|Impact Prospects for 2012: NL Starting Pitchers (Part One)|
|Written by Rob Leibowitz|
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 11:34|
Part one of two
Lefty Wade Miley got off to a rocky start in Double-A after having performed well there the year prior. Fortunately, he got things together in Triple-A and managed a 9.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He made seven starts for Arizona, but didn’t top 6.0 K/9 and uncharacteristically struggled with his control. He is a four pitch pitcher with middle to lower end of the rotation potential and needs to show more of what he accomplished in 2010 and in Triple-A 2011 to be regarded more highly.
Tyler Skaggs came over from the Angels in 2010 and has not disappointed. His K/9 at two stops was never below 11.2 and he actually improved with both his strikeouts and his control upon his promotion for ten starts at Double-A. The lefty has at least 3 MLB-caliber pitches in the long run. Considering he is only 21, he may yet start the year back in Double-A before advancing to Triple-A and could only end up with a late-season call-up. Still he is very much one to watch.
Patrick Corbin is an interesting lefty who will move on to Triple-A this season. The 22-year old works with a solid-three pitch array and changes speeds well. While he managed an 8.0 K/9 last year, he is not a blazer and I suspect that rate will drop off as he ascends up the ladder, probably to the 6’s. Still, he has the makings of a back-end of the rotation or slightly better starter.
Julio Teheran is MLB ready. It is just a matter of the Braves figuring out what the heck they want to do with all of their depth. A trade should be expected eventually that will gain him a regular spot in their rotation though as the Braves are more likely to trade someone other than him. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the Braves perhaps should not rush keeping in mind that Teheran first turned 21 in January. As a 20-year old in Triple-A he posted a 7.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. He has an excellent power/changeup combination and a more than passable curve. Teheran, as of right now, has legitimate #1 starter potential.
Randall Delgado made seven starts with the Braves last year and managed a sub 3.00 ERA. However, he did not translate his minor league skills to the Majors and was more of a pitch to contact pitcher over that small sample. He has three pitches of at least average MLB quality with two of them having plus potential. While he has middle to upper end of the rotation potential, he still struggles to consistently control his stuff which may ultimately lead him to the bullpen.
The Cubs do not have many upper-level organization prospects of note. Trey McNutt is the lone exception at the moment. He throws like his 6’4” 220 pound frame would suggest: hard. However, despite a good fastball/curveball combination, it has not shown up all that well in his strikeout rates. Last year he had just a 6.2 K/9 over 23 appearances. He will advance to Triple-A and will continue to work on his changeup, but right now he screams reliever/max out his power pitches to me.
No upper-level pitching prospects of note.
Drew Pomeranz will open 2012 in the Rockies rotation. He was acquired from the Indians in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal and he made just two starts with the Rockies organization in Double-A before ascending to the Majors where he had his struggles, but still managed to show his skills over 4 starts. Pomeranaz is a fairly hard-thrower for a lefty, reaching the mid-nineties, but works more in the low-nineties and mixed in a good slider and average change. He has #2 or #3 starter potential long-term.
Christian Friedrich has spent two seasons in Double-A. Since his first stint, his strikeout skills have faded, but his control skills have improved – though that was most likely due to having a healthy elbow in 2011 more than anything else. His fastball/curve combination could get him a long-term role as a loogy, but his changeup may be effective enough for him to make it as a fifth starter.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Converted infielder Allen Webster has climbed high on the rungs of the Dodgers’ long-term pitching depth charts. The 22-year old pitched at two levels, showing consistent control at both levels. He met with more resistance at Double-A, watching his K/9 drop 3 whole points to a 7.2, but that does not look like a long-term problem given the quality of his stuff. He has four pitches, all with at least average, if not plus potential, and surprising considering his late move to being a pitcher, his best pitch may be his changeup. He may start the season in Double-A, but should end it in at least Triple-A, if not the Majors and has upper mid to upper end of the rotation potential.
Nathan Eovaldi jumped from Double-A to the Dodgers last year and it was clear he was a fish out of water with a near 1:1 K/BB ratio. He will return to the minors to start the year and should not in any way be written off. The 22-year old has at least a high a ceiling as Allen Webster with an mid to upper-nineties fastball and plus-slider. However, his control , mechanics, and command as well as his changeup are not as well refined as Websters. For now, I would choose Webster over Eovaldi and would not be surprised if Eovaldi ends up in relief long-term. The Dodgers will keep him as a starter for now.
Chris Withrow makes this group a trio of pitchers who can hit the mid to upper nineties on their fastball. While he has a great arm and many of his pitches earn much praise, he is rather unable to throw them for strikes or to command them with any sense of consistentcfy. He repeated Double-A and made little to no progress with his BB/9 still hovering around 5.0. In Winthrow’s case I would be actually suprirsed if he did make it as a starter. He could be a nasty option as a reliever though.
Tom Koehler made 28 starts and had an ERA near 5.00 in Triple-A last year. Hardly a ringing endorsement. Still, he is the closest thing the Marlins have as a prospect in the upper levels of the minors and as such he may get some spots starts. He has shown better in the past, has a four pitch-package, and did at least post a 6.9 K/9 last year. The problem was how his command completely fell part, falling from 2.6 to 4.7. He is very close to becoming roster filler if he does not get back to previous level of control and command.
The Brewers are blessed with a particularly deep system with respect to starting pitching, in large thanks in part to their two early first round draft picks of Taylor Jungmann and Vince Bradley as well as Tyler Thornburg who was taken in the 2010 draft. None of those three pitchers, however, are likely to make the Majors in 2012. Fortunately, Wily Peralta, who is perhaps better than any of those three, may very well make it this year. Peralta, 22, made it all the way to Triple-A last season and is slated to return there. His 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs elicit rave reviews all aroud and his slider is a weapon too and his changeup has average potential. While he is not a strike machine, he does generally throw strikes and has managed to keep his BB/9 well under 4.0 during any extended stays in the minors. He profiles best as a #3 starter with #2 potential if his changeup improves.
Cody Scarpetta, 23, has very good raw stuff with a fastball/curveball combination that should get him to the majors as a reliever in the worst case scenario. The big concerns here are his ability to command his pitches and to repeat his mechanics. His career BB/9 hav ebeen consistently over 4.0 and have not shown much sign of improvement. So I am skeptical, despite his middle-of-the-rotation stuff.
Amaury Rivas is one of two of the Brewers journeyman options. The 26-year old made it to Triple-A for the first itme last year and was at one time thought to be something of a sleeper given solid control numbers aned strikeout numbers at previous levels in his career. Instead, his K/9 dropped for the third consecutive season and stop and his BB/9 did the opposite trend, moving close to 5.0. When on, he does have a pretty good fastball/changeup combination and could still make it in middle relief.
The Brewers superior journeyman option is Michael Fiers. He is a soft-tossing 27-year old right-hander who pitched two games in relief last year. What he does well is pitch. He changes speeds, spots his fastball well, and commands a solid slider and ok curve well too. Unlike Rivas, his strikeout rates and control numbers have remained solid throughout his professional career and he is coming off of a 9.6 K/9 despite no breaking 90 mph on his fastball. It will be interesting to see if he can adjust to the Majors and whether or not his stuff ends up being too hittable.