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:
Domingo Acevedo, RHP, New York Yankees:
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:
Junior Fernandez, RHP, 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, 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, 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.