Reviewing My 2010 Top Fifty Pitching Prospects

Before we started the 2011 Community Prospect list, I began my own list of the top fifty pitchers and position players. This allowed me to prepare for the Community List, and compare my results to that list, to see where my tendencies lay, and if they were a successful way to rank prospects. My review of my top fifty positional prospects can be found here. Please feel free to comment on this list. Who did I miss? Who did I rank too high or low and why? On to the top fifty pitchers:

1. Jeremy Hellickson (Community Rank #1)
2. Matt Moore (Community Rank #4)
3. Julio Teheran (Community Rank #2)
4. Aroldis Chapman (Community Rank #3)

No big surprises here. Hellickson has had a successful rookie season, with a 113 ERA+, 4.27 FIP, 4.36 xFIP. He has been quite lucky, with a .224 BABIP, and has a low 1.88 K/BB, but these should improve over time, if not immediately this year. If it wasn’t for another rookie righthander in Seattle, he would probably be the ROY.

I was higher on Moore than the community, but I have been high on him since 2008. With Hellickson’s graduation, Moore is easily the top pitching prospect right now, with a 2.62 FIP and 4.68 K/BB as a 22 year old in AA.

Teheran struggled in his first two MLB starts, but has been excellent in AAA, with a 2.68 FIP and a 3.11 K/BB. Many are losing faith due to his lower K-rate, but remember two things: one, he is 20 and in AAA; and two, his BABIP (.264) is not much different than last year (.277) and his Hit-rate is the same (6.7 vs. 6.8). With all that said, Teheran still looks to be in the top five pitching prospect right now.

Chapman’s ranking was based purely on his stuff, and the hope that he would be transitioned into a starters role. With 13.5 K/9, the sickness of his stuff is undeniable. However, with a 9.3 BB/9, so is his wildness. He needs to work on his control and command in order to be a successful reliever, much less ever having a chance to be a starter. In retrospect, this was probably too high of a ranking, for myself and the community. If he was going to remain a reliever, which seems likely, he should not have ranked in the top twenty.

5. Mike Minor (Community Rank #5)
6. Shelby Miller (Community Rank #7)
7. John Lamb (Community Rank #9)
8. Manny Banuelos (Community Rank #21)

Minor was ranked #5 on both mine and the community’s list. He had  a great MLB debut last year, with a 3.65 xFIP and a 3.91 K/BB. This year in six starts his xFIP is 3.77, but his K/BB has dropped to 1.73. In AAA, his K-rate has dropped, but so has his BB-rate, which has allowed him to maintain a better than last year K/BB of 3.33. Still a great prospect, and will probably graduate this year off the prospect lists. Once the Braves part ways with Lowe, the spot is his to lose. The Braves have a stacked future rotation of Hanson, Beachy, Jurrjens, Minor, Teheran, and Vizcaino/Delgaldo, with someone available to trade for a bat.

I was one spot higher on Miller, and he has done nothing to disappoint, moving into the top five for pitching prospects. However, let’s compare Miller to Teheran. Teheran is actually younger than Miller, pitching in AAA, and has similar rate stats (2.68 FIP, 3.11 K/BB) as Miller in AA (2.50 FIP, 3.25 K/BB). It seems to me to be a bit of shiny new toy syndrome going on with the devaluing of Teheran and the rise up the prospect lists for Miller in some midseason rankings. I would still rank them very close, with Teheran probably a spot higher than Miller right now.

John Lamb had 8 mediocre starts in AA before having to go under the knife with Tommy John surgery. I would have to assume he will not be on any Top 50 lists this offseason, perhaps at the tail end of a Top 100, but hopefully he can bounce back successfully next year.

And my first big deviation from the community list: ManBan. Now I admit, it was probably partly due to my Yankees homerism that I had him this high, but I just really liked the video and the stats for Banuelos. Last year, as a 19 year old, he reached AA, and put up a 11.8 K/9 and  3.4 K/BB. This year, he has returned to AA, and is doing well, just not as well as last year, seeing a deterioration in his K/BB rate to 1.91. The problem right now is his BB-rate is too high. He needs to get that under control. Even so, right now he is a top ten candidate again this year.

9. Michael Pineda (Community Rank #6)
10. Randall Delgado (Community Rank #16)
11. Jacob Turner (Community Rank #15)
12. Dellin Betances (Community Rank #18)

If there is any way to call someone ranked in the top ten a miss, Pineda would be it. I only ranked him three spots lower than the community, but it seems a chasm. My main concern was that he could not remain healthy, and this would require him to move to the bullpen. However, he has proven himself at the major league level this year, and is the ROY front-runner, ranking 14th in the AL for pitching WAR. The injury issues still remain, but I am more confident in him now than I was last fall.

I was higher than the community on Delgado, Turner, and Betances. Delgado didn’t do great in his first MLB start, but he has done well as a 21 year old in AA. His BABIP, FIP and BB’s are up, and his K’s and K/BB are down. He is still a solid prospect, probably top 15 pitching, but hasn’t yet built on last year to move up on the lists.

What I really liked about Turner was his low BB-rate in 2010. Combined with scouting reports about his stuff, I was pretty sure he would be a big breakout candidate this year and move into the top of the pitching prospect rankings. However, as a 20 year old in AA, he has seen an across the board regression. His BB’s are up and K’s are down, leading to a K/BB drop from 4.43 to 2.65. His FIP is 3.59, buoyed by a .279 BABIP. I know scouting reports are still high on him, but he has taken a hit in my eyes, and at this point probably has at best tread water in my rankings.

Betances was probably a bit of Yankees homerism again, but what’s not to love about a 22 year old, 6’8” flamethrower with a 11.4 K/9, 4.91 K/BB, and a 2.57 FIP in 2010. As a 23 year old in AA this year, he  has continued to strike batters out, but has fallen prey to the same issue as Banuelos: he is walking way too many people (5 BB/9). He has to get this under control to move up and not tread water or fall down in the rankings.

13. Chris Sale (Community Rank #17)
14. Danny Duffy (Community Rank #24)
15. Kyle Drabek (Community Rank #13)
16. Mike Montgomery (Community Rank #10)

I was higher than Sale than the community, but, like Chapman, this was because I thought they would develop him as a starter. I think this is something I need to keep in mind when ranking in the future: to rank players based on what their organizations likely will do player development-wise, not based on what I think should happen. Had I done this, both Sale and Chapman would drop at least ten spots. Sale has become an above average reliever, with a 118 ERA+, 2.47 K/BB, and 9 K/9.

I was quite a bit higher on Duffy than the community, a continuation of the year before when I fell in love with him as a prospect. He put up great numbers in 2010 after returning from a brief retirement. In 2011, he had 8 excellent starts in AAA, and then earned a promotion to the Royals starting rotation. He has so far been a below average pitcher in the majors, posting a 85 ERA+ and 1.81 K/BB. However, he is still only 22, his strikeout rate is still a solid 7.5/9, and his xFIP is 4.08, half a run lower than his ERA. If his walk rate returns closer to his minor league level, he will begin to look like the pitcher I expected. And if you play the “take his two worst starts away” game, he would have a 3.60 ERA.

Drabek was someone who I wanted to rank lower than 15, but I gave the scouting reports on him more weight than the numbers and my personal feelings. It seems like I should have ranked him where I initially wanted to, around ten spots lower. Drabek has been atrocious this year, posting a 71 ERA+ and a 0.92 K/BB - he walked more batters than he struck out. That is not a path to success, but rather a path back to the minors, where the nightmare has continued for Drabek. In 6 AAA starts, Drabek has a 8.06 ERA, 6.24 FIP, 6.0 BB/9, and 1.12 K/BB. His command and control have seemed to disappear. Hopefully for the Jays, and for Drabek, he can right the ship. However, the damage could be done, either physically, or mentally.

I also ranked Montgomery lower than the community, for many of the same reasons as Drabek. His numbers after his AA promotion were not very good, although he was only 20. This year, he has fallen apart, walking too many batters while his strike outs decline, resulting in a 1.62 K/BB and 4.64 FIP. He needs to turn it around this half to remain relevant in next year’s rankings.

17. Jordan Lyles (Community Rank #20)
18. Kyle Gibson (Community Rank #14)
19. Zach Britton (Community Rank #12)
20. Jameson Taillon (Community Rank #8)

Jordan Lyles was a bit of an enigma for me in last year’s rankings. He was one of my favorites the year before, having the high K-rate, low BB-rate package I love to see in pitchers. However, in 2010, while his BB-rate remained steady, his K-rate took a big hit, more than likely due to the rapid promotion to AA and AAA as a 19 year old. Because of this, I was hesitant with him, but gave him a ARL bonus and the benefit of the doubt. In 2011, he returned to AAA, showing the same solid BB-rate, but an even lower K-rate. After 10 starts, the Astros promoted him to the show, where he has matched his peripherals from AAA with a 6.7 K/9 and a 2.41 K/BB, with a 3.98 xFIP. He has been solid, and could fall into a Steve Trachsel type career as a solid innings-eater. I do wonder how he may have progressed with a much more patient system (a la Tampa Bay).

I was lower on Gibson than the community. I am a bit more cautious when ranking contact pitchers, as their margins for error are a bit lower. However, this year Gibson has improved across the board, with a 9.0 K/9, a 4.09 K/BB, and a 3.55 FIP. He should probably come up in September, with a strong shot at the rotation next year, and has moved up the list in my mind.

Britton falls into the same category as Gibson. I saw a pitcher with a fairly low BABIP, a pedestrian K-rate of 7.3 K/9 and 2.43 K/BB. This year, he returned to AA for two starts, improved slightly on these numbers, and was promoted to Baltimore. In the Majors, he has been an average starter, with an ERA+ of 98, but has a terrible 5.5 K/9 and 1.64 K/BB. He is getting grounders, but it will be awful difficult to be successful long term with those type of peripherals.

And at #20, Jameson Taillon. Once again, I am very conservative with new draftees, taking the wait and see approach. In fact, he is the highest 2010 draftee on this list, and one of only five total. Well I waited, and what I have seen is a top five pitching prospect. He has put up a 8.8 K/9, a 1.5 BB/9, a 6.00 K/BB, with a 3.25 FIP. He has to be considered an unqualified success.

21. Martin Perez (Community Rank #11)
22. Arodys Vizcaino (Community Rank #35)
23. Jarrod Parker (Community Rank #19)
24. Chris Archer (Community Rank #30)
25. Casey Kelly (Community Rank #22)
26. Tyler Matzek (Community Rank #37)
27. Jake McGee (Community Rank #27)
28. Trey McNutt (Community Rank #28)
29. Drew Pomeranz (Community Rank #31)
30. Christopher Dwyer (Community Rank #29)
31. Simon Castro (Community Rank #25)
32. Jenrry Mejia (Community Rank #23)
33. Zach Stewart (Community Rank #32)
34. Tanner Scheppers (Community Rank #41)
35. Alex White (Community Rank #34)
36. Andrew Brackman (Community Rank #44)
37. Robert Erlin (Community Rank #53)
38. Jake Odorizzi (Community Rank #33)
39 .Zach Wheeler (Community Rank #26)
40. Alex Wimmers (Community Rank #39)
41. Jarred Cosart (Community Rank #38)
42. Jason Knapp (Community Rank #55)
43. Tyler Skaggs (Community Rank #48)
44. Garrett Richards (Community Rank #41)
45. Enny Romero (Community Not Rank)
46. Alexander Torres (Community Rank #51)
47. Anthony Ranaudo (Community Rank #36)
48. Hector Noesi (Community Not Rank)
49. Rudy Owens (Community Not Rank)
50. Zach Lee (Community Rank #40)
From 21-50, I will just take a look at those I differed from the community on the most, but feel free to comment on other rankings or players that I do not cover here.

Let’s start with Martin Perez. I docked him quite a bit for his 2010 performance, ranking him ten spots lower than the community. He got an ARL bonus, but his walk rate was ugly: 4.5 BB/9, making his K/BB an uninspiring 2.02. He has bounced back some this year, with a lower BB-rate, but also a lower K-rate, leaving his K/BB moderately improved at 2.32. However, he is only 20 and has made AAA - this, combined with scouting reports has him high on many midseason lists, but he has at best tread water on my personal list. The negative with the aggressive promotion is he has not gotten a chance to consolidate at a level yet. He is young, but the Rangers handling of him could have a negative impact on his long-term potential.

I ranked Arodys Vizcaino 13 spots higher than the community. It seemed like I was voting for him forever last winter. Honestly, I didn’t get why he got so little love last year. I know there were some health concerns, but so were there with Pineda. Arodys put up a 1.3 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, 6.58 K/BB, 2.22 FIP. Those are great numbers. This year, he has put to rest the health concerns for the time being, and posted a 2.8 BB/9, 9.2 K/9, 3.25 K/BB, 3.08 FIP. He will be in my top 15, perhaps top 10.

Tyler Matzek struggled in 2010, and I knocked him down my list more than the community did. While his K-rate was solid, his BB-rate was an abysmal 6.2 BB/9. I have little tolerance for bad walk rates (see Martin Perez above), and even less for this type of rate. However, the scouting reports were still positive, and he was seen as the top prep arm in the 2009 draft class. How things have changed in two years. He has completely fallen apart this year, walking more batters than he has struck out. It looks like I was more right than the community, but we were all too optimistic here. This is exactly why I am more cautious with new draftees than most. At this point, the Rockies should look at transitioning him to the bullpen and see if they can salvage anything out of Matzek.

 I was also much higher on Robbie Erlin than the community, ranking him 16 spots higher on my personal list. In 2010, he posted a 1.3 BB/9, 9.8 K/9, 7.35 K/BB, great ratios, albeit with less inspiring scouting reports. However, I am a sucker for these types of numbers, and he has made me feel like a genius this year. He has increased his K’s and decreased his BB’s, resulting in a 0.9 BB/9, 9.4 K/9, 10.82 K/BB - unbelievable. He still is not getting the love he deserves due to scouting reports on his stuff, but he has maintained his rates as a 20 year old in AA - at some point you have to start buying into the results. He is easily in my top 20 this year.

Zach Wheeler, like Martin and Matzek, walks too many for my taste, hence the lower ranking than the community. He has moved up to A+, and maintained his great K-rates and terrible BB-rates, resulting in a weak 2.07 K/BB. He is still getting more love on midseason rankings than Erlin, but I think that is a mistake. Erlin’s floor as a #4 is way higher than Wheelers as a reliever. Wheeler has too much to prove still for me, and too high of a chance for flaming out. He will still be a top fifty pitching prospect, but at the back end for me.

I was way too optimistic with Jason Knapp, but I will blame the local Cleveland papers for that J. Actually he had great numbers in his brief return in 2010 from should surgery in 2009.. He never made it out of extended spring training, and had to undergo his second shoulder surgery in two years. I don’t think he will amount to much more than a solid reliever at this point, and has taken a big drop in my eyes.

Zach Lee was ten spots lower on my list than the communities, once again due to his status as a new draftee. He has proven the hype was warranted. This year, he has posted a 8.0 K/9, 2.91 K/BB, and 3.84 FIP. He should rank in the top twenty at the end of the year.

Three pitchers made the back end of my list, and were not ranked by the community: Enny Romero, Hector Noesi, and Rudy Owens. Romero was great in 2010, posting a 9.2 K/9 and 4.00 K/BB. He was moved up to A-ball, and has improved his strikeouts to 10.6 K/9, but has also seen his BB-rate more than double to 5.1 BB/9. This is not a good sign. Thankfully for Enny, he is in Tampa Bay’s system, and will be given time to adjust at each level. In another farm system (Texas, Houston, Detroit), he may be promoted, struggle, and have his long-term potential negatively impacted. If he can get his BB-rate lowered by the end of the year, he would probably still be near the end of my top 50.

Noesi may have been another Yankees homer ranking, but I asked John earlier in the year if it was a reasonable ranking for both him and Owens, and he said yes. I loved Noesi’s control, which resulted in a 5.46 K/BB rate in 2010. In 2011, he has seen his peripherals decline severely in four AAA starts, and has been used as a long reliever for the Yankees in the majors, where he has posted a 126 ERA+ in his first 30.1 IP. I still think he could be a successful starter, but on the Yankees, he may become the next Ramiro Mendoza.

Owens passed the AA test in 2010, as a great control pitcher with a decent K-rate, similar to Noesi. He put up a 7.9 K/9, 5.74 K/BB, and 2.95 FIP. This year in AAA, his BB-rate is up and K-rate is way down, resulting in a 2.11 K/BB and a 4.12 FIP. Perhaps his stuff has stopped playing in AAA, perhaps he has hit a wall in his development. He may become a AAAA pitcher, but he could also turn things around. As a control pitcher, his margin for error is small, especially if he can’t strike people out anymore. At this point, he would not be in consideration for a top 50 spot, probably not even a top 100 spot.

My biggest misses were probably Carlos Martinez and Rubby De La Rosa. However, Martinez and Rubby were both ranked outside of the community top 50, so I do not feel as bad about these misses. Rubby has likely graduated, and Martinez will be a top five pitching prospect.

Overall, I am fairly happy with these rankings. Like with the positional rankings, I see how I am conservative with high school draftees. I also tend to devalue groundball/contact pitchers, as well as pitchers with good scouting reports and stuff but bad BB/9 and K/BB rates. What do you think?

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