*The following list is based solely on future fantasy value projected for each player during the prime years of their career. Defense is not taken into account whatsoever in this list. Comps are based on who a player will profile most comparable to during the prime years of their career in terms of fantasy value. Prospect value is based on a mix of future fantasy value, along with how soon they will be contributing to fantasy teams.
1) Archie Bradley – The Diamondbacks #1 prospect dominated the Double-A Southern League in 2013 with a 1.97 ERA and 12-5 record after his promotion. D-Backs GM Kevin Towers was quoted saying that a promotion to the majors at the end of the 2013 season didn’t make much sense for Bradley, but he will be given a chance to earn a rotation spot out of spring training next year. Our own Fake-Teams writer Jason Hunt had this to say about Bradley recently, “In terms of fantasy possibilities, Bradley has the potential to be a top 20 starting pitcher with a possibility of the top 10. If his command can improve, say, to less than 3 walks per 9 innings, he could provide elite WHIP and ERA numbers.” He also has the potential to chip in nice strikeout totals along the way. This future fantasy ace will join the majors sometime during the 2014 season, and could provide help for fantasy teams immediately.
Future Fantasy Comp: Justin Verlander
2) Robert Stephenson – The Cincinnati Reds top pitching prospect was selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. In 2011, his last high-school season before being drafted, Stephenson opened the year by pitching back-to-back no hitters. Baseball America recently published their Top 10 Prospects for the Cincinnati Reds Organization, and gave Stephenson the nod for the top spot over Billy Hamilton. Stephenson saw his prospect stock rise significantly over the course of the 2013 season. The young gun cruised through 3 levels of the minors to finish the season in the Double-A Southern League. Stephenson’s quick progression during the 2013 season will speed up his ETA to the majors. There is currently no need to rush Stephenson with the ball club’s current abundance of pitching depth, but it won’t be long until Stephenson is ready to claim his spot at the front of the team’s starting rotation.
Future Fantasy Comp: Adam Wainwright
3) Lucas Giolito – Before needing to undergo Tommy John surgery, Giolito was considered a frontrunner to be drafted #1 overall in the 2012 MLB Draft that also featured Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa. That should give you an idea of what scouts and MLB teams thought about this young pitcher’s upside before his injury. Because of the injury, Giolito ended up falling to the middle of the first round, where the Nationals scooped him up with the #16 overall pick. The young flame-thrower made his return to the mound at the end of the 2013 season, and looked like his dominant self while putting up a 0.64 ERA in 3 starts. In many instances now, undergoing successful Tommy John surgery can allow pitchers to come back even stronger than before. The Nationals have had a successful track record with bringing back their young pitchers who undergo this surgery (See: Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann). If that’s the case with Lucas Giolito, then the sky is the limit for this young prospect.
Future Fantasy Comp: Matt Harvey
4) Noah Syndergaard – Syndergaard should be the next top pitching prospect in line to join the Mets rotation. The Mets acquired their young hurler from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade. After joining the Mets, Syndergaard exceeded expectations. He looked like a man amongst boys during the 2013 Future’s Game, playing against some of the other top prospects in baseball. Syndergaard spent the 2nd half of the 2013 season in Double-A, so a promotion to Triple-A to start the 2014 season is likely. With an eye on the future, the Mets will be tempted to bring their pitching prospect up sometime during the 2014 season to see what he is capable of contributing in the majors, with an outside shot at taking Matt Harvey’s rotation spot to start the year. Either way, he will soon join Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler in New York to form one of the top young pitching trios in the major leagues.
Future Fantasy Comp: Homer Bailey
5) Kyle Crick –This strikeout machine was drafted by the San Francisco Giants with the 49th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. In 2012, Crick pitched 111.1 innings while posting a 2.51 ERA and 128 K’s, while opponents hit for a .193 BA off him. Then the Giants top prospect missed time at the beginning of the 2013 season with an oblique injury. After 2 months on the shelf, Crick came back as dominant as ever. In 68.2 IP after his return, Crick posted a 1.57 ERA along with 95 K’s, while opponents batted .201 off the righty. Then, while in the Arizona Fall League, Crick pitched 15.2 innings while putting up a 2.87 ERA and 24 K’s. Crick held his AFL opponents, some of the best prospects in baseball, to a .167 BA. Opponents simply haven’t been able to hit him. The low ERA totals are there. The strikeout totals are definitely there. If there is one stat that we would like to see improvement out of Crick, it would be his walk rate. But that should improve as this big bodied pitcher continues to develop while mowing down the higher levels of the minor leagues. Crick profiles perfectly for AT&T Park, and if he continues to pitch the way he has for the past 2 seasons, we could see him there very soon.
Future Fantasy Comp: Matt Cain
Honorable Mention: Jameson Taillon (PIT), Andrew Heaney (MIA), Tyler Glasnow (PIT), Max Fried (SD), Jonathan Gray (COL).