Hello all! Turns out the crew at FakeTeams was kind enough to let me stick around, and serve up another installment of "12 Top Prospects in '12." This time, it's all pitchers all the time. As with the hitting prospects, the method behind my madness was a confluence of talent and opportunity. I lean talent, but I can't ignore someone who will pitch a full season at the ML level and the value that provides. For those wondering, Yu Darvish will not be on this list because he has not signed with an MLB team at this time. It's the same reason Yoenes Cespedes was not present on the previous list. As usual, feel free to give me feedback in the comments, on twitter (@cdgoldstein) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On to the list...
1 - Matt Moore - SP - Rays - I'm sure it's a surprise to very few that Moore tops this list. He's the top pitching prospect in baseball and given his new contract will likely start the year in the rotation. Moore led the league in strikeouts in 2009 and 2010 before recording a career high 210 in 2011. The former 8th round pick boasts an electric arm, effortlessly hitting the mid 90's with his fastball and reaching as high as 97 MPH. His curveball gives him a second plus-plus offering, though it turns into a bit of a slurve when he doesn't stay on top of it. Worry not though, if you saw his Futures Game outing you'll know how filthy that pitch was anyway. His third pitch is a still developing change-up with nice fading action that grades out as plus at times. While walks were Moore's bugaboo once upon a time, he has cut his BB/9 from 5.12 in 2009 to 3.79 in 2010 and it dropped once again in 2011 to below 3. I expect Moore to be an above average pitcher from the get-go, helping you win strikeouts and ERA all season long, while being respectable in WHIP.
2 - Julio Teheran - SP - Braves - Teheran began the 2011 season as the best pitching prospect in the minors, and though he was passed by Matt Moore by season's end, that's a bit like losing a manliness contest to Ron Swanson, there's just no shame in it. Teheran had a great year pitching in Triple-A as a 20-year old, also making 3 spot starts for Atlanta. Teheran attacks hitters with a four pitch mix, highlighted by a mid 90s fastball, that will touch 97. His change-up has been a dominant pitch since he was signed as a teen, and rates nearly as well as his fastball. After that, there is a drop off to his curveball and slider, neither of which is reliable at the moment. Teheran was homer prone in his time as a pro, but it's not a long term concern. There is a chance that Teheran opens the season in the majors, though it's more likely he gets called upon to replace one of the many injury prone pitchers in Atlanta's rotation (Hudson, Jurrjens, Hanson). Teheran profiles as a front of the rotation starter, though I wouldn't count on him ascending to the elite level this season, he's worth looking at as an upside play as soon as he gets the call.
3 - Trevor Bauer - SP - Diamondbacks - The 3rd overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer signed quickly and was able to start 7 games in the second half of the season. While his minor league numbers may appear pedestrian (or worse), the Diamondbacks know what kind of talent he is, and will give him a legitimate chance to break camp in the rotation. Bauer is potentially a new kind of pitcher, who combines studying biomechanics, effective velocity and pitch tunneling with a long toss routine of up to 400 feet and an unorthodox, Lincecum-esque delivery. What all that work has gotten him is a 5 pitch mix featuring a fastball up to 98 MPH, a plus slider, and a plus plus curveball. He will complement those with both a splitter and change-up, though neither of those are on the level of the first three. He used that mix to set a PAC-10 record with 203 strikeouts while tossing complete games in his final nine outings of the college season. Bauer has a good chance of making the rotation out of spring training, but even if he doesn't he has massive strikeout potential on a team that should provide above average offense. He will be taken early in any league with a minor league draft, but will also hold value in redraft leagues even if he does not start the season in the majors. If you can snag him at the end of a draft and be patient, you'll be more than rewarded by season's end.
4 - Drew Pomeranz - SP - Rockies - The 5th overall pick in the 2010 draft was on the fast-track for Cleveland before ending up the infamous Player To Be Named Later, accompanying Alex White from Cleveland to Colorado. Pomeranz is a two pitch lefty armed with a mid to low 90s fastball and complement it with a hammer curveball. He used those two pitches, along with a work-in-progress change-up to eviscerate his minor league foes to the tune of a 1.78 ERA across two levels. I was a big fan of Pomeranz in Cleveland but am fairly concerned about his new environment. He made four starts for the big league club at the end of the season posting a pedestrian 5.40 ERA. My concern with Pomeranz is that the thin air of Colorado will affect his curveball, and though I expect him to be a successful big league pitcher, he does lose a little shine pitching in Colorado.
5 - Brad Peacock - SP - Athletics - Peacock is a product of the now defunct draft and follow system. Taken in the 41st round by Washington, he progressed slowly his first four years before a breakout 2011. I actually watched Peacock pitch the second half of the 2009 season with the Potomac Nationals, and his progress since then is nothing short of remarkable. He has always had arm strength, but lacked the command and control to pitch off his fastball the way he did in 2011. He also spins a sharp curveball with 12-6 downer action, and shows an emerging change-up that still lacks consistency. He used his newfound fastball command to post a dominant 177/47 K/BB ratio over 146.2 innings. I see the trade to Oakland as a boon to his fantasy value, as the Coliseum is a pitcher's paradise and Billy Beane understands the value of defense. He also has a straighter path to a rotation spot, at least until Brett Anderson returns. There is the chance he begins the season in Triple-A or even in the bullpen, but I see him claiming a rotation spot and flourishing in Oakland.
6 - Hisashi Iwakuma - SP - Mariners - Iwakuma first came onto the American radar during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, throwing 19 innings of three run ball. He appeared again last season when Oakland posted $19 million but could not work out a deal for him, and he returned to Japan. He signed with the Mariners for a mere $1.5 million this offseason, reflecting the down season he had in Japan in 2011. Iwakuma has above average control of four pitches which he will mix nicely. He will not pitch off his fastball, "pitching backwards," making it slightly more effective than it would otherwise be. His out-pitch is a splitter/forkball that should miss bats stateside. He has good groundball tendencies that should help him survive outside of spacious Safeco field. I don't think Iwakuma will be anything special here, but as an under the radar or deep league option, I think he's a sneaky pick due to his solid groundball/flyball ratio, home park and above average control of solid pitches across the board. Take him in the late rounds and don't look back.
7 - Addison Reed - RP - White Sox - Signed as a 3rd rounder in 2010, Reed blew through the White Sox system last year while posting a dominant 1.26 ERA and 111/14 K/BB ratio in a mere 78 innings pitched. He makes this list as much for his opportunity as for his talent. I will admit, I will rarely pimp (as I'm wont to do) relievers due to their fungibility and volatility from year to year. How many of you saw Javy Guerra coming last year? However, Reed has both the talent and opportunity to grab the closers roll in the Windy City. He works in the mid-90s (93-96 MPH) and can reach back for more when he needs it. His "secondary" pitch is his slider, and I put it in quotes because it's better than his fastball. It is a low 80s offering that can also work as a change-up due to the separation from the fastball. His path to the closers role is relatively wide open assuming Chris Sale does indeed make the transition to the rotation. The only negatives I can tell you about Reed are that he often was given two days off in between outings in the minors, and did not pitch on back-to-back days while in the majors last season. While this saved his arm a bit, he will have to prove he can pitch, and pitch effectively, on consecutive days to lock down the closer's role. Even if he does grab it from the start of the season, I see others in Chicago nabbing a save here and there for this very reason.
8 - Joe Weiland - SP - Padres - Weiland busted out in 2011, posting a sterling 7/1 K/BB ratio and a 1.97 ERA. He's a control artist but has a nice fastball that sits in the high 80s/low 90s. It lacks life, though that shouldn't be as big of a problem pitching in the larger parks and weaker lineups of the NL West. He throws a variety of pitches to keep hitters off balance and should slide in nicely in the back end of a rotation, and could be a cheap source of ERA/WHIP help without hurting you in other areas.
9 - Robbie Erlin - SP - Padres - Traded along with Weiland to San Diego in exchange for Mike Adams, Erlin might have even better control than Weiland. He spun a 9.6 to 1 K/BB ratio to go along with a .95 WHIP between two levels last year. He was also able to keep his K/9 in the 9 range and that's a big factor in projecting performance at the next level. Erlin does it by using an easy delivery to control his low 90s fastball, plus change up, and solid downward breaking curveball. As with many control artists, Erlin is prone to the home run ball at times, but pitching in PETCO should certainly mitigate some of that damage. As with Weiland, if Erlin gets called up, I urge you to pick him up if you're in need of ERA/WHIP help, and he should be able to include a fair amount of strikeouts as well.
10 - Shelby Miller - SP - Cardinals - Continuing the tradition of Texas flamethrowers, Miller pumps in fastball after fastball in the mid-90s, and as high as 97 MPH. What makes his fastball so special is the ease with which is comes out of his hand and it's dramatic, late sinking movement that breaks in towards right-handed hitters. While his fastball has been enough to not only carry him, but allow him to dominate all the way through Triple-A, Miller's secondary pitches lag behind. He complements the fastball with a mid 80s change-up and upper 70s curveball. The scouting report is well and good, but for fantasy purposes what you need to know is that Miller struck out 13.75/9 innings in Hi-A and 9.24/9 innings in Double-A. All the while his BB/9 held steady at 3.4. A 3/1 K/BB ratio at Double-A for a 20-year old is nothing to sneeze at. While he only managed 87 innings in Double-A last year, Miller makes this list because he is likely to break camp at Triple-A and if he succeeds there as he has elsewhere, he will provide the Cardinals, as well as your fantasy team, with a nice mid-summer boost.
11 - Wily Peralta - SP - Brewers - "Big Wily Style" (work with me) Peralta has worked his way from likely late inning reliever back to potential number 2 or 3 starter by focusing on his secondary pitches. He throws both a slider and a change-up, though the slider is ahead of the change-up at the moment. Neither of those pitches hold a candle to Peralta's fastball however. Sitting at 91-95 and touching 98, the pitch gets in quickly on the batter inducing many weak groundballs. While Peralta boasts impressive groundball rates, he is by no means a pure sinkerballer, racking up 157 strikeouts over 151 innings between Double and Triple-A last year. He is also adept at keeping the ball in the park, no minor factor when pitching at Miller park. While he will most certainly return to Triple-A for a little more seasoning to start the year, Peralta will be the first starter up from Triple-A for the Brewers and has the tools to be effective immediately.
12 - Jarrod Parker - SP - Athletics - Parker missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He bounced back in 2011 with 137 innings, and a major league debut. While Parker did struggle some with his control, that is often the last element to return to a pitchers arsenal when recovery from Tommy John surgery. Traded to Oakland as the primary piece in a multiplayer deal, Parker is highly valued by the Oakland front office and has a good chance of reaching the major leagues given the injury prone A's rotation (McCarthy, Moscoso, B. Anderson, and Braden). He will likely open the season at Triple-A, but once he reaches Oakland he should be there to stay. If his control is back to 100% he should help in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts with wins rather tough to come by.
From the cutting room floor:
Tsuyoshi Wada/Wei-Yin Chen - SP - Orioles - Wada is likely to struggle in his debut season in America. His fastball resides in the 87-88 MPH range and none of his pitches are plus at this point in his career. Add that to the fact that he will be pitching in the AL East and it doesn't look like he'll be worth an add unless you're in a deep or AL only league. Even then, he might be better left alone. Chen has a bit more upside to him because he's been recorded throwing as hard as 94 MPH. He did suffer injuries during the 2011 season, bringing his velocity down to the 89-90 MPH range. He may be serviceable pitching in that range with room to grow if he is able to regain his previous form. Like many Japanese pitchers, Chen has an arsenal of pitches with his slider the only one with a chance to grade out as plus. While neither of these signings have brought relief to Orioles fans, I hear that on their deathbed, they will receive total consciousness. So they got that going for them, which is nice.
Hit me with your thoughts in the comments...