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Starting Pitcher Prospects to be Called Up Soon


Starting Pitchers & Potential June Call-Ups

As the MLB Draft has gotten underway, so with it comes the callups that always occur in the big leagues at this time. For this piece, I will showcase 3 promising young arms poised to make an impact in the big leagues sooner, rather than later. Good luck over the next few weeks in selecting which young sleepers warrant a roster spot on your team, as we have seen over the last couple of years, these guys can make or break your fantasy season.


Jimmy Nelson - (RHP) Brewers

Jimmy Nelson Milwaukee Brewers MLB News

This 6'5 245 pound Alabama product has shown a lot of traits that a good pitcher possesses over his body of work in the minor leagues. He has made great adjustments in his 2nd stint at each level, pitched in the futures game in 2013, and has not given up many home runs (3 in his last 150 IP).

Nelson is not a strikeout machine, but he has shown the ability to get one an inning, and if he can harness his control consistently, should be a solid SP 4 or 5 the rest of the way. He was called up last week to make a spot start in place of the injured Yovani Gallardo against the Marlins, and boy did he impress (highlights below). He went 5.2 IP, struck out 6, gave up 5 hits, and worked out of a major jam in the 5th inning as he struck out Derek Dietrich with the bases loaded and one out, and followed that up with getting Giancarlo Stanton to pop up to end the inning. He struck out Stanton twice before in the game, which was equally impressive. He was sent back down after the game, as the team does not need a 5th starter for a bit, but was promised another start in the near future. Upon returning to AAA Nelson struck out 11 in his next outing, going 7.2 IP giving up just 3 hits, walking 2, without giving up a run. His last pitch was a strikeout of Javier Baez, and he was impressive all night long.

Nelson conquered AAA last year, when he went 65.2 IP, striking out 69, and only walking 19. He has a .174 BAA, and was 6-1 with a 1.64 ERA. He was also impressive in his first stint with the big club, last September, pitching 15.2 innings, giving up just 7 hits, 1 run, and striking out 14. Right handed hitters went 0 for 15 off him last September, a direct result of his devastating slider, the pitched that racked up 5 of his 6 strikeouts in the start against the Marlins last week. Also in his arsenal is a 4 seam fastball he can run up to 96 MPH, and a 2 seam fastball that generates weak contact and is a great weapon when he is behind in the count. The pitch gets up to 94 MPH, but usually sits in the 90-92 range, and he complements it with an ever developing change up that he has showcased more against right handed hitters this year.

Nelson could be a sneaky pick up, as the 24 year old seems poised to be in the thick of a playoff race for the Brewers, and should claim a rotation spot for good upon being recalled to make his next start. He could be a bit of problem in the WHIP department as the walks are bit higher than I would like, but the potential to be a strikeout an inning pitcher on a winning ball club is there, and if he keeps his walks down, could be an outstanding fantasy performer the rest of the way. I expect him to be up at some point in the next 2 weeks, and if he takes another good turn, should be there to stay.

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Archie Bradley - (RHP) Diamondbacks

The wonder-kid from Oklahoma, the one who was offered a full scholarship to play quarterback at Oklahoma, and the one the Diamondbacks paid a 5 million dollar signing bonus to, is getting close to debuting in the big leagues, and showing the world why he has been called the best pitching prospect in all of baseball by numerous publications. Standing at 6'4 and weighing 235 pounds, this 21 year old phenom has been slowed by injuries in 2014, but has begun his throwing program, and is still on the fast track to make a big time big league impact in 2014. He has been tweeting his progress of late, and sent out this tweet, that caused his owners to rejoice last week:

He should be up and throwing in games by the end of June, and should be called up to the big leagues by the end of July according to most reports. Missing a month is cause for concern, especially because he reportedly had the dreaded forearm tightness, but the Diamondbacks have said it is a very mild flexor tendon strain, and they are confident he will be able to come back healthy the rest of the way. Of course the D'backs will be cautious with their guy, but missing this month can actually work in fantasy owners' favor. His innings limit will be reached at a much later date, if at all, and should be safe to be owned through September. This is huge, because often times in the passed, young pitchers have come up and rolled through the dog days of summer, only to be shut down right before fantasy playoffs begin. Just another reason why Bradley is a must own as soon as he is called up.

The arsenal is real, as Bradley is the classic power pitcher with a high leg kick, power leg drive, great extension, and tremendous body control allows him to crank his heater up to 98 MPH at a perfect downhill angle, backed by one of the games most devastating power breaking balls. Calling it a wipeout breaker is an understatement - think back to Kerry Wood's early days, and mix it with Roger Clemens downhill angle on his fastball, and you get Archie Bradley. The only thing standing in his way is command, but the limited number of hits he gives up will ensure he is not a WHIP handicap. The command will only effect how long he stays in games, imperative for a strikeout pitcher. If he is walking 3 or 4 guys a game in the big leagues, he is probably topping out as a SP3/4 for 2014, but if he keeping it to 2 and under, you will be getting SP2 value.

His numbers in the minors have been eye popping, as he has thrown 314.1 IP and struck out 341, while giving up only 12 HR, and an incredible 229 hits. He has walked 165 batters, but it has gotten better as his career has progressed. If he had come in as a 22 year old, that number would be more alarming, but walking guys as a 19 year old one year removed from striking out everyone in high school is understandable. He is a guy who goes for the K every hitter he faces, so walks are inevitable, but the pros outweigh the cons by a wide margin here. If I am an owner of a fantasy team that lacks a true strikeout horse, I would be doing everything I can to stash Bradley now, before his price skyrockets. Once the world sees this kid pitch, the Verlander/Clemens/Ryan/Wood comparisons are going to run rampant. The next few weeks may be your last chance to grab him. Take a look at some minor league action from Bradley below, and focus in on how well he gains momentum towards home plate, the root of why his breaking ball is so devastating.

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Andrew Heaney - (LHP) Marlins

The most polished pitcher of this bunch, Heaney is not going to wow you with monster strikeout totals, but is going to keep the ball on the ground, get his share of punchouts, and be a consistent performer for the Marlins. He is a lefty starter that stands 6'2 and weight in at 185 pounds. He possesses a simple, repeatable delivery, and can crank it up to as high as 95 MPH. He generally sits in the low 90's, with great control, and backs it up with a tremendous slider he can command on both sides of the plate, and his third offering is a change up that continues to improve. At 23 year old, and 193 minor league innings under his belt, the time is now for Heaney. He has struck out 189 batters in the minors, walking just 46, giving up 172 hits, and pitching to a 2.33 ERA, and only has one level left to conquer and that is the majors.

Heaney only has Randy Wolf standing in his way on the big club, and is only competing with Anthony Descalfani for a callup in the minors. Descalfani was chosen to spot start twice earlier in the year, having one good game, and one bad one, so the Marlins may choose to go with Heaney next time around. Heaney would have been the choice last time, but the Marlins did not want to shake up his rest days. With the club playing so well (2 games back NL East), they may be forced to go with their best minor league pitcher soon. Heaney could be a major part of their playoff push, and should enjoy the confines of the Marlins home park, as his 46% GB ratio in 2014 should translate well at the big league level. Take a look at his stuff below, in a highlight clip from the Arizona Fall League this past season.

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Heaney's highs may not be as great as Bradley's the rest of the way, but his floor makes him a safe, yet still attractive option. He should hold SP4 value upon his call up, and if the changeup continues to improve, could be an SP3 in 2015. Heaney is very much in the mix for me this year, and should be for you as well. He will not hurt you in any category, and has some great upside pitching on a winning ball club in a great ball park for pitchers. The only reason for concern, is that he has not gotten to 100 innings in any of his minor league seasons, so a heavy workload may force him to be shut down before the end of the year.