Three sleeper pitching prospects to pay some attention to this year: Buddy Baumann of the Royals, Mike Fiers of the Brewers, and Donn Roach of the Angels
These are comments from the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book, with some additional material.
Buddy Baumann, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 5-10 WT: 175 DOB: December 9, 1987
SLEEPER ALERT! The Royals drafted Baumann in the seventh round in 2009, from Missouri State University. He's an undersized lefty at 5-10, 175, but he's performed well in both college and pro ball, using an 87-91 MPH fastball along with a strong curveball and changeup. He began 2010 in the bullpen at Wilmington in the Carolina League, but converted to the rotation in late June and thrived in both roles. He's especially tough on lefties, holding them to a .189 average last year. His K/BB, K/IP, and H/IP marks were all very strong. Baumann will move to Double-A in '11. He's more likely to relieve than start in the majors, but given his feel for pitching I would not underestimate him despite his lack of size and plus velocity. Grade C+.
ADDITIONAL: He is easy to overlook because of the pitching-rich nature of the Royals system, plus Wilmington is a great place to pitch and naturally generates some skepticism about his numbers. Double-A will give us critical data. I point him out specifically because I really like his ability to change speeds and I think it has a chance to carry forward.
Michael Fiers, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 205 DOB: June 15, 1985
SLEEPER ALERT!! Mike Fiers was a nice surprise for the Brewers last year. Drafted in the 22nd round out of Nova Southeastern University in 2009, Fiers was old when drafted at 24. He pitched very well last year in the Florida State League, and continued to pitch well after moving up to Double-A. His component ratios were strong across the board. . .everything was above average. He also posted a 17/3 K/BB in 19 innings in the Arizona Fall League. As you probably expect, Fiers doesn't have a hot fastball at just 88 MPH, but he throws strikes, changes speeds with his breaking ball like a master, and can start or relieve. It wouldn't surprise me to see him reach the majors in 2011 as either a fifth starter or a relief option. Grade C, but a sleeper.
ADDITIONAL: Fiers has two blemishes: lack of plus velocity for a right-hander, and his age. The age issue is not a huge deal in my view; age-relative-to-league is less critical for pitchers. The velocity issue matters more, but again his ability to keep hitters off stride helps, and his component ratios are those of a power pitcher even if his fastball readings aren't.
Donn Roach, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 190 DOB: December 14, 1989
SLEEPER ALERT!! The ace of the pitching staff at the Junior College of Southern Nevada last spring, Donn Roach got plenty of exposure when scouts swarmed to see Bryce Harper in action, earning a spot in the third round of the draft. Roach's 6.04 ERA in the Pioneer League might look off-putting, but his K/IP was good, and he picked up a huge number of ground balls with a 5.25 GO/AO. That sort of strikeout/ground ball combination is pretty rare and reflects the quality of his 90-94 MPH sinker. He also has a good curveball, but is still working on his changeup. Roach succeeds when he throws strikes, and he looks like a big sleeper to me, projecting as a number three or four starter if all goes well. Grade C+.
ADDITIONAL: Strikeout/groundout combination stands out here, and his ERA should have been much better given his components: his FIP was 3.74. Questions: does he start or relieve in the long run? There seems to be mixed opinion about that. If he goes to the Midwest League he could put up especially strong numbers this year.