Even with the strong graduating class of pitching prospects from 2015, we could see an even better class reach the majors in 2016. There is a very real possibility that by the end of the 2016 season, we will have seen all of our top eight and 13 of our top 14 make their debuts. While prospects like Lucas Giolito, Julio Urias, and Alex Reyes may not graduate before the end of the season, just seeing these potential aces reach the majors could be exciting in its' own right. Let's take a look at who falls on our top 40 starting pitching prospects.
Tier 1 -- The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
1. Lucas Giolito - Nationals
The top pitching prospect in the minors reached AA last season, and could be in line to debut in the majors at some point during the 2016 season. Domenic Lanza will have a full profile on Giolito later today.
2. Julio Urias - Dodgers
It seems like Urias should be at least 22 or 23 based on how long it feels like we've been talking about him, and the fact that he reached AAA last year, but he will play most of this season as a 19 year old, and could debut before the end of the season. Three above-average to plus pitches, along with excellent command give him the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, but he may need a couple more years to build up his workload enough to reach that potential.
3. Steven Matz - Mets
As if the Mets needed even more high quality young pitching. It's taken Matz a bit to get there as a 2009 draftee, but he's arrived now and will be a key part of their rotation this year. The potential with Matz is for him to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, providing elite production in four categories. He'll likely be held back somewhat this season in terms of an innings limit, but long-term shouldn't have that limitation.
4. Tyler Glasnow - Pirates
The strikeout totals jump off the page for Glasnow, who has averaged nearly 12 per 9 innings pitched throughout his minor league career. Michael Schwarz will have a full profile on him later today.
5. Jose Berrios - Twins
Berrios had an excellent year between AA and AAA in 2015, and is on the cusp of breaking into the Twins' rotation at some point during the 2016 season. I'll have a full profile on him later today.
6. Blake Snell - Rays
The Rays' prospect rocketed through three levels of the minors last year, starting the year with a 46 inning scoreless streak and ending it with 44 innings at AAA and a total of 163 strikeouts across just 134 innings overall. He's likely to head to AAA to start the 2016 season, but could be the first starter called up should the need arise.
7. Alex Reyes - Cardinals
A 50-game suspension for a second positive test for marijuana will keep Reyes out of game action to start the season, but it could end up leading to a faster arrival in the majors because he'll need to make up the innings. Questions about his command move him down ever so slightly, but with a repertoire which features two potentially elite offerings and a third at least average one, he could headline the top of a rotation in a couple of years.
Tier 2 -- The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
8. Jose DeLeon - Dodgers
DeLeon credited a shift on the pitching rubber with a drastic change in his performance level at the end of 2014, and only built on that in 2015 between High-A and AA. DeLeon slots in as a potential top 30 starting pitcher, capable of providing elite strikeout totals along with good ratios, and could see time in Los Angeles before the end of the season.
9. Anderson Espinoza - Red Sox
Clearly the farthest away of the prospects in our top 10, Espinoza has been getting a ton of helium this offseason. Reports on his performance between short-season ball and Low-A were glowing, pointing to a pitcher that can lead a staff on the strength of three above-average pitches, including a fastball that touched 100 during the season. He's a long way from the majors, but that level of performance from a 17-year old bodes extremely well, and it isn't impossible that he is the top prospect on this list in a year's time.
A trio of potential high-end pitching prospects finish out our top 12, and all three have a lot of similarities. They've all been discussed at one point or another as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter on the strength of potentially elite repertoires. However, the command has lagged behind, and could keep them as more likely mid-rotation starters. All three could be in the majors by the end of the season as well.
13. Jake Thompson - Phillies
The profile on Thompson isn't necessarily an exciting one, but having four pitches which grade as average or better along with solid command and success at AA should provide a nice, consistent starting pitcher at worst. After pitching at AA last season, he could debut in 2016 and fit nicely near the top of the Phillies' rotation for the near future.
14. Jameson Taillon - Pirates
It's been two full seasons since Taillon has pitched in a minor league game, so there's definitely some questions surrounding him and what he will develop into as a pitcher. There is still top-of-the-rotation upside if he is 100% healthy, and could see time in the majors this year.
15. Kolby Allard - Braves
The Braves took a chance on Allard with the 14th pick after he suffered a back injury during his senior season, and could potentially have another high ceiling starting pitching prospect on their hands as a result.
16. Grant Holmes - Dodgers
17. Reynaldo Lopez - Nationals
18. Dillon Tate - Rangers
Tate worked primarily as a reliever in his first two seasons at UC Santa Barbara, and while he pitched great as a starter in 2015, there are some questions about how he will hold up long-term. He's going to get every opportunity to develop into a starter though, and if his third pitch develops to be an average or better offering, he could move to the top of this list.
A trio of pitchers traded in the past year, Hoffman retains the highest upside, but the move to Colorado does him no favors. I'd still take the risk on his potential to turn into a top starting pitcher, but depending on how the rest of my pitching looks, I may prefer the relative safety of Blair and Fulmer instead.
22. Brent Honeywell - Rays
23. Kyle Zimmer - Royals
The Royals had Zimmer start out in the bullpen last year to ease him back into starting, and the questions remain about whether he can stay healthy or not. He's suffered so many injuries during his professional career that it's hard to see him reach that high-end upside.
Bradley was all set to graduate from prospect status last year, but struggles after being hit in the head by a line drive led him back to the minors. His final two starts last year were very positive, but he'll have to compete for a rotation spot this spring. There is always likely to be some risk to your ratios with Bradley due to higher walk rates, but the upside remains high.
26. Luis Ortiz - Rangers
Tier 3 -- The Next Group of Starters
These prospects likely would slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list and would be starters in mid-depth formats such as 12- and 14-team leagues.
27. Amir Garrett - Reds
28. Francis Martes - Astros
Martes was the third prospect in the trade of Jarred Cosart, and it looks an awful lot like the Astros have nearly stolen a high-end pitching prospect from the Marlins. He reached AA for three starts before the end of the season, and has emerged as a potential top-of-the-rotation option with an above-average fastball and curveball. How his changeup develops will determine how close he gets to that ceiling, but at worst he can be an elite relief option.
29. Josh Hader - Brewers
The reports on Hader from the Arizona Fall League were glowing, and that he potentially had taken another step forward in terms of velocity. He still has work to do on his third offering, a changeup, to keep him as a starter, but he could end up with a long career as a late inning reliever on the strength of the fastball and slider alone. He's expected to head to AA to start the 2016 season, and could be in the majors for a brief call up by the end of the year.
30. Cody Reed - Reds
One of the three pitchers acquired for Johnny Cueto, Reed saw his value skyrocket during an excellent 2015 season where he set personal bests in innings pitched (145) and strikeouts (144) while reaching AA during the year. The profile isn't one where he has elite upside, but should be a solid, innings-eating starting pitcher who helps fantasy rotations towards the back end of your rotation.
31. Joe Musgrove - Astros
Musgrove was originally acquired by the Astros back in 2012, and despite being a 2011 draftee, did not reach full-season ball until this past season. He made up for lost time though, pitching well across three levels and reaching AA for seven starts before the end of the season. There are injury risks for Musgrove, who has yet to make it through a full season without missing time, but he gives the Astros another solid starting pitching prospect who can slot in nicely at the back end of a fantasy rotation.
32. Max Fried - Braves
Fried did not pitch at all last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, so how he performs during this season will give us a much better idea if he can still be the potential high-end starting pitcher that made him the 7th overall pick back in 2012.
33. Hunter Harvey - Orioles
Talk about being a bit star-crossed. Harvey did not pitch at all last season due to an elbow injury, but was able to avoid needing surgery to date. A potential mid-rotation starter could still exist in Harvey, but he'll need to show that he can stay healthy for the season to really get back some of the prospect shine he had previously.
34. Duane Underwood - Cubs
35. Jon Gray - Rockies
Gray was supposed to be the pitching prospect that helped the Rockies finally disprove the idea that you can't develop pitching at altitude. It didn't go great in his first shot at the majors last year, but he should be in the rotation again this season and can still potentially provide value as a solid innings-eater with good strikeouts. Just remember that the ratios could hurt, and that there could be some starts you won't want to remember either.
36. Touki Toussaint - Braves
While the Diamondbacks were able to get out from under Bronson Arroyo's salary, they may eventually regret including Toussaint to get that done. He's still a long way from the majors, as he could be at least three to four years away, but the raw repertoire and athleticism points to a pitcher who could develop into a very useful fantasy contributor.
37. Dylan Bundy - Orioles
It's a tough spot for the Orioles at this point with Bundy. They gave him a major league contract out of the draft in 2011, and he made his debut in 2012. However, he's now out of options, and will need to make the team out of Spring Training or be exposed to waivers. This could lead to a move to the bullpen long-term, where he could be a potential high-leverage reliever. It just about kills his fantasy value though, as he would not likely be a closer at least in the short term.
38. Brady Aiken - Indians
It's been a crazy two years for Aiken, who was drafted first overall but didn't sign, and then signed with the Indians as the 17th overall pick in 2015. He's been recovering from pre-draft Tommy John surgery, and could move way up this list if he can show some of the potential that made him that top pick in 2014.
39. Jack Flaherty - Cardinals
40. Jorge Lopez - Brewers