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Impact Prospects for 2012: NL Starting Pitchers (Part Two) PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 11:19

Houston Astros

One of the principle portions of the Roy Oswalt deal, Jarred Cosart came to the Astros and instantly became one of, if not their top minor league hurler. The 6’3” righty has excellent natural stuff, but overall he remains a rather unfinished and somewhat raw product. Yes, Cosart throws some nasty raw heat with good movement and has the makings of a plus curve and changeup, yet something is missing. A 6.6 K/9 and 5.5 K/9 at stops at A+ and AA ball quickly reveal this. When a pitcher has good raw stuff, and is throwing strikes, this usually reveals a lack of effectiveness or consistency of his secondary pitches. Given 9+ K/9 in the lower minors when Cosart could probably get by on his fastball alone, this makes a lot of sense. I would not at all give up on Cosart given his raw stuff, pretty good strike-throwing ability, and mostly importantly that the kid will first turn 22 in May and has ascended so far already

On the older front we have Paul Clemens. The former Brave was part of the Michael Bourn deal. The move can almost be seen as somewhat of a rescue operation for Clemens given the great depth of starting pitching in Atlanta. The righty is actually a better bet than Cosart to be an impact prospect in 2012 at age 24. Yes, Clemens has just 35 or so innings of experience above A+ ball, but he has a good history of keeping his walk rates under control and has a deep enough repertoire including a fastball that hits the mid-nineties to make a difference. Encouragingly, Clemens has translated his K/9 to each level of play, consistently in the 7+ range.

Finally that brings us to the lefty of this trio, Brett Oberholtzer. The 230 pounder was another portion of the Michael Bourn deal and will be joining Paul Clemens in Triple-A this year. He throws basically as hard as his size would suggest, but he is not a power pitcher per se and it is pretty much universally agreed by scouts that while he has a decent overall package of pitches, there is nothing about any pitch in particular that makes it really stand out. I believe Oberholtzer’s A+-ball 6.5 K/9 is more indicative of what we can expect of him at higher levels than his 6-start Double-A 9+ K/9.

New York Mets

Matt Harvey is ticketed for Triple-A to start 2012 and a mid-season call-up is within the realm of possibilities. The 2010 1st round pick got his feet wet in A and Double-A last year and showed his power stuff, striking out more than a batter per inning at each stop. Early on he earned some comparisons to former first round college pick Mike Pelfrey, but they do not actually have much in common. Harvey actually has good breaking stuff, but his changeup is not quite there yet whereas Pelfrey has never been able to show an effective breaking ball.  Harvey’s potential right now could be as an upper-end of the rotation pitcher, particularly if he improves his change. If not, his fastballs, slider, and curve are all well suited to late-inning relief. So, regardless, of his long-term role, he is someone to target in fantasy drafts.

Jeurys Familia also pitched at A+ and AA, though Famlia saw most of his action at the latter level where he was actually able to increase his strikeout rates to 9.9 per nine innings pitched. He is in a similar boat to Harvey as a very hard thrower and has at least late-inning relief caliber stuff. Also like Harvey, he needs to work on his changeup. One major difference, however, is his command. Earlier in his career Famila had more trouble with his inconsistency, but last year posted a 2.0 and 3.6 BB/9 at each level respectively and is now on a good path. I would be less surprised than I would with Harvey if he did indeed end up a reliever in the long run.

25-year old Chris Schwinden has never been heralded and has mostly been thought of as an organizational player. However, he has performed well at stints in Double-A and Triple-A over the past two seasons and even translated those skills over 4 starts in the Majors too.  He does not do anything fancy. He throws strikes and has good feel for commanding a deep, but fringy repertoire. The righty is a possible #5 starter at best who will not benefit from the new dimensions at Citi Field.

Philadelphia Phillies

Austin Hyatt is a 25-year old right-hander who profiles as a back-end of the rotation pitcher or long reliever. On paper, he is quite a performer, posting a 10.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in Double-A last year and producing similar numbers in the lower-minors. He has a good enough fastball/changeup combo to be successful, but may not be able to spin the ball well enough to be a long-term big-leaguer.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Last season I raved about Jeff Lock and Rudy Owens. Well they are all back again for a second go-around and this year joined by Kyle McPherson.

Jeff Locke built well upon his previous efforts, but spent much of 2011 repeating Double-A, still posting around an 8.2 K/9 and showing solid, though not as nearly as good previous command (jumped from 1.9 to 3.3 BB/9). He advanced to Triple-A, maintained his strikeout skills and threw more strikes over 5 starts. He will return there to start 2012 and could advance in the middle of the season. His pitches are average to slightly above average and he could be a third or fourth starter in the long run.

Rudy Owens, also 24, unlike Locke, made an immediate move to Triple-A, but did not fair quite so well as his walk rates climbed and strikeout rates plummeted to a sub-6.0 as his velocity fizzled. He is not done yet, but has to prove himself and show better durability and velocity this upcoming year to make it.

Kyle McPherson , continuing our 24-year old theme, came on strong in 2011. He cruised through A+ and Double-A ball and is now poised for a challenge in Triple-A. Granted at 23 he was old for both leagues, but he showed well above average command and most notably has as he has physically matured, he has filled out his 6’4” frame and added velocity necessary to separate his fastball from his plus-change. If he can improve his curveball, he could be a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

St. Louis Cardinals

Power-pitcher Shelby Miller is on the fact track to the Majors. The 21-year old may advance to Triple-A this season after dominating in 25 starts at A+ and AA-ball. His fastball and curve already plus-pitches and a change with that potential. Miller has shown an ability to control them and translate those skills from level to level with some success, keeping his BB/9 at 3.4 at two different stops.  Miller has top-of-rotation potential.

Maikel Cleto, meanwhile, is older and has Triple-A experience and could on that basis reach the Majors before Miller, but he is in fact a bit more raw. The 22-year old is an extremely hard thrower (around 100 mph!), but his secondary stuff is all very much “in progress”. He was able to throw strikes in the lower-minors, but his BB/9 soared to over 5.0 in 13 Triple-A outings. While he has been used almost exclusively as a starter, it is not a great leap to expect any success for him to occur as a reliever.

Lefty John Gast will be seeing Triple-A time too this year. He throws a bit harder than most lefties and is regularly in the low-nineties. That combined with his curve give him a chance to at least be a situational lefty in the long run. For now, though, he will remain a starter as his changeup does have at least average potential and his command of his pitches has been reasonable. Gast’s BB/9, though, has declined with each promotion to a new level and is a good indicator that the harder stuff will not be enough at higher levels of play. This could be a make or break year for him.

Brandon Dickson, meanwhile, may not have the upside of any of the above, but he could be the most likely to make some impact. He is a 6’5” right-hander who does not throw nearly as hard as you would expect. He has had two fairly successful and almost identical campaigns in Triple-A already, so that tells you he is really seen as an organizational guy. Still, he has posted 7+ K/9 and sub 3.0 BB/9 each year (and sub 2.0 last). Dickson has a number of offerings and could be useful as a fifth starter or long-reliever. He is pretty much the definition of a quadruple-A starter.

Adam Ottavino is still a rookie at age 26 and actually has not pitched in the Majors since 2010 and has three years experience at Triple-A. I probably should stop there, but he does continue to make batters swing and miss. The former first rounder still has some MLB-level pitches, but has not shown the ability to consistently command them. His best chance may come in relief.

San Diego Padres

Casey Kelly was the primary piece of the Adrian Gonzalez deal. At 21-years of age, it was more than reasonable for the young righty to repeat Double-A, especially after posting a 5+ ERA in 2010. Still, more was expected of him than a 3.98 ERA and 6.7 K/9. He still threw plenty of strikes and has multiple pitches with plus potential, as well as the ability to keep the ball on the ground. He just has yet to put all the puzzle pieces together. Kelly will advance to Triple-A this year and still has time on his side, but it would be nice to see an uptick in the strikeout rates before one can call him anything more than a middle of the rotation starter.

A 2011 acquisition (in the Mike Adams deal with Texas) Joe Wieland, pitched well at both organizational Double-A stops. The 22-year old is not a high-ceiling pitcher like Kelly, but is a more refined product, commands his pitches well, and could push for a rotation spot by mid-season.

Robbie Erlin was also picked up in the Mike Adams deal. He started the year in A+ ball, but joined Wieland in Double-A with both Texas and the Padres. His potential is not quite as high as Kelly’s, but is certainly higher than Wieland’s. Of the three, he may the safest blend of potential and stability. He has tremendous command of his offerings with BB/9 hovering around the 1.0 mark over each of the past two seasons. He works more in the upper eighties to lower-nineties and mixes several offerings (change and curve) of plus caliber well. The universal quibble with him is his fly-ball rates and tendency to perhaps throw too many strikes, resulting in more homeruns than one would like. Moving from Texas to San Diego will help to mitigate that issue.

Triple-A may be a very full rotation as not only the three mentioned pitchers will be there, but Juan Oramas and Pedro Hernandez may be there as well. Neither have the other three’s upside. Oramas, 21, throws harder than either Wieland or Erlin and throws plenty of strikes, but his secondary pitches are average at best and need more refinement.  Hernandez, nearly 23, touches the low-nineties and has an workable changeup and also throws strikes, but lacks a breaking ball of note. I suspect he may end up roster filler as he’ll need a breaking pitch to even be a situational reliever.

San Francisco Giants

Eric Surkamp made the leap from Double-A to the Majors last season for a 6-start appearance and failed to translate his skills, indicating more development time is still warranted. So, while Surkamp will head to Triple-A, a return to the Majors at some point is quite likely. When on his game, Surkamp features a fairly deep repertoire that allows him to combat lefties and righties alike and the command to utilize them effectively. That was the issue in the Majors – his command failed him. Given more experience, there is enough skill here to be a middle of the rotation to back end of the rotation starter.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals, prior to this offseason, were quite deep in near-ready or ready rookie talent. Instead, they dealt Brad Peacock and Tom Milone to the A’s along with other prospects. Granted it is quite hard to fault them when they acquired an upper level rotation starter in Gio Gonzalez in the bargain and also signed Edwin Jackson at low cost to fill out the rotation. Also, the Nationals do have non-rookies like Ross Detwiler, Chien-Ming Wang, Tom Gorzelanny, and Craig Stammen to fill in.

The one rookie for your consideration is Daniel Rosenbaum. He is a 24-year old lefty and former 2009 22nd round pick. He is your somewhat typical college pitcher, who does not throw particularly hard, but has learned his craft pretty well, spotting his fastball and harnessing his changeup effectively, while keeping the ball on the ground. If Rosenbaum can have some success against righties at the higher levels, then he may be considered for the back-end of the rotation.

Potential Auction/Draft Day Candidates

Drew Pomeranz

Potential Minor-League Draft Candidates

Eric Surkamp, Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland, Robbie Erlin, Shelby Miller, Trey McNutt, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Wily Peralta, Allen Webster, Nate Eovaldi, Chris Withrow, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Trever Bauer, Tyler Skaggs

Potential FAAB Candidates
Daniel Rosenbaum, Pedro Hernandez, Juan Oramas, Maikel Cleto, Adam Ottavino, John Gast, Brandon Dickson, Austin Hyatt, Rudy Owens, Chris Schwinden, Cody Scarpetta, Amaury Rivas, Michael Fiers, Tom Koehler, Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 13:09
 

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