The last group of position players rated by myworld. This is the largest and most important one since no playoff teams can survive without an ace. Most of your aces throw from the right side. Below is myworld’s top ten right handed pitchers and others to watch:
1. Shohei Ohtani (Angels) - A coup for the Angels to sign the best pitcher coming out of Japan since Yu Darvish. The big question is whether his elbow can hold up. If so he could become the best pitcher in major league baseball. If not he could transform himself into an All Star power hitting rightfielder. Right now, the Angels plan on him doing both, restricting his offensive performance to DH duties. To protect his elbow the Angels may go to a six man rotation. No major league starting pitcher had an average velocity higher than Otani last year, though injuries limited his starts. His splitter is also a pretty good pitch but he limited that offering severely after his elbow issues. He still has a number of other pitches in his repertoire to retire hitters. For the Angels to compete in the playoffs he needs to turn into their ace. In order to do that he needs to stay healthy, something he had trouble accomplishing in Japan.
2. Jon Duplantier (Diamondbacks) - Last year he finished with an ERA of 1.39 after 24 starts. No pitcher in the history of minor league baseball has had a lower ERA since Justin Verlander and we know what kind of pitcher he became once he arrived in the major leagues. Like Ohtani the biggest concern with Duplantier is the health of his arm. Both shoulder and elbow problems have restricted his innings. In 2016 a balky elbow limited him to just one inning after he was drafted in the third round in 2016 and a shoulder injury impacted his college appearances. His fastball reaches the mid-90s and is complemented by a plus curveball and change. Last year the opposition hit him at a .192 clip in addition to his 165 whiffs in 136 innings. After having success in High A last year he should start the season in AA, but that could depend on the success of his spring. A September callup is a possibility with a good season but it will probably be restricted to the bullpen.
3. Tristan McKenzie (Indians) - Myworld has already stated that the last 19 year old we saw pitch impress me so much was Clayton Kershaw. We can still picture the smile on Joe Torre’s face after Kershaw was done pitching his one exhibition inning. That same smile will appear on the face of Terry Francona after he sees Tristan pitch. A 6′5″ inch preying mantis with long arms and a skinny frame should start slinging the ball in the high 90s once he puts some meat on his bones. His curveball and change are plus pitches resulting in a plethora of swings and misses. Like Duplantier he should start the season in AA and if the Indians need rotation help for the playoffs don’t be surprised if they do not call him up. Because of his youth and his sleight frame the Indians will be protective of his innings.
4. Michael Kopech (White Sox) - The Red Sox first round 2014 pick was acquired by the White Sox in the Chris Sale trade. Kopech throws harder than Sale, hitting triple digits with his fastball. Many scouts say he is the hardest thrower in the minor leagues. Throwing hard and getting outs are two different issues. A promotion to AAA saw the opposition average increase from .184 to .263, though the sample size for AAA was very small. Kopech has a good slider which allows him to get a number of swings and misses. With a good spring he could squeeze into the rotation but the White Sox have a number of pitchers higher on the depth chart to consider first. Myworld suspects mid-season will see his major league debut.
5. Franklin Perez (Tigers) - The Venezuelan started his career as a third baseman. The Astros converted him to pitcher because they liked his arm. His fastball can light up the radar in the high 90s with a couple good breaking pitches and a plus change to keep hitters guessing. The Astros traded him to the Tigers in the Justin Verlander deal, initially signing him to a $1 million bonus in 2014. At 6′3″ he still has some frame to fill out. After starting the season at AA it should not take him long to find himself in the Tiger’s rotation, unless they do not want his option clock running by placing him on the roster too early.
6. Hunter Greene (Reds) - There was some talk of making him a two way player, but playing shortstop and having him pitch was felt to be too demanding. His fastball spits the plate in triple digits, giving Ohtani and Kopech a run for the hardest fastball. His secondary pitches could still use some polish. If they fail to develop he could always be used as a closer, or put back in the lineup as a shortstop. The first round 2017 pick struggled in his three minor league starts, giving up 8 hits in his 4.1 innings of work. Hunter may need more time in extended spring training before joining a full season team.
7. Alex Reyes (Cardinals) - Reyes has had some bad luck. First he was suspended in 2016 for 80 games after testing positive for drugs, then missing 2017 to Tommy John surgery. Prior to the surgery Reyes hit the high 90s with his fastball. Control has been his big issue, which could be corrected if he did not miss so much time due to suspensions and injuries. Alex did not play last year and will need some time in extended spring training and then in the minor leagues before the Cardinals risk him for the rotation. They will limit his innings since he has only pitched in 111 innings the last two years, all of those pitched in 2016. By mid-year he could be ready for a short relief role, fitting perhaps into the closer role.
8. Brent Honeywell (Rays) - He falls short in velocity when compared to the other pitchers on this list. The supplemental first round pick in 2014 can hit the mid-90s with his fastball but settles in the low 90s. The big pitch that gets the most publicity is the screw ball, which he does not throw that much, but it is a unique pitch. His change is also a pretty good pitch, enhancing the velocity of his fastball. Last year he pitched at AAA and struck out more than a hitter per inning but the opposition hit him at a .268 clip. He may stay around the plate too much making his pitches more hittable. Next year he should start the season in the Rays rotation. The team has already lost one pitcher to free agency (Chris Archer) and have another on the trading block. Spring training will seal his fate to begin the 2018 season.
9. Sandy Alcantara (Marlins) - Another one of those Cardinal finds in the Dominican Republic who slings the ball across the plate in triple digits. The Cardinals included him in the Marcell Ozuna trade giving the Marlins the benefit of his triple digit fastball. He sits in the high 90s using a slider as his breaking pitch. His change shows good potential but his command needs work. Last year he walked 54 in 125 innings and the opposition hit him at a .262 clip. Despite the heat on his fastball he struck out less than a batter per inning. Better command will result in better location of his pitches and more swings and misses. He could start the season in the Marlins rotation with a good spring, but more likely will see AAA. Last year he made his major league debut pitching eight games in relief.
10. Mitch Keller (Pirates) - He seemed to arrive out of nowhere in 2016 to become a top ranked pitcher. He was a second round pick in 2014 and with his fastball hitting the mid 90s and a plus curveball and change he had a breakout 2016. Last year he did not disappoint limiting the opposition to a .202 average and whiffing a hitter per inning. Mitch is a pitcher who mixes his pitches well and locates them with precision. Last year he started six games in AA, which is where he will start the 2017 season. A good spring and an excellent start to the season will see him make his major league debut by mid season.
Others to Note:
Mike Soroka (Braves) - A first round pick in 2015. The Canadian does not throw hard but he locates well. At 6′5″ he has a good pitcher’s frame. Expect him to see the Braves rotation by mid season.
Touki Toussaint (Braves) - Once he overcomes his lack of command he will rise quickly. His fastball reaches the high 90s and his long arms give it a good whip like quality. He will start the season in AA.
Hunter Harvey (Orioles) - A first round pick and son of closer Bryan Harvey has seen his career stalled by injury. The 2018 season he hopes will be a complete season where he can unleash his mid-90s fastball to go along with his excellent curveball. A late season promotion could be in his future, but the Orioles want to be patient with him and control his innings.
Jesus Liranzo (Orioles) - Every pitch out of his arm hits the radar in triple digits with an easy delivery. He is probably slated for the bullpen because of a lack of control and secondary pitches. He is one of those pitchers who could have a breakout career if he can find a second and third pitch and the control improves. Watch out for him in the Orioles pen or rotation in 2018.
Dylan Cease (White Sox) - A sixth round pick of the Cubs in 2014 he began to draw attention to himself when he started humming his fastball in the triple digits. The Cubs traded him to their cross town rival White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade. The White Sox have a lot of young depth in the rotation and Dylan needs to improve his command. He will start the season in High A.
Alec Hansen (White Sox) - Myworld likes his 6′7″ frame and his long wing spans that allows him to sizzle his fastball in the high 90s. He gets a ton of swings and misses and the opposition struggled against him, hitting just .216. He is another pitcher who needs to locate his pitches better. That will be done as he starts the season in AA.
Dane Dunning (White Sox) - The Nationals first round pick in 2016 who they traded to the White Sox for Adam Eaton. Don’t be surprised to see three ex-Nationals in the White Sox rotation next year in Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Dunning. His fastball reaches the mid 90s with good secondary pitches. Next year he will begin the season in AA.
Tyler Mahle (Reds) - The Reds 7th round 2015 pick made a name for himself in 2016 with a 9 inning no hitter. He had a breakout season last year catapulting him to the major league rotation for four starts. His fastball has good velocity and he has excellent command of four pitches. Expect him to fill the Reds rotation next season.
Riley Pint (Rockies) - The fourth pick in the 2016 draft hits the triple digits but tends to sit on the high side of the mid-90s. He also has got excellent command of four pitches. Despite his stuff his strikeout rate was disappointing and the opposition hit him at a .264 clip in Low A. Next year he will start the season in High A.
Matt Manning (Tigers) - The Tigers will have an excellent rotation in a couple years with Perez, Manning, Faedo and Beau Burrows. Manning stands 6′6′ and rains mid to high 90s fastballs on hitters. The 2016 first rounder has the pitches to shine at the top of a rotation, beginning that ascent at High A in 2018.
Alex Faedo (Tigers) - The 2017 first round pick has an excellent fastball slider combination. Last year he pitched Florida to the College World Series championship and was held back by the Tigers. Another top of the rotation starter should begin his year in Low A and as a college drafted pitcher move quickly through the Tigers system.
Forest Whitely (Astros) - The Astros 2016 first round pick is a popular conversation piece during trade talks. At 6′7″ and 240 pounds his mid-90s fastballs sizzle across the plate. His tall frame does not seem to impact his command. With a good season in AA he should fit in the Astros rotation by mid-season.
Walker Buehler (Dodgers) - The Dodgers first round 2015 pick made the Dodgers bullpen last year. His control wavered a bit in the major league callup, but he has four above average pitches that he can throw for strikes. The Dodgers will want to limit his innings after Tommy John surgery in 2015. He will start the season in AAA and by mid-season could be in the rotation or used out of the bullpen.
Yadier Alvarez (Dodgers) - The Dodgers signed the Cuban for $16 million. His velocity hits triple digits but he has trouble finding the plate. If he continues to struggle throwing strikes he could move to the bullpen, but he has the pitches to fit in the rotation.
Jorge Guzman (Marlins) - The Marlins were able to pry this Dominican with the triple digit fastball away from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton trade. There is a challenge of finding the plate and the lack of a third pitch may relegate him to the bullpen.
Domingo Acevedo (Yankees) - Another Yankee Dominican with a triple digit fastball, Domingo dominated at AA and shows better command of his pitches than Guzman. He also has three pitches to fit into a rotation. Expect him to start the season in the AAA rotation but with a good spring he could be going to New York in April.
Sixto Sanchez (Phillies) - At 6′0″ he is not a tall pitcher but his arm can sling a fastball to the plate in the mid 90s. Sixto also shows good command of his pitches. A good spring could see him start the season in AA but after only five starts in High A the Phillies may want to begin his 2018 season in the warm weather of Florida.
Anderson Espinoza (Padres) - Another small pitcher (6′0″) with a small frame (165 pounds), Espinoza succumbed to Tommy John surgery late in 2016 and did not pitch in 2017. It will be interesting how his mid-90s fastball responds. Noted for his plus change Anderson will probably start the season in extended spring training and see his first games in Low A if he is ready before July or in rookie ball if the Padres want to show patience. The hope is that he ends the season in High A.
Michael Baez (Padres) - A 6′8″ Cuban with high 90s heat. The Padres shelled out $3 million for him at the end of 2016 and last year he made an impressive debut. The opposition hit him at a .188 clip and he struck out 89 in 63.2 innings. He should start 2018 in High A.
Jack Flaherty (Cardinals) - The Cardinals 2104 first round pick has been percolating up the Cardinals minor leagues for a few years. Last year he made his major league debut and the Cardinals hope to see more of his mid-90s fastball in the rotation. What sets him apart is an excellent change that enhances the velocity of his fastball. A good spring could see him in the rotation.