Every Saturday, Alex is here to write about which minor league pitchers you should be stashing on your team. This list will range from the top prospects to the more esoteric that should potentially be on your radar. Players who I believe are likely to receive the call to the Show soonest will be at the top and players who may be more of a long term stash will be featured closer to the bottom. Picking up these prospects can be a great way to stay ahead of the curve in your league regardless of whether it’s a deep dynasty league or a shallow 10 teamer.
The minor leagues features hundreds of pitchers that are rotating through farm systems and major league clubs daily. Injuries or even extra inning games can turn a fledgling AAA pitcher into a spot starter. If you feel there is someone who should be mentioned who wasn’t or if you have a general question about anyone on the list, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get to it ASAP.
1. Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays) – Any concerns about command that Snell had shown since his cup of coffee against the Yankees went out the window with his most recent start: 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. Even more impressive than the strikeout to walk ratio he put up was that this game featured his 500th minor league K (coming in his 100th minor league appearance oddly enough). One outing however isn’t enough to make me completely forget the two game struggle that Snell had though. While his BAA is still an impressive .234, it is the highest it’s ever been in his minor league career, his WHIP too. His FIP is also a lackluster 3.55, and he’s already given up 6 doubles whereas last year he only gave up 8. This is by no stretch of the imagination me ringing an alarm bell – some of this can definitely be attributed to small sample size for sure – but it’s something to keep an eye on. As of now, there still isn’t any more news on a potential call-up for Snell either but if I were a betting man I’d say somewhere near end of May.
2. Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Man, I haven’t seen an arms race like this since the Cold War! I haven’t been this excited about pirates since the first Pirates of the Caribbean! I haven’t KNOWN this much about Pirates since I played Uncharted 4 for six hours yesterday! Ok, enough. I’ll get to who I think will be called up first between Taillon and Tyler Glasnow below but for now let’s take a moment to bask in the glory that is Taillon’s stats through his first 6 games. He is currently walking a under one batter a game with his 0.96 BB/9, his LOB% is a great 80.4%, his HR/9 is 0.24, I mean honestly the list goes on and on. Let’s not forget too: Taillon hasn’t pitched since 2013. So for him to break into this season the way he has is really nothing short of awe-inspiring. While his last outing wasn’t his most dominant – 7 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BBs, 6 Ks – he bounced back from his 3-K performance the start before and still earned a QS (his fourth consecutive one by the way, and 5th out of 6).
3. Tyler Glasnow (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Up until Thursday night, Glasnow had only had one poor outing in the minors and the rest was him truly dominating his competition. However, this Thursday night performance encapsulates the largest (and sole) issue with Glasnow: 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 5 BBs, 1 Ks. Glasnow will live and die by his command. Every once in a while, his delivery can get out of whack and his stuff can become ineffective. When his stuff is there however, he is truly dominant. As Nick pointed out to me though, when you think of the prospect pitchers who have made an impact on a team the season they came up (Thor, Matz, JoFer, DeGrom, etc.) how many of them have had control issues? None. I don’t mean this to imply that Glasnow can’t be a stud – when his stuff works, he will be – but I just say it to temper expectations a bit. So who wins the arms race? If I were a betting man, I’d still say Jameson Taillon (hence him being #2). I think they’re going to want Glasnow to work on these command issues a bit more before they call him up. Either way, we likely won’t find out until the first week of June rolls around.
4. Julio Urias (Los Angeles Dodgers) – With Urias’ most recent outing – 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BBs, 4 Ks – he extends his streak of innings without an ER to 16 IP. Over his five starts and sole relief appearance Urias has been able to post a 9.90 K/9, 90.1 LOB% and 0.80 WHIP all while pitching in the very hitter friendly PCL. I think what’s even more impressive though is that, despite going 6 IP in his last two starts, Urias is yet to have an outing where he has thrown more than 81 pitches. This is just further proof that the Dodgers are handling Urias with kid gloves as they have also not allowed him to throw more than 90 IP in the four years he’s been in the minors. This may be the year the training wheels come off a bit though, as recent reports have shown there is a chance that the Dodgers may very well call up Urias to bolster a struggling bullpen. While I’m not exactly thrilled as a fantasy owner to have Urias out of the pen as opposed to every five days, I can take solace in the fact that I have an Andrew Miller type guy who can get me holds, and keep my ratios down.
5. Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers) – Hader put together another fine start this past week going 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. The LHP is yet to give up a home run in his first six starts, is striking out a third of the batters he’s facing, and has a BAA of .194. Hader’s .308 BABIP and 2.00 FIP make me think this isn’t just some flash in the pan either. A big shout out to redditor S***Barometer for pointing out to me that the Brewers organization isn’t hesitant to take pitching prospects directly from AA to the Majors and thereby bypassing a PCL based Colorado Springs park that can be a bit harsh on a pitcher’s confidence (the team ERA for Colorado Springs right now is a league high 5.38). This is not me saying that Hader is coming up anytime soon but if the Brewers continue to struggle I don’t see why he wouldn’t get a call after the All-Star break.
6. Jose De Leon (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Before I begin a quick preface: De Leon has better stuff than Josh Hader but Hader has a clearer path to the Majors, especially in light of what I write about below. A few days after his incredible first start for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, De Leon was removed from the rotation as a result of “general arm soreness”. I don’t want to read too much into this injury; he did begin his season in extended spring training with the purpose of both limiting his IP in 2016 and bulking up in preparation for the season. As a result, it’s not hard to believe that he may be experiencing some soreness, especially after striking out 9 over 5 scoreless innings. As of now, when De Leon will rejoin the rotation is TBA but I wouldn’t expect him to miss more than a start or two. With the recent news that Julio Urias may be called up, along with this “general arm soreness” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers continued to proceed with caution with De Leon.
7. Lucas Giolito (Washington Nationals) – Last week’s outing was a little bit more encouraging for Giolito: 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1 BBs, 4 Ks. This marks the third time in a row that he’s struck out four which is respectable from a consistency standpoint but still nowhere near his ceiling. He was able to minimize the walks though, allowing the fewest free passes since his second outing of the year, which is definitely nice to see. I want to take a deeper look at some of these stats though to see if we can get more to the root of the issue. Giolito has given up 13 ER yet zero of them have been via the long-ball. He’s given up 28 hits, only 3 of which are doubles and 25 of which are singles. Of those 25 singles, 10 of them are infield singles. This made me think, ok maybe Giolito has just been a bit unlucky, maybe he’s getting victimized by a poor AA defense or something to that effect. I took a look at his BABIP and it’s a pretty high .354 which leads me to believe that he could be back to his #1 prospect ways soon. Whatever it may be that is plaguing him though, considering the success of the National staff so far, I still don’t see Giolito getting a cup of coffee until after the All-Star Break.
8. Cody Reed (Cincinnati Reds) – There’s meh news and good news. Let’s start with the meh: Reed’s last start was not great: 4 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 2 BBs, 2 Ks. He ran into some trouble in the first inning and was only able to put together 4 mediocre innings before getting pulled. The good news? This was his most lackluster outing of the year so far. His stat line this year is very impressive: 28.2 IP, 6 ER, 22 H, 7 BBs, 27 Ks. Opposing teams are only hitting .218 against him, he’s allowed one HR and he’s – so far – improved upon an already minimal walk rate from last year (which was in AA mind you). While Robert Stephenson is ranked above him in the Reds organization, there’s a chance that Reed might have the better stuff. While Stephenson has the better breaking pitch (his Curveball is more effective than Reed’s Slider), Reed has the better Fastball and I think the better command. To be honest, I think Reed has better stuff than Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb too. Between injuries and downright ineffectiveness, the Reds rotation/bullpen need help badly. As a result, I still think it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Reed before the All-Star Break.
9. Alex Reyes (St. Louis Cardinals) – There’s not much more that I can add about Reyes that I didn’t say last week. The only new thing that I can add is that his 50 game suspension technically includes the 10 Arizona Fall League games that were remaining when the suspension was handed down. The Memphis Redbirds played their 32nd game on Friday night meaning that, as of now, Alex Reyes will return to the roster on May 23rd. Whether he makes that start against the Salt Lake City Bees remains to be seen – I’m sure he’s been working during the suspension but it’s hard to find in what capacity – but I imagine he’ll make a start sometime that week. Either way, look back here next week for more specifics. In terms of him getting called up this year, the suspension makes that a little less likely, but if he is able to start off right where he left things and continue progressing, there’s a chance he could get a late season call-up.
10. Lucas Sims (Atlanta Braves) – Sims was able to bounce back from his roughest outing of the year so far with a quality start, his second in AAA: 6 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. It’s important to note that his most recent outing was against the Minnesota Twins affiliate – the Rochester Redwings – meaning Sims was going up against a reinvigorated Byron Buxton and a powerful yet slumping Max Kepler. Most of the damage against Sims came against these two in the first IP but he was able to get revenge on Buxton, striking him out to end the third inning. It was nice to Sims escape the outing without giving up the long-ball – he gave up 3 tates in his last outing and has now given up 4 in his first four AAA appearances. Home runs usually aren’t an issue for him, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that one game was sort of an anomaly. In terms of potential call-ups, the Braves just traded away Jhoulys Chacin which means that essentially there is a spot available in the rotation. As of now, Williams Perez is filling that spot but I wouldn’t be surprised to see another name get a shot soon. Other options aside Sims include Tyrell Jenkins and John Gant. I think Sims has higher upside than Jenkins and the Braves seem to want to use Gant out of the bullpen.
One more thing:
So I’ve been getting a lot of questions each week about Edwin Diaz and why he hasn’t been put on the list. This past week it appears that the Mariners have stopped considering Diaz as a starter down the road and will now be moving forward with their #1 pitching prospect as a reliever. Permanently. I think maybe there is concern that because he doesn’t have a third pitch – his Changeup is pretty below average – paired with the fact that he has a pretty dominant Slider and Fastball that he’d be best utilized out of the pen. While this doesn’t necessarily close the book on Edwin being a starter down the road, it definitely closes the book on it this season. The upside: Diaz just fast-tracked himself to an MLB bullpen this season.