starts and 5 relief appearances for the Brewers last year after starting at AA. He finished just shy of a strikeout per inning across all his stops, including 20 in his 22 major league innings. The back end of the Brewers' rotation is full of question marks, with Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers, and Chris Narveson amongst the candidates for the final two spots. A good spring could land the job for Thornburg, who could post solid strikeout rates to go with decent ratios. More likely another NL-only starter, but one with some upside for that format.