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Starting Pitcher Prospect Rankings - 2018 Impact Rookies

Welcome back, RotoBallers. I'll be breaking down impact prospects by position. Today I'm updating my top 10 starting pitchers - MLB prospect rankings for the 2018 fantasy baseball season.

There’s already been a ton of top pitching prospects promoted this season. Let’s take a look at some of the rookie pitchers at the MLB level: Shohei Ohtani, Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty, Josh Hader, Fernando Romero and Tyler Mahle. All of these guys were considered consensus top 100 prospects before being called up and now are all contributing to fantasy owners fortunate enough to pick them up earlier in the year.

In a year with one of the strongest rookie classes to date, it could only get better with guys like Alex Reyes and Michael Kopech knocking on the door. You won’t find guys like Buehler or Ohtani on here since they are already in the majors. Instead, these are guys who have not had a chance to shine just yet, but bring plenty of fantasy upside for owners looking to make a clutch snag on the waiver wire to help fill in some holes in the rotation.

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Top Starting Pitching Prospects Moving Forward

1. Alex Reyes (STL, AA)
Stats: 16.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.84 FIP, 52.5% K%, 10.2% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB
ETA: Late May
Before he had Tommy John surgery, Reyes was widely regarded as the top pitching prospect in baseball and was seen as someone ready to help out the St. Louis Cardinals entering the 2017 season. He’s now back and he’s dominating minor-league hitters once again in his rehab outings. Though there was a chance he would be eased back into the pitching staff of the big-league club, Reyes will reportedly rejoin the Cardinals once he is activated from the DL, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold.

As evidenced by those numbers, Reyes is an absolute machine for strikeouts and has the stuff to be a true top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. His control could waver and he might have a couple rough starts here and there. It also feels likely he will be moved to the bullpen near the end of the season to monitor his innings. But for owners in redraft leagues, there is no more valuable pitcher in the minors to own the rest of the season. He should be added to all rosters ASAP.

2. Michael Kopech (CWS, AAA)
Stats: 40.1 IP, 4.02 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 30.6% K%, 11.0% BB%, 5.4% HR/FB%
ETA: Early July
For as good as Reyes, there are some scouts who feel Kopech could be better. He throws just as hard if not harder than Reyes with a better breaking ball, spinning up a low-90s slider that can be an untouchable pitch for him. The biggest difference between the two is that Reyes has a better changeup than Kopech — one of the main reasons the Chicago White Sox have provided for keeping Kopech in the minors — and Reyes’ control is probably a little more consistent (at least, before he had surgery). But Kopech has another unhittable repertoire and should be among the American League’s leaders in strikeouts for seasons to come. For redraft owners in 2018, Kopech will provide incredible strikeout upside with the risk of the occasional clunker. He will probably be promoted later this summer and will be worth owning in most leagues for that strikeout upside.

3. Nick Kingham (PIT, AAA)
Stats: 33.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 24.5% K%, 7.9% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB
ETA: Early June
Kingham is not a dominant pitcher like the ones mentioned above. His fastball is more of a low-90s pitch with movement with a pair of average, low-90s breaking balls and an above-average changeup that’s about 7 miles per hour slower than his fastball. Where Kingham finds success is with his control. He can locate his pitches effectively and keeps the ball in the yard. He also has spent time in the majors this season with success and just needs a rotation spot to open up for him to stay up for good. He won’t always be the King of the hill like some of the other pitchers on this list, but Kingham should be a consistent starting option by the end of the summer who provides value to owners in 12-plus-team leagues.

4. Kolby Allard (ATL, AAA)
Stats: 49.0 IP, 2.02 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 18.4% K%, 6.6% BB%, 5.7% HR/FB
ETA: Mid-June
If you could spin Kingham around and make him pitch left-handed, the product would probably look a lot like Allard. The Atlanta Braves’ 20-year-old southpaw doesn’t blow hitters away with gas, but mixes an average fastball up well with a plus curveball and a plus changeup. Like Kingham, Allard hits his spots consistently and will keep the ball from leaving the ballpark because of his impeccable command of the strike zone. The youngest pitcher on this list, Allard has a chance to join teammate Mike Soroka later this season in the Braves’ rotation and form the middle of what figures to eventually become one of the most dominant starting fives in baseball when the rest of the Braves’ pitchers are developed. He will also be a consistent option for fantasy owners once he’s called up for owners in 12-plus-team leagues.

5. Max Fried (ATL, AAA)
Stats: 26.0 IP, 3.12 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 23.6% K%, 10.9% BB%, 0.0% HR/FB
ETA: Early June
Fried is often a frustrating pitcher to watch. It’s tough to call a 24-year-old a Quad-A player, but right now, that seems to be where he is. His plus fastball/curveball combination is simply overpowering Triple-A batters right now, but he can’t locate well enough to get big-league hitters out and has consistently been clobbered when he reaches the majors. Fried has what it takes to succeed in the majors, but he needs to find a way to become more consistent with his command. He’s been up and down throughout this season and that should probably continue until eventually he shows that he belongs. He could bring strikeout upside worth owning in 12-plus-team leagues to justify taking the risk on him. But owners are advised to exercise caution with Fried.

6. Shane Bieber (CLE, AAA)
Stats: 58.1 IP, 1.23 ERA, 2.27 FIP, 24.8% K%, 1.4% BB%, 5.9% HR/FB
ETA: Early July
Both Kingham and Allard at least had one plus offering. Kingham had his fastball and Allard has the changeup. Bieber has none. His repertoire is all average or above-average pitches at best. However, Bieber brings truly elite control to the mound when he starts. He can locate his average repertoire wherever he needs and that has allowed him to dominate minor-league hitters throughout his pro career since he debuted in 2016. Walks will never be an issue for him at the big-league level unless something drastic happens to him and he just falls off a cliff. He might not strike out a lot of batters out, but he certainly could be a consistent starting option for fantasy owners. And with the Cleveland Indians currently lacking a great fifth option, Bieber could be their guy by the time the middle of the summer rolls around. His high floor makes him a potentially attractive asset to owners in 12-plus-team leagues who don’t want to take a risk on someone like Fried who could be hit or miss.

7. Chance Adams (NYY, AAA)
Stats: 40.1 IP, 4.69 ERA, 4.57 FIP, 24.9% K%, 9.5% BB%, 13.0% HR/FB
ETA: Early August
Adams had been producing solid results each of his past two seasons in the minors and people began to wonder why the New York Yankees weren’t giving him a Chance at the majors. It seems the concern was justified given how much Adams has struggled this season. He brings two plus pitches and two average offspeed offerings, but his command has wavered in 2018. His walk rate is way up and he often misses over the heart of the plate, which has led him to be susceptible to home runs this season. Adams has shown he has what it takes to get batters out and he could still be a No. 3 starting pitcher.

In his last outing, he spun seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, one hit and two walks. Maybe he’s turning things around. Regardless, he probably won’t be called up by New York this year unless there’s an injury. But he seems like a pretty likely trade chip and could debut with another team that doesn’t have as deep of a rotation. He still offers enough to be a worthy add in deeper leagues if he does get his chance.

8. Corbin Burnes (MIL, AAA)
Stats: 41.0 IP, 4.83 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 24.4% K%, 8.3% BB%, 7.1% HR/FB
ETA: Early August
The numbers don’t look great for Burnes, but he has pitched in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in the brutal home of Colorado Springs. Nearly every Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect to go through there experiences difficulties, and even Burnes was no exception to this rule. This should not discourage fantasy owners however. Burnes’ peripherals show a glimpse of what kind of pitcher he could be. With a well-rounded repertoire and plus control, Burnes stands out for his high floor as a reliable middle-to-back-end-of-the-rotation starter with decent strikeout numbers. And with Milwaukee’s struggles to round out its pitching rotation this season and keep everyone healthy, Burnes could be a midseason promotion candidate to help shore up the rotation.

9. Sandy Alcantara (MIA, AAA)
Stats: 46.0 IP, 3.52 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 19.2% K%, 8.8% BB%, 7.7% HR/FB
ETA: Late July
There’s pitchers on this list like Bieber, Burnes and the next pitcher on our list with a fairly average repertoire of pitches yet a high strikeout rate. Alcantara’s repertoire is closer to that of the two names at the top: high-octane fastball and wipeout breaking ball that give him a dominant one-two punch. However, the stuff has not equated to decent strikeout numbers this season. Oddly enough, his walk rates are low as well, which given his track record of below-average control is bizarre. Alcantara has what it takes to strike plenty of batters out as he showed in the majors last season when he K’d 10 batters in eight innings. He should get a chance later this season to start with a really bad Miami Marlins team and could find his strikeout groove there. If not, as long as he can keep that walk rate down, he should have some value to owners.

10. Griffin Canning (LAA, AA)
Stats: 27.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 27.5% K%, 12.8% BB%, 9.1% HR/FB
ETA: September
This might seem bold given that he was just drafted in 2017, but Canning was been better than advertised since the Los Angeles Angels selected him 47th overall. Canning dominated Advanced Class-A earlier this season in his professional debut before earning a promotion to Double-A, where he has started two combined no-hitters already. His repertoire has just one plus pitch — his changeup — but also does not have a below-average pitch in a four-pitch mix. He also boasts plus-control that should help him adjust to the majors quicker. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times noted that while Angels’ general manager Billy Eppler doesn’t promote prospects from Double-A, Canning could be someone who reaches Triple-A and then serves some role in September. If he has able to carry over this success to the majors, he could be a valuable arm to own for fantasy owners down the playoff run of the season.


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