Top Lefthanded Pitching Prospects in the Minor Leagues

Below are myworld’s top ten lefthanded pitching prospects in the minor leagues. In the past lefthanders were not noted for their blazing fastball, but this group has a couple arms that can throw heat. Three teams account for six of the ten lefthanders.

1. MacKenzie Gore (Padres) - He may be the best minor league pitching prospect in baseball, not just the best lefthander. The Padres made him the third pick of the 2017 draft. He dominated that year in seven starts, limiting opponents to a .184 average with 14.3 whiffs per nine innings. The 2018 season was plagued by blister problems which prevented him from gripping the ball. That did not seem to be a problem last year as he dominated the California League (1.02 ERA and .137 average). A promotion to AA saw a few more struggles (4.15 ERA) but he is ready to tackle that level again in 2020. Gore is not a flame thrower with a fastball that sits on the upper edges of the low 90s. It is his ability to throw three above average secondary pitches with excellent command that sets him apart from the other pitchers. He could see some time with the Padres next year if the Padres feel they need him to fuel a playoff appearance. If no playoffs are in sight there is no incentive for the team to promote Gore too early.

2. Jesus Luzardo (Athletics) - The Nationals made Jesus their third round pick in 2016. They traded him and Blake Treinen to the Athletics in a desperate call for bullpen help, acquiring Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. Ironic that Treinen became one of the best relievers in baseball in 2018. Jesus was also a student from Parkland High, which was subject to a mass shooting a year after he left. A left shoulder strain delayed the start of his 2019 season and limited him to just 11 minor league appearances. He did well enough that he got to appear in relief in six major league games, limiting hitters to a .119 average. Luzardo throws heat, hitting the high 90s with his fastball but sitting in the mid-90s. His secondary stuff is not as strong as Gore, but he does have command of his pitches, which sometimes is half the battle. He could compete for a spot in the starting rotation in 2020 but if he fails to make it expect to see him before mid-season. He did have Tommy John surgery prior to the draft back in 2016, which was one of the reasons he dropped to the third round. He also became the first player born in Peru to play in the major leagues.

3. A.J. Puk (Athletics) - The Athletics have two of the best lefthanded pitchers in baseball. Puk was drafted by the Athletics in the first round of the 2016 draft. A good spring in 2018 appeared to win him a spot in the Athletics rotation but a torn UCL in spring resulted in Tommy John surgery and an absence from the 2018 season. He got a late start to the 2019 season and the Athletics used him mostly out of the bullpen. Control issues left his minor league ERA high (4.97) but the Athletics saw enough to promote him to the major league club where it dropped to 3.18. Puk may be best in the bullpen with a fastball that easily hits the high 90s and a nasty slider. He is still working on a consistent third pitch and his command is spotty, which leaves a starting rotation spot up in the air unless he can improve those skills. Expect him to make the Athletics in 2020, either in their rotation or as a setup part time closer.

4. Brendan McKay (Rays) - The Rays drafted McKay with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft with the intent of making him a two way player. In college he was primarily a hitter that was used as a starter, winning the Golden Spikes award because of his bat (.341, 18, 57), but also showing some promise with the arm (11-3, 2.56). When he got to the Rays his arm soon surpassed his bat, resulting in a quick promotion to the majors. While they may use him as a DH it appears McKay will be needed most in the starting rotation. He dominated in the minor leagues in 13 starts (1.10 ERA) last year but not so much in the majors in 11 starts (5.14 ERA). His bat was absent most of the year (.200, .629 OPS). McKay has excellent command of his pitches, with a fastball that sits just below 95 and quality secondary pitches that should get better the more he pitches. Expect him to be in the starting rotation for the Rays in 2020.

5. D.L. Hall (Orioles) - The Orioles had a number of exceptional performances from their starting pitchers last year in the minor leagues. Hall was at the top of that list. The 2017 first round pick was a strikeout machine, whiffing 116 hitters in just 80.2 innings in High A. The opposition only hit .189 off him. The fastball screams across the plate with a combination of heat and movement, making it a tough pitch to make solid contact. He can supplement that heat with a solid changeup that could still use some improvement in consistency. The big issue is finding the plate. Last year he walked 54 batters in 80.2 innings. This left his ERA at a high 3.46 and kept his innings count low. Next year Hall should see AA Bowie with an opportunity to pitch for the Orioles in 2021.

6. Brailyn Marquez (Cubs) - The Cubs are always in search of pitching, but they may have found an arm they signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2015 for $600,000. He stands at 6′4″ and his fastball was clocked at 99 last year. Last year was his first season in full season ball and he finished the season with lots of whiffs (128 in 103.2 innings) and a low opposition batting averages (.224). His secondary pitches need improvement and he needs to find the plate more, last year walking almost one hitter every two innings. Next year he should repeat high A with a late season promotion to AA. His debut with Cubs should be sometime late in 2021.

7. Tarik Skubal (Tigers) - The Tigers traded for Franklin Perez and have three starting pitchers who were first round picks that they hope will eventually see the rotation. Tarik was a ninth round pick in 2018 that has come out of nowhere to put his name in the hat. Myworld would be surprised if anyone put him on a top 30 prospect list after he was drafted. Last year he was one of the Tigers best pitchers, striking out 179 hitters in 122.2 innings and limiting the opposition to a .196 average. This now puts him ahead in the depth chart of a few number one draft picks. His fastball can go north of 95 but it generally sits at the southern range with lots of late life that makes him difficult to hit. His curveball is his swing and miss pitch, but his change needs to gain more consistency if he wants to continue to fool hitters as he climbs the minor league ladder. Last year he pitched well in AA so that could portend a major league opportunity in 2020. The Tigers have a couple pitchers who could get an opportunity to pitch before Tarik so he may have to wait until 2021.

8. Adrian Morejon (Padres) - Adrian was the ace of the Cuban Under 15 rotation when they won the gold medal back in 2014. It netted him the MVP award. Two years later, as a 16 year old, he had already defected to the United States. The Padres whipped out a $11 million bonus to sign him. Adrian has not dominated at the minor league level, despite having a fastball that registers between 93-97. He is only 20 years old and pitching in AA so maturing is still an issue. His large body frame (6′1″, 210) has struggled to stay healthy, which has prevented him from pitching the innings he needs to refine his pitches. Despite his young age, the Padres promoted him to the major leagues, but he had little success (10.13 ERA and .385 opposition average in 8 innings). The Padres should start him at AAA next year, watch his innings count and if he stays healthy and has success promote him mid-season. He won’t be the ace of a rotation like he was for his 15 and under team, but he will make a solid mid-rotation starter.

9. Justus Sheffield (Mariners) - Justus has bounced around. The Indians drafted him in the first round in 2014, traded him to the Yankees for Andrew Miller in 2016. The Yankees had him packing his bags again after the 2018 season, trading him to Seattle for James Paxton. Sheffield had a good minor league season in 2018 resulting in a promotion to the Yankees in September. Last year he struggled to throw strikes, which resulted in a number of homerun balls (12) and walks (41) in his 55 innings of work in AAA. A demotion to AA saw his numbers improve and gave the Mariners a reason to promote him to their big league club. Justus throws in the mid -90s and gets swings and misses with his slider. Throwing strikes has been his biggest challenge. Expect him to compete for a starting rotation spot in 2020.

10. Matthew Liberatore (Rays) - The 2018 first round pick of the Rays does not have a heater that spits fire as it crosses the plate. He sits in the low 90s but can touch the mid-90s if he reaches back and slings it. He stands at 6′5″ so he has an intimidating plane when he stands on the mound. His curveball is his best pitch, garnering most of his swings and misses. He also shows a quality changeup that seems to make his fastball show more carry as it crosses the plate. In his first full season Matthew pitched well in low A, putting together a 3.10 ERA in 15 starts. He generates a lot of ground balls, coughing up only two long balls in his 78.1 innings of work. Next year the Rays will start him at High A with a promotion to AA more likely in 2021. Rays fans may see him as a September callup in 2021,

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