Prospect Pitching Rankings
Making an Impact in 2017
It’s hard to believe that this article kicks off my fourth season writing for Major League Fantasy Sports. It’s a privilege and honor to provide commentary on up and coming players in THE greatest sport on earth.
This year, I am switching from primarily covering hitting prospect to focusing on pitching prospects. Over the next four weeks I will be providing my pitching prospect rankings for the 2017 season. In the past, I organized the rankings in traditional tiers: Elite, Top 100, Future Contributors, Future depth. This worked best when I tackled each position and provided information relevant to baseball fans as well as deep keeper or dynasty owners. However, the impact for redraft leagues and shallow leagues was minimal by using the more traditional prospect ranking tiers. Since I will be spending all four weeks on the same position, it affords me an opportunity to use a different approach in setting up my ranking tiers. If you are looking for a comprehensive list of Top Prospects based on projection then this won’t be the ideal list for you. Rather than giving readers a list based on projected talent, tools and future value, I will be basing my rankings on their skills, recent development and projected immediate impact. Owners in redraft and shallow leagues will be able to utilize this list to pick up some sleepers. Keeper and Dynasty owners can still use these rankings to evaluate players to go out and get now before it is too late. My hope is there will be something for everyone. As always, only players that have not exceed the Rookie threshold (Career 130 AB or 50 IP) will be included on this list. So with this in mind, here are the description of the Tiers…
Tier 1: Likely Impact in 2017
These pitchers are top prospects or high potential contributors for this season.
Tier 2: Possible Impact in 2017 and/or Likely Impact in 2018
These pitchers are the next level prospects that could contribute in some capacity this season and Top Prospects likely to contribute next season
Tier 3: Best of the Teens, Fringe Impact in 2017 and/or Potential Impact in 2018
These highly project-able future stars are 3 years or further away and haven’t pitched in any of the upper levels of the minor leagues., and/or the next best of the prospects that could contribute in the next two years.
Tier 4: Best of the Rest
This is not a list of organizational depth players like a traditional Tier 4, rather these pitchers are guys I like to make a significant contribution in the next few years that are not household names.
Tier 1 – The List
|1||Alex Reyes||STL||22||SP||RHP||MLB||Early 2017|
|2||Tyler Glasnow||PIT||23||SP||RHP||MLB||Early 2017|
|3||Francis Martes||HOU||21||SP||RHP||AA||Late 2017|
|4||Lucas Giolito||CHW||22||SP||RHP||MLB||Mid 2017|
|5||Jose DeLeon||TB||24||SP||RHP||MLB||Mid 2017|
|6||Brent Honeywell||TB||21||SP||RHP||AA||Late 2017|
|7||Josh Hader||MIL||22||SP||LHP||AAA||Mid 2017|
|8||Reynaldo Lopez||CHW||23||SP||RHP||MLB||Mid 2017|
|9||Francelis Montas||OAK||24||SP||RHP||MLB||Mid 2017|
|10||David Paulino||HOU||23||SP||RHP||MLB||Early 2017|
|11||Yohander Mendez||TEX||22||SP||LHP||MLB||Mid 2017|
|12||Jharel Cotton||OAK||25||SP||RHP||MLB||Opening Day|
|13||Luke Weaver||STL||23||SP||RHP||MLB||Late 2017|
|14||Jeff Hoffman||COL||24||SP||RHP||MLB||Opening Day|
|15||Joe Jimenez||DET||22||RP||RHP||AAA||Mid 2017|
Alex Reyes (STL) — 1.57 ERA // 1.217 WHIP // 4.5 BB/9 // 10.2 K/9 (MLB – 46.0 IP)
Reyes is pretty well-regarded as the best pitching prospect in baseball heading into 2017. He has a four-pitch mix featuring a plus-plus fastball, plus curve-ball, change-up that flashes plus due to velocity change from fastball and a developing slider/cutter. The main knock on him is control and he has been consistently around 4 ½ walks per 9 at all levels of the Minor Leagues. I think he can improve on that but I would bet this is a struggle throughout his career. That being said, someone with this dominant stuff can be effectively wild and that could make his stuff even more unpredictable to hitters.
Prediction – He has a chance to grab the 5th rotation spot out of camp, but I think STL would prefer to have Garcia and Wacha break camp in the rotation. Reyes could be first man up after the inevitable injury. Once up this year, he should be locked in the rotation for a long time.
Fantasy Relevance – Draftable in all league formats 12 teams or more
Tyler Glasnow (PIT) — 4.24 ERA // 1.500 WHIP // 5.0 BB/9 // 9.3 K/9 (MLB 23.1 IP)
Glasnow did not have as good have an MLB debut as Reyes. Perhaps he was called up too soon, but in fairness he struggled with his control all season even in the minors. He really never was a control pitcher. Another nasty fastball flamethrower with a potential plus curveball and a developing change-up, Glasnow somewhat mirrors Reyes just slightly a notch below. He dominated the minors over five seasons and his MLB experience was cut short due to shoulder pain. Potential Ace if he can develop more command of his fastball.
Prediction – Glasnow will be given a chance to win a rotation spot this Spring, but with the late season trades for Hutchinson and Nova (who re-signed), there is enough quality arms in Pittsburgh to allow Tyler to open up the season in AAA Indianapolis in order to clean up some mechanics and develop better command. Early Summer sounds like a good time to bring him up and this year, barring injury, he should be up to stay.
Fantasy Relevance – Hold in Redraft leagues but should be drafted in all keeper and dynasty formats.
Francis Martes (HOU) — 3.30 ERA // 1.205 WHIP // 3.4 BB/9 // 9.4 K/9 (AA 125.1 IP)
Like the two prospects above him on this list, Martes features a plus fastball and borderline plus curve ball. He also throws a slider and change-up which both could play at the MLB level. Although I wouldn’t call him a “command” pitcher, he averaged over a BB per 9 less than the other two above him. His 2016 numbers overall do not look stellar but he got roughed up at the beginning of the season and dominated the final 3/4 of the season as well as the Arizona Fall League. It is a little risky having him up this high on the list with AA Corpus Christi his highest level of competition, but he is the last guy on this list that has a potential 70 FV fastball and he probably has a better curveball than Reyes and Glasnow. He is a future Ace or #2 Starter in this league.
Prediction – He is not currently on the 40 Man Roster yet, so that indicates to me that he won’t be an early season contributor. Although the back-end of the Astros rotation isn’t the strongest, guys like Joe Musgrove and David Paulino should get first crack in Houston with the need arises. That being said, he has had four seasons of pro ball under his belt and a late season shot in the arm to the rotation is a likely scenario.
Fantasy Relevance – Hold in Redraft and shallow keeper leagues. Must own in deep keeper and all dynasty formats.
Lucas Giolito (CWS) — 6.75 ERA // 1.781 WHIP // 5.1 BB/9 // 4.6 K/9 (MLB – 21.1 IP)
The last of the Elite prospects for 2017 was the artist formerly known as ‘lil Gio. Seems like the temperature around the league is beginning to cool on Giolito. He was widely consider the top pitching prospect in baseball going into last season, but has dropped a few spots on every list I’ve read. Yeah his MLB numbers were pretty horrible, but his stuff and makeup will peg him as a Top line starter in the Majors. He has two plus pitches with a fastball just notch below the guys above him on this list, but he has arguably the best curveball for a RHP than any other prospect in baseball. Its a power-curve that is un-hittable when he has command. And there’s the rub…he struggled mightily with control and command in 2017 and his mechanics suggest that could continue for his first few seasons at the Major League level. Don’t sleep on this guy, he’s the real deal and getting traded to the South side of Chicago could be a blessing for him.
Prediction – If the ChiSox had any chance of winning this season, I would love to see a rotation that featured Quintana, Rodon, Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer. For whatever reason, the club appears to favor Miguel Gonzales, “No Game James” Shields and Derek Holland to round out their rotation. He should be up this Summer and likely before the All-Star Break. They might take advantage of his options and shuttle him back and forth to let him work out his mechanics. By the end of the season, he should be firmly entrenched in the rotation for the foreseeable future.
Fantasy Relevance – Hold on standard redrafts. Larger roster redrafts should take a late flier. All keeper and dynasty leagues should have him rostered already.
Jose DeLeon (TB) — 6.35 ERA // 1.529 ERA // 3.7 BB/9 // 7.9 K/9 (MLB 17.0 IP)
Another top prospect debuted last year with less than stellar results. He hung a few fastball up and they got crushed by Major League hitters. His fastball is above average but it must be set up by his plus (plus?) change-up and mix in his respectable slider. Other than his change-up, his command is his best attribute. If he can locate his fastball, he can get hitters to swing-and-miss at his change-up and chase sliders off the plate resembling his 12.1 K/9 over four seasons of minor league pitching. Mechanics seem clean and polished likely to ensuring a future #2 – #3 MLB starter.
Prediction – Rays rotation is pretty loaded and he will likely need an injury to grab a spot early in the season. That being said, Alex Cobb, is always a good candidate to go down with an injury. Thanks to the Dodgers for making him expendable, there will be opportunity for him to establish himself as a permanent starter for this rotation.
Fantasy Relevance — See Giolito above. Expect more consistence with DeLeon but less dominance.
Brent Honeywell (TB) — 2.34 ERA // 1.032 WHIP // 2.0 BB/9 // 9.1 K/9 (A+-AA – 115.1 IP)
I’m very excited about this young man. His stats are very good but not off the charts. Fangraphs only give him a 45 FV and barely grade his three pitches at or above major league average. However, he throws and legit screwball and has demonstrated command of it. He was straight filthy in Arizona Fall League all-star game striking out 5 of 6 batters faced that are all legitimate prospects. He actually has a five pitch arsenal with potential for 3 plus offerings: sinking fastball, screwball and change-up with a fringe plus cutter. On top of this, he has shown control and command of his pitches over the past year. Let’s face it, Tampa probably doesn’t need him this year, but I’m not sure they will be able to justify keeping him down for the whole season. Only reason he’s not higher on this list is because he’s only pitched in AA up to this point.
Prediction – He probably doesn’t get called up until August or September, but I see something special here and this will be your last off-season to get him at a reasonable price.
Fantasy Relevance – Redrafts can hold, but deep keepers and dynasty leagues should RUN AND GET HIM NOW!!!
Josh Hader (MIL) — 3.29 ERA // 1.238 WHIP // 3.9 BB/9 // 11.5 K/9 (AA-AAA 126.0 IP)
Hader had a mediocre season in AAA after starting out on fire in AA. Hader bounced around three organizations in his first three seasons in pro ball. After making a name for himself in the 2015 AFL, Milwaukee is content developing him into their top pitching prospect and the top LHP prospect in baseball. His command and lack of a third pitch has held him back so far. He has an odd delivery that creates deception and causes his fastball that sits in the mid-90s to play faster with movement. This is offset by a sweeping slider from the left side that is literally impossible for a left-handed batter to put in play. If he can develop his change-up into an above average 3rd offering, he will solidify himself as a front of the rotation starter.
Prediction – It’s only a matter of time before Hader relieve Matt Garza of his slot in the rotation. I suspect he won’t break camp with the club to get him in a groove with a late May, early June call-up. If he demonstrates command, he should be up for the long haul.
Fantasy Relevance – Redrafts hold, deep keepers and dynasty leagues likely already have him rostered.
Reynaldo Lopez (CWS) — 4.91 ERA // 1.568 WHIP // 4.5 BB/9 // 8.6 K/9 (MLB – 44 IP)
Lopez barely stays on this list has he was just 6 innings short of passing the Rookie eligibility threshold of 50 career IP. His MLB debut was ok, but it was valuable experience. Lopez has moved quickly through the Nationals system until being traded to the White Sox this off-season with Giolito. His stuff projects better than his numbers have shown so far, but his key will be gaining command of his high 90s plus fastball. His curve-ball flashes plus and his change-up is a developing 3rd pitch. He has the makings of a front line starter but will need to be more consistent to be effective at the Major League level.
Prediction – Along with Giolito, Lopez likely starts out in AAA to work out some kinks and should be an early to mid-season call up. I can see him accruing abour 75-100 MLB innings this season and could be a great value adding depth to your rotation.
Fantasy Relevance – Worth a late flier in redrafts. Deep keeper and dynasty league are a most own.
Frankie Montas (OAK) — 4.80 ERA // 1.533 WHIP // 5.4 BB/9 // 12.0 K/9 (MLB – 15 IP in 2015)
Frankie came over to the Athletics with Jharel Cotton in a late season trade with the Dodgers in 2016. He made is debut with the White Sox in 2015 and has since been traded twice. With just only 16 total IP in 2016, Montas is ready to break out his plus fastball that touches triple digits and his excellent slider to show he can make an impact in Oakland this year. The reason that he has been passed around like a two dollar “you-know-what” is that his command and lack of a legitimate 3rd pitches projects him to the bullpen. For what it’s worth, he has the makeup and stuff to be a dominant closer and/or high leverage reliever.
Prediction – For now Oakland still views him a starter and will likely bring him up if/when Triggs or Cotton struggles. Its possible he could make the rotation out of camp, but its unlikely. If they don’t need him in the rotation, I would expect to see him join the bullpen middle to end of the season.
Fantasy Relevance — Redraft and most keeper leagues can pass. There is value in dynasty leagues but don’t overpay as be might become a reliever.
David Paulino (HOU) — 5.14 ERA // 1.286 WHIP // 3.9 BB/9 // 2.6 k/9 (MLB – 7.0 IP)
As the trends continues, Paulino struggled in his cup of coffee in 2016. Including Houston, he pitched on four different levels and overall had a fantastic year highlighted by a 1.9 BB/9 over 90 IP. His fastball sits mid-90s but plays higher due to his 6’7″ frame. His curve-ball and change-up both project to be above-average if not fringe-plus pitches at the Major League level. Another quality home-grown talent that should contribute in Houston this season.
Prediction – I would love to say that he beats out Charlie Morton for the #5 spot in the rotation this Spring. More realistically, he starts out in AAA working consistent innings. He has missed a lot of time over the years due to injury and they may want to monitor him the minors for the first half of the season before he gets unleashed on the MLB again.
Fantasy Relevance – Redraft leagues can pass for now. Keep on radar for waiver pick up in season. Moderate value in dynasty leagues.
Yohander Mendez (TEX) — Forgettable debut late last season does not cloud my excitement for Texas’ #1 prospect and #2 LHP on this list. He used to pitch as a relieve but transition to a full time starter last year who had a nice year pitching in 3 minor league levels before the hiccup in Texas. The call-up was clearly pre-mature. The Rangers rotation is deep but Mendez should be first man up this year and with four MLB ready pitches including a plus change-up, he could have some immediate impact this season.
Jharel Cotton (OAK) — Cotton has a good shot and making the rotation out of camp. Made his debut last season and showed command and kept hitters off base in his five starts. His change-up is known but his little used cutter looks even better. I hear rumor he is developing that pitch this off-season which is more of cutter-screw mix that if thrown with command could spike his K rate this year. I’m excited to see what he does in a full season in that spacious park in Oakland.
Luke Weaver (STL) — Weaver showed great command in his 3 years in pro ball averaging 1.6 BB/9 but allowed 7 HRs over his 36.1 MLB innings and only 7 in just under 200 career minor league innings. If he commands both fastballs (sinker and cutter) he should eliminate the HR and be a productive middle of the rotation guy in the Majors. Should get plenty of opportunity this season with an injury prone rotation in St. Louis.
Jeff Hoffman (COL) — I know I’m crazy. No Colorado pitchers should ever be on any “top” lists. I wish Hoffman stayed in Toronto so we know how good he really is. He bombed in his debut last year but he still could be an effective pitching in Coors Field because he is a ground ball pitcher with a four-pitch mix, all considered to be above average MLB pitches. He has all the tools to be a starter with a plus sinking fastball and hard curve-ball. Rumor has it, Colorado could move him to the pen which would lengthen an already impressive set of arms out there. I still think he grabs the 5th rotation spot out of camp and we see a lot of him this year.
Joe Jimenez (DET) — WTF? A relief pitcher in Tier 1? I must be crazy? Yes, yes I am. None-the-less, meet the closer in Detroit by the end of the 2017 season. Yes his K rate was lower in AAA, but he still averaged a 5.1 K/BB ratio in 4 seasons of pro ball with a 1.59 ERA and 0.849 WHIP. 70 grade plus fastball with a nasty slider 12-15 MPH slower. He emergence in Detroit likely in May or June will allow the Tigers to trade K-Rod at the deadline. Late round flier could play “huge” dividends in leagues that value relievers.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday February 12th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #75 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our first show of the 2017 season. We will discuss the important player movement and how it affects their value for the 2017 season.
Our guests this week are the “Legend” Lenny Melnick and Joe Iannone. Be sure to visit Lenny’s website lennymelnickfantasysports.com, and listen to his Sirius satellite show on the fantasy sports station from 7-10am every Sunday morning with host Craig Mish. Joe is a writer with MLFS and you can check his articles every Sunday morning throughout the season.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”