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) – Snell’s most recent outing was not his best, in fact – in terms of command – it was actually his worst: 5 IP, 3 ER, 2 H, 5 BBs, 4 Ks. Snell ended up throwing 98 pitches in those 5 IP with only 50 of them being strikes. Even worse, when he put himself into a jam by walking batters, he was not able to pitch himself out of it. I think the concern here is that the more Snell continues to have command issues the more his one walk MLB debut against the Yankees looks like an outlier. The good news however: we may be able to see if that’s true sooner rather than later as there is a possibility Snell could be called up for another spot start with Matt Moore not going on Sunday. While I don’t think the Rays will have Snell pitch against the Angels who do quite well against left-handed pitching, there’s a chance Snell could start Monday or Tuesday against the Mariners who are hitting just .230 against LHP. Don’t get me wrong, his stuff still Snell’s great like my grandmother’s tomato sauce, but this command thing is something to keep track of for sure.
2. James Taillon (Pittsburgh Pirates) – I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop with Taillon and it just hasn’t happened yet. Let’s check out this week’s amazing performance: 7 IP, 0 ER, 2H, 1 BBs, 3 Ks. While this was the least amount of strikeouts he’s received in an outing, the stuff was still there. His Fastball was still hitting the mid to upper 90’s and his Curveball continues to bite hard. I know a lot of you are curious as to when certain prospect are going to get the call and as much as I wish I could give you a definitive answer and be called Wizard Alex, I can’t. However, I can say this: by keeping Taillon down in AA until the second week of June, the Pirates end up saving something like $10 million down the line. While the Pirates could use a little help in the rotation now – 27th in FIP, 24th in xFIP, 1st in hilariously bad pickoff attempts – I doubt there is a scenario in which Taillon gets called up before June. Still 100% worth a stash though.
3. Tyler Glasnow (Pittsburgh Pirates) – The Pirates #1 prospects most recent stat-line is sort of a double-edged sword. 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 5 BBs, 7Ks. On the one hand, Glasnow got himself into a lot of jams as he walked five batters. It seems as if he was getting behind in the count on almost every batter that he faced. However, Glasnow was able to use his plus Curveball to get himself out of every jam. So on the one hand we have a pitcher who leads all of the minors – PCL and International – with a 12.81 K/9 but is also 7th in walk rate with a 4.15 BB/9. The fact that Glasnow is struggling a bit with his command along with the fact that his counterpart has a league leading 0.89 BB/9 gives additional credence to the notion that Glasnow will probably remain in the minors a little bit longer than Taillon. This, however, doesn’t make Glasnow any less necessary of a stash though.
4. Julio Urias (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Last week, Urias was used in a relief outing, which led me to believe that the Dodgers are more than comfortable being patient with their #1 prospect. The fact that Jose De Leon kicked off 2016 with a bang may gives Urias even more cushion before he reaches the Majors which is a shame because he’s making the batters he faces look like beer leaguers. However, a report came out just today saying that there are rumors that Urias could be called up to bolster the Dodgers’ pen. His most recent outing – which was a start by the way and not out of the pen – was just dominant: 6 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 6 Ks. That brings Urias’ K/BB up to 9.67 and his BB % down to an astounding 3.3%. Not impressed? A recent fangraphs article said that Urias is spotting his Fastball with an “amazing consistency that even some established big-league starters can only dream about.” When Urias gets the call, it seems like his impact is going to be quick and profound…as long as he’s in the rotation.
5. Jose De Leon (Los Angeles Dodgers) – De Leon was sidelined due to an ankle injury to begin the season and didn’t make his debut until this past Tuesday. So how did the Dodgers 2nd best pitching prospect do in his 2016 debut? He started out the game by striking out the side and went on to finish with 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 1BBs, 9 Ks! I ain’t De Lyin’ to ya! Over the course of the outing, De Leon utilized every pitch in his arsenal: his incredible Changeup, his Fastball that still lacks command, his Curveball and his average Slider. I wouldn’t worry in the slightest about the Fastball command as this can probably be chalked up to this being his first start of the year and there was probably some cobwebs to shake out. If available, I would be stashing De Leon and keeping very close track of what Alex Wood, Scott Kazmir and Ross Stripling are doing.
6. Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers) – Last week, I hinted that maybe the Brewers would decide to go with Josh Hader in a spot start against the Angels and I was wrong. I knew the Angels hit LHP better than RHP but I figured due to Junior Guerra’s struggles in AA, they might not go with him and I was incorrect. Meanwhile Guerra pitched fairly well against the Angels going 6 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 1 BBs, 3 Ks but earning the win. Meanwhile, down in AAA, Hader continued to make a case for himself as he went 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BBs, 5 Ks. So far through 2016, Hader’s line is impressive: 23 IP, 2 ER, 16 H, 9 BBs, 32 Ks but if you look inside the numbers there is some revealing stuff. First and foremost, his .314 BABIP is the highest he’s ever posted in AA, secondly, his LOB % is an unsustainable 92.6% and, lastly, his K/BB has decreased a bit from last year. If Hader can continue to find consistency with his stuff, and keep locating his 98 MPH heat he can keep this success up but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some regression soon. There are some rumors that his two major league ready pitches – Fastball and Curveball – might make him a more viable reliever option but I feel if he continues to impress (as he’s done in three different minor league organizations due to various trades) he’ll get a shot in the rotation.
7. Lucas Giolito (Washington Nationals) – Man, I am starting to get a little bit concerned about Giolito. So far arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball is off to a horrendous start. To begin the 2016 campaign, Giolito is yet to go more than 4 IP and his most recent outing wasn’t an exception: 3 IP, 6 ER, 5 H, 4 BBs, 4 Ks. I wish I could give the benefit of the doubt and say, “Well maybe he’s getting pulled early because they want to keep his IP down?” That’s just not the case. It took Giolito 73 pitches to get through the 3 IP from his last start. As a matter of fact, it looks like almost all of his starts have been this way recently. Lets take a look at the pitch counts from his last three starts: 4 IP – 77 pitches, 4 IP – 81 pitches, 3.2 IP – 76 pitches. There is a little bit of good news however, while his ERA is 5.30, his FIP is 3.84, he has a pretty high BABIP at .393 and he is actually yet to give up a longball which is encouraging. As of now, the recent performances are enough to drop Giolito down the list a little bit and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out to see if there are signs of him potentially turning this around
8. Lucas Sims (Atlanta Braves) – Let’s start with the good news: Lucas Sims, as of my writing this article, leads all of the minor leagues in Ks with 42. What’s most impressive? There wasn’t one particular start in which a majority of these Ks came from; they’ve actually been pretty spread out. Here are his Ks and IP for his past couple starts: 9Ks in 5IP, 7Ks in 4IP, 10 Ks in 5.2 IP, 5 Ks in 5 IP, 11 Ks in 4 IP, 4Ks in 4 IP. Can you spot the game where Lucas made the jump from AA to AAA? You guessed it: 5Ks – 5 IP. Which makes it all the more impressive that Sims was able to then come right back with an 11 K performance five days later! Now onto the bad news: his most recent start wasn’t great. 4 IP, 6 ER, 8 H, 0 BBs, 4 Ks. I don’t think this is as bad as it looks however. First of all, the game came against the same opponent that he played five days prior. Also, while the earned runs are a bit disappointing, the fact that he didn’t walk a single batter is encouraging, almost encouraging as the 11.25 K/9 he’s racked up thanks to his plus Fastball and Curveball. I’m eager to see how Sims’ transition to AAA goes but the fact that the Ks are there, I think, makes Sims a very worthy stash candidate.
9. Alex Reyes (St. Louis Cardinals) – Reyes is still serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana and as a result is yet to pitch a game in 2016. Usually, I don’t like to put guys on this list until they at least have a game under their belt (Jose De Leon is a perfect example). After all, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Reyes had fantastic stuff but so does Giolito and look what’s happening to him to start the year. Point is, despite Giolito’s rough start, the stuff is still there so my logic is, even if Reyes gets off to a bit of a rocky start, the stuff is still there. It has to be for a guy who the Cardinals say is “absolutely one of the top two pitching prospects who has come through the Cardinals system”. Let’s be clear here too, the Cardinals aren’t talking about now, they’re talking about EVER. This is for good reason too as Reyes has a 12-6 Curveball that is absurd, and a Fastball that – while sometimes lacking in command – can hit the upper 90’s pretty frequently. Here’s what I suggest: go stash Reyes before the end of the month because it’s a win-win. If he picks up where he left off last year – 151 Ks in 101 IP – he’ll make an impact by the end of the year and if he starts out slow, he has the stuff to be able to figure it out.
10. Dillon Tate (Texas Rangers) – Let me be completely forthcoming with you guys: this is a deep stash. If you’re in a 10 or even a 12-team league, I don’t see any reason whatsoever that you would need to stash this guy. However, if you’re in a dynasty league or maybe like a 15 teamer that’s really deep and for some reason this guy is available, I think you should absolutely pick him up. To start off the year, Dillon Tate was just phenomenal. He was phenomenal in Single-A Ball (remember deep stash here) but still phenomenal. Here is the line from his first two starts: 10.2 IP, 0 ER, 9 H, 1 BBs, 16 Ks. Unfortunately, Dillon suffered a minor hamstring strain that put him on the 15 DL right after those starts but he returned Thursday night, albeit in a reliever role: 2 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 0 BBs, 1 Ks. While this isn’t as encouraging as his first two starts, I’m more than willing to give him a little leeway on his first start back from the DL. And when you have a Slider and a Fastball that’s as filthy as Tate’s, it’s not hard to earn that leeway. While some may see this killer two-pitch combo and think “Killer Closer”, I wouldn’t be so quick to write him out of the rotation quite yet. I’ll be monitoring his post-DL starts but in the meanwhile, I think Tate is worth a stash.