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Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Prospects: Top 20 Starting Pitchers


Our journey continues around the minor leagues as we review the top dynasty prospects in baseball. Today, it’s time for the “chin music” as we throw one up-and-in, and break down the best starting pitcher prospects in baseball.

It’s not easy to find a good rookie starting pitcher. Only 12 rookies pitched at least 100 innings in 2019 and, of those, only five broke the 150-inning mark. Of the pitchers that broke the century mark in innings, only four pitchers offered strong strikeout numbers, and just four offered double-digit win totals. In other words, carrying a young pitcher in their freshman season won’t necessarily provide a huge help early on but the reward down the line can be worth the investment when you have the next Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, or Jacob deGrom.

We previously reviewed the catchersfirst basemensecond basemenshortstops, third basemen, and outfielders. So, who will be the next ace of your fantasy team? Let’s take a look.

 

Top 1-5 Starting Pitcher Prospects

1. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Padres, MLB ETA: 2021

Gore had few issues with A-ball in 2019 as a 20-year-old. He held hitters to a .137 batting average and allowed just four home runs in 79.1 innings. He moved up to Double-A late in the season and held his own. He’s a true future ace with the chance to have four above-average offerings, as well as plus control. The southpaw can also dial his heater up into the 95-96 mph range and there could be more velocity to come.

2. Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays, MLB ETA: 2020

The rebuilding Blue Jays desperately need good pitching and Pearson is almost ready to provide it at the MLB level. The hulking right-hander flashes three above-average offerings and can also hit 100 mph with his heater. He pitched at three levels in 2019 and held batters to a collective .176 batting average with a K-BB of 119-27 in 101.2 innings. Pearson’s combination of size, control, and power is rare.

3. Brendan McKay, LHP, Rays, MLB ETA: 2020

McKay has already shown what he’s capable of at the big league level and came within an inning of losing his rookie eligibility for 2020. He struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings in his debut. He’s also shown excellent control for someone who hasn’t fully committed to pitching and still dabbles in being a two-way player. McKay’s command isn’t quite as strong and he was hurt by the long ball in his MLB debut so he’ll need to work on keeping the ball in the yard more consistently in 2020.

4. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Athletics, MLB ETA: 2020

I was ultra-conservative with Luzardo in 2019 because of the serious shoulder injury he suffered, and we need to continue to be wary of expecting too much from him until he has a full season to show that the issue really is behind him. With that said, he’s very advanced for his age and had few issues with Triple-A or MLB hitters in 2019. He has the ceiling of a No. 1 starter, especially if he polishes his breaking ball a little further.

5. Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers, MLB ETA: 2020

Detroit is in a very enviable position with three pitchers in the Top 20 and two within the Top 6. You can argue between Mize and Manning all day long because the difference between the two is so small. Manning, for me, projects a little bit better for fantasy baseball because I see him being a little more durable (more innings) and with a chance to produce the higher strikeout rates. I’ve said it before: He reminds me of a young, raw Justin Verlander.

 

Top 6-10 Starting Pitcher Prospects

6. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers, MLB ETA: 2020

Mize is ultra-talented. He had no issues with A-ball hitters and held them to a .110 batting average before being promoted to Double-A in his first full season in pro ball. The former first-overall pick was much more hittable in Double-A because his command still needs tweaking (His control remains outstanding). The injury issue he had last year is not a red flag but it bears watching as he moves forward.

7. Luis Patino, RHP, Padres, MLB ETA: 2021

Patino is not far behind his teammate, Mackenzie Gore, and joined him in the Double-A rotation late in 2019 — but he's also one year younger and just recently turned 20. This young hurler doesn’t have the same command/control as Gore but he can also dial his heater up in the upper-90s and is developing a wipeout slider. The Colombia native struck out 123 batters in just 94.2 collective innings in 2019. An above-average athlete, Patino may just be scratching the surface on his potential.

8. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Marlins, MLB ETA: 2020

Sanchez has outstanding control and a plus fastball but he’s a little further down on the list than some because of durability concerns (He’s under 6-feet) and the lack of a second dominate pitch, which has limited his strikeout rates to date. On the plus side, he’s shown the ability to induce a lot of ground-ball outs and keep the ball in the park. He allowed just five home runs in more than 100 innings at Double-A in 2019.

9. A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics, MLB ETA: 2020

Puk rebounded well from Tommy John surgery in 2019 and flashed a 97 mph fastball out of the bullpen with the A’s. He should move back to the starting rotation in 2020. He’ll need to build up his arm strength but he could be back in the Majors before the summer. In his last fully healthy season, Puk struck out a whopping 184 batters in just 125 innings. The southpaw needs to work on his control but he has the raw stuff to dominate even if it’s just average.

10. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers, MLB ETA: 2020

May isn’t electric and may not produce elite strikeout numbers but he does a lot of things well and comes from an organization that knows how to develop prospects (an undervalued aspect of prospect ranking). The right-hander can throw strikes with ease and he also induces an above-average number of ground balls, which is important in this homer-happy era. He also throws a couple of breaking balls that move well and can induce weak contact. And May plays for a team that should help him compile a lot of wins.

 

Top 11-15 Starting Pitcher Prospects

11. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Twins, MLB ETA: 2020

Graterol is an interesting pitcher. He’s not much to look at -- he’s short for a pitcher and doesn’t have the ideal conditioning -- but he can also dial his heater up into the upper-90s and back it up with a plus breaking ball. He’s another top pitching prospect that can produce above-average ground-ball rates. There are also some health concerns that lead to some risk that he could eventually turn into a reliever.

12. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves, MLB ETA: 2020

Anderson is a young pitcher that’s trending upwards. He spent most of 2019 in Double-A and even reached Triple-A for five starts late in the season. And he’s only 21. The right-hander has a solid pitcher’s frame, a chance for three above-average offerings and his fastball dials up into the mid-90s. Anderson needs to improve his control after walking 65 batters in 135.2 innings but he also struck out 172.

13. Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox, MLB ETA: 2020

On pure stuff alone, Kopech could be higher on the list. But he’s on his way back from Tommy John surgery and, although the surgery is often successful, it’s not a guarantee that he’ll return with the same stuff he had before he got hurt. If all is good, Kopech will return with his triple-digit heater and plus slider.

14. Grayson Rodriguez, LHP, Orioles, MLB ETA:

I’m a big Grayson Rodriguez fan and we’d probably have heard more about him by now if he were playing for the Dodgers, Yankees or Cubs. He’s just 20 (but pitched all of 2019 at the age of 19), stands 6-5 and can fire his heater up into the upper-90s. He struck out 129 batters in just 94 innings in Low-A ball. Both his command and control need polishing but he’s a beast just waiting to break out.

15. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Rays, MLB ETA:

Right after Rodriguez, we have another southpaw that stands 6-5 and pitched during the 2019 season at the age of 19. Liberatore is a very different pitcher, though. He can occasionally scrape 94-95 mph but power pitching is not his game. With that said, he has a chance to develop four above-average pitches while using his height to create an excellent downward plane on his offerings, which induce a high number of ground-ball outs. He allowed just two home runs in 78.1 innings this past season.

 

Top 16-20 Starting Pitcher Prospects

16. Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves, MLB ETA: 2020

Wright rode the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors quite a bit in 2019. His pitching schedule was often thrown off and he struggled with inconsistency. Allowed the pitch regularly at Triple-A in the second half of the season, he flourished. His command may never be considered plus but even if it can become average, Wright could be a stud with four average-or-better offerings and a mid-90s fastball. He also has the frame to develop into an innings-eater.

17. Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays, MLB ETA: 2020

I’m probably driving the McClanahan bandwagon right now but I feel he’s poised for a huge 2020 season. A former first-round pick out of college, the hard-throwing southpaw can touch triple-digits with his heater but really struggled with his control when he entered pro ball. Something clicked early in 2019, though, and his control improved significantly which allowed him to reach Double-A by the end of the season. He doesn’t have ideal height for a pitcher but McClanahan does a nice job inducing ground balls.

18. Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers, MLB ETA: 2020

Skubal — whose name I can never seemingly spell correctly — was a huge pop-up guy in 2019 after getting lost a bit in college despite showing good stuff. He displayed much-improved consistency in his first full pro season and reached Double-A. His control also improved significantly and he allowed just 37 walks in 122.2 innings. He has the potential to have three above-average or plus offerings with a heater that works in the mid-90s and can touch 96-97 mph.

19. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros, MLB ETA: 2020

The 2019 season was a lost year for Whitley who battled inconsistency and injury. There were also whispers late in the year that he has some makeup concerns and could have worked harder to prepare for the season. When healthy, he has all the talent in the world but learned in 2019 that talent will only get you so far. Some star players need a wake-up call before realizing their full potential so, hopefully, Whitley will learn from the rough season and rediscover his swagger and success in 2020.

20. Jackson Kowar, RHP, Royals, MLB ETA:

There were a number of pitchers that I considered for the final 20th slot, so there’s not a lot of separation between Kowar and some of the other arms that just missed the list. The Royals have an embarrassment of pitching riches that could all reach the Majors in 2020 and 2021 (Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic are others to know). For me, Kowar is the best of the bunch — a very successfully college pitcher who has gotten even better in pro ball. He reached Double-A in his first full season and could be a real stud once he improves his breaking ball a little more.

Just Missed: Spencer Howard (Phillies), Logan Gilbert (Mariners), Mitch Keller (Pirates), DL Hall (Orioles), Shane Baz (Rays), Deivi Garcia (Yankees), Brent Honeywell (Rays), Daniel Lynch (Royals)

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