2017 Pitchers: Top MLB Prospects for Fantasy Baseball

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Welcome back, RotoBallers. I've already looked at the top 10 prospects for each MLB team, and now I'll be breaking down impact prospects by position. Today I'm bringing you my top 20 pitchers - MLB prospect rankings for the 2017 fantasy baseball season.

Pitching can often be such a critical spot to find sleeper talent. Guys who lucked into breakout Rick Porcello last season or rookies like Blake Snell found themselves the beneficiaries of outstanding performances that likely helped propel them to the top of their fantasy standings.

And while Alex Reyes will no longer be on this list due to his surgery, there are still a litany of names owners should be prepared to snag this season. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez look poised to emerge as the next top-two pitchers for the Chicago White Sox, while Cody Reed and Amir Garrett aim to make their presence felt immediately in Cincinnati. Several of these names will have an impact this season on redraft leagues and as such, should be noted for later in the season when they all debut.

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Top 20 Pitching Prospects for 2017 Fantasy Baseball

1. Lucas Giolito (CWS, MLB)
Stats: 21.1 IP, 6,75 ERA, 8.21 FIP, 10.9% K rate, 11.9% BB%, .295 AVG
ETA: Late April
Giolito did not have a successful MLB debut in 2016, but he dazzled everywhere else he pitched. At Double-A, he posted a 3.17 ERA and 3.30 FIP in 71.0 innings and at Triple-A, those numbers improved to a 2.17 ERA and 2.95 FIP in 37.1 innings. He started to improve his command as the season went on and though he didn’t pitch well in the majors, scouts still love his upside. All Giolito has to do is string a few solid starts together at Triple-A Charlotte to open the season and he will take one of the wide open rotation spots in the South Side.

2. Tyler Glasnow (PIT, MLB)
Stats: 23.1 IP, 4.24 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 22.9% K rate, 12.4% BB rate, .247 AVG
ETA: Late April
Like Giolito, Glasnow did not have the most successful big-league debut in 2016. He struggled with his command in Pittsburgh. The concerning thing is, his walk rate actually decreased from Triple-A (14.2 percent) to the majors. Glasnow will likely struggle with his command for a while, but pitching coach Ray Searage could do wonders to help him correct his issues. He still possesses immense strikeout potential and will likely rejoin the Pittsburgh rotation very early this season where he will be a valuable arm to own.

3. Reynaldo Lopez (CWS, MLB)
Stats: 44.0 IP, 4.91 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 20.9% K rate, 11.0% BB rate, .263 AVG
ETA: Late April
Lopez has the high-octane stuff of the past two starters, but he has not had much command issues in the past. He hasn’t posted a walk rate above 7.8 percent at a MiLB level since Low-A in 2014 and yet has always posted very high strikeout rates. There are questions about his durability and he does not quite have the secondary stuff of the previous two starters, but he could be a solid No. 2 starter with strikeout upside. He will likely start in Triple-A to begin the year, but he, like Giolito, should only need to string a few solid starts to secure a spot in the Chicago rotation.

4. Jharel Cotton (OAK, MLB)
Stats: 29.1 IP, 2.15 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 20.5% K rate, 3.6% BB rate, .185 AVG
ETA: Opening Day
Cotton is the first starter on this list to be a near-lock to open the season with the big-league club. And for fantasy owners looking for a sleeper pitching prospect, this is a very exciting prospect to own. He has consistently posted strikeout rates north of 25 percent with walk rates below 10 percent. His stuff does not play as well as some of the other starters, but Cotton should still be a solid No. 3 starter with some decent strikeout numbers.

5. Amir Garrett (CIN, AAA)
Stats: 67.2 IP, 3.46 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 19.7% K rate, 11.3% BB rate, .198 AVG
ETA: Opening Day
Garrett was one of several names competing for the last spot in the Reds’ 2017 Opening Day rotation, but several solid starts by him and injures to Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani make it now almost certain that he will open the season with the club. Garrett has spent many years in the minors as he started off pitching for the Reds part time while playing basketball at St. John’s University. But since he focused on baseball, he has now made serious progress and looks like a future No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues. He has plenty of strikeout upside and could be a major sleeper prospect in redraft leagues.

6. Cody Reed (CIN, MLB)
Stats: 47.2 IP, 7.36 ERA, 6.06 FIP, 18.7% K rate, 8.3% BB rate, .324 AVG
ETA: Opening Day
Reed is the other starter who will benefit from some injuries and likely rejoin the Reds rotation despite a lackluster 2016 performance in the Queen City. What is promising for him though was that scouts have still seen him post excellent velocity in his Spring Training starts, plus his minor-league numbers last season were outstanding. Scouts believe he will not struggle again and should start to dominate the same way he did in the minors. And with arguably the best left-handed fastball/slider combination among prospects, he could become a strikeout machine in the majors and really boost fantasy owners willing to buy in on his MiLB success.

7. German Marquez (COL, MLB)
Stats: 20.2 IP, 5.23 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 15.3% K rate, 6.1% BB rate, .315 AVG
ETA: Opening Day
It takes a lot to succeed in Colorado. You need to be able to miss bats while keeping the ball out of the air. Well, throughout Marquez’s career, he has been able to successfully do both. At levels with at least 50 innings pitched, Marquez has never allowed more than 0.60 home runs per nine innings while posting strikeout rates between 17 and 24 percent. He has a great arsenal of pitches that has helped him get this far, including a heavy sinking fastball and hammer curveball. He is emerging in Spring Training as the favorite to win a rotation spot in Colorado and could finish the season as their second best starting pitcher.

8. Josh Hader (MIL, AAA)
Stats: 69.0 IP, 5.22 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 29.3% K rate, 12.0% BB rate, .241 AVG
ETA: Early May
Hader’s Triple-A numbers don’t look all that great, but it’s important to keep in mind that he pitched at extremely hitter-friendly Colorado. Home runs are an issue for every pitcher who reaches that level. Now his command faltered a bit up there as well, but he still managed to maintain a very high strikeout rate. His fastball/slider combination is one of the best among left-handed starting pitchers in the minors and should serve him well once he reaches the majors. Given Milwaukee’s lack of quality starting options, Hader should reach the majors before long.

9. Jose De Leon (TB, MLB)
Stats: (from AAA) 86.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 32.5% K rate, 5.9% BB rate, .190 AVG
ETA: Mid-May
If De Leon wins a rotation spot out of Spring Training, his stock will shoot up this list. But as is right now, I’m not sure he’s going to beat out Matt Andriese who turned in a solid 2016 season. De Leon will make it to the majors at some point, and when he does, he will surely put up excellent fantasy numbers. He generates plenty of swings-and-misses with a mid-90s fastball and disappearing changeup and commands all of his pitches very well. If he gets a chance to start, don’t pass up the opportunity to add him to your roster.

10. Luke Weaver (STL, MLB)
Stats: 36.1 IP, 5.70 ERA, 4.33 FIP, 27.0% K rate, 7.2% BB rate, .301 AVG
ETA: Late May
Weaver’s fantasy stock ascended rapidly as soon as it was announced Alex Reyes would undergo Tommy John surgery. Though Weaver does not immediately inherit a spot in St. Louis’ rotation, he likely steps up to become the sixth man in the event of an injury or poor performance behind such starters as Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha. He is not the super high upside pitcher like a lot of the guys on this list, but he has solid stuff and throws strikes, which should help provide value to owners in need of some solid innings pitched later in the season.

11. Francis Martes (HOU, AA)
Stats: 125.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 25.0% K rate, 9.0% BB rate, .220 AVG
ETA: Mid-July
The Houston Astros discovered a hidden gem when they found Martes in the Marlins’ system as he has now developed into one of the top pitching prospects in the game. He reminds scouts a lot of Johnny Cueto for being slightly undersized, and yet possessing electric stuff while occasionally mixing up his delivery to deceive hitters. His command needs more refining as does his slider and changeup, but if he continues to progress the way most believe he is capable of, he could slot into Houston’s rotation by the middle of the season be a breakout second-half performer for fantasy owners.

12. Stephen Gonsalves (MIN, AA)
Stats: 74.1 IP, 1.82 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 30.1% K rate, 12.5% BB rate, .169 AVG
ETA: Early June
Plain and simple, the Twins really don’t have anybody to keep Gonsalves down in the minors. He has been pitching incredibly well over the past couple seasons despite possessing only average to slightly above-average stuff. His control is not great, and yet somehow he continues to baffle hitters and scouts alike, missing bats and keeping runs off the scoreboard. He may get hit a bit harder in the majors where hitters are more likely to catch on to him, but he could just continue to dominate in the majors and establish himself as a future innings-eater for Minnesota.

13. Jeff Hoffman (COL, MLB)
Stats: 31.1 IP, 4.88 ERA, 6.27 FIP, 15.0% K rate, 11.6% BB rate, .285 AVG
ETA: Opening Day
There is a lot to like with Hoffman and there is a lot to be concerned about. Starting with the scary side first, he has always had a bit of a home run problem in the minors, typically averaging a little north of .70 HR/9 in the minors. He also currently appears to be headed to the Colorado bullpen to start off the 2017 season. But on the bright side, Hoffman possesses real swing-and-miss stuff and this move to the bullpen may only be to acclimate him (no pun intended) to pitching in the higher altitude of Coors Field. He could very likely join the Rockies’ rotation by the middle of the season where his ability to strike out batters could be very useful to fantasy owners looking for some production from their pitchers.

14. Anthony Banda (ARI, AAA)
Stats: 73.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 21.5% K rate, 8.5% BB rate,.254 AVG
ETA: Late May
Seeing a Diamondbacks’ prospect on any list is going to be a bit surprising, but Banda certainly deserves some recognition. He has pitched especially well year in and year out and is finally on the brink of a big-league call-up. Banda does not have the most electric stuff out there, but he controls the strike zone well and still generates a lot of swings and misses on his pitches. Chase Field will certainly hinder his upside, but Banda should still be a sleeper prospect to own once Arizona promotes him to the majors.

15. Nick Kingham (PIT, AA)
Stats: 11.0 IP, 5.73 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 23.3% K rate, 9.3% BB rate, .154 AVG
ETA: Mid-July
Kingham recently had Tommy John surgery, but he bounced back incredibly fast ascending all the way up to Double-A in his first stint back from the surgery. Prior to the surgery, he was considered to be a guy on the brink of making his big-league debut and should be able to reach Pittsburgh this season. He is not an outstanding pitcher by any means, but he could be a very solid No. 3 or 4 innings-eater for Pittsburgh. Fantasy owners looking for pitching depth could do worse than add Kingham to their roster.

16. Erick Fedde (WAS, AA)
Stats: 29.1 IP, 3.99 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 2.17% K rate, 7.8% BB rate, .280 AVG
ETA: Mid-June
With Giolito and Lopez now off to Chicago, Fedde is the top pitching prospect in the Nationals’ system. Fedde inherits a great situation where he is now the likely sixth or seventh starter for Washington, a team with an injury-prone pitching rotation. Not to mention that peripherals were not super high on Tanner Roark, who could be sent back to the bullpen if he struggles and Fedde succeeds. Fedde does not have the strikeout stuff of Giolito or Lopez, but he is still a future No. 2 or 3 starter in the making and could have a chance to help out fantasy owners if he receives some starting time in 2017.

17. Yohander Mendez (TEX, MLB)
Stats: (from AAA) 31.1 IP, 0.57 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 18.5% K rate, 13.5% BB rate, .118 AVG
ETA: Early July
Mendez is one of the guys who would likely open up the season in Texas if he had shown an ability to be a full-time starter in the past. Mendez has the stuff fantasy owners like to see in young pitchers and he also boasts well above-average command, but his 114 innings pitched in 2016 were a career-high for him, which does not look great for a guy who has been in the minors for three full seasons now. The Rangers lack great backend starting options, which could lead to a midseason promotion for Mendez, but we will have to wait and see if Texas wants to up his workload first.

18. Zack Burdi (CWS, AAA)
Stats: 16.0 IP, 2.25 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 32.8% K rate, 16.4% BB rate, .161 AVG
ETA: Mid-May
It’s not often you see a reliever rank this high in a list of valuable redraft pitching prospects, but Burdi is an exception. The standout Louisville closer dazzled in the minors in his first taste of professional baseball and has a good chance to take over as the White Sox closer if/when they trade David Robertson. It is high-risk buy this early in the season, but keep an eye on him as we approach the trade deadline.

19. Brandon Woodruff (MIL, AA)
Stats: 113.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 27.1% K rate, 6.6% BB rate, .208 AVG
ETA: Late June
Woodruff really came out of nowhere in 2016 and has now firmly established himself on the prospect scene. He now has a repertoire filled with at least average to slightly above-average pitches and has proven that he has what it takes to be an innings-eater at the highest level. The Brewers are also not exactly loaded with starting pitchers and Woodruff should be able to debut in 2017 around the summer and start to produce as a No. 3 or 4 starter with the chance to eat a ton of innings for fantasy owners and the Brewers.

20. Kyle Zimmer (KC, AA)
Stats: 1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 5.18 FIP, 33.3% K rate, 33.3% BB rate, .250 AVG
ETA: Mid-July
It is a shame Zimmer is so prone to injury because otherwise he would likely be tearing up the majors already. He has faced a litany of arm and shoulder troubles over the past few seasons, but he finally seems healthy and ready to go for 2017. Jameson Taillon and Dylan Bundy both faced similar lengthy layoffs and came back fine, and with Zimmer’s electric stuff and the Royals lacking many quality starting options, it would not be at all surprising to see him debut this summer and start to show off his elite stuff in the majors.

 

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