Prospects Blooming: Starting Pitchers

Amarillo Sod Poodles pitcher MacKenzie Gore (13) pitches against the Frisco RoughRiders on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, at HODGETOWN in Amarillo, Texas. [Photo by John Moore/Amarillo Sod Poodles]

By: Drake Mann

As Spring Training looms, I continue my series of 10 prospects to watch in Spring Training 2020. Next up is starting pitchers and there are so many talented starters that are on the brink of a MLB debut or they dominated in the lower levels of the minors and are catching the eye of front office personnel.

Forrest Whitley (Astros): This 22-year-old was drafted 17th overall in 2016. He was the Astros #1 prospect in 2019 and currently is the #19 on the 2020 top 100 prospects list. He had an injury plagued 2019 season, pitched to a 3-7 record with a 7.99 ERA and 1.73 WHIP across four levels. One encouraging sign was his K/9 of 13.0 in 2019. If you’ve been following my pieces, you know I’m a huge fan of Whitley. He has the potential and stuff to be a number one or two.

Whitley, has a fastball that touches 100 mph and is consistently 95-98 with late life to it, a devastating changeup with horizontal and vertical movement, a 12-6 curveball, and a slider that’s a high spin, late bite pitch. He has smooth mechanics and makes throwing 98 look so easy. He creates a little bit of deception and being 6’7” will help his athleticism and extension to the plate going forward. Walks are a major issue for the 22-year-old but he’s still very young and is already showing better command on both sides of the plate.

All in all, the Astros have a gem in Whitley. He’s one of my favorite prospects to watch; and with the Astros without a proper number five in the rotation, this could be Whitley’s chance to claim a roster spot in 2020.

Mackenzie Gore (Padres) This 20-year-old lefty was drafted 3rd overall in 2017. He was the Padres #1 prospect at the end of 2019 and is currently the #5 top prospect in the top 100 for 2020. He got to the Double-A level in 2019 and pitched to a 9-2 record, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and a very impressive 12.03 K/9. He has a fastball that is consistently 94-95 and has touched 97-98 MPH with late life to it. He has some of the best offspeed stuff in the minors, with a devastating changeup at about 82-83, a curve in the high 70’s, and a slider in the high 80s.

Gore creates tons of deception and hides the ball well. He also has a funky delivery very reminiscent of Clayton Kershaw. He’s a great fielding pitcher and has one of the best pick off moves in the minors. He’s easily a number one in any rotation going forward and easily has a chance to make the Padres out of Spring Training. This screams a Chris Paddack type of situation where he’s so good in Spring Training that Gore skips Triple-A and makes his debut in 2020. However, time will tell with this top Padres prospect.

Deivi Garcia (Yankees) This 20-year-old righty was signed by the Yankees in 2015; he is the #1 prospect in the Yankees top 30 prospects from 2019 and #92 on the 2020 top 100 prospects list. Garcia, made it to the Triple-A level in 2019. Across 40 innings, he went 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and a 10.13 K/9. Across 111.1 innings in 2019, he went 5-9 with a 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a 13.34 K/9. He relies mainly on his high spin fastball that touches 97 and is consistently 94-95. He also has some impressive secondary stuff, a slider in the mid-80s and a changeup with tons of depth. Plus, he displays a sharp curveball that’s rated as the best breaking ball in the minors. However, he does struggle with controlling his breaking pitches and his fastball at times as well.

His mechanics remind me of a mix of Tim Lincecum and Luis Severino. Despite being smaller in stature, his athleticism should help him stay a starter moving forward. The Yankees already have one of the best bullpens and one of the best rotations in baseball. Depending on Garcia’s ability to miss bats and keep up his control and command , this top Yankees pitching prospect might get a shot in the bullpen. However, I believe he is ticketed for Triple-A just so the Yankees can monitor his innings and see his progression going forward.

Spencer Howard (Phillies) This 23-year-old was drafted in the 2nd round in 2017. Howard ended the 2019 season as the #2 prospect in the Phillies top 30 and is currently #34 on the top 100 prospects list of 2020. He made it to the Double-A level in 2019. In 30.2 innings, he went 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and a 11.15 K/9. Overall, he went 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and a 11.92 K/9. Howard has a fastball that touches 98 and is consistently 94-95, a changeup in the low 80s, curve in the high 70s and a slider in the mid 80s as well.

Howard works both sides of the plate well but has a tendency to overthrow. This causes his command to decline. His mechanics are free and easy, making throwing 96 consistently look easy. He also throws across his body creating deception and an illusion that his pitches are harder than they actually are. In turn, making them harder to square up.

Howard is going to be a frontline starter as long as he keeps commanding his pitches and using both sides of the plate well. His four pitch mix is some of the nastiest stuff you will see all day. Phillies fans take notice of this prized right handed stud.

Nate Pearson (Blue Jays) This 23-year-old was drafted 28th overall in 2017. He was the Blue Jays #1 prospect in 2019 and is currently #8 on the 2020 top 100 list. He got to Triple-A in 2019. In 18 innings, he was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and a 11.25 K/9. Overall, across 101.2 innings, he went 5-4 with a 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a 10.53 K/9. Pearson’s stuff is unreal; he has a fastball that’s touched 104 and is consistently 98-100, a slider in the mid-to high 80’s, an improving changeup, and a curve with 12-6 type movement. He uses all of his 6’6” frame to his advantage. He has a delivery similar to David Robertson or Chad Greene and has a brilliant downhill plane (This ensures the pitch is down in the zone).

While he repeats his delivery extremely well, his command isn’t the best; but, with experience and going through each level, that should be fixed really quick. While he creates little deception, his power fastball is what makes him so intriguing. Pearson, is going to be a mainstay in Toronto’s rotation moving forward. With a good 2020 spring, he can make a big step toward being in Toronto’s rotation that’s looking better and better as time moves on.

Brent Honeywell (Rays) This 24-year-old was a competitive balance pick in 2014. He was the Rays #4 prospect to end the 2019 season; he’s currently the #91 on the top 100 prospects of 2020.He was injured all of 2018 and 2019 and is still in the top 100 prospects list of 2020. That’s insane. He’s got a great 5-pitch mix with a fastball that touches 96, has a plus change up, a mid-80s slider, a knuckle-curve he can consistently spot down in the zone. Plus, he has a screwball- which is his main secondary pitch and it’s nasty.

Honeywell is a pure strike thrower and fills the zone very well. He’s athletic and has a good sense of pitch sequencing. His main trait that’s appealing is his ability to use multiple offspeed offerings to pair with his fastball and he develops a good game plan for each hitter. Honeywell, is easily a potential number one or two in the Rays rotation. First, let’s see how rusty he is after two years of being injured. This spring is crucial for Honeywell to show he’s still the top of the rotation arm he’s projected as for the future. Plus, he has 80-grade hair.

Triston McKenzie (Indians) This 22-year-old was a competitive balance pick in 2015. To end 2019, he was the Indians #2 prospect. He missed all of the 2019 season and looks for a rebound 2020. He has a fastball that touches 95 and is consistently 92-93, a 12-6 curve in the high 70’s and a changeup that fades away from lefties. This makes him equally as effective against lefties as righties.

He’s a tall lengthy right hander with good extension on all his pitches. Mckenzie also repeats his mechanics very well and should add more velocity with age. He throws straight over top and hides the ball well. On top of all that, he works both sides of the plate very well and is a strike throwing machine. Another top pitching prospect with high upside as an easy number one and having to show he’s ready for the MLB with a healthy 2020 spring.

Ian Anderson (Braves) This 21-year-old was drafted 3rd overall in 2016. He was the #3 prospect to end the 2019 season and is currently #37 on the top 100 prospects of 2020. In 2019, he made it to the Triple-A level; he also struggled to a 1-2 record with a 6.75 ERA, 1.66 WHIP and a 9.12 K/9. Overall, he went 8-7 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a 11.41 K/9. He has a 3-pitch mix with a fastball that touches 96, a 12-6 curve with disgusting movement, and a plus changeup.

His ability to throw downhill is amazing and he repeats his mechanics very well. His control is his main enemy as walks have been his dagger so far. What makes Anderson so appealing is his strikeout rates and ground ball rates being relatively high. Especially for how advanced the 21-year old has been in his career to date. I believe he’ll end up back in Triple-A just because of all the depth the Braves have in the upper minors.

The Braves have Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson and Bryse Wilson all ready to contribute at the MLB level, Ian Anderson needs to show his stuff this spring and maybe gain a 25-man roster spot in the process.

Hunter Harvey (Orioles) This 25-year old was drafted 1st round in 2013. He was the Orioles #15 prospects to end the 2019 season. He made his debut in 2019 and went 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and a 15.63 K/9 albeit in 6.1 innings. Overall, in the minors last year Harvey went 3-6 with a 5.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and a 9.87 K/9. Harvey’s main concern moving forward is his health as the injury bug has affected him since being drafted. Harvey touches 98 and is constantly 96-97, has a curveball with tons of depth and late diving movement. Plus, a decent changeup that gives hitters something else to think about.

He repeats his mechanics well and much like Howard throws across his body creating deception. His mechanics remind me of Joe Kelly as a starter just a bit. With how often he gets injured, his role has changed from a quality starter to a middle reliever. Plus, I do believe his stuff is better for the bullpen role. In the end, injuries have derailed Harvey’s career. However, he’s still young and has a chance to resurrect his career and hit his ceiling as a quality starter. He needs to start by showing the Orioles he’s healthy and show an increase of missing bats this spring. If he does, this could be a step in the right direction for the right hander.

Brady Singer (Royals) This 23-year-old was drafted 18th overall in 2018. He was the Royals #2 prospect to end the 2019 season and is currently #59 on the top 100 prospects list of 2020. He made it to the Double-A level in 2019, going 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a 8.44 K/9. Overall in 2019, he went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a 8.37 K/9. He has a “true” two pitch mix with a four-seam fastball that touches 96 and is consistently 92-93, and a slider that at times hangs but normally has tons of depth and movement. He also has a 2-seam fastball with late movement and even has a tendency to sink. One pitch that is starting to develop is his changeup, this pitch has the upside to turn into another weapon for the young righty.

He has a similar pitching style to Giovanny Gallegos. However, Singer has more of a 3-quarter arm slot and Gallegos has a more overhand arm slot. He has great command of all his pitches and with the Royals having their fair share of pitching problems. He’s another player with the potential to be a top of the rotation arm and 2020 has a chance to be his debut for this fast rising prospect.

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