(Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire)
Today’s feature is my ranking of the Top 25 Pitching Prospects for the 2018 season. The list is comprised of starting and relief pitchers whom I believe will make an impact in fantasy this season. Since the ranking is only for 2018, injured players, i.e. Brent Honeywell, or players in the low levels aren’t under consideration. Pitchers that wouldn’t likely be on a fantasy team for more than a stream here or there were left off the list. I only wanted to include players that would have some sort of impact on teams, even if they are called up later in the year. Lets get to it.
1. Shohei Ohtani, SP, Angles, ETA: Opening Day
Japanese Babe Ruth? I’m game. Even without the additional bat help he brings to the table, Ohtani is the best pitcher on this list. He throws 100+ mph and has a very good slider and splitter. With the additional help in the hitting categories, Ohtani brings a new level to the game. He is in a league of his own on this list and could easily end the year in the top 20 overall.
2. Michael Kopech, SP, White Sox, ETA: June
Some scouts have compared Michael Kopech to Noah Syndergaard because he has one of the hardest to hit fastballs in the minors. He throws consistently between 96-99 mph and can hit 100+ when he needs to. His command is still developing but his potential is a top fantasy pitcher. He isn’t on the White Sox 40-man roster right now, so I don’t expect him to be up quickly, but they could easily make a move should he continue to dominate minor league hitters.
3. Luiz Gohara, SP, Braves, ETA: May
Luiz Gohara became the 5th Brazilian to make his major league debut. He is one of the hardest throwing left handed starters in the league and his k rate reflects that. He had 147 strike outs to 123.2 IP in the minors in 2017. He also had 31 strikeouts to 8 walks in 29.1 IP in the majors in 2017. He should start the year in AAA but is on the 40 man roster and should be the first option before Lucas Sims, or Max Fried.
4. Mitch Keller, SP, Pirates, ETA: June
Mitch Keller might be my favorite pitcher on this list besides Ohtani. He has amazing command and a very good mix of pitches. He should get a chance to pitch in Pittsburgh this year, but with only 34.2 IP in AA, his call up will likely be in the 2nd half. He can be the future Ace of the Pittsburgh rotation.
5. Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals, ETA: June
There is a lot of love being shown to Jack Flaherty lately because there is a lot to like. He has a nice mix of pitches, a plus fastball and plus plus control. However, he didn’t have a very good MLB Debut as he ended 2017 with an ERA of 6.33 through 21.1 IP. That is vastly different than his 2.18 ERA and 147 strikeouts to 35 walks in his 148.2 minor league innings. The Cardinals have a pretty good rotation, and he will start the year back in AAA.
6. AJ Puk, SP, Athletics, ETA: July
AJ Puk was in conversations to be the #1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft but after an inconsistent college year, he fell to #6 overall. He led the minor leagues in K/9 with a 13.2 strike out rate, that’s 184 strikeouts over 125 innings pitched. He does walk his share of batters, but that is expected in a power arm. He could make his way to Oakland this year, and with that stadium, and his K rate, I will watch him closely.
7. Walker Buehler, SP, Dodgers, ETA: June
There aren’t many negatives when it comes to Walker Buehler, but the innings pitched must be one. After being taken 24th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, it was revealed Buehler would need Tommy John. He sat out most of 2016, only pitching five innings. In 2017, He had a total of 97 innings between the minors and the majors. He averaged less than 4 innings per start, and only went above 5 innings once. His potential is up there with the top of the list, but he needs innings and he needs to go deeper into games.
8. Alex Reyes, SP, Cardinals, ETA: June
Alex Reyes is recovering from a Tommy John surgery from last February but is already facing live batters. There is chatter that the red birds could move Reyes into the bullpen in 2018 or at least for the first half of 2018. He likely will start the year on the DL though and won’t be back until May or June. His stuff before his surgery was filthy, it will be interesting to see how he looks post tommy john.
9. Jimmie Sherfy, RP, Diamondbacks, ETA: April
The first relief pitcher on this list, Jimmie is a favorite of mine. He has a plus plus fastball, and a decent curve. He did make it to the majors last year, pitching 10.2 innings, striking out 9 and walking 2 while giving up no earned. I think he has a shot to end the year as the Diamondbacks closer.
10. Dillon Peters, SP, Marlins, ETA: April
It feels like half this list has had Tommy John at one point in their career and Dillon Peters is among them. The University of Texas alum made his major league debut in 2017 pitching 31.1 Innings, striking out 27 and walking 19. He should see plenty of action 2018 as he should make the rotation out of Spring Training.
11. Chance Adams, SP, Yankees, ETA: June
One of my favorites last year, The Yankees never called up Chance Adams despite his dominating minor league year: 2.45 ERA, 135 strike outs to 58 walks in 150.1 innings between AA and AAA. He’s battling Justus Sheffield for the top arm in the Yankees farm system. He needs to improve his command, but he looks to have a bright future in front of him.
12. Ryan Borucki, SP, Blue Jays, ETA: May
Ryan Borucki was a 15th rounder in the 2012 MLB Draft, who had a very impressive 2017 season pitching 150.1 innings across three levels with 157 strikeouts and 36 walks with an ERA of 2.93. He has very good control and generates plenty of ground balls. He is on the 40-man roster and could be the first call up should the Blue Jays need an arm.
13. Nick Kingham, SP, Pirates, ETA: May
He is the Pirates #13 prospect according to MLB pipeline, but he is likely next up should the Pirates need an arm. He is already on the 40-man roster. He doesn’t have the plus pitches that Mitch Keller possesses, but he has good command and should be a serviceable back of the rotation pitcher for the Pirates.
14. Brandon Woodruff, SP, Brewers, ETA: April
Brandon Woodruff is probably bottom 5 on this list in talent but if he gets the 5th rotation spot, he will likely be top 3 in innings pitched. He has average stuff across the board but can pitch himself out of jams with his plus command. The Brewers line up looks very strong in 2018, and if he gives up a couple runs, he could still get the win.
15. Jose De Leon, SP, Rays, ETA: May
With Brent Honeywell needing Tommy John, Jose De Leon could be able to grab the 5th spot in the Rays rotation. He had an injury plagued season in 2017 with forearm issues and a lat strain. His fastball lost some velocity which made his changeup not play up as well. If he can get his fastball back up to the 93-95 mph range, he will be an interesting player to watch.
16. Fernando Romero, SP, Twins, ETA: June
Fernando Romero sort of came out of no where the past two years after missing nearly all of 2014 and 2015 because of Tommy John surgery. The surgery seems successful as he sits in the mid-90s with his fastball that he mixes with two additional above average pitches. He had a 3.53 ERA in 125 Innings last year in AA, with 120 strike outs to 45 walks. He will likely be on an inning limit as he still need to build strength in his arm, but I like what I see from Fernando Romero.
17. Tyler Mahle, SP, Reds, ETA: May
Few pitchers on this list had a season like Tyler Mahle did in 2017. He had a 2.06 ERA with 138 strikeouts and 30 walks through 144.1 minor league innings. He got the late promotion and started 4 games, pitching 20 innings with 14 strikeouts and 11 walks with a 2.70 ERA. I like Tyler Mahle, but I don’t think he has the upside of many of the players on this list. I think he is a mid-rotation pitcher at best, but his control should make him a very good streamer option vs weaker competition.
18. Max Fried, SP, Braves, ETA: June
Max Fried had a brief call up in 2017, pitching 26 innings in the show with a 3.81 ERA and 22 strikeouts to 12 walks. He doesn’t have the best command on this list but is an effective pitcher and likely will get a longer look in 2018.
19. Erick Fedde, SP, Nationals, ETA: May
At 25, Erick Fedde is one of the older players on this list. He hasn’t exactly panned out the way the Nationals thought he would after they selected him 18th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. He has an average fastball and changeup but a plus slider. He controls the ball well enough, but He isn’t a top of the rotation pitcher. He can be a serviceable streaming option vs the weak NL East clubs.
20. Kolby Allard, SP, Braves, ETA: August
Kolby Allard probably has the brightest future of the Braves prospects on this list, however Gohara and Fried are on the 40-man rotation and the Braves also have Lucas Sims, Aaron Blair, and Matt Wisler in AAA as well. At just 20 years old, I don’t know if I see Kolby Allard in the Majors this year. He has three plus pitches, but his control has room for development.
21. Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Twins, ETA: May
Despite being a tall, 6’5, pitcher, Gonsalves doesn’t have a lot of power behind his pitches. He does mix them well and his command allows him to make the most of his average offerings. He should be up in 2018 with the Twins, but don’t expect him to continue to strike out 9+ batters per nine.
22. Brian Johnson, SP, Red Sox, ETA: April
Brian Johnson first made his MLB Debut in 2015. He gave up four earned in 4.1 Innings. He next pitched in the majors in 2017, starting 5 games, pitching 27 innings with a 4.33 ERA and 21 strikeouts to 8 walks. He has been very successful in the minors with a 2.69 ERA in 518.1 career minor league innings, but he hasn’t latched on with the big-league club because his offerings are average. He has decent control, but he will never be a low ERA guy. He is on a winning ball club and should secure the 5th spot in the rotation, which is why I have him listed.
23. David Paulino, SP, Astros, ETA: June
Paulino struck out 34 batters in 29 innings pitched in the majors last season but he allowed 8 homeruns in those six starts and ended the years with a 6.52 ERA. He needs to command his pitches more to avoid giving up the long ball, but he has a bright future ahead of him. There isn’t a rotation spot for him, so he will likely be in AAA to start the year or the bullpen. He is on the 40-man roster though and could be called up quickly.
24. Sandy Alcantara, SP, Marlins, ETA: August
The prize prospect in the Ozuna deal between the Marlins and the Cardinals. Sandy Alcantara frequently hits triple digits and looks to be controlling his fastball more and more. He is still a raw talent though and will need more time to develop. I expect him to start the year the year in the minors but could be up in the second half of the year.
25. Domingo Acevedo, SP, Yankees, ETA: June
Domingo Acevedo could end up in New York this year, but I believe out of the pen. He has a very good fastball and mixes it well with an above average change up. Unlike some of the other flamethrowers on this list, Acevedo can command his fastball and could be a very effective relief pitcher.