While frustrations were high for those on the outside looking in and for those who bowed out early, there is hope for the future amongst the prospect ranks as the season once again draws near. Who are the next pitchers that will make their mark at the major league level? Will that be enough to push your team into the playoffs?
Mark Anderson and Denis Savage of Scout.com set, rearranged, debated, and finally agreed on the top 25 pitching prospects in all of baseball. Where did your team’s prospects rank?
All rankings take into account rookie eligibility. A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit. Players who have not signed a professional contract were deemed ineligible.
Without further ado, we present the top 25 pitching prospects:
1. Stephen Strasburg – RHP – Washington Nationals
While he may have been slightly overhyped coming into the draft, there is no denying that Strasburg is the real deal. If there were anything that he needs to improve upon, it would be getting more movement on his mid-to-upper-90s fastball. He's also got a good curveball and throws it with the same arm speed as his fastball to keep hitters off-balance. Strasburg is also strong enough to maintain his velocity deep into games.
2. Neftali Feliz – RHP – Texas Rangers
Armed with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball that tops out at 101 mph, Feliz wows onlookers with his raw velocity, but it's the heavy, late movement that makes his heater a true 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. The 21-year-old misses bats with great frequency; he's difficult to hit, and he is rapidly improving. Feliz' breaking ball and changeup showed definite plus potential in 2009, and his overall command continues to progress.
3. Madison Bumgarner – LHP – San Francisco Giants
Hitters were overmatched when facing Bumgarner, as he used a combination of confidence and a mid-90s fastball to carve up the opposition. The scary part is his secondary pitches are still developing and will become crisper with time. The left-hander did, however, see his velocity dip into the high-80s in July. That could be a good thing, as he was forced to improve his secondary offerings with fewer margins for error on his fastball.
4. Brian Matusz – LHP – Baltimore Orioles
A polished southpaw that has shown a plus fastball, Matusz has better command of his heater when it is working in the 90-92 mph range. He has four above-average pitches, utilizing a curveball, slider, and changeup – each of which can be thrown in any count with success. Batters have a tough time figuring out his pitch sequencing. He should be helping the Orioles full time next year.
5. Wade Davis – RHP – Tampa Bay Rays
Davis has harnessed a mid-90s fastball to go with a plus curveball, cut-fastball, and improving changeup. The key to his success revolves around command. There are times when the right-hander will see walks come in bunches. If he can eliminate those spells, he has perennial All-Star potential. He is already proving his worth in Tampa Bay with a late season call-up.
6. Aroldis Chapman - LHP - Cincinnati Reds
The big Cuban lefty is a pure power arm with unlimited potential. After bursting onto the international scene last year and topping out at 102 mph with his fastball, Chapman has been a buzz-worthy prospect. Though still raw and requiring an element of polish in his game, Chapman's mid-90s heat and slider that has plus potential could make him a top of the rotation monster for the Reds in the coming years.
7. Julio Teheran – RHP – Atlanta Braves
When healthy, Teheran has an electric 93-95 mph fastball, a late breaking plus curveball and solid changeup. He will overthrow, losing command of his arsenal, and is prone to the big inning when the command wavers. Experience will be a huge benefit to him as he matures within the game and learns to overcome obstacles.
8. Jarrod Parker – RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
The 20-year-old Parker had been carving up hitters at every minor league level before shutting down for precautionary reasons due to elbow discomfort this summer. He ended up having Tommy John surgery on October 28, 2009. When healthy, Parker is a four-pitch hurler that hits the upper-90s with his fastball.
9. Trevor Reckling – LHP – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The left-hander’s fastball sits in the low-90s, but he has a plus 12-to-6 curveball and plus changeup that keeps hitters off-balance. The natural movement of his pitches helps to induce ground ball outs, as hitters have a tough time getting good wood on his pitches. Reckling must improve his fastball command to take his game to the next level – one that offers a lot of promise.
10. Martin Perez – LHP – Texas Rangers
Perez reached Double-A Frisco at 18 because the Rangers like his maturity and advanced feel for pitching, but he also has outstanding stuff to go along with his smarts. The native of Venezuela works with a 92-96 mph fastball, an advanced changeup, and a promising curveball. Perez projects to have three above-average big league offerings in the near future.
11. Kyle Drabek – LHP – Toronto Blue Jays
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the Phillies weren't sure how far Drabek would be able to climb in 2009, but he was impressive from day one and finished the season at Double-A. Because of the number of innings he pitched, the Phillies shut him down late in the season, but it was only as a precaution. He has since been traded to Toronto. Drabek has good control of four pitches, but relies on his mid-90s fastball and hard-breaking curveball as his out pitches.
12. Simon Castro – RHP – San Diego Padres
Over the last three years, Castro has gone from a pitcher who had trouble finding the strike zone to being a dominant force. He posted a 0.50 ERA over his final six outings, which included a no-hitter in the regular season and a no-hitter he had through 6 2/3 innings in the playoffs. He has a deceptive delivery to go with a mid-90s fastball, biting slider and improving changeup.
13. Casey Crosby – LHP – Detroit Tigers
Nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Casey Crosby dominated the Midwest League with a 10-4 record, 2.41 ERA, and 117 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings with West Michigan. "He was nasty. Particularly in the second half, he was nearly unhittable," exclaimed one opposing MWL manager. Crosby's dominating season has vaulted him to the top of the Tigers prospect rankings and has him in line to be considered one of the premium left-handers in the minor leagues.
14. Tyler Matzek – LHP – Colorado Rockies
Matzek fell in the 2009 draft because of bonus demands, but the Colorado Rockies didn't let him slip past them with the 11th overall choice in the first round. Matzek is one of the best young lefties to come out of Southern California in the last decade, and his low-90s fastball, above-average curveball, and surprising pitching smarts could allow him to move quickly. "He's a guy that could explode on the scene. He has stuff and intelligence on the mound, and that's a dangerous combination at that age," said an NL cross checker.
15. Jacob Turner – RHP – Detroit Tigers
Bonus demands also pushed the top prep pitcher in the 2009 draft down to the ninth pick of the first round, and the Detroit Tigers did not hesitate to pull the trigger, just as they had with Rick Porcello in 2007. Turner combines a plus fastball that touches 95 mph with two good secondary pitches and uncanny poise for such a young pitcher. He could move very quickly, and the Tigers won't hesitate to be aggressive with their new young stud.
16. Arodys Vizcaino - RHP - Atlanta Braves
The Braves acquired a potential future ace when they dealt right-hander Javier Vazquez to the Yankees last year, as Vizcaino has a world of potential in his right arm. With a fastball that sits comfortably at 92-93 mph and can reach 96, Vizcaino is already armed with one plus pitch. His best pitch, however, is a true hammer curveball that can be devastating and could be one of the best in all of baseball once he reaches his peak.
17. Dan Hudson – RHP – Chicago White Sox
Hudson shot all the way from Low-A ball to the majors this year in a total of five stops. His rocket rise through the organization was made possible by a fastball with good movement that sits at 92-93 mph and can be dialed up to reach 95. He also throws a deceptive changeup 8-10 mph slower than the fastball and features an improving slider.
18. Jake Arrieta – RHP – Baltimore Orioles
Since smoothing out his mechanics, Arrieta has regained his plus fastball to go with refined command, and his slider has become a go-to pitch. The right-hander will get into trouble when his arm slot drops and he does not stay on top of his pitches, making them flat and hittable. His changeup has been a pitch that has improved, but he is a little too predictable, saving the slip mostly for left-handed hitters.
19. Aaron Crow – RHP – Kansas City Royals
Crow, a former University of Missouri All-American, pitched well enough in a stint with the Independent League Fort Worth Cats to entice the Royals to make him the 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft. A first-round holdout from the 2008 draft, Crow did not sign with the Royals until September, so he has yet to throw his first professional pitch. The 22-year-old right-hander possesses excellent command of a mid-90s fastball with heavy sink, along with a plus slider and a quality changeup.
20. Hector Rondon – RHP – Cleveland Indians
Good command of a mid-90s fastball put Rondon on the fast track in the Indians' farm system. The 21-year-old walked only 29 in more than 146 innings while splitting the year between Double-A Akron (7-5, 2.75 ERA) and Triple-A Columbus (4-5, 4.00 ERA). If he throws his changeup and slider with the sharp strike zone consistency of his 96 mph fastball, Rondon could make it to Cleveland sometime during 2010.
21. Casey Kelly – RHP – Boston Red Sox
The main concerns regarding Kelly had nothing to do with his arm. The whispers were he remained adamant about sticking at shortstop, despite the talent to be an above-average pitcher. Scouts, therefore, questioned his mental makeup. He has since committed to pitching full time but would be higher on the prospect list because of his low-90s fastball and a pair of plus secondary pitches had this been a non-issue. His biting curveball and late dropping changeup are showstoppers, and he could gain velocity on his heater with his focus now solely on the hill.
22. Zach Wheeler – RHP – San Francisco Giants
The sixth overall pick of this year’s draft out of East Paulding High School in Georgia, Wheeler can reach the mid-90s with his lively fastball, sitting in the low-90s, and sports a plus curveball with late bite. His delivery needs a little ironing out, and his command projects as average, but the strong 6-foot-4 right-hander could be on the fast track.
23. Jhoulys Chacin – RHP – Colorado Rockies
Chacin's rise through the minor leagues has been meteoric with one NL scouting director commenting, "I knew he would be good eventually, but I never expected him in the big leagues at 21." Chacin was in the process of posting a 3.21 ERA between Double- and Triple-A before the Rockies called him up to the big leagues where he has battled command issues but still flashed the potential of a solid number two starter.
24. Christian Friedrich – LHP – Colorado Rockies
In just his second professional season after a strong collegiate career at Eastern Kentucky, Friedrich has made quick work of the minor leagues, getting to High-A for 14 dominating starts this summer. "The feel he has for pitching is off the charts. That, with a plus-plus breaker and plus-plus command, and he's a no-doubter," were the words of one pro scout for an AL team, as another scout sat silently nodding his head in agreement. Friedrich is so polished at this point in his career that it is not unrealistic to suggest he could be contributing in the thin air in Colorado during the second half of 2010.
25. Manny Banuelos – LHP – New York Yankees
The 18-year-old Mexican southpaw went 9-5 with a 2.57 ERA and posted a 1.07 WHIP in his first full minor league season, earning him a Future Game selection. He has three plus pitches – a fastball topping out at 95 mph, curveball, and changeup – great command, and the poise of a seasoned veteran. His mechanics are sound and the pitchability is rare for a hurler his age.
Scout.com Minor League Baseball Analyst Mark Anderson is also the Managing Editor for TigsTown.com, which covers the Detroit Tigers, and Scout.com Senior MiLB Editor Denis Savage is the publisher of MadFriars.com, covering the San Diego Padres. Visit http://MLB.scout.com today to see coverage for your favorite Major League Baseball team.
The top 25 minor league hitting prospects will follow on Tuesday before delving into the top 10 prospects by position.