Welcome to the seventh edition of The Stash List for pitchers! We’ve seen so many pitchers get called up to the majors this season, and the number of quality options in AAA has decreased as a result. A few guys have bounced up and down, like Taj Bradley, Gavin Stone, and Drey Jameson. But these players have all been stashed and analyzed thoroughly. We’re starting to get to the point now where the young, high-upside arms in AA are more enticing to discuss.
The jump from AA to AAA used to be much more unheralded, but after Chase Silseth last year and Bryce Miller and Eury Pérez this year, we’re seeing that skipping a step is certainly possible if the situation dictates it. This list still primarily consists of AAA pitchers, but the guys down in AA are making lots of noise and forcing the issue.
- The Stash List is for your redraft leagues and does not consider impact beyond 2023
- Only current minor league players who are expected to make an impact this season are included
- Players who have already made their MLB debuts can not have thrown more than 50 IP in MLB
- Upside, proximity, health, and opportunity are all weighed for each player
- The focus is on 12-team leagues with standard categories
- Rankings and ownership percentages will be updated weekly
This section of the column highlights the pitchers that were on the previous week’s list but have since made their MLB debuts and are no longer considered stashes because they’re still on their team’s active roster.
Luis Ortiz, PIT (Prev. 2)
Luis Ortiz debuted for the Guardians on Tuesday at home against the Rockies. He threw 5 innings, gave up 2 runs, allowed 7 hits and 1 walk, and recorded only 1 strikeout. He wasn’t able to miss very many bats and he gave up a ton of hard contact. The good news is that the velocity and shapes of his pitches looked as good as advertised and he was able to generate a 44% oSwing% overall. Although right now there’s more yellow lights than green ones. He’s a hold for me and is on my bench if possible until another good matchup comes along or we see better results.
Top 10 Pitcher Prospects to Stash
1. Gavin Williams, CLE – ETA May (4)
In his start at AAA this week, Williams struck out 10 batters, walked 2, and gave up 1 run. He generated an insane 22 whiffs on 91 pitches, which is good for a 24.2% SwStr% (the MLB average for starting pitchers is 11.4%). 17 of those whiffs came on his fastball which averaged 98 mph. The only weakness he’s shown this year is a high walk rate, but the Guardians still gave Tanner Bibee a shot when he had an even higher one this season.
If Williams makes a quick jump into the Guardians rotation it will likely be in place of Peyton Battenfield, who currently sports a 4.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 11.3% K-BB% in his 5 starts. Coincidentally I’m sure, Battenfield and Williams started on the same day this week so their rotation schedules line up perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised if they swap places as early as next week, especially since Battenfield still has 3 minor league options.
2. Matthew Liberatore, STL – ETA May (1)
Matthew Liberatore hit a small bump in the road in his last few starts, but at this point, he can’t be held back because of his performance. Maybe he just strikes out too many batters, or maybe he had too friendly of a conversation with the enemy Willson Contreras in Spring Training. Regardless, Libby is still one of the best pitchers in AAA right now and the Cardinals have the 24th-best rotation in baseball by both ERA and K%.
3. Andrew Abbott, CIN – ETA June (5)
Andrew Abbott (who I recently learned is the son of former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott – the one-handed pitcher who threw a no-hitter) has adjusted to AAA competition as well as we could have expected. After posting a 58.9% K-BB% in AA, he’s now posting a slightly more human K-BB% of 29%. The Reds are currently running with a four-man rotation, but it isn’t clear if Abbott lines up to join the open spot, or if he’s ready yet.
Abbott still carries a pretty high walk rate in AAA. While there was some adjustment to be expected after he pitched with the tacky ball in AA, he hasn’t quite settled into his command yet. The Reds went with a bullpen game on Thursday and the next open start would be next Tuesday… in Denver.
I find it unlikely that the team will call up one of their young AAA SPs to take a beating in Coors, and Abbott wouldn’t be ready to pitch until the weekend series anyway. I think the earliest they could bring up Abbot is the home series against St. Louis, but he would need to make some serious command gains in his next two starts to be considered. I think the safe assumption is that we’ll have to wait until June to see him.
4. Ben Brown, CHC – ETA June (7)
It’s very difficult to differentiate between Ben Brown and Abbot as it currently stands. Both have similar performance arcs this season, and Brown’s results have been even better than Abbott’s. The Cubs, however, have a much more solid rotation than the Reds do, especially since they’re getting Kyle Hendricks back from the IL soon. Brown is probably the SP 7 for the Cubs and even though he was recently added to the 40-man roster, a lot would have to go right for him (and wrong for the Cubs) for him to get promoted to the MLB rotation this month.
5. Bobby Miller, LAD – ETA May (3)
Bobby Miller hasn’t been able to establish his footing in AAA in his first three starts after beginning the season late due to injury. Even though he features a fastball that averages 99 mph, he hasn’t been able to generate many whiffs or chases and his command has been spotty at best.
He did make it to AAA last season for 4 starts and his results then were significantly better than what we’ve seen, so there’s some hope for a rebound. The MLB rotation’s weakest link is Noah Syndergaard, but he doesn’t have any Minor League options and the club won’t force the issue for a pitcher who hasn’t shown them anything promising recently. However, Miller’s stuff can be unlocked any day, and if he finds it, the rise can be rapid.
6. DL Hall, BAL – ETA May (6)
DL Hall may not be as flashy as the prospects who have leapfrogged him on this list, but he’s the one who has major league experience under his belt. He logged a fantastic start this week against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, and right now the only thing keeping him from being in the top 2 or 3 on this list is his relief risk.
7. Quinn Priester, PIT – ETA May (8)
Quinn Priester continues to post middling results with a pedestrian K-BB%. The bright spot is that xFIP does like him a lot better, but he still lacks the upside that some other guys around him have, both on this list and in his organization. The most appealing part about him is his proximity to meaningful MLB innings.
8. Bryan Woo, SEA – ETA July (NR)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before- the Mariners have an exciting young pitcher at AA with a fantastic fastball who could make the jump right to the Majors. Bryan Woo has a decent chance to be the next pitcher to follow this story arc, following Bryce Miller.
Woo has an extremely smooth and repeatable delivery with a low arm angle that helps him create a significant amount of carry on his fastball. It sits at 94-95 and avoids the middle of the zone with solid command. He also features a slider and changeup, but he’s primarily a fastball/slider pitcher. The slider is shaped very similarly to the gyro slider that Bryce Miller also throws- it breaks tightly with very little horizontal movement. I think they might be onto something in Arkansas.
9. Royber Salinas, OAK – ETA July (10)
Royber Salinas has made a massive improvement to his walk rate so far this year. Going into this season, he carried a career 13.9% walk rate, while never putting up a mark better than 12.9% at a single stop in the minors. This season, he’s only walked 8.4% of the batters he’s faced.
I was able to watch his most recent start against the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the AA affiliate of the DBacks, where he gave up 5 runs in 5 innings and struck out 5 while walking 1. He gave up a first-pitch HR in the first inning and then four more runs in the second but settled into a groove after that. He started incorporating his curveball more often as the game went on and was able to throw it for strikes often enough to flip counts to his advantage. The fastball sat 96 the whole game, touching 98. He also features a high-velocity gyro slider much like Woo and Miller – it sits in the mid-to-upper 80s.
The Athletics have had by far the worst rotation in baseball this season. Their 7.78 ERA is more than 1.50 runs higher than the next worst team, the Reds. If Salinas can maintain the improvements he’s made this season in his command, there is really nothing blocking him from reaching the majors this summer.
10. Cade Povich, BAL – ETA August (NR)
Cade Povich was traded to the Orioles along with relief phenom Yennier Cano at the deadline last season for Jorge López. Povich pitched very well for both the Orioles and Twins at High-A last season but struggled mightily after he was promoted to AA for his final five starts. This season, the former third-round pick has had the chance to take another crack at AA competition and has made the most out of it.
His 30.9% K-BB% ranks second in the Eastern League and fifth in all of AA. His 1.70 xFIP is by far the best number in AA, and the next-best pitcher is Mike Vasil with a 2.50 xFIP. His fastball sits in the mid-90s from the left side and he also features a cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup. His delivery is a bit deceptive as he hides the ball well, and his arm slot is maybe a bit higher than the 3/4 range. This allows him to drop the hammer with a huge curveball, but likely limits the sweep on his slider. He’s confident with both breaking pitches and can fill up the zone with them if he needs to.
His command was a big problem in AA last year, but he’s getting back under a 10% walk rate now and he’s improved it continually as the season has progressed. Povich ranks below Woo and Salinas on this list because he’s likely the furthest away from the Majors, but he’s perhaps the most exciting.
This section of The Stash List is aimed towards those of you who play in deep leagues (15+ teams or 375+ players rostered) where some of the guys on the list above might already be taken because of their higher pedigree. These players’ debuts will likely be a bit further out than the players listed above, but the purpose is to be ready to pounce on them as soon as it becomes clear that an opportunity might open up.
This week there are two pretty clear categories: the AAA pitchers who are close to being promoted but lack upside or command, and the AA pitchers who are lighting up the level but are a bit too far away to be stashed immediately.
The players are listed in alphabetical order, and I don’t have the time to do write-ups for these guys, so I’d highly suggest checking out their Fangraphs pages and/or watching one of their starts. Also, shout out to @SpokaneWaUpdate on Twitter for inspiring this section of the article!
Fun fact: Now that Eury Pérez has been called up to the majors, Cristian Mena is the youngest pitcher in all of AA. He also happens to lead all of AA-qualified pitchers in K-BB%.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Jim Abbott (former mlb pitcher) is not Andrew Abbott’s father. Can’t believe everything you read on the web. Haha.