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Pitching prospects to watch outside of the Top 100

Joe discusses pitching prospects that you should be paying attention to for 2019.

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In this post, I’ll go over some prospects who are being vastly underrated. None of these players have been in any Top 100 lists that I have seen so far, but could return Top 100 value. I usually do these posts bi yearly as it is a fun concept to cover, and keeps me in tune with what is going on in the prospect world. I am, however, going to try to stay away from talking about prospects I have already discussed in prior posts, but I’ll make sure to put a related post section if you would like to check them out.

Aaron Ashby, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Ashby was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 draft by the Brewers, but his talent looks like that of a second round pick. He struggled out of the gate, but after adding a little more velocity to his fastball and getting called up to Single-A, he was able to strikeout 30.3% of the batters faced while only walking 5.8%. He also had double the amount of ground balls than fly balls giving him a 2.25 xFIP during his Single-A stint. His curveball is highly regarded as his best pitch, but I am really impressed with his fastball that can reach 95 mph and has good movement. He is also known to mess with his delivery at times to keep batters off balance. It’s something that we don’t think about often, but deception in pitching is one of the reasons a pitcher like Joey Lucchesi had success last season and is even covered in Derek Johnson’s book, The Complete Guide to Pitching.

Brady Feigl, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Feigl was taken in the fifth round of last year’s draft and impressed the Athletics organization with a 2.38 xFIP in his 26.0 innings. He features a fastball that can run up to 96 mph but typically sits around the low to mid-90s. He also features a breaking ball, which is known to be his best secondary pitch, and a changeup that he says he would like to improve going into the season. He is mostly known for his command, and his strikeout rate will likely start to regress as he makes his way through the upper minors. Even then, with his command and ability to induce ground balls he has the potential to be a middle of the rotation arm with a mid to high 3.00s ERA.

Brandon Bailey, RHP, Houston Astros

Bailey is one of many pitching prospects who has been working with the pitching gurus over at Driveline, and it is likely one of the reasons his pitches have the extreme spin rates that he has. From the videos I have seen his fastball sits around 91-94, and he uses a slider, curveball, and changeup to keep hitters off balance. For these reasons, he posted a 16.9% swinging strike rate, which was the second highest among minor league pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. Bailey already has a solid pitch repertoire and is surrounded by some of the best minds in the game with Driveline and the Astros, so he is currently in the best situation to succeed.

James Kaprielian, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Kaprielian hasn’t pitched since 2016, which has caused many people to forget about the 24-year-old starter. His velocity has dropped a little bit after Tommy John surgery, but I will be interested to see if his velocity will start to pick up again with more work. With his fastball comes three solid pitches in a slider, curveball, and changeup. He has good command and induces a lot of ground balls, and should be a steal in dynasty leagues if he can recapture what he was before surgery.

Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Minnesota Twins

Thorpe has been really underrated throughout his minor league career as he has an ERA of 2.72 since 2017. His command seemed to take a step forward as his walk rate was 6.6% last season, which was 3.1% better than what he posted the season prior. His pitches are not overpowering, but I do like his slider. His curveball is the biggest concern, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it left his arsenal if it doesn’t improve. With a rotation filled with question marks, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him make his debut at some point this season.

Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels

The Angels acquired Sandoval in the trade that sent Martin Maldonado to Houston Astros. 2018 was his breakout as he had an ERA below 3.00 at four different stops last season. His swinging strike rate of 16.2% was the fifth-best in the minors last season, which contributed heavily to his 30.1% strikeout rate. With his FIPs and swinging strike rates last season, to say Sandoval intrigues me is an understatement.

Seth Romero, LHP, Washington Nationals

Romero was viewed as one the best prospects in the 2017 draft, but a lot of off-the-field issues saw him drop all the way to the Nationals with the 25th pick. He will likely miss all of 2019 due to Tommy John, but there is no question about his talent. He has three plus offerings that saw him boast an impressive 30.9% strikeout rate at Single-A last season. He has good command and could become a front of the line starter if he stays healthy and keeps away from trouble.

Simeon Woods-Richardson, RHP, New York Mets

Woods-Richardson is someone who could easily make his way into the Top 100 if he has a promising sophomore campaign. His fastball usually sits in the low to mid 90s with good movement, but it has been known to touch 97 mph. He has an excellent curveball and a decent changeup. He has only pitched 17 1/3 innings but did have a 36.6% strikeout rate that was complemented with a 5.6% walk rate. He will only be 18 years old to start the season, so he has plenty of time to hone his craft.

Spencer Howard, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Howard has four potential plus pitches in his fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. This four-pitch mix helped him strikeout 31.6% of the batters he faced and even lead to a no-hitter back in September. The reason a lot of people are probably wary of the 22-year-old right-hander is his control issues, which probably is the primary reason for the .349 BABIP opposing batters had against him and the 1.17 difference in FIP and ERA. With his arsenal, Howard could become a top of the rotation starter if he can fine-tune his control.

Tyler Ivey, RHP, Houston Astros

Ivey is the fourth pitcher mentioned that played in the Astros farm system last season, which is starting to make me think that the Astros may know how to develop pitching. He has a solid four-pitch arsenal that should help him stay in the rotation, and pretty good command as well. His 14.8% swinging strike rate was one of the best in the minors and that wasn’t far off from Josh James’ 15.3% swinging strike. The Astros have another diamond and the rough here and it looks like they are set up to succeed for many years to come.