Here are nine breakthrough pitching prospects to watch in 2016. Some of these guys are already active, while others are in extended spring training and will get going when the short-season leagues start in June. Some of them already have frequent prospect press notices, others don't. In all cases, these arms are likely to (or at least could) rank among the very top pitching prospects in the game by the end of the year.
Albert Abreu, RHP, Houston Astros: 20 year old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, currently pitching for Quad Cities in the Low-A Midwest League, has a 5.65 ERA in his first 14 innings but with a 22/7 K/BB, reports have fastball up to 97; already has a workable change-up and can spin a breaking ball; needs more consistent command but arm strength and potential for three plus pitches is present.
Domingo Acevedo, RHP, New York Yankees: Another Dominican arm, age 22, came into the season with some fanfare after strong 2015 in the New York-Penn League with Staten Island; excellent in his first few Low-A outings, 1.91 ERA with 32/4 K/BB in his first 28 innings with just 19 hits; mid-to-upper-90s fastball and has been clocked over 100 in the past; working on breaking stuff to go with change-up; dominant so far. Living up to the press clippings early.
Logan Allen, LHP, San Diego Padres: Only 18 years old, lefty acquired from Red Sox in Craig Kimbrel deal after being drafted in the eighth round last June, short leash so far in Low-A with just 13 innings in four games, with 2.08 ERA and 13/8 K/BB. One very informed observer told me a few weeks ago that Allen "will be a number three starter and the Red Sox will regret trading him." Low-90s fastball with advanced secondary pitches already present.
Anderson Espinosa, RHP, Boston Red Sox: Just 18 years old, Anderson received a flurry of publicity this spring when several prospect analysts (including this one) keyed on him as a rapid riser, reflecting buzz in the industry. It looks justified at this point: through 18.1 innings in Low-A he has a 2.45 ERA with a 20/5 K/BB, dominating with easy mid-90s heat and an unusually advanced curve/change mix.
Junior Fernandez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: This 19 year old from the Dominican Republic is impressing Midwest League observers with his 2.57 ERA and 17/5 K/BB in 21 innings over three starts, including a 10-strikeout performance in his last outing. He's not big at 6-1, 180, but he's hit 100 MPH at times, already has a good change-up, and has made progress with his slider.
Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians: Currently in extended spring training, McKenzie was drafted in the supplemental first round last June from high school in Florida. An ultra-projectable 6-5, 165 pounder, he doesn't throw blazing stuff yet but could easily get his heater into the mid-90s as he matures physically. He already has a good curve and change and throws strikes with a low-effort delivery.
Andrew Moore, RHP, Seattle Mariners: Drafted out of Oregon State University in the compensation round last June, Moore is making short work of the difficult California League with a 1.52 ERA in his first 29.2 innings with a 23/7 K/BB. He does not have the pure stuff or physical projection of the other guys on the list but he has solid command of an 89-93 MPH fastball and a very good change-up, while making progress with his curve.
David Paulino, RHP, Houston Astros: Another hard-throwing Astros prospect from the Dominican Republic, 22-year-old Paulino is off to a great start in Double-A, running a 1.59 ERA in 17 innings for Corpus Christi with a 23/4 K/BB. It isn't soft stuff, either, his fastball is well into the 90s and he's made great progress commanding his breaking ball this year.
Franklin Perez, RHP, Houston Astros: This 18 year old from Venezuela is in extended spring training but hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow Houston farmhands Paulino and Abreu soon. Signed for $1,000,000 in 2014, he was considered one of the best arms available that year right up there with Espinosa. Perez hasn't developed as quickly but he throws strikes with his low-90s fastball and both his curve and change have plus potential.