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.
We have a new number one! Also, thanks to Urias getting called up – check out Nick’s piece on him later today for more on that….interesting start – there is a new pitcher on the list. I’ll let you see for yourself who it is. And, just a reiteration, the list doesn’t necessarily go by “stuff” – other factors such as who will be called up sooner are also in play i.e. Reyes and De Leon have better stuff than Hader but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hader get to the show first this season.
1. Jameson Taillon (Pittsburgh Pirates) – So there’s good news and there is bad news. Let’s start with the bad news: there was no Taillon start this week. The good news: it wasn’t due to injury or anything like that; it was because the Pirates skipped his start. Now there are two reasons why this happened, one of which is truth and the other is conjecture. The truth is that the start was skipped because they want to monitor Taillon’s IP. Let’s not forget he hasn’t pitched since 2013 (!!!) due to all of his injuries, so the Pirates want to give him time to build his arm strength back up. The conjecture: Taillon will make his MLB debut June 12th against the St. Louis Cardinals. According to a Pirates beat writer, Juan Nicasio – the likely person to be demoted to make room for Taillon – is due to make one more start against the Rangers and then another start on June 12th. The Super Two threshold is around June 10th meaning that Taillon – whom I think will get the call ahead of Tyler Glasnow – could take the mound instead of Nicasio. Pirates GM Neal Huntington is still hush hush about the whole thing saying, “In a perfect world, they have a full year in Triple-A” but I think we all know that’s not the case.
2. Blake Snell (Tampa Bay Rays) – As encouraging and exciting as Snell’s last start was, his most recent start was just as mediocre and discouraging: 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 4 H, 3 BBs, 7 Ks. This is not only the most walks that Snell has given up in an outing since May 4th, it’s the most earned runs he’s given up all year. Let’s take a closer look at those ER though. The first two came off a two-run homerun (the runner on base had reached by hitting a double), which is not great to see. The third ER came after a one out walk was knocked in by two hard hit singles. The fourth and fifth ER aren’t necessarily on Snell though…well, they are but Danny Farquhar played a part in it. In the top of the 6th, Snell walked a batter, threw a wild pitch, induced a ground out and walked one more before being replaced by Farquhar who then gave up back-to-back singles scoring both of the runners he inherited and resulting in Snell having more ER scored on him than at any time this season. Listen, end of the day though, it’s command issues that can be a big concern for Snell at times, and had he not walked those two batters in the 6th, the Farquhar singles would’ve been a moot point.
3. Tyler Glasnow (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Another week, another good performance from Glasnow. Not a great performance, and certainly not near the level that his teammate Jameson Taillon is performing at but a good performance all the same: 6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 3 BBs, 6 Ks. While it’s nice to see Glasnow continue to strike out batters, it’s still discouraging to see him give up three walks and 2 ER. The main reason he is below Taillon – I think – in terms of call up is because of his command issues and that 2.76 K/BB ratio isn’t making me feel any different. I really think that the Pirates are going to want to iron those out before he gets anywhere close to the majors. I’m aware that their rotation is struggling a bit right now, but when you have a guy like Taillon who is having a lot of success, I don’t see why you would need to risk it by bringing up Glasnow. After all, few and far between are the cases when a prospect had command issues and was brought to the majors and had them disappear. So few and far between as a matter of fact that I doubt it has ever happened.
4. Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers) – When it comes to Josh, I ain’t a Hader! Hader followed up last week’s gem by pitching, by his standards, an ok performance. 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 BBs, 5 Ks. Ok, ok, maybe I’m being a bit harsh here. The no ER is obviously great and he let up the fewest hits since his 2016 premiere but he also walked the most batters since April 18th and tied his season low for Ks in a game with 5. Don’t worry, this is in no way shape or form me ringing an alarm bell or anything. Sometimes there are days when a pitcher’s stuff just sort of eludes him. Either way, he lowered his BAA from .192 to .188 and still has a K/9 of 11.93 so like I said there is zero cause for concern. One crazy statistic that jumped out to me: Hader has given up fewer runs than he has games started. He’s given up 4 runs on 9 starts. Crazy to me. I still haven’t heard any inkling about potential call-ups yet, be it to AAA or The Show but I stick to my guns that Hader will bypass a AAA park that can really hurt a pitcher’s confidence. Just ask Jorge Lopez and his 6.25 ERA.
5. Cody Reed (Cincinnati Reds) – Reed’s latest start continued two trends, one good and one bad. We’ll start with the bad (noticing a trend here for me?) but first the stat line: 6 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. This marks the third consecutive outing in which Reed has given up 2 ER. This isn’t awful, I mean his ERA still sits at 2.21 and he’s only given up 10 ER in 7 starts but considering there was a stretch where he was giving up one to no ER’s, you’d like to see this change. Also, he allowed more hits than he has all season long which isn’t too great. He did however continue his streak of not walking more than two batters in a game and he once again showed high-end strikeout stuff getting his second highest K total of the year. Allegedly, there is still a possibility that Reed can still become a super two, so it may seem that if the Reds are to call up Reed – or Robert Stephenson for good for that matter – it may not come until the second week of June.
6. Alex Reyes (St. Louis Cardinals) – Reyes the roof: The Cardinals #1 prospect made his 2016 debut this past weekend after serving a 50-game suspension for marijuana. How’d he look in his first start? Pretty darn good: 4 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. The minimal IP is of no concern as the Cards didn’t want to give him too much of a workload in his first start back from suspension. Proof of that came in his second start last night where they increased his workload by one IP: 5 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 2 BBs, 7 Ks. While the 1.00 ERA is great, the 1.11 WHIP is meh as is the 3 K/BB but let’s not get to carried away; two starts is the epitome of small sample size. I still haven’t seen any indication of when Reyes will reach the show as I’m sure the Cardinals want to get a few more starts under his belt. I will say this, look at how the Cardinals deal with their prospects: Wainwright, Haren, CarMart. They’ve all started out coming out of the pen before being put into the rotation and I don’t see why Reyes would be any different. Things of course change with injuries but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case.
7. Lucas Giolito (Washington Nationals) – He did it! This past Thursday Giolito said goodbye to his former alter ego “Gio-oh-no” and pitched something that resembles his prospect status much more accurately: 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BBs, 6 Ks. While I wouldn’t necessarily call this a blow-me-away performance it is really encouraging to see Giolito trending in the right direction after about two months of really poor starts. I suppose it’s also reassuring that the lone run came in the first inning – knocked in by Andrew Benintendi who was destroying High A but is struggling in AA a bit – before Giolito took control and shut down the Sea Dogs. Giolito blamed his sputtering start to a fault in his mechanics, specifically his leg kick. He said he was lifting it awkwardly which was affecting his hips which was making his arm late which was causing a lack in command. Now that the mechanical issue has been identified and he and the pitching coach are working on it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more starts like these start to happen.
8. Jose Berrios (Minnesota Twins) – Berrios has now had two starts in the minors since being demoted and both of them have been pretty unimpressive. Let’s start with his first start last Saturday night: 5 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 5 BBs, 8 Ks. The K’s are obviously super encouraging to see but we already know that Berrios has swing and miss stuff, it’s his command that was a bit worrying and those five walks aren’t doing anything to assuage those fears. His second start was…well it wasn’t any more encouraging 6 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 BBs, 1 Ks. However, if you look a little bit deeper than the stat line though there is some encouraging signs. First and foremost, despite posting what will probably be his lowest K total of the year, Berrios showed improvement in his fastball command from his last outing. Secondly, the Red Wings defense committed three errors while Berrios was on the mound, elongating a few of his innings. End of the day, it would appear that Berrios is on a path towards improvement which is good, there are definitely signs that this is something he can recover from. Until there is a consistent improvement in Berrios’ command he’s going to be a little bit further down on this list and a little bit further away from getting called back up.
9. Joe Musgrove (Houston Astros) – First and foremost, a shoutout to the “Dude” in the comments section for putting Musgrove back on my radar. I’ve read a lot of comments about the Astros prospect recently so I decided I would take a closer look. When I first started writing these, I spotted Musgrove but upon further research thought maybe he didn’t have the stuff to translate. He isn’t a top 5 prospect on the Astros (according to Fangraphs he’s 7, MLB’s Prospect List has him at 8, and Baseball America at 6) due to sources saying he lacks a third pitch and is a bit of health risk. Musgrove started the year in AA and just completely and utterly dominated: 26.1 IP, 1 ER, 19 H, 3 BBs, 30 Ks. He dominated so hard as a matter of fact he was then promoted to AAA where he’s done this so far: 18 IP, 4 ER, 16 H, 2 BBs, 19 Ks. So obviously the first thing that jumps out is that filthy K/BB ratio. Here are some other impressive stats – just from AAA and remember 18 IP so small sample size – 9.5 K/9, 2.00 ERA and a 2.68 FIP, .232 BAA and 2.8 BB%. Those are some pretty amazing numbers, definitely better than you would expect from the 83rd best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. I want to keep track of Musgrove’s starts before he moves up anymore on this list and truth be told he would have only made the Honorable Mention section had Urias not just been called up but he looks very encouraging. In terms of call-up: don’t see it happening too soon but if the Astros rotation continues to struggle that may change.
10. Jose De Leon (Los Angeles Dodgers)– As of the writing of this article, De Leon is yet to be activated from the 7-Day DL, which is strange because he was placed there on May 16th which was retroactive to May 14th. There isn’t too much new information that I can write about the prospect as we’ve only seen one performance, although it was an incredibly encouraging one. I expect by the publishing of this article next week we have some more information as De Leon is likely to come off the DL and join the AAA rotation any day now. Once he does, and puts some more outings under his belt, I imagine he’ll shoot up this list. I don’t want to predict anything about a potential call up until he gets a few more starts under his belt, even with Urias’ struggles on Friday night.