Ray Butler’s 2019 Prospect Obsessions: Pitchers

Written by: Ray Butler

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Man, this is my last ‘preseason’ article from the VIP package. What an awesome preseason it has been. I said in the position player portion of my prospect obsessions that the prospect obsession list was my favorite piece to put together this preseason, and I meant it. The chance to put your chips in the center of the table on a prospect is an exhilarating feeling for me, and I’d imagine that feeling will only increase as I begin to get extended looks of prospects *in person* beginning this season.

Anyways, you’ll notice below there are far fewer pitching prospect ‘obsessions’ than position players. Uh, yeah, why in the world would there be more? Pitching is a fickle art in and of itself, and predicting which pitching prospects will or won’t stay healthy on a yearly basis is impossible.

Instead of over-extending myself, I’ve selected sixteen pitching prospects who I think will improve their stock (perhaps drastically) in 2019. Can you spot the pitcher I’m highest on?

Let’s get to work.

To read the position player portion of my prospect obsession list, click here

Brock Burke, SP, TEX. Age: 22

Despite posting a breakout 2018 campaign, it may have taken a trade to the Rangers for Burke to really gain some traction in the prospect world. The southpaw struck out 27.2% of the batters he faced last season, and he’ll only be one step away from the big leagues to begin the 2019 season. Don’t be surprised if we see the left-hander make a few top-100 lists this midseason. This piece from The Athletic’s Jamey Newberg seems to affirm a lot of the building hype surrounding the southpaw. #P365Top200 Rank: 196

DL Hall, SP, BAL. Age: 20

Just making amends with getting to the DL Hall party late. But check this out: in his last twelve starts last season, the southpaw posted a 0.89 ERA (!!!!) with 71 strikeouts (28.9 K%) in 60.2 IP. He’ll be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball by the end of the regular season. #P365Top200 Rank: 97

Josh James, SP, HOU. Age: 26

At 26-years-old, James sticks out like a sore thumb on a list like this. Thing is, the right-hander will provide big league value for your fantasy team this season; he also has the stuff to become a viable asset as part of one of the better pitching staffs in baseball. As you probably know, a quad strain derailed any chance the right-hander had of breaking camp in the Astros’ starting rotation, but he’s already returned to action in the Grapefruit League, making an April reemergence a a likelihood. Regardless of his role in 2019 and beyond, the 26-year-old should pile-up the strikeouts we search for in fantasy baseball. James was also included on my high-value active player list this preseason. #P365Top200 Rank: 60

Resly Linares, SP, TB. Age: 21

There’s nothing quite like getting sniped at pick 466 in a prospect-only mock draft, which happened to me last fall when Rotowire’s James Anderson grabbed Linares two picks before I planned to grab him. The southpaw struck out 28.2% of the batters he faced in Low-A last season, and a combination of the peripheral analytics and the arsenal makes me think the campaign could have been legit. Pitching against High-A hitters in 2019 will help paint a clearer picture of the upside here. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Jonathan Loaisiga, SP, NYY. Age: 24

Johnny Lasagna was on the outside looking in of the Yankees rotation when Spring Training started, but a Luis Severino injury opens the door for a more prominent role for the 24-year-old come Opening Day. It remains to be seen whether Loaisiga or Domingo German will be named the Yankees’ fifth starter, but things are trending towards the former having a role in the big leagues regardless of the role. Loaisiga’s stuff is filthy, but injuries have hindered the right-hander from ever gaining real traction as a pitching prospect or big league pitcher (his 79 IP last season were a career high as a professional). Durability= viability for the 24-year-old, and I’m hopeful we see it all come together in 2019. #P365Top200 Rank: 114

Matt Manning, SP, DET. Age: 21

If the right-hander can simply make it through 2019 healthy (and there’s no reason he shouldn’t other than the fact he’s a pitching prospect), I don’t really see how Manning won’t be a top-25 overall prospect this time next season. I really think the changeup will take the step it needs for Manning this season, meaning the 21-year-old will be an upper-echelon athlete with three viable pitches. Next season should mark the right-hander’s big league debut. #P365Top200 Rank: 39

Luis Medina, SP, NYY. Age: 19

The variance is strong in this one. Medina might have the lowest floor of any prospect on this list, but he also has one of the highest ceilings. The command sat at the kiddie table last summer in Rookie Ball (he walked 11.5 batters per nine innings), but I trust the Yankees to get the right-hander where he needs to be. I could see Medina beginning 2019 at NYY’s spring training complex before taking a huge step forward in full season ball this summer. Prospect Live’s Jason Woodell has already seen the right-hander live this spring, and noticed some strides Medina has already made since the end of last season. The teenager could skyrocket up prospect lists this season. #P365Top200 Rank: 199

Kyle Muller, SP, ATL. Age: 21

A Driveline baseball darling, there were some inefficiencies noticed in Muller’s mechanics this offseason. The resulting tweaks seem to have paid immediate dividends, and the 21-year-old has topped out at 99 (!) mph this spring…. from the left side (!!!!!!!!!!). The ‘why’ won’t be the same as it was for Astros prospect Josh James, but the change in Muller’s strikeout numbers in 2019 (he posted a 22.6 K% last season) could be identical to James’s transformation we witnessed last season. If the whiff output matches the stuff, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Muller’s K% climb to the 27-28% mark this season in Double-A and Triple-A (pending placement). That’s notable. If I’m right, the southpaw would become one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball; he would also figure to debut in Atlanta at some point this season. #P365Top200 Rank: 160

Luis Oviedo, SP, CLE. Age: 19

The Indians have several unheralded, high-upside, teenage pitching prospects, but none are currently better than Oviedo, who debuted in full season ball at the end of last season (Ethan Hankins is definitely not ‘unheralded’, so don’t even go there). The body still has a ton of projection left (Fangraphs has him listed at 6’4, 170 lbs.), and with physical growth should come the progression of what could be an elite arsenal. Both breaking balls are still works in progress, but the fastball/changeup combination alone might be good enough to overwhelm Low-A hitters this season. There’s an outside chance both Oviedo and Hankins surpass Triston McKenzie on prospect lists in 2019. Our Adam Tulley took a closer look at Oviedo earlier this month. #P365Top200 Rank: 182

Joe Palumbo, SP, TEX. Age: 24

The southpaw will officially reemerge onto the scene this season. The question: how high can he climb? The stuff is deadly, and Palumbo will either start in Double-A or Triple-A (I’m inclined to think the former). Less than 300 career innings pitched in five professional seasons means the 24-year-old is an obvious bullpen risk, but the fantasy ceiling is quite high if Texas gives him a real chance to stick in their rotation long-term. Palumbo was included in this list of ‘the 2019 version of Chris Paddack’ candidates. #P365Top200 Rank: 198

Nate Pearson, SP, TOR. Age: 22

The fireballer easily has the best stuff of any pitcher I discussed in my 2019 Chris Paddack article. For Pearson, it’s all about good health and durability. If he exhibits both in 2019, he’ll likely become a star-pitching prospect ranked amongst the very best minor leaguers in baseball. Don’t know if this is original or not, but I see Noah Syndergaard-upside here, both from a real life and fantasy standpoint. If everything comes together, Pearson will fly through the Blue Jays’ system in 2019. #P365Top200 Rank: 75

Chris Rodriguez, SP, LAA. Age: 20

I’ve already taken a deep dive on Rodriguez this preseason, and I think he’s got a shot to be ‘that guy’ amongst the names I listed in that ‘2019 Chris Paddack’ article. For what you can currently acquire him for, I think rostering Rodriguez is certainly worth the risk. He’s somehow only 20-years-old, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what’s in store for the right-hander this season. Rodriguez seems to be a largely-forgotten about prospect heading into this season, which would make it all the more fulfilling if he bounces back with a vengeance in 2019. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Clarke Schmidt, SP, NYY. Age: 23

Don’t forget about the origin story here: the Yankees drafted Schmidt in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft just 40 days after the right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL in his right elbow. That’s confidence in their guy. If I had to pick one pitching prospect from this list to make a Chris Paddack-style leap on prospect lists in 2019, it would be Schmidt. The right-hander should be fully healthy following Tommy John surgery in 2017, and the stuff should outclass hitters in Low-A and High-A, where Schmidt will probably be pitching in the early stages of the regular season. He could (should?) ascend both the Yankees system and prospect lists quickly. #P365Top200 Rank: 165

Tahnaj Thomas, SP, PIT. Age: 19

What’s up with my love of Bahamian-born prospects? Thomas is a 6’4 athlete who has the tools to breakout in a major way this season. Full season ball is in store for the teenager in 2019, where I’ll be watching the development of Thomas’s changeup and command. From a profile standpoint, the 19-year-old reminds me of an unpolished version of Matt Manning [shrugs]. From a stuff standpoint, Thomas should overwhelm Low-A hitters when he’s able to command his pitches. I’m ecstatic to see the right-hander in an extended sample this season. *whispers* VIP members already know the deal because they got the full write-up on Thomas in the #201-250 portion of my prospect list. #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

Joey Wentz, SP, ATL. Age: 21

The southpaw had an unfortunate 2018 campaign from a prospect list standpoint: his stock took a hit (because the output was bad) despite the fact he was obviously not fully healthy. Assuming Wentz is back to full-health in 2019, he has a good chance to return to his former, top-100 self. Which is good, because the Braves have been starving for legitimate pitching prospect talent for a while now (insert sarcastic font). #P365Top200 Rank: 145

Simeon Woods-Richardson, SP, NYM. Age: 18

SWR is a prototypical ‘if he develops a viable third offering’ pitcher prospect, but he’s super athletic and has mechanics that easily lead to above average quadrant command. He’s also only 18-years-old, with plenty of time to refine the depth of his arsenal along with other qualities that help form an elite pitching prospect. I’m guessing we see the right-hander in Short Season ball this summer before he graduates to full season ball in 2020. Woods-Richardson could become the pitching prospect facet of the increasing helium surrounding low-minors Mets prospects. Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton… Simeon Woods-Richardson? #P365Top200 Rank: N/A

To read the position player portion of my prospect obsession list, click here.

Has Prospects365.com been a valuable resource for your fantasy baseball prep this preseason? Consider supporting the site by purchasing the “OG” Prospects 365 t-shirt. All orders come with free shipping, and a portion of proceeds will be donated to 4MOM, a charity dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s. Your support will forever be appreciated. Begin your process of supporting the site via purchasing a shirt by clicking here.  

Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365

Featured image courtesy of photographer Danny Parker and MiLB.com


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