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Top 10 Redraft Pitching Prospects for 2015: Eye on the Minors


The Magical Top 10

Today we bring you the ten pitching prospects most likely to make a fantasy impact this season. Previously we covered 50-41, 41-30, 30-21, and 20-11. Keep in mind that there are plenty of stud future MLBers in the lower levels of the minors that won’t crack even the top 50 – Lucas Giolito anyone? But those hurlers are a year or two away.

These ten fellas below will help teams for the 2015 fantasy baseball season. If they are starting in the majors this season, they are worthy of a pick. If they are starting in the minors, stay tuned to the daily news to anticipate their call-up. Working the waiver wire is half the fun, right? So here it goes...

Editor's Note: You can read more about MLB prospects and rookies, and their potential fantasy impacts, throughout the entire preseason and MLB season. And check out all of RotoBaller's in-depth 2015 fantasy baseball rankings articles to prepare for your drafts. Let's win some leagues!

 

Top 10 Starting Pitching MLB Prospects for 2015

10: Jonathan Gray, RHP, COL

As much as I am loathe to recommend any pitcher from Colorado, Jon Gray is as good as any pitching prospect the Rockies have ever had. As one might expect the former Oklahoma Sooner flamethrower has been treated with kid gloves by Colorado, so it is not easy to evaluate the type of pitcher he will be in the majors. At Oklahoma, he was a hard-throwing workhorse with the 6’4” 255-pound build you’d expect from a power righty. However, in the pros, his velocity has been down which can either be an indication that he’s trying to pitch to contact and induce grounders or it could be something else. In any case, Gray has struck out a man per inning over two minor league seasons and, as of this writing, was still in consideration for one of two spots in the Colorado rotation. Smart money says that he starts the year in the minors and contributes sometime mid-season where his 200+ strikeout potential could be a fantasy asset.

 

9: Dylan Bundy, RHP, BAL

Bundy doesn’t seem like a prospect, since he tossed a few innings for the Orioles in 2012, but a Tommy John surgery and a year in the minors later, here he is again. Much of Bundy’s projection will center on his health, as the Orioles have taken it easy after he got TJS at age 20. He moved slowly through A-Ball last year, re-finding his touch and his velocity. He should start this season in Double-A. His curveball is reportedly as sharp as ever and he’s gaining confidence in letting loose with the hard stuff. Bundy is renowned for his work ethic and workout regimen, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him near the top of the O’s rotation in short order, where he should be a fantasy stud – contributing in four categories.

 

8: Andrew Heaney, LHP, LAA

It looks like Heaney may begin the year in Triple-A and get a call to the majors once the Angels need a fifth starter. The fight for the fifth starter role appears to be down to Heaney and fellow rookie Nick Tropeano. Heaney started five games for the Marlins last year and pitched to a 5.83 ERA, which isn’t that impressive. He was traded twice this offseason – to the Dodgers for Dee Gordon, then to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, so maybe that sends up a red flag.

Heaney has had a pretty awful Spring, allowing 19 runs in 19 innings. All that may add up to a more extended stay in Triple-A to get things figured out. Once he does, Heaney is a K-per-inning starter who should put up good ratios in Anaheim. He doesn’t have much more to prove in the minors, as he put up a 1.17 WHIP in New Orleans last season. Spring stats can be deceiving, as you never know if a pitcher is trying to get guys out or is just working on specific pitches and fundamentals. It won’t take long for Heaney to get into the Angels’ rotation and contribute for years to come.

 

7: Daniel Norris, LHP, TOR

Daniel Norris debuted with the Blue Jays last season and more or less had a rotation spot sewn up prior to Spring Training. Norris is a three-pitch lefty with a mid-90s fastball with a lot of action, a slider and a changeup. While Norris’ upside is not as high as teammate Aaron Sanchez, his floor is fairly high. He’s a mid-rotation starter with a job locked up, the potential for 180-190 strikeouts and decent ratios. Solid, if not exciting, Norris pitched five games at Triple-A last year with a sub-one WHIP. He followed that up with a great Spring, going 3-0 in six starts with 10.6 K/9 and a 3.28 ERA. He has nothing else to prove at the minor league level. We’ll just have to see how his act fares in the AL East.

 

6: Kendall Graveman, RHP, OAK

Speaking of impressive Springs, Graveman entered camp with his eyes on the #5 starter job in Oakland and pretty much ran away with it. He allowed only one run in 21 innings of Cactus League work. Graveman is groundball, pitch-to-contact pitcher, so he won’t help you much in the strikeout department – but he gets outs. He should be a valuable commodity pitching in the expansive ballpark in Oakland, so long as his infield defense holds up. I see Graveman as this year’s Jacob DeGrom. Nothing he does looks overly exciting, he was never a top “can’t miss” prospect and there will always be rumblings about him being better suited for the bullpen. What he does do is go out there and does his job and he should put up nice rate stats for fantasy owners, even if the K’s aren’t there.

 

5: Aaron Sanchez, RHP, TOR

Sanchez always lingered near the top of preseason rookie fantasy lists because if he didn’t crack the rotation, he was a front-runner for the Blue Jays’ closer job. When Marcus Stroman went down with a knee injury this Spring, it opened the door for the fireballing righty. Sanchez has an explosive fastball, a snap curve and a changeup. The heater is the main weapon, as it can reach the high-90’s when he asks for extra. That pitch puts Sanchez’s ceiling above Norris, a potential #2 rotation-man. He should rack up the strikeouts, though his WHIP could suffer from a loose delivery and lack of control. He tossed 24 games out of the Jays’ pen last year, with 27 K’s in 33 innings. In four minor league seasons, though, he walked 4.8 per nine. That’s a ratio that will have to decrease to quiet “future closer” talk and to maintain high-end fantasy value for your 2015 team.

 

4: Noah Syndergaard, RHP, NYM

Syndergaard will be the last of the Met’s “Big Three” (Harvey, Wheeler and himself) to debut in Queens when he gets the call early this season. Of course, the other two have both fallen victim to TJ surgeries and the last “Big Three” for the Mets was Paul Willson, Bill Pulsipher and Jason Isringhausen – so there’s reason for pause. “Thor” as he’s known, looks the part of fantasy God on the mound. He stands at 6’6” and about 250 pounds. He throws downhill from the mound with an intimidating fastball, hammer curve and changeup. I believe the curve will be the pitch that will turn him into a fantasy ace-caliber pitcher if he can control it as a strikeout pitch.

Thor is another young guy that likes to challenge with his fastball, which can sometimes get him into trouble when his location is off. You can probably throw out his 1.48 WHIP and 4.60 ERA in Triple-A last year. Nobody can pitch well in Vegas or the other mountain parks of the Pacific Coast League. Syndergaard is a legitimate 200 strikeout stud who would top this list if he had a job at the moment. When he does, you’ll be glad you drafted him for your bench to start this season.

 

3: Carlos Rodon, LHP, CHW

A year before last June’s draft, Rodon was the consensus number one selection out of North Carolina State. While his numbers took a downtick in his final season with the Wolfpack, two high-schoolers jumped ahead of him to the delight of the Chicago White Sox. The most-polished product in the draft class, Rodon cut through the minor leagues with ease – dominating rookie ball and high-A before a three-start triumph at Triple-A. Along his journey, the hard-throwing lefty struck out 14.1 guys per nine. He’s ready for the majors. His mid-90’s fastball is complemented by a devastating left-side slider – his strikeout pitch. Rodon is considered by most as the front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year. The White Sox are taking it a little slower, though, sending him to Charlotte for a little more seasoning, or service time control, or whatever. He’ll be in the majors soon enough and will be a force for both the White Sox and your fantasy team.

 

2: Archie Bradley, RHP, ARZ

When Arizona shipped Trevor Cahill to the Braves Thursday, Bradley was officially named to the Diamondbacks’ rotation. The 6’4”, 225 pound power arm would have made it there eventually, but with an off-year plagued by injury troubles. Bradley’s 2014 was a spotty one, sporting a 5+ ERA in Triple-A Reno to start the season, before they shut his down with an intercostal sprain. After that, he limped through Double-A with a 4.12 ERA and 36 walks in 45 innings. His timing was off, perhaps due to arm fatigue, and he looked nothing like the future ace he was projected to be.

Bradley has big powerful legs that generate serious heat on his fastball. Add to his arsenal a cut fastball, a power curve and a changeup, and he has all the makings of a front-line ace. He has yet to prove it at the highest level, but we are looking at a potential top 5 fantasy pitcher, capable of 200 strikeouts and manageable ratios. That's a far cry for this year possibly, but Bradley still has a ton of upside.

 

1: Taijuan Walker, RHP, SEA

Okay, I cheated a little. Walker is not technically a “rookie,” after totaling 53 innings in the big leagues over the past two seasons. Last year was supposed to be Walker’s breakout, but he was shelved early with shoulder bursitis. That injury may be the only tarnish on this Mariner’s star.

Despite the injury, Walker threw 121 total innings across the majors and minors. In his 38 innings with the Mariners, he recorded a 2.61 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. He made two stellar starts in the Arizona Fall League before the Mariners said “enough,” and set him on the path to slot behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in an enticing Seattle rotation. If the team wasn’t convinced he was ready, Walker sealed the deal with 25 outstanding innings in the Cactus League, including a run of 18 consecutive scoreless frames.

Walker throws easily in the high 90s with a beast of a cutter to keep batters off-balance. He sprinkles in a deceptive slow curve and a changeup to complete an ace’s arsenal. This guy has a compelling mound presence with confidence in his stuff. To watch him on the mound is to see I pitcher who is in control of HIS game. If he can avoid further shoulder woes, Walker will be a fantasy monster, a real-life Cy Young candidate and the best “rookie” pitcher for your fantasy team this year.

 




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