After my somewhat controversial position players list, I had no choice but to do a pitcher list as well. This one has some possible reasons for controversy of course since it's my opinion, but once again, let's be civil in our friendly debate. The point is to get a discussion going.
The same criteria applies as applied on the hitter list: these pitchers have to be 25 and under, and they can't be making more than $10 million in 2013.
10A. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers
Salary in '13 $2.9M
Feliz is my riskiest pick here. Feliz is on the DL after having to undergo Tommy John surgery in August. No one is sure when he's set to return, but my best guess is the latter part of the season. I do have doubts about guys that return from the injury. Will he ever be the same pitcher again? No one is sure. Every player reacts differently, but I have to give one of the top young pitchers in baseball the benefit of the doubt. Especially with how pitchers are coming back from the injury as of late. Tommy John surgery isn't a write off for a player anymore.
10B. Trevor Cahill, RHP, Diamondbacks
Salary in '13 $5.5M
Cahill is a good pitcher, but I don't see his ceiling being star worthy. That's why he's sharing 10 with another player. He's put together two solid seasons, one with Oakland, the other with Arizona. His value is in his innings pitched. He has pitched over 200 innings twice in the past two seasons and was four innings away in 2010 from achieving that mark. April's numbers tell us Cahill is in for his best season yet. Let's hope so.
9. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins
Salary in '13 $0.49M
The Marlins decision to call up Fernandez this early in his career has paid off somewhat. Miami was never going to compete this season with their dreadful roster, but they had to put people in the seats somehow. The 20 year old Cuban phenom was sure to put people in the seats.
From a developmental standpoint, Miami probably could have kept him in the minors for another year or just until September call ups, but from a sales perspective I'd say it's a solid move.
The challenge of the major leagues doesn't seem to be weighing heavily on Fernandez. Aside from back to back rough outings against Cincinnati and Minnesota in mid April, Fernandez has fared well against major league hitting. He's given up 12 earned runs this season, and nine of them came in those two starts. It goes to show how well Fernandez has pitched in his other outings. Young pitchers are going to go through some rough patches, it's just how it goes in this league. The Marlins have been cautious of letting him pitch past the 7th inning up until his recent dominant start against the Phillies.
Fernandez has a plus fastball, but the pitch that really caught my attention while watching him pitch was his breaking ball. He uses it very effectively in the right counts and it has a hard break to it. He sits at 9 on this list for now, but years down the line I wouldn't be surprised he's in the top 5.
8. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals
Salary in '13 $0.49M
Our list is greeted by another playing vying for a NL Rookie of the Year award. This time Shelby Miller. Many websites that handicap awards races in April all mention Shelby Miller being the early winner, and it's for good reason too. Miller has a posted a 1.96 ERA with a 2.97 FIP. Expect his ERA to inflate, but a sub 3.00 FIP is nothing to scoff at., especially for a 22 year old rookie.
Miller is showing his ability to strikeout major league hitters with a 9.33 K/9. This will go a long way for Miller. As he learns how to pitch at the highest level he's going to want to control the more than letting the batter put the ball in play. He's done a nice job replacing Kyle Lohse in the St. Louis rotation.
7. Lance Lynn, RHP, Cardinals
Salary in '13 $0.513M
Oh look, it's another young Cardinals pitcher making the list. Lynn accumulated a 2.7 WAR in 176.0 IP a season ago. With that he posted a 3.78 and a 3.49 FIP. This season he's improved to a 2.75 ERA and a 3.05 FIP. Lynn, like Miller has been able to strike batters out this season. His 9.75 K/9 can attest to this.
Lynn has been off to hots starts before. Last season he started off 5-0 with a 1.40 ERA. This year his numbers are slightly higher, but if he pitches like this all season long he'll surely have a better year than last year. He had two bad months in June and August last year. Once Lynn learns to pitch consistently he should be a great pitcher to build around. Along with Miller of course! Miller has more pure upside I would say, but Lynn is more proven.
6. Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox
Salary in '13 $0.85M
With a little over two years of service time, the White Sox put a ton of trust in Sale to become the team's ace. That trust coming in the form of $32.5 million over five years. The White Sox could be called crazy for putting so much money into a guy who had one good season after basically being a dominant relief pitcher. Yet, the move is justified, at least it is to me.
Sale posted a 4.8 WAR last year with a 3.27 FIP. This was good enough to be considered for the American League Cy Young award last season. This alone make Sale one of the top pitchers to build around. I like the deal for both sides. If Sale becomes the ace I see him being the White Sox will make out well and won't have to pay so much when he's ready for his big payday. Sale also gets paid for what he's worth and won't be making near minimum for long. He should be able to get another big contract in the future, but by that time the White have had him most likely seven seasons. Sale has two team option years after his five year deal. So with Sale being 31, I don't see Chicago being the ones to pay him big money.