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Top 100 Prospect Pitcher Rankings 2022: #20-#1

Steered by a new approach, these are our fantasy gems.

Click here for the introduction/rules to PPL&R and pitchers #108 – #91.

Click here for pitchers #90 – #67.

Click here for pitchers #66 – #44.

Click here for pitchers #43 – #21.

 

I too am surprised at how some of this all shook out. New rules, new outcomes, remember our rule #4. Minus the arms here with health and non-performance-related concerns, these are the gems I’m clinging tightest to heading into the season.

 

#20 RHP – Sixto Sanchez – Marlins – MLB 2020 – 6′ – 22
Execution: Going back and reviewing Sanchez’s 2020 MLB run, the pitch execution could have been much better. He threw strikes at a nice 67% clip, but that may speak to the quality of stuff over command. The attack is mostly about power and using a changeup to keep hitters off-balance.
Development: Sanchez missed all of 2021 with a shoulder problem. Reports have come out questioning Sanchez’s work ethic and/or willingness to work with the Marlins, along with some video of our guy not looking so fit. The situation is precarious for an arm once considered by some the top pitching prospect in the land. The shoulder doesn’t look ready to throw a baseball as of January.
Stuff: There is loads of power stuff; 98 mph four-seamer, a 97 mph sinker, and a cutter, which set up a good changeup. Sanchez occasionally mixes in a slider that flashes promise as well. There’s plenty of strikeout ability in the arsenal, but we may have already glimpsed the league getting accustomed to him, as strikeouts didn’t come as easily after the first three starts. The quality of stuff makes up for some lack of pitch-making and the arsenal may not be super diverse.
Fantasy Thoughts: As fantasy prognosticators, it’s hard enough trying to evaluate talent and how it translates, throw in off-the-field stuff/mental makeup, and it’s impossible. If these reports hold weight, I can’t help but question Sanchez’s ability to stick as a starter. Starting requires work put in and a different physical approach. Pair this with the injury…if the power stuff isn’t all the way back, Sanchez’s whole deal doesn’t work. Sell, hold, cross him off your list, I don’t know. Per rule #5, seems we shouldn’t write a guy off until we’ve seen him back?
2015 International Signee – Dominican Republic – 35K       40 man

 

#19 RHP – Joey Estes – Braves – Low A Augusta – 6’2″ – 20 yo
Execution: Estes had stretches of steller execution with all of his individual offerings. They could also get a little loose on him, but he’s inventing himself start in, start out. In the end, in these regards, Estes was insanely good for a 19-year-old. Strikes came in at a 68% clip. Estes was liable to show up with a new way to attack lineups any day.
Development: This is where Estes’ 2021 separates himself from the pack…the whole pack, as there is no one viewed here who forced himself to make the gains Estes did, whether it be challenging himself to throw his lesser pitches in uncomfortable spots, flip the script attack wise, from start to start or times through the order. Estes’ first ten or so starts of the season, watched in succession, was not your typical young arm teaching himself how to pitch. Estes pitches fearlessly and with a purpose to improve. It just so happened the results were on par with the best of the minor leagues.
Stuff: The biggest weapons are intestinal fortitude, mound presence, and confidence. He also has two fastballs capable of mid-90s with movement. The slider, curveball, and changeup may be inconsistent but all proved to have swing and miss ability, and as the season progressed you felt screws tighten. Is the stuff gonna be legit MLB strikeout worthy? That’s the biggest fantasy question, but I lean yes from my vantage point, especially if execution stabilizes at the high level it flashes.
Fantasy Thoughts: Estes arguably had the best season of any young pitcher. I’m holding bullish shares all over the place. Don’t fall for the reliever body-type tomfoolery; he’s not a bullpen prospect. Estes is forming himself into a skilled, cerebral pitcher, learning how to get hitters out in all sorts of ways and on days with all sorts of caliber “stuff”. I rarely hitch a wagon to this young of a pitcher, but all the marbles are on the table, much like he pitches.
2019 Draft – CA Prep – 500K


(11 pitch three K inning vs. Freddy Zamora, Alex Binelas, Wes Clarke on 8/20)

 

#18 RHP – Caleb Kilian – Cubs – Double A Tennessee – 6’4″ – 24
Execution: Kilian’s strike-throwing was elite, just under 70% on the season. The attack moves up, down, in, out, fast, slow…the kind of pitcher you can look up in the fifth inning to see zeros, not really knowing how you got there. The attack isn’t all smoke and mirrors though, there’s power to it as well.
Development: Part of the Kris Bryant return, Kilian may be knocking on the bigs’ door soon. As the season progressed, it got harder to poke at the flaws (no small feat), and easier to appreciate the subtleties of his game while offerings took on more shine. Kilian isn’t an all-command guy controlling at-bats…there’s nasty in there too, and the outlook seems more than a guy looking to just log token MLB innings. Kilian was shut down after a handful of starts in the Cubs’ organization but turned heads dominating the AFL championship game where he may have answered questions about his stuff.
Stuff: Kilian’s multiple fastballs sit mid-90s but he can get more on the four-seam when he wants. The different fastballs froze unsuspecting hitters. Kilian offers up a slow deceptive curveball whose shape can get inconsistent but improved as the season progressed. The changeup can keep hitters off-balanced and produce swing and miss as well. Kilian may not have the one huge cheat code, but the arsenal as a whole paired with the know-how sure feels like cheating.
Fantasy Thoughts: Kilian is a sneaky read for hitters and dynasty owners. Under the blackout of the High A West and a west coast bias in general, Kilian may have slipped through the cracks. I too, having seen him plenty in the past, didn’t realize how good he was until after the trade and archive reviews with Tennessee. The trajectory he’s on is impressive and the lack of name-appeal offers up a great buying opportunity, or perhaps even a free addition. Kilian just feels like a solid bet with enough skill to pick and choose his winning MLB combination. Kilian’s chance with the Cubs may be coming soon.
2019 Draft – Texas Tech – 398K


(K vs. Taylor Snyder on 6/22)

 

#17 RHP – Edward Cabrera – Marlins – MLB – 6’5″ – 23
Execution: Throughout Cabrera’s minor league career and over his seven major league starts, strikes consistently came around a 62% clip. Allowing a few walks to fill the bases and then getting out of it via strikeout isn’t a rare occurrence. The stuff is flashy and as the Marlins do, he’s getting a chance to fine-tune things in the bigs. With an evenly mixed four-pitch attack, all of which are or can be above major league average, Cabrera has ample options to attack hitters.
Development: Wondering if this was a bunch of stuff powering through the minors in a sloppy fashion, you catch a lot of at-bats like the one plotted below. The command may not be a huge issue. Does Cabrera’s inefficiencies have more to do with a lack of willingness/confidence to pitch in the zone more? If so, and the young man understands his stuff can play well in the zone, this tale of inefficiency could change quickly. Or perhaps it’s an overthink and it is more of a command issue?
Stuff: Cabrera’s four-seam fastball can hit triple digits but is probably better when thrown at a more controlled 95. The curveball, slider, and changeup may all be vying for the title of best secondary. All three have flashed nasty and inconsistencies.
Fantasy Thoughts: Another tale of feral electric stuff lacking refinement or is the polish coming? I’m staying away in redraft for now with health a part of that, but want to ride this dynasty train, thinking it’s more of an experience thing needed than a complete harnessing of offerings. This feels a little like the old ways too, so I’m nervous.
2015 International Signee – Dominican Republic – 100K       40 man

 

#16 LHP – Logan Allen – Guardians – Double A Akron – 6′ – 23
Execution: Allan displayed some of the best pitch execution of anyone viewed. Changing speeds, mixing location, deception and intestinal fortitude is his game. All three offerings seemingly come out of the same low slot. The 64% strike rate doesn’t tell the command story well as Allen stays on the fringes of the plate…maybe even too much.
Development: One can always get better, but Allen improving command could put him in a different stratosphere. Allan’s velocity has already ticked up as a pro, but the further sharpening of his secondaries offers the real room to grow. The breaking ball made strides as a putout pitch. Despite being undersized, Allan and the Guardians have added some spice to an already capable arm.
Stuff: Allan’s fastball sits about 92 mph, with a great changeup coming in over 10 mph difference. Allan’s also able to get swing and miss from the breaking ball.
Fantasy Thoughts: Questioning strikeout upside is fine, but Allen fits the mold of the crafter improving stuff we may have undervalued for too long. Chips are in.
2020 Draft – Florida International – 1.1M



(AB 1 & 2 vs. Spencer Torkelson on 7/30)

 

#15 RHP – Eury Perez – Marlins – High A Beloit – 6’8″ – 20
Execution: Over twenty starts, Perez allowed more than one earned run, four times. Perez was also only broadcast at a park with a decent camera angle twice, and of course, his wildness in the zone led to four home runs these days. But given the backdoor Savant information pertaining to the other 16 starts, it’s hard to not think these outings were more exception than rule. You don’t run across kids his age and body type with this kind of strike-throwing ability (65%) paired with nasty often…like ever.
Development: The development of a third offering, like most young pitchers, may be critical for Perez, but there just weren’t enough looks to get a good sense of where he was specifically, or where he may be headed or needs to go.
Stuff: I saw a mid-90s fastball getting on hitters faster than most mid-90s fastballs, perhaps Perez’ size and extension play into that. There is a slower, slurvy but diving breaking ball he spots well, and a changeup with good velocity differential. (bottom gif)
Fantasy Thoughts: It’s easy to see why so many are excited, but Perez is still mysterious to me. I’m guilty of bending some rules here, but perusing the Savant stuff and putting it to what I saw, I can’t help myself. This very much feels like cheating on a diet but just let me have this one candy bar, at least until we get more looks.
2019 International Signee – Dominican Republic – 200K



(9/4)

 

#14 LHP – Matt Liberatore – Cardinals – Triple A Memphis – 6’4″ – 22
Execution: As the season progressed, Liberatore started showing a knack for getting on hitters’ hands, which was much better than the knack he had for leaving hittable pitches over the plate early in the season. The command took a step. Liberatore stayed stubborn, sticking to his plans while taking his fair share of licks. 65% strike rate.
Development: 125 triple-A innings for a 21-year-old was an aggressive assignment. Word on the street was Liberatore made great strides down the stretch. There was an improvement, but still plenty of the same issues from early in the season. Hitters weren’t taking advantage of mistakes at the clip they were earlier. We also saw him as the bulk inning guy after openers during this stretch. Liberatore was more comfortable near the end; trying to disrupt some timing and seemingly more aggressive against righties. In a backward way, getting beat up may have been the best thing he did this year, as he seemed to learn lessons.
Stuff: Liberatore was a tough read, as none of the broadcasts offered a decent look at lefties, but you did see a sharp 12-6 curveball freeze hitters when it came out, along with a slider, changeup, and low to mid 90s fastball mixed well. There’s prudence to the way he was going about his business.
Fantasy Thoughts: It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t take some lumps along the way. The Cardinals have felt like the tough love parent with their young arms of late, letting the kids figure it out. Long term, I’m very much digging the pitcher he’s working to grow into; able to pitch any part of the zone against either side hitter, resilient, and controlling the hitter…well, at least trying to.
2018 Draft – AZ Prep – 3.5M


(K vs. Kevin Padlo on 8/3)


(K vs. Lorenzo Quintana on 9/25)
#13 RHP – Joe Ryan – Twins – MLB – 6’2″ – 25
Execution: Pitch execution is the name of Ryan’s game and it felt better in the bigs than minors, which is encouraging. Ryan uses an easy deceptive motion to help his subtle stuff play up. It’s imperative for everyone, but especially Ryan, to stay off the middle of the plate, and he does a good job of it. The attack against righties is primarily fastball/slider, and fastball/curveball/changeup to lefties.
Development: 2021 was a monster year for Ryan, finding success at triple-A, winning an Olympic silver medal, and getting traded to an organization with seemingly more big-league opportunities. Ryan had a successful first taste of the majors where the deception and command parlayed into allowing only six runs his first four starts.
Stuff: Ryan’s stuff might not jump out at you, but he hides the ball well through his easy delivery, spotting an invisi-ball low-90s fastball well. Other than Tommy Romero, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pitcher with a low-90s fastball peppering hitters with it more than Ryan. The slider garnered more than its fair share of uncompetitive swing and miss against righties. The curveball is his best secondary offering to lefties, while there is a changeup that is probably below major league average. If Ryan is to find more 2022 success there may be the need for a secondary to take a step forward.
Fantasy Thoughts: On one hand, he may have what it takes for prolonged success, a la command, yet on the other, he may be walking a fine line, suspectable of being hurt by the long ball. I’m not interested in Ryan in redrafts this year, but I’m feeling the long play. I caution you to interpret this spot to your format, with Ryan being more valuable the larger your league is. My bet is prolonged solid production of good major-league innings, capable of enough strikeouts to fill your fantasy needs.
2018 Draft – Cal State Stanislaus – 148K       40 man

 

#12 RHP – Roansy Contreras – Pirates – MLB – 6′ – 22 yo
Execution: Contreras threw 66% of his minor league pitches for strikes, exuding a combination of good stuff and mostly good command. There was only one outing (while healthy) the strike zone got away. The pitch mix was healthy, not relying on one offering too heavily. The three-inning major league Statcast sample isn’t a great descriptor of the attack in the minors when secondaries played more of a role. Pre-injury, the curveball looked nastiest from our vantage point to both righties and lefties, seemingly the preferred put-away pitch, but it took a backseat to the slider after his September return.
Development: Contreras was shut down at the end of June with elbow soreness, returning in September and making a couple of quick promotions culminating in a major league start to end the season. Hopes are the health and curveball use isn’t a related thing, as the pre-injury Contreras may have held more strikeout upside. With a total package looking pretty decent with exciting elements to point to, some tightening of the screws in 2022 could really elevate potential.
Stuff: The four-seam fastball sits 96ish and is probably an average major league offering at this point, but there could be a bit more in the tank. The MIA curveball looked like the strikeout pitch capable of taking Contreras to a different level, so we’ll have to monitor that. The slider might have a chance to be an above-average major league offering, but its life felt a bit inconsistent throughout the season. There were outings the changeup looked real tough on hitters, and others not so much. There’s a healthy collection of possibilities in the arsenal.
Fantasy Thoughts: I bought and sold some shares already, but Contreras provides an arm with ample fantasy opportunity. A tad better execution, a tweak adding a smidge more juice to an offering or two, and 2022 could be a loud entrance into the league.
2016 International Signee – Dominican Republic – 250K       40 man


(First MLB K vs. Ian Happ on 9/29)

 

#11 RHP – Josh Winder – Twins – Triple A St. Paul – 6’5″ – 25
Execution: Winder’s primarily three-pitch attack was efficient; 68% strikes. During the triple-A stretch, all but one of the walks came on questionable calls. The secondaries were especially well commanded, with the fastball showing a propensity to occasionally catch too much plate. Winder mixes his offerings and locations well without really leaning on any pitch more than others. Winder’s demeanor wreaks of control with a mechanical-like presence and delivery…the kind of guy who makes his bed in a military-like fashion every day and cleans obsessively days of starts. (So they say.) When things are really clicking, like his triple-A debut, Winder can put together some of the prettiest outings in the minors.
Development: Winder was shut down at the end of July due to shoulder soreness, leaving the desire to see more innings logged. Lauded for having four above-average offerings, the real juice feels like it’s in the secondaries. The fastball was the culprit of all but four of the triple-A hits. Bobby Witt Jr. (x2), a red-hot Kyle Isbel, and Owen Miller were the only hitters able to beat the secondaries. Winder’s selection to the Future’s Game, care with injury, and recent addition to the 40-man roster exudes the kind of prospect the Twins feel they have.
Stuff: Winder mixes up a four-seam mid-90s fastball that can tick up late in outings but might lack plus movement. The changeup doesn’t have a huge velocity differential, but the diving action, although inconsistent, can get highlight reel looking. If any of the offerings turn into a real killer, the changeup might be it. The mid-80s slider shows chase promise with sharp downward action. There is a slower knuckle-curve tossed in from time to time that has bite, and I’ve wondered about a few tries at a two-seam fastball.
Fantasy Thoughts: The injury is something to think about, but it isn’t stopping me. With the robotic execution, there’s plenty to feel safe about too. With debut nearing, I’d feel good about his early introduction. We aren’t going to undervalue a player with this kind of execution paired with strikeout stuff, especially one this close to the bigs. Winder’s profile is pretty much what I’m after.
2018 Draft – VMI – 199K       40 man


(Triple-A debut Fastball/Curveball/Changeup/Changeup K vs. Anderson Miller on 7/3)

 

#10 RHP – Cole Winn – Rangers – Triple A Round Rock – 6’2″ – 22
Execution: After a month or so of settling in, Winn executed pitches with the best of them reviewed here. Good but maybe not great stuff was mixed, spotted up, down, inside, and outside keeping me and hitters off balance. Winn does a great job of staying off the middle part of the plate. Everything about Winn’s presence and attack is controlled. A 65% strike rate for the season, with execution even better by the season’s end.
Development: The Rangers only ran Winn out for 86 innings this season, often shortening starts to an inning or two. Winn logged a couple of triple-A starts during the extended schedule period, performing well start #2. As far as I know, the abbreviated starts weren’t injury-related. Thus, building up to a starter’s load will be a test still. Experience facing batters multiple times can get lost in such maintenance-driven outings, but Winn wasn’t going out there pitching the same way every outing. There are some important but more ancillary aspects of his game to develop to get major league ready, like holding runners and defensive aptitude. For most pitchers, I’d knock what felt like a lack of change over the course of the year, but for Winn, it’s the opposite. The robotic consistency paired with his style produced more confidence.
Stuff: Winn’s fastball can reach high-90s, while his curveball is his best pitch.  There is also a slider and changeup, maybe not much to write home about now, but they’ll show nasty at times. There may be some cheat code in the hands of a crafter here.
Fantasy Asset Evaluation: Winn may not hold the flashy appeal we seek in fantasy as the strikeout rate may not get gaudy against major leaguers, but high-quality innings have a place, and he’s not done developing. If taking a foundation to grow on suits your taste, you probably can’t do much better than Winn. I tend to think he’s a more valuable dynasty chip than some, so a potential return piece in a trade. If more innings get logged, Winn’s fantasy value ascends as the pretty box scores start piling up. Another profile fitting our mold well.
2018 Draft – CA Prep – 3.15M


(K, peppering down and away vs Osvaldo Abreu 7/23)

 

#9 LHP – Aaron Ashby – Brewers – MLB – 6’2″ – 23
Execution: The thorn in Ashby’s side has been poor fastball location, but strides have been made with work still to go. The stuff works best down in the zone and that is where the attack likes to live. Starts were logged whereupon the strike percentage ranged from 43% to 80%. Outings varied from the killer stuff dominating hitters, to not wanting to watch. How much you value Ashby is dependent on how much you trust the newfound gains.
Development: Ashby’s 2021 is a great example of how better pitch execution can significantly bolster a pitcher’s stock in a short amount of time. The fastball isn’t the headliner but it’s the key and improved over the course of 2021. After a rough first taste of the majors in June, he came back in August with dominant stretches of success mixed with some more hard lessons. Ashby’s role has been both a starter and reliever, which may end up the case in 2022 for Milwaukee. There are plus major league tools to work with and polish, and the plan the Brewers use may look similar to how they’ve handled the majority of their great starting staff when they broke in; bullpen work required.
Stuff: The fastball sits mid-90s but has shown the propensity to tick up. It averaged 97 mph during his mostly relief major league stint. The slider is the headliner and where a lot of the strikeout upside lives, while the hard changeup is no slouch either, capable of sharp movement inducing swing and miss. There’s also a curveball hanging around.
Fantasy Thoughts: There is tantalizing strikeout appeal, mixed with immediate fantasy production, complicated by questions of role, and a loaded rotation to try and fit in. Is there a six-man rotation including Ashby coming? Considering the Brewer’s M.O. with similar arms in the past, Ashby could go the route of Freddy Peralta, spending a few seasons in fantasy no man’s land before becoming a fantastic prize. There’s a real subjective, based on format consideration here, along with a real good chance Ashby becomes a much cheaper asset when owners can’t afford to hold a middle reliever on their roster. The placement here is more a consideration of long-term outlook based on buying in on the Brewers doing what they do producing fantasy aces, so plan accordingly given your league. There’s a warning label here, but I’m betting on the Ashby that showed down the stretch tightening things up more and improving an already nasty set of tools.
2018 Draft – Crowder JC – 520K       40 man





( Four Ks in a row on 9/3)


(Look at a less often K up in the zone vs. Byron Buxton on 8/29)

 

#8 RHP – Jordan Balazovic – Twins – Double A Wichita – 6’5″ – 23
Execution: Balazovic’s pitch-making has stretches of being in a tier of his own. You’ll catch some starts “it gets away from him”, but mind you, there was a new pitch being worked on, and it was often the culprit. Balazovic is still human, but he spotted four pitches extremely well with the ability to put the fastball where he wanted as well as anyone viewed.
Development: Balazovic worked on adding a splitter this season. It sits around 91/92 with some nice arm side run, but it’s still developing. Continuing to build the workload might be the highest priority in 2022.
Stuff: Balazovic has a four-seam mid-90s fastball he has great command of and plays a harder, sharp breaking 12-6 curve off of it well. That one-two combination is something I’m after. Balazovic’s changeup is capable of bringing the attack to another level with good velocity differential and fade. Balazovic’s mound presence has that Lance Lynn fire to it.
Fantasy Thoughts: The big-bodied Canadian isn’t quietly ascending into the elite pitching prospect tier for me.  He’s there. With great stuff, an expanding repertoire, and consistent plus execution of pitching, it’s go time.
2016 Draft – Canada Prep – 515K       40 man


(Swinging third strikes vs Alek Thomas (curveball) and Jose Curpa (fastball) 6/30/21)

(9/15)

 

#7 RHP – Max Meyer – Marlins – Triple A Jacksonville – 6′ – 23
Execution: Not that it isn’t justified, but Meyer employs a heavy here’s-my-best-pitch-can-you-hit-it attack. And typically they can’t hit the breaking ball, even when he misses with it. The fastball isn’t placed the greatest at times and when he does give up hard contact it’s usually the victim. Meyer’s changeup, tossed in, has gotten some ugly swings. Coming into the season, curious if Meyer would pocket the slider more and work on attacking with the lesser offerings, it didn’t seem to be the case. Meyer threw strikes at a 64% clip.
Development: There didn’t seem to be a huge onus on answering the question; what happens if they do start hitting your best pitch? Meyer could jump into the bigs now and probably find success, but there are screws to tighten, particularly the fastball command. Whether the screwdriver comes out during more triple-A development or when he needs to at the big league level is YTD. The Marlins have done a fantastic job identifying talent, and they tend to let the challenge hit their young arms in the bigs.
Stuff: The headliner is a hard downward, late-breaking slider he throws a lot and it is filthy. It might be the biggest cheat code on the list. Meyer’s fastball is plenty hard enough but the movement waivers. The changeup has shown to be a real challenge for hitters, but I’m not sure it’s because of the quality or the juxtaposition to his other offerings, nor if it matters.
Fantasy Thoughts: Not that I condone doing this with any pitching prospect, but it could be tempting to dream of Meyer hitting the bigs producing for your team at a high clip out the gates. The attack lacks the sophistication we are seeking, yet, he is where he is on this list because I like his chances of riding the slider through MLB lessons. It’s not really the profile I want to invest heavily in anymore, but some cheat codes can’t be ignored. I wouldn’t rule out Meyer becoming a back-end ace either at some point, but that doesn’t change my opinion of where he sits here.
2020 Draft – Minnesota – 6.7M


(9/24)

 

#6 RHP – Cody Morris – Guardians – Triple A Columbus – 6’5″ – 25
Execution: Morris could stand more polish, but a 64% strike rate, given his four-pitch mix seeking chase, is nothing to shake a stick at. Morris can mix up the attack with the best of them, sometimes lulling you (and hitters) to sleep on a fastball with more punch than advertised.
Development: With some injury history stuff in play, Morris never worked past 75 pitches in an outing, so proving he can handle a starter’s load is still there. Horsepower and getting more efficient pitch-wise might be the only thing holding back a big-time fantasy pitcher.
Stuff: Morris’ vulcan change is one of the best pitches on this list. The slow traditional curveball gets whiffs, the low 90s “slutter” gets whiffs, and the fastball sits about 96 when he decides to throw it in. Morris’ fastball might be a bit flat, but when it’s more of a mixed-in pitch, it devastated. Stuff isn’t a concern and it’s surprising folks who love stuff aren’t throwing Morris more value. The fastball/changeup combo is as effective a two-pitch game as anyone reviewed.
Fantasy Thoughts: I have to put a premium on this level of strikeout fuel paired with acumen, knocking on the big league door. In a nutshell, I want to value him more than his current owner and/or the rest of my league. Sometimes you just have to take a big swing, and I feel great about it here. I have no interest in running to the store for flour when I have cake in front of me. Now it’s time to take a job in the rotation.
2018 Draft – S. Carolina – 186K       40 man


(Vulcan Change)


(vulcan change for 3rd strike vs. Kody Clemens on 9/14)


(K vs. Spencer Torkelson, vulcan change putaway pitch on 7/27)

(K vs. Rudy Martin, vulcan/vulcan/97 mph on 8/8)
#5 LHP – Nick Lodolo – Reds – Triple A Louisville – 6’6″ – 24
Execution: The execution and 66% strike rate while offering up a slew of pitches was impressive. The attack could vary from relying heavily on a pitch or two to getting quite mixed. Lodolo can look the part of a precise crafter but there are still screws to tighten with secondaries. The wide arm slot produces some bad angles for hitters.
Development: With only 50 innings in the 2021 archive, it’s hard to get a long story. There are plenty of tools to consider when thinking about MLB profile to come, and strikeout ability is not lacking. Reports of a new breaking ball and fastball are interesting. There are fair questions concerning what the final product will look like, with exciting possibilities. Lodolo had some injury stuff and innings were limited, but in an organization doing exciting things with pitching, the fantasy future looks bright. He’s not finished but polished enough to try his hand in the bigs very soon. With only 69 pro innings logged, Lodolo still needs to prove he can handle the load.
Stuff: Due to poor camera angles, lack of shots at catcher signs, and contradictory reports concerning arsenal, Lodolo is tricky to figure out, but I saw six offerings; a mid 90s fastball looking fairly straight, a mid 90s fastball with arm-side run, a late-breaking cutter or slider (never got the velocity of this pitch, but harder than other breaking balls), a changeup, a sweepy horizontal breaking ball, and a more traditional 12-6 curveball. Of all the secondaries, the sweepy breaking ball was thrown the most, but given the same sign being thrown out for pitches ending up shaped differently, there may be some struggle with consistency. From our angles, the 12-6 breaking ball looked trickier for hitters, but whether or not he can get to that feel enough remains a mystery. (You can see a few below)
Fantasy Thoughts: There might not be a prospect on this list with the same combination of good mystery and safety. Feeling good successful major league innings are coming, it’s hard to see exactly what they may look like. Plenty of tools and plenty of pitching acumen make Lodolo, albeit a bit peculiar, an arm I’m going all-in on.
2019 Draft – TCU – 5.43M

(K vs. Peyton Burdick on 7/17)

 

#4 RHP – Daniel Espino – Guardians – High A Lake County – 6’2″ – 21
Execution: Overall, he spots his pitches well, occasionally getting away from him for an inning here and there. At times the intent gets repetitive and predictable, but this is also when the strikeouts stack up, speaking to the quality of his stuff. Espino can be downright unhittable when he’s on, regularly flirting with immaculate innings at this level. Moving from low to high-A the strike percentage went from 61% to 67%.
Development: Being the athletic power guy he is (below an example of said athleticism) gathering a sense of his pitching acumen might slip by you. The stuff can overwhelm alone, but he can be absolutely lights out when the crafter in him comes out. He’s not all bully. Continued development of the secondary command, and continued adaptation of the Cleveland tricks of deception, and the dream gets nutso.
Stuff: A quintessential power pitcher, built like a linebacker, with a mid-90s fastball capable of triple digits. The fastball also shows late arm side run proving tough for righties in and away. Espino likes to start things off with an outside fastball that comes back over the plate. Espino also has two breaking balls, both playing well off the heater. The slider is basically untouchable at this level providing a fun scavenger hunt for archive divers. Has anyone seen good wood get put on the slider…other than Nick Yorke?  Not sure I have. You will also spot a changeup from time to time, specifically to lefties, which flashes nasty as well.
Fantasy Thoughts: The 16.58 K/9 number tells more truth than lies. MLB strikeout upside feels very real. Espino’s trajectory holding leads to the top spot on this list in the not too far future. I’ve got the vice grips on any shares right now trusting this is headed in the right direction.
2019 Draft – GA Prep – 2.5M

(vs. Victor Ruiz on 8/21)

 

#3 RHP – Grayson Rodriguez – Orioles – Double-A Bowie – 6’5″ – 22
Execution: The pinnacle-type repertoire can mask bad pitch execution. When Rodriguez seems “on” there are a lot of strikes…including bad strikes. When he’s “off” there’s still healthy amounts of strikes, and perhaps even more swing and miss with more egregious location misses. The improvements in way of command since 2019 are remarkable, as a 67% strike rate plays. The pitch mix is devastating for most hitters at his level. His four offerings are all capable of strikeouts and none of them seem head and shoulders above the others in way of command. Note: Bowie’s catchers framed him very well.
Development: Rodriguez isn’t a can’t miss prospect. The collection of stuff is truly special, yet there are better individual pitches on this list, let alone in MLB. Pitches vaguely located over the plate works fine at this level (below), but major league hitters are a different animal. As hitters got to see more of his spin, they may have been hunting it. Akron seemed to find success sitting on breaking balls both earlier in the season and during the playoff game Rodriguez was pegged for five earned runs in two-plus innings. (Hard to totally tell from the poor broadcast.) There are still screws to tighten, but the best pitching prospect, as far as upside, is a fair statement. Yet, some of the elements of past cautionary tales rear their head.
Stuff: This is where Rodriguez really separates himself. The four-seam fastball can hit triple digits with life.  The slider and curveball both overwhelm and induce chase. And then there is a changeup, which might be his best pitch and under-utilized…which makes me give Rodriguez props for incorporating the breaking balls more. Can a pitcher be blessed with four cheat codes?
Fantasy Thoughts: The fantasy upside is as great as anyone’s on this list. But here is where real-life value and fantasy value diverge for me. Do we need to value him as a real MLB club might? Untradeable for the Orioles, but everyone has a price in fantasy, and I tend to think there are those sold on Rodriguez as is, right now, when there is still baking required. Maybe too wild of thought for most? There’s still a leap of faith baked into this ranking, let alone the majority dead set he’s the best fantasy option.
2018 Draft – TX Prep – 4.3M

(Double-A debut 6/2; slider/changeup/fastball, three-pitch K.)

 

#2 LHP – Reid Detmers – Angels – MLB – 6’2″ – 22 yo
Execution: Detmers’ reputation as a polished strike-thrower in college showed during his quick minor league run, 68% strikes while making the minor leagues look silly. Perhaps even more impressive, Detmers threw strikes at such a high clip while essentially adding and incorporating two new pitches. Part of the reason we saw a more inefficient MLB version (64%) was more than his fair share of unfavorable calls early in counts (plot below). Detmers also didn’t induce chase at the same rate, which comes with the MLB territory. And of course, he just plain wasn’t as good in these regards as he has been. The new weapons, fastball velocity, and new breaking ball unlock doors, but in the end, the most exciting part is how these new tools may make the unique curveball better.
Development: Detmers had one of the biggest jumps in terms of fantasy outlook in 2021, going from a guy with questionable strikeout ability to suddenly a guy who might turn plus in the category. A motivation for the Angels selecting Detmers was MLB pitching help as soon as possible. COVID cut down on some chances in 2021, but it looks Detmers is going to be trusted to fine-tune things at the major league level in 2022. Detmers puts the work in to improve.
Stuff: Detmers’ curveball is a different animal, and it’s still fair to question how it plays at the MLB level, but if how it devastated hitters in the minors is any indication, it’s hard to think it won’t be at least an average major league offering. The new zip to the fastballs left them sitting 93 in the majors, ticking up at times. The new swoopy slider might play well in combination with the curveball, taking an unexpected turn on hitters. There’s an undersold changeup for righties as well.
Fantasy Thoughts: Detmers’ craftiness and pitch-making separate him from the pack for me. Now that some juice could be coming to the stuff, the pitching pinnacle is a non-zero chance. Of this prospect class just starting to cut MLB teeth, Detmers gets more 2022 trust, making him a redraft play for the correct, sensible price, which is probably a smidge later than his current ADP. Detmers has plenty to prove, but the foundation of his skill, ability to make adjustments, and drive he’s shown elevate him for me. In an alternate dynasty universe, they have metrics to measure the side of things we can’t, and there, they’d agree with my spot here. Detmers, with reason, doesn’t get the same kind of love from our pitch analysis-heavy world, but I’m laying a bet he has the ability to come up with the tools if this current batch falters. That might be kind of his thing.
2020 Draft – Louisville – 4.67M       40 man


(K vs J.J. Bleday 5/18)
#1 RHP – Shane Baz – Rays – MLB – 6’2″ – 22
Execution: With a minor league strike percentage pushing 70%, Baz delivered the same way in the bigs, hitting edges of the floating white box of MLB broadcasts. There’s always room for improvement, but 67% strikes during your first few MLB turns will play. Baz is going to come right at hitters with a live four-seamer, keeping them off-balanced with a typically well-located hard slider, mixing in a slower curveball. Like most all Rays’ pitchers, there’s plenty of wise sequencing happening.
Development: Catching Baz early in the season felt like an is-this-money-attached-to-fishing-line moment. It took time to process how good he had gotten and was getting. Baz’s career is a penultimate story of development. The arsenal is almost completely made over from the prep arm/Pirates version. The delivery went from violent to nefariously easy. The feral, crazy, arm talent has been tamed without losing its teeth. The move from the ex-Pittsburgh regime to the pitching savants in Tampa speaks to the influence of the Rays’ pitching machine. Baz, under the cloak of a COVID season and a busy 2021 season of breakout prospect coverage ascended his game faster than the industry could keep up. We were still behind as he made his MLB debut in late September.
Stuff: Baz has a four-seam fastball capable of triple digits, sitting 97, and scraping black consistently. The life of the fastball is MLB elite caliber. The hard slider is capable of plus MLB bite, and the old main-secondary-curveball came out of the closet in the bigs, as he threw it almost as much as the slider. To boot, it wasn’t just a show-me pitch, but a weapon in different counts. The changeup remains the developing offering and the last item on the greedy create-a-pitcher’s dream list.
Fantasy Thoughts: Baz is the arm reviewed I’d hitch my wagon to as a potential pinnacle-type. Command, pitching acumen, elite offerings, strikeout upside in spades, likely rotation spot with one of the best clubs in baseball, with an easy delivery. The best fantasy pitching prospect right now may be underrated, presenting a potential buy high opportunity. It’s worth throwing feelers out to his owner, and if you already have a share, cling tightly as you’re set to get immediate production at a potentially high fantasy clip. And that is about as high of fantasy praise I can ever offer a pitching prospect.
2017 Draft – TX Prep – 4.1M       40 man

(During an outing the feel was lacking, getting out of a jam, K vs Justin Twine 7/15)

 

Here’s a breakdown by organization and a list of some other names reviewed, need to be reviewed, and/or in the 2022 plans (“unranked” players in no particular order):

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire) Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@Palmerguyboston on twitter)

Nate Handy

Nate is an advocate of drafting more pitchers. Originally from the planet Eternia, he aspires to become the Master of the Prospect Universe....or just watch baseball, share observations, and have an enjoyable dialogue about this great game, particularly the young players trying to make the major leagues.

  • Ross Redcay says:

    Thanks again for these! Excellent reads! Question on Detmers: does his heavy flyball lean give you an concern in terms of him end up homer prone? I’m wondering if this is going to end up something like John Means where he just can’t keep the homers down at a reasonable level because he can’t keep the ball on the ground. Of course we’re talking about like 80 innings last year, so maybe I’m making too much of a smallish sample.

    • Nate Handy says:

      Thanks for the read Ross. Not to scoot around your question, but yes I have concern that all these guys will have HR problems in the bigs. You can make really good pitches against these guys and they still take you yard (see the HR Teoscar hit off Baz). But the pitches that get hit out most are cookies, and I trust Detmers to locate pitches as well as anyone reviewed. Note and file away the 2021 MLB try, but I’m not expecting Detmers to show up the same pitcher. I’m betting on some adjustments, whether in arsenal, approach, or both. And then, probably some more in-season adjustments. That’s kind of the game these days. Moves a lot faster, and I value Detmers as I do because of the sense he can handle being that creative pitcher.

      • Mario Mendoza says:

        Same comment as Ross…. Big THANK YOU… and big question on Detmers. I was a believer on his scouting report of advance pitcher with devastating curve and bought in last year. Indeed, his curve did great against amateurs/minors. But Jeff Zimmerman has found that, in the majors, similar curveballs to his did not succeed. https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/deep-league-starting-pitchers-hill-hudson-miley-detmers/

        • Nate Handy says:

          No pushback here. Totally fair to question the whole arsenal. I’m not sure many on this list don’t have questions about arsenal. All of them will evolve. Or I should say, all of them that stick around. There’s going to be some pitchers on this list that are going to make millions off of a pitch they haven’t even learned yet. A big motivation for this project was to step into the other half of things, if you will. Step away from digging around the carpenter’s toolbox and start watching his work. Think there’s a chance that analysis on the curveball is already old news. Detmers knows more than anyone that his 2021 arsenal isn’t good enough. It’s kind of been the story of his pitching life, and in turn what I find might make him exceptional.

        • Chuck says:

          Reading through the comments in that article might create a different takeaway. Detmers kinda reminds me of Barry Zito, different time periods of course, but one can succeed with a big, loopy curveball.

      • Ross Redcay says:

        Good points, thanks for the response! Grabbed Cody Morris off the waiver wire earlier in the offseason for a team I just took over. Figured he was just a close to the majors arm I could squeeze some quick value out of. Way more excited after reading your writeup for him here!

        • Nate Handy says:

          Nice! Part of him ending up 6 too, was after those 5, nobody screamed at me to be next. So why not go with the guy knocking on the door that might be decently prepared with what I think is a legit strikeout combo in that fastball/change combo. 🤷

          • Ross Redcay says:

            Yeah I’ve adjusted my strategy on prospect arms in the last year or so to focus almost solely on guys at AA or above. There’s just so much volatility with pitching, it doesn’t seem worth waiting on guys in A ball just to see them blow out, lose velo as they build up innings, etc. I’m sure I’ll miss on some aces with this strategy, but I feel like I’ll find a lot of solid MLB arms quickly and a couple will pop unexpectedly.

            • Nate Handy says:

              Agreed. One person cannot possibly cast a net to catch all the fish. But we can still catch whoppers.

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