Continuing our run through the Top 10 Lists for positional prospects, this time we will look at the Southpaws of the Pitching Mound. We broke the pitchers down into Lefty and Righty, which is only natural. So once again, let’s take a step back and take a broad look at the minor leagues as we go position by position and bring to you the Top Position Lists with some additional players and information.
Because as we said, we’ll be analyzing the Baseball Instinct 360° not only full circle, but 365 days a year. The deeper we get into the video and our customized Instinctools Stat System, the more the view changes from the top.
So let’s get into the Left-handed Pitchers to give you the list and some of the current thoughts.
In the Top 100
2°. Matt Moore, LHP, Rays, 6/18/1989 – At this point of Moore’s development, I feel safe saying that he is an elite pitcher with Ace potential and a very high floor. Worst case scenario is a very good #3 starter with high K rates. He may find some troubles with the long ball early in his MLB career, but he’s proven that he’s more than just tools. He’s willing to learn and adjust. So he’ll adjust at the next level and have a successful career. Those 200 K seasons in the minors. They could very well translate in the Show. So a sub-3.50 ERA and 180-200 K’s per season. That sounds about right to me. ETA Now.
Update Instinct – Big contract in hand, set financially for life, Moore now should have his sights set on bringing a Championship to Tampa Bay. He’s a Fantasy Baseball factor in the here and now.
17°. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Diamondbacks, 7/13/1991 - The big lefty was part of the haul for Dan Haren and the Dbacks can’t be disappointed. While he’s always had good strikeout stuff and projected as a big league starter, 2011 puts him on another level. His 198 K’s in 158.1 IP is good for a K rate over 30% which is elite. Match that with his 7.5% walk rate and you have a mix for high level success. He’s another starter with possible front end of the rotation projection. Skaggs will likely get warmed up at Triple-A and get his chance in the majors at some point in 2012. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – If he gets heated up like he did in 2011, he should be a midseason call up in 2012, especially if the Dbacks are in the hunt.
20°. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners, 11/28/1989 – As of yet, he has no pro experience being late signer from the draft. However, he pitched quite well in the Arizona Fall League and the word is that Mariners will bring him into spring training to compete for a starting job. Even if he doesn’t win a job going into the season, I would expect to see him pitching at Safeco Field before the end of the 2012 season. Baseball Instinct’s Geo Utter discusses his stuff and his mechanics in his Prospect Instinct | Danny Hultzen article that he wrote up earlier this off season. Hultzen has a very high probability of being a successful major league starter for a long time. Ace type? No. But in Seattle he probably won’t be asked to front the rotation. But a #2? I wouldn’t be surprised. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Hultzen should see time, probably significant time, in Seattle this year. He’s advanced enough to win a spot out of Spring Training. His innings will need to be limited this year before the gloves come off for a 200 inning season in 2013.
22°. James Paxton, LHP, Mariners, 11/7/1988 – At this point he has the look of a #3 starter, possibly a #2 starter, in a major league rotation. He will get a shot at a rotation spot this spring, and there is a great chance we see him in the majors at some point in 2012. His K’s make him an attractive fantasy option and I expect him to be a fast riser in the Mariners organization. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Paxton has 2 plus offerings right now with a lagging changeup that will need to be refined in order for him to be more than a back end innings eater. But we think the changeup will be developed and, when it does, he’ll be a high end #3 starter with a big frame to eat up innings.
32°. Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers, 4/4/1991 – He’s still a talented young pitcher, but a lack of size and poor development path have put him in a tough position. So much has been expected of him at such a young age and placing the potential Ace tag on a kid this young without him having at least two plus pitches isn’t fair for him. Can he gain the additional development on the fastball to make it plus? Yes. The Changeup is right there as well. But an Ace is able to put together 3 plus pitches and above average or better command. He’ll be close. But this is more about time than it is talent. He should make his debut some time in 2012. But it may be 2015 before we see him hit his stride as a dominant starter. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – I think we pushed this ranking a little high. Perez is still young and has had trouble adjusting to new levels. I wouldn’t expect instant success in Texas if he makes his debut in 2012. But long term he is still a high end talent.
38°. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Rockies, 11/22/1988 – In Pomeranz, Colorado netted themselves a top of the rotation guy. Unfortunately, in October, Pomeranz was arrested for disturbing the peace while leaving a bar with his friends at 1:45 a.m. Not sure how this behavior will affect the fast-track he’s been traveling since becoming a professional. This may be a case of too much success too soon. So the Rockies shouldn’t rush him. Pomeranz did make it to the majors in 2011, but was very hittable when he faced to a big league line-up. So he’ll still need some seasoning in the minors to further develop that change-up. Hopefully, he will have a chance to mature a little bit too. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – With as close as Pomeranz is, this ranking will get a boost in the final preseason ranking. He’ll still need to battle the Colorado thin air but he’s ready to be a big name starter for this franchise and Cleveland will regret this trade. Pomeranz may out produce the man he was traded for in 2012.
41°. Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees, 3/13/1991 – Banuelos is a possible #3 starter with #2 upside. He’s still working on his command of the curveball and should get a little more time in Triple-A to get ready for the Yankees. He’ll slot into the back of the rotation and work his way into the middle eventually. His size is still a concern, but as we mentioned he gets velocity without max effort. Command will be his biggest ally if he hits his upside. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Maturity as a big factor in Banuelos development from this point on. He’s going to need to start trusting his stuff and attacking hitters instead of being fine with his location. It will be one step back before he takes two steps forward. He won’t be needed in NY unless injury strikes and he could get all of 2012 in Triple-A before a September call up.
57°. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals, 7/1/1989 - Mike maintained velocity throughout games, regularly throwing in the 90-94 range while touching 96, as well as improving his changeup to his best pitch. The big lefties biggest problems at this point is finding consistency with his looping curveball and with the strikezone throughout an entire start as he tended to lose it at times. He started to work with a cutter late in the season which combined with his change could keep righthanders off of his fastball. Montgomery can flash the stuff that makes him look like a potential #1 but he’ll need to find consistency with his curve to achieve that goal. We should see him in Kansas City at some point in 2012. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Montgomery will spend his second season in Triple-A and if his confidence is in tact he should have a solid bounce back campaign and make his 2012 debut near the end of 2012.
67°. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Phillies, 10/22/1991 – Biddle has #3 upside and the frame to work innings. He’ll need to have the velocity uptick to the 93-95 range to get the most separation from that changeup. It’s going to be a couple of years before he’s ready, but the Phils are ok at the upper levels already, so there is no reason to rush him. The Jupiter Hammerheads play the Threshers in late May, so we’ll have a complete video breakdown with a Prospect Instinct then. Mark your calender. Biddle is an upside lefty with the frame to match and that doesn’t come along all the time. ETA 2015.
Update Instinct – A youngun of the Top 10, Biddle is still all projection without the refinement. He will spend time in the FSL and if the velocity upticks he could be in the Top 50 before the end of the season.
85°. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres, 10/8/1990 – The main question is whether his lack of a premium fastball will prevent him from maintaining similar performance at the major league level. His excellent ability to locate the ball within the strike zone however, bodes well for future success. He is a fly ball pitcher, but Petco is very kind to that type of pitcher. I like Erlin’s chances to succeed and he’ll become a solid mid-rotation starter that can bring good fantasy value with his peripheral stats. Likely to start in AAA ball, but arrival in the majors is not far away. ETA 2012.
Update Instinct – Erlin could easily be a Top 50 and might get a boost before the season starts. He has a great park in his future and he pitching ability is high end even if the stuff isn’t elite. The overall package is a major league starting pitcher.
The Rest of the Top 100
100°. John Lamb, LHP, Royals, 7/10/1990- While he missed most of the year with Tommy John, I believe that with some learning experience, it will only make him better. Lamb’s knack for pitching combined with three solid pitches (90-94 fastball, curve and change) can help him get through lineups even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Last seasons adversity should only make the talented lefty better, showing him that he should never take his conditioning for granted. While at instructs, I heard he was working as hard as ever and should be ready to go by midseason. ETA 2013.
Update Instinct – Lamb’s ability keeps him in the Top 100. It will be a process of relearning to pitch and getting his premium stuff back before he really takes off and puts himself in the mix for a spot in Kansas City. But as long as his arm comes back from the TJ, he should be a SP in KC in the future.
The Best of the Rest
115°. Drew Smyly, LHP, Tigers, 6/13/1989 – A 2nd round pick in the 2010 Amateur Draft out of Arkansas, Smyly wasted no time in proving that he belonged. He started his season at Advanced-A Lakeland and ended the season in Double-A Erie sporting a 1.18 ERA, giving up 6 earned runs, walking 15 and striking out 53 hitters in 45 innings pitched. He got it done with a low-90s fastball and advanced command and control of his curveball and change-up. As a result, Smyly was named Tigers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. ETA 2013.
136 . Alex Torres, LHP, Rays 12/8/1987 – Tampa acquired Torres from the Angels in 2009 for Scott Kazmir, a lefty strikeout artist who could not stay healthy and lost his control. Torres appears to be the most valuable return in that trade, but like Kazmir, his command and control need work. He made all his starts (27) in AAA-Durham in 2011 and pitched in line with his career stats: 3.08 ERA, 9.6 K/9 rate and a disappointing 5.1 BB/9 rate. He is equipped with a low 90’s fastball w/ good movement, an effective changeup, a curve and a work-in-progress slider that could be a plus pitch in time. Torres’ command and control issues may stem from his delivery, but if he can hone his craft, he can emerge as a #3/4 starter for the Rays (maybe a #2/3 for other teams).ETA 2012.
137°. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Blue Jays, 11/22/1991- The Jays have quite a few pitching prospects in the low minors who all have a legitimate chance to be frontline starters if they continue to develop. Nicolino’s ceiling isn’t as high as Norris’, but he has a greater chance of becoming a major league #3. Here’s yet another Jays’ pitcher worth watching. ETA 2014.
Update Instinct – We’re high on the Jays arms and Nicolino is proof with this lofty ranking. Could be a top 100 in 2013.
138°. Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays, 4/25/1993 – The top prep lefthander in the 2011 amateur draft, Norris dropped to second round where the Jays took him with the 74th overall pick for U$2mil. At times Norris has shown three potential plus pitches, but he’s a bit raw- having only started focusing on baseball in the last year. His fastball generally sits in the 89-93mph range, though he can dial it up to 96mph. He has a curveball that he is inconsistent, but he has shown he has the ability to throw a good curveball. His changeup has good arm speed. Like many high school pitches he has inconsistent mechanics, but he’s athletic enough to make the adjustments. ETA 2016.
146°. Edwar Cabrera, LHP, Rockies, 10/20/1987 – A non-drafted free agent out of Santana, Dominican Republic in 2008, Cabrera dominated two levels in 2011. In Asheville and Modesto combined, the small-framed lefty has a 3.34 ERA giving up 155 hits and 62 earned runs, while walking only 41 and striking out a whopping 217 hitters in 167 innings pitched. He’s put himself on the prospect map, using his low 90s fastball and an outstanding change-up and working on a curveball. We love the strikeouts. And the fact that he’s accomplished this over two levels is super impressive. The top concerns going forward will be the development of a solid third pitch and increasing his ability to keep the ball on the ground because a flyball pitcher in Colorado is a bad combo. Scoring a groundball rate of 48% in a hitter’s park like Asheville is pretty decent, but his still gave up 10 homeruns. And 8 longballs in Modesto. We’re rooting for you Edwar. ETA 2014.
Update Instinct – Sometimes a plus plus changeup is enough to make a pitcher successful at the lower levels. But a low 90s fastball is enough to make Cabrera a legit SP prospect. An ace type? Not really, but he should stick in the rotation and keep up his K rates in line with MLE’s.
165°. David Holmberg, LHP, Diamondbacks, 7/19/1991 – Holmberg is another lefty pitcher that the Dbacks got in a trade. This time for Edwin Jackson. He’s still just 20 and the one glaring weakness in his pitch arsenal was his below average fastball. Prior to 2011, he worked more around the 90 mph range, which wouldn’t have given him much ceiling. But, in 2011 he kicked it up to 93-94 and with a solid curveball and changeup combo he could work the back-end of the rotation in the future. ETA 2014.
169°. Patrick Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks, 7/19/1989 – Low 90s fastball has plus movement and his command is above average. He’s still working on bringing his curveball and changeup to a level that is major league ready, but both pitches project as average offerings with his changeup possibly a little more. Even though he’s not overpowering, he has always produced a high K rate and his 20.6% in 2011 was no different. While he isn’t projected as a frontline starter like Skaggs, Corbin is still a good bet for a mid-rotation starter in the 4-5 mold. He will probably need another season at Double-A in 2012. ETA 2013.
172°. Tyler Matzek, LHP, Rockies, 10/19/1990 – With a demotion back to Asheville and some private instruction even before that, Rockie coaches hope they have the command and mechanical problems licked. This is still a very high ceiling arm that could be projected to the top of the rotation in a few seasons. For more insight into the talented Tyler Matzek, check out his recent Prospect Instinct article. ETA 2014.
179°. Chad James, LHP, Marlins, 1/23/1991 - Excellent fastball based on movement, can get in into the low 90s but worst low 90s and mixes in 3 other off speed pitches. 2012 could be a break out season for James. With some improved command, the development of another out pitch, and some deception with his pitches he could shoot up the list soon. Chad James warrants keeping an eye on. He’s projects as solid mid rotation starter and could see action with Marlins in September, but more likely sometime in 2013. ETA 2013.
193°. Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Marlins, 4/02/1989 – One of the better pitching prospects in the Marlins’ system. He went 12-10 with a 3.64 ERA, with a 7.16 K/9 and a 4.31 BB/9 rate in the Florida State League for 2011. He throws a 93 MPH fastball that can touch 95 along with a 12-6 tight curveball. His slider is still a work in progress and is a below average offering. I’m hopeful that he can be a 3rd-4th starter in the majors, but I’m also realistic that he may get there, and quick, out of the bullpen. He will get a healthy dose of Double-A in 2012. ETA 2014.
194°. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Diamondbacks, 6/17/1990 – Based on upside as a lefty, Chafin would be higher on this list. But his command and stamina are not all the way back since spending 2010 recovering from TJ, and his changeup is still below average. He’ll need to time to refine the 3rd offering and get his command back in full. If he’s rushed, he’ll end up in the bullpen. If he’s given the development time, and in this system he can, He could move into the middle of a rotation as a #3 starter. ETA 2015.
203°. Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox, 7/21/1992 - The top high school pitching prospect in SoCal, Owens was drafted 36th overall in the 2011 amateur draft by the Red Sox. Owens throws a fastball that can touch 94mph, but usually sits in the 89-91mph range. He has a curveball that is usually in the low 70mph range with good shape. His changeup shows promise, but it lacks consistency, as he didn’t need to use it much in high school. His deceptive delivery combined with advanced control (for his age) allows his stuff to play up. He should stick around for extended spring training this year and open up right there in the GCL. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves up to Greenboro before the season is over. ETA 2015.
206°. Jed Bradley, LHP, Brewers, 6/12/1990 – A lefty out of Georgia Tech, he was the second of Milwaukee’s 2011 first round draft picks. We got a glimpse of him in The Arizona Fall League, but he wasn’t that impressive (1-0, 6.48 ERA , 8 SO, 8.1 IP) probably due to a mild groin injury in the Instructional League. He’ll make his real debut in 2012 with Single-A. The Brewers had no southpaws that thrilled in their farm system so Bradley moves to the top in that category. Jed has good control and throws in the low 90′s. He could move quickly. ETA 2014.
211°. Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Braves, 5/08/1990 – The 2011 1st round draft pick is drawing comparisons to Tom Glavine from some, yet scoffs and jeers from others who felt he was over drafted. It’s way too soon to compare Sean Gilmartin to Tom Glavine or even Mike Minor, who added velocity to his fastball in 2011. So far, he’s shown good command in the minors walking just 10 in 52.1 innings and a plus changeup. He should get some High-A or even AA work in 2012 and may not be too far from the majors, but temper your expectations as he projects more of a back of the rotation guy – possibly a #3 – and the Braves have a lot of depth and not much room in the big league rotation. ETA 2013.
214°. Sammy Solis, LHP, Nationals, 8/10/1988 – A 2010 2nd round pick, Doesn’t have the ceiling of other Nationals pitchers, however has an excellent chance to reach the majors as a #4 or #5. Solis was shut down during the AFL with a sore elbow that has the team worried. It could just be minor soreness or it could ruin his entire 2012 season. Losing Solis would tax the organization’s pitching depth. He could shoot up the list if the elbow checks out fine. He’s got great makeup. ETA 2013.
221°. Eric Surkamp, LHP, Giants, 7/16/1987 - Despite mediocre velocity, Surkamp has pin-point control and good movement on his secondary offerings. Though he suffered some uncharacteristic control issues in his major league debut, he did strike out 165 while walking just 45 in 148.1 innings in the minors. He’s going to get a shot at the rotation either out of spring training or there after. ETA 2012.
225°. Carlos Perez, LHP, Braves, 11/20/1991 – Perez had a bit of a disappointing season in 2011. While he was a bit unlucky with the high BABIP, his over all control and command were not sharp. Keep in mind that he pitched 4 times as many innings (125 at age 19) than he did in 2009 or 2010. He’s plenty young and talented enough to right the ship. After spending a season and a half in Low-A, the Braves may opt to have him tackle the High-A Carolina league as a 20-year-old. ETA 2015.
233°. Tyler Anderson, LHP, Rockies, 12/30/1989 – The University of Oregon product is a polished lefty that brings to the majors a low 90′s fastball and an above average change up. It shouldn’t be long before he overtakes Tyler Matzek as the best lefty in the organization. He doesn’t have the upside that Matzek has but he’s certainly less of a risk to bust. He looks like a middle of the rotation starter to us. He should jump into full season ball in the South Atlantic League in 2012. ETA 2014.
243°. Enny Romero, LHP, Rays, 1/24/1991 – Romero is heading into his 5th season and is still only going to be 21 when the season starts. He has an excellent frame that still has a lot of room to grow into and brings a low 90s FB with the ability to hit the mids, which is where he should eventually settle in. His secondaries still hold him back, with both the CB and CU lacking any consistency despite both being very good pitches when on. Hence his walk rate of 13.5% in 2011. But he gets K’s at a high rate and could be more than a mid-rotation starter inside of the next 3 years. He should spend 2012 in the FSL and may be forced to use the secondaries more often. Struggles wouldn’t surprise me at least for the first half. With the Rays slow approach to pitcher development there is plenty of time for him to mature. ETA 2015.
250°. Chris Reed, LHP, Dodgers, 5/20/1990 – As a 1st round pick the expectations are high. While it’s very early to anoint him the ace having not seen him face more than a single batter, many in the scouting world see Reed making the starting rotation in 2013. We think it might take a little longer, depending if they even keep him in the rotation. There’s a chance he could become a very good back of the bullpen type guy. ETA 2014.
255°. Charlie Lowell, LHP, Marlins, 10/25/1990 - Lowell might have less electric stuff than others in the Marlins’ organization, but he’s very consistent and a good bet to remain a starting pitcher. He has the three pitches needed to be a starter; a good fastball, an above-average slider, and a very solid changeup. He’s got the body type and arm action to handle a heavy workload. He should make his 2012 debut in Greensboro. ETA 2015.
263°. Robbie Ross, LHP, Rangers, 6/24/1989 – Ross has a low 90s FB that has plus movement and its that movement that gets him strikeouts. He has a slider and CU that are both average offerings. He doesn’t walk many batters and gets a decent K rate, but has no single dominant offering. He profiles at the back of the rotation, but there isn’t much room in Texas for a soft tossing lefty at this point and he could end up as trade bait. He’s just 5’11″, but should be able to toss solid 200 inning seasons if he sticks in a rotation somewhere. ETA 2013.
266°. Chris Dwyer, LHP, Royals, 4/10/1988 – Dwyer became a borderline top 10 after a disappointing 2011. His low 90s FB and plus CB give him two excellent pitches but his changeup lags so far behind his other two pitches that he’s not far from being relegated to a Lefthand bullpen arm. The Royals are close to becoming a playoff contender and if he’s needed in the pen it’s going to be a move that he won’t recover from. He would make an excellent lefty specialist right now but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt to start 2012 and see how much development he can make with that CU. He’s dominant enough to do it. But command and that 3rd offering are much-needed and the time is now. ETA 2012.
293°. Nick Maronde, LHP, Angels, 9/05/1989 – 3rd round pick, Maronde is a solid framed lefty at 200+ lbs and has a mid 90s FB. He doesn’t have much mileage on the arm after pitching effectively out of the pen in Florida. He also throws an above average slider but has had little need for a changeup until turning pro. The Angels put him the Orem rotation and he excelled with a 5-0 record and 2.14 ERA. He struck out 50 in 46.1 IP with just 15 walks. He may jump straight to Inland Empire after Spring Training to get him age level appropriate. ETA 2014.
306°. Colton Cain, LHP, Pirates, 2/05/1991 – Cain throws a low 90s fastball from the left side. He has solid command but no real strikeout pitch. At least not yet. His curveball and changeup are both below average but should be at least average in time. How much velocity uptick will also be a big factor in whether he’s a bullpen lefty or a solid mid rotation starter. He’s young and still a few years from the majors. So the potential for more velocity is there and a big lefty workhorse is hard to come by. Again, the Pirates have some elite arms in this system and finding a rotation spot will be a battle. ETA 2015.
325°. Adam Conley, LHP Marlins 5/24/1990 – Conley’s appeal to the Marlins is as a Lefty with good velocity, which is hard to come by. He can dial it up to 98 mph when he needs to and brings a nasty slider to the table. He could ultimately end up as a left-handed specialist out of the Marlins bullpen, but we’re hopeful that he develops an off-speed pitch and remain a starter. He got into 2 games in the GCL in 2011 after signing late, but there isn’t much data there to discuss. He’s likely going to start at High-A Jupiter and we will get to see him in person and take some video. ETA 2013.
328°. Miguel De Los Santos, LHP Rangers 07/10/88 – The 23-year-old has been in the Rangers organization since 2006. Through 3 levels of competition in the 2011 season he amassed a eye-popping 13.5 k’s per 9 innings. He had an excellent Arizona Fall League campaign, but needs more time in the minors to build up his innings to be an effective major league starter. Double-A Frisco of the Texas league is the perfect place for him to build up some stamina in 2012 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a late season call up to make some starts or solidify the bullpen. ETA 2013.
333°. Matt Purke, LHP Nationals 7/17/1990 – Some felt we didn’t get give Purke much love in our Washington Nationals top 10 prospects list. His decreased velocity in the AFL caused alarm for us, and despite giving up 11 runs and walking 3 batters in 7.1 innings, we still think he’s a remarkable talent and has no place to go but up on our list – we hope. ETA 2014.
336°. Tony Cingrani, LHP Reds 07/05/1989 - Another college closer converted to a starter by a major league organization. The Reds worked him into a starting role carefully in 2011. They stretched him out a little in Rookie ball where he was clearly too dominant with his 97 mph fastball, posting a 14.03 K/9 and the 1.05 BB/9 rates over 51.1 innings. He will get stretched out more in Low-A and could jump quickly to AA in 2012. ETA 2013.
345°. Juan Urbina, LHP Mets 5/31/1993 – The son of Ugeth Urbina, Juan has the bloodlines of an MLBer. He’s still growing into his 6’3″ frame and should work in the low 90s from the left side in time. It’s his CU, already an above average offering, that makes him one to watch. He repeats well and the CU has hard fade. He also has a SL in the arsenal which is in development. He’s a long way off and things will need to click, if they do he has mid-rotation SP upside. ETA 2015.
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