Myworld’s Top Ten Lefthanded Prospects

The story on lefthanders is they do not throw as hard as righthanders, but their ball moves much better. Don’t know if there has been a study to explain why that happens. Righthanders are generally better to have on your staff because hitters who bat from the same side as the pitcher tend to struggle more and there are more righthanded hitters in baseball. Baseball has all sorts of givens that are based on anecdotal evidence such as short righthanders are not as effective as short lefthanders and right handed power hitting firstbaseman are usually ignored in favor of firstbaseman who can hit lefthanded based on the prevalence of right handed pitching. Personally, myworld will take pitchers who can get hitters out or hitters who can hit regardless of their physical characteristics. So here are my top ten lefthanded pitchers to watch and others to keep an eye on.

1. A.J. Puk (Athletics) - You have to like a pitcher who stands 6′7″, consistently hits the high 90s with his fastball and throws lefthanded. If he doesn’t find a spot in the rotation he could be a knock out closer. He does have a pretty good slider and if his changeup gets better he will have the pitches to settle at the top of a rotation. Tall pitchers tend to have problems finding the strike zone and that is true with A.J. He got as far as AA last year. Hitters at the A level struggled against him(.196) but the AA found his pitches more hittable (.256). The 2016 first round pick should see the Athletics rotation by mid season if he shows success at AA.

2. MacKenzie Gore (Padres) - The third player selected in the 2017 draft dominated at the rookie level in his professional debut, limiting the opposition to a .184 average, a 1.27 ERA and 14 whiffs per nine innings pitched. The Padres were conservative with him allowing him to pitch three innings per start. With those limitations he could rear back on his fastball, hitting the mid-90s. He has a deep selection of quality secondary pitches that will be effective as an ace in the rotation. Next year he will start the season in Low A and at the most optimistic won’t be ready for the Padres until 2020, building up innings and arm strength in the minor leagues. As his innings extend maintaining the fastball velocity and getting hitters out the second and third time he faces them in the order will be tested.

3. Justus Sheffield (Yankees) - At 5′11″ if he threw from the right side he would be bullpen fodder. The Yankees first pick in 2014 throws lefthanded and despite his small stature has good velocity and movement on his fastball. He did not get a lot of swings and misses with his repertoire in AA (7.9 per nine innings) but lefthanders only hit him at .217. His challenge is to retire righthanded hitters more consistently (.276). The Yankees will be in the thick of a playoff race next year and it is tough for rookies in New York to have success in that type of environment. Expect the Yankees to be patient with him. If he can improve his pitches against righthanders he could see some time in the rotation next year, otherwise it could be bullpen opportunities against lefthanders when the Yankees need arms.

4. Yohander Mendez (Rangers) - He stands tall (6′5″) but his fastball stands out more for its sink than velocity. His best pitch is also the change which makes the fastball appear to have greater velocity. He was able to retire both lefties and righties equally (.228 average) in AA which gave the Rangers confidence to promote him to the show. Giving up the long ball could be his Achilles heel, allowing 23 in AA and 3 in his 12 innings with the Rangers. With the Rangers all his appearances were in relief. The Rangers signed a number of fringe starting pitchers as free agents so Mendez will spend the first part of the season in AAA. His success and the back end of the rotations failures will determine his future.

5. Seth Romero (Nationals) - The Nationals have had success with players who have fallen in the draft because of injury. Romero did not have an injury that resulted in his drop, but he was kicked off his college baseball team because of character flaws. Most teams will tolerate a few character flaws for a lefty who touches mid-90s with his fastball. He got a lot of swings and misses with his pitches (14 K’s per nine innings) but had trouble retiring lefthanded hitters (.364). He should start the season in Low A and with success should rise quickly as a pitcher drafted out of college.

6. Jay Groome (Red Sox) - The Red Sox 2016 first round pick stands 6′6″ and looks like a giant on the mound. The curveball is said to be his best pitch but his fastball can hit the mid-90s. At 220 pounds he could fill out some more adding some velocity. He got battered and bruised a bit in Low A, but his command was poor (5 walks per nine innings) resulting in 6 taters in just 44 innings. That gave him an ugly 6.70 ERA. The good news is lefthanded hitters struggled (.184) but not righthanders (.287). He also got a lot of swings and misses (11.77 K’s per nine innings). It would not hurt for him to repeat Low A to find some success before being promoted to High A.

7. Stephen Gonsalves (Twins) - Even though he stands 6′5″ he is one of the softer tossers on this list. His fastball only crosses the plate in the low 90s but he complements it with an excellent change. At AA hitters could only muster a .207 average against him. A promotion to AA saw more barrel on the ball contact (.293) but he did continue to get swings and misses with his pitches, averaging a strikeout per inning. Expect to see him start the year in AAA and find himself promoted to the Twins once he has achieved some success. If the Twins need a lefty in the bullpen that could be his short term role, but long term he will fit in the middle of the rotation.

8. Adrian Morejon (Padres) - Adrian is one of the many investments the Padres have delved in from Cuba. He was the MVP of the 15 and under World Cup and left Cuba shortly after that. At 18 he has already pitched at High A. He is not overpowering with his fastball, sitting in the Low 90s, but he has command of all his pitches and his short stature (6′0) forced him to know how to pitch. The velocity could increase as he gets stronger but currently his pitches are hittable (.265 opposition average). He was the ace of the Cuban youth teams he played for but myworld feels he might fit more in the middle of a rotation. If his fastball shows better velocity he could creep higher. As he rises up each level he needs to show he can miss bats or consistently get poor contact on the balls that are hit.

9. Kolby Allard (Braves) - The Braves are loaded with lefthanded pitching but Kolby may be the best of the group. The Braves 2015 first round pick was bothered by back problems soon after being drafted but last year seemed to show he has recovered from that. His fastball sits in the low 90s but a good curve ball and change give him three quality pitches he can show hitters. Gohara and Fried made their major league debuts last year while Allard toiled in AA all season, so they may be ahead of him in the depth chart. Kolby’s success at AA last year (3.18 ERA) will put him in the pecking order to make the Braves rotation this year. He is not the kind of pitcher who will miss a lot of bats, but he should eat up innings and limit run production, fitting in the middle of the rotation.

10. Tanner Scott (Orioles) - The sixth round 2014 pick throws heat, consistently hitting 100 plus with his fastball. The Orioles limited him to three innings per start, which restricted hitters from seeing him a second time, but a .188 opposition average against him shows the lack of success they had the first time they faced him in the order. His lack of command and secondary pitches may relegate him to the bullpen, but he could be one of those pitchers who develops that second and third pitch in the minors and turns into a monster. Tanner will start next season in AAA. If all he can throw is a fastball hitters will communicate to him how badly he needs other pitches.

Others to Watch

Anthony Banda (Diamondbacks) - A good fastball/curveball combination. Improved command could see better results. Started four games in the majors last year and with a good spring and a trade of Greinke he could find himself in the rotation next year.

Luiz Gohara (Braves) - Luiz was acquired from the Mariners for two minor leaguers. Last year the Brazilian made his major league debut featuring a fastball that hits triple digits. Lack of command and weight issues could give Luiz problems in the future. He also needs to develop a third pitch (change) or be relegated to the bullpen where pitchers with his velocity and lack of command thrive.

Max Fried (Braves) - Lucas Giolito was the star of his high school team but Max got drafted higher after arm issues dropped Lucas in the draft. Tommy John surgery also felled Fried but last year he bounced back after a slow start, making his major league debut. Throwing strikes is a challenge and a start in AAA could be good for him. He did dominate in the Arizona Fall League which was indicative how he turned his season around last year after a horrendous start.

Alex Wells (Orioles) - His twin brother Lachlan pitches for the Twins. The Australian is not blessed with impressive stuff but he was able to get hitters out in Low A. His fastball travels in the high 80s/low 90s with no high quality secondary pitches, retiring hitters mainly on location. Next year he will settle in High A. The higher up the minor league ladder he climbs the greater the test of how his pedestrian pitches survive against better hitters.

D.L. Hall (Orioles) - The Orioles 2017 first round pick has a good fastball but struggled throwing strikes in his 10 inning professional debut. The Orioles have had issues developing pitchers drafted in the first round, often seeing them become more effective after they have left the organization (Jake Arrieta).

Cionel Perez (Astros) - The Cuban is slight of frame (5′11″) but still juices the fastball into the Low 90s. The Astros spent $2 million plus another $2 million penalty to sign him. Hitters found him not to be a mystery hitting him at a .266 clip. He’ll start the season in AA but myworld anticipates Perez in the Astros bullpen by mid-season.

Jesus Luzardo (Athletics) - The Athletics acquired Jesus from the Nationals in the Ryan Madsen/Ryan Doolittle trade. At 6′1″ he doesn’t stand as tall as Puk but his fastball has been clocked in triple digits, sitting in the mid-90s. He had Tommy John surgery in high school so there are concerns about the number of bullets he still has left in his arm. He won’t be ready for the Athletics until 2019, building up his innings in the minor leagues.

Brendan McKay (Rays) - Myworld likes him better as a firstbaseman but the fourth pick in the 2017 draft has a pretty good curve and hits the low 90s with his fastball. If he focuses on pitching the improvements could be exponential.

Ryan Yarbrough (Rays) - Myworld thinks Ryan is a bit underrated. Last year he drifted through AAA like knife through mayonnaise. He gets swings and misses from his low 90s fastball and his 6′5″ height gives him an imposing presence. Don’t be surprised to see him at the back end of the rotation for the Rays next year, especially after the Rays trade one or two of their veteran pitchers. Myworld liked what we saw of him last year.

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