August 5, 2021

Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Top Five (Starting) Pitching Prospects For 2011

February 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson is targeted for stardom. By the end of 2012 he will slide into the #2 spot in the rotation to create a dynamic duo, along with David Price.

In articles such as this, many websites give readers a list of the best overall prospects at a given position, but the intention here is to focus on those prospects who are most likely to provide a significant fantasy impact during the 2011 season; therefore, a guy like Julio Teheran – who is blocked in Atlanta and is not likely to make his MLB debut this season – is not on my list.

Here is my list of the five (starting) pitching prospects who are likely to have the greatest impact at the major league level in 2011:

1. Jeremy Hellickson, TB

2010 performance: 12-3, 2.45 ERA, 1.173 WHIP and 123 K (at Triple-A Durham) and 4-0, 3.47 ERA, 1.101 WHIP and 33 K in MLB (with Tampa Bay)

Hellickson is the best pitching prospect in all of baseball. The Rays felt so confident in what 2011 has in store for the young right-hander that they traded stalwart Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs to make room for Hellickson (well, that and to save money).

He capped a brilliant season in the International League with a quartet of fantastic efforts with Tampa. He could be the ace on most staffs, but likely will settle into the role of #2 starter in Tampa behind left-hander David Price – possibly by the end of the upcoming season. He has four excellent pitches, all of which he throws from the same arm angle for strikes, plus he has added a cutter (which he will attempt to refine in 2011). His repertoire includes a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a curve ball and a changeup.

2. Mike Minor, ATL

2010 performance: 6-7, 3.44 ERA, 1.155 WHIP, 146 K (combined stats at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett) and 3.2, 5.98 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and 43 K in MLB (with Atlanta)

Like Hellickson and Drabek (below), Minor had a cup of coffee in The Show towards the end of last season, but he did not have Hellickson’s luck upon reaching the big leagues. He appeared in nine games, eight as a starting pitcher, and tossed 40.2 innings. His high ERA was most likely the product of an excessively high BABIP (.396) and an extremely low strand rate (65%).

Looking forward, the Braves expect much better things from him. His major league FIP was just 3.77 last year, and his xFIP was 3.86 – demonstrating that some of his struggles were the result of plain old dumb (bad) luck.

He has three above-average pitches. His fastball isn’t overpowering, but it is hard enough to make hitters respect it… his off-speed offerings are his bread-and-butter pitches. In the minor leagues he struck out nearly 11 batters for every 9 IP, though his walk rate (3.4 / 9 IP) illustrates that his command needs sharpening.

3. Kyle Drabek, TOR

2010 performance: 14-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.198 WHIP and 132 K (at Double-A New Hampshire) and 0-3, 4.76 ERA, 1.353 WHIP and 12 K in MLB (with Toronto)

Drabek will slide into the back end of the Blue Jays rotation after GM Alex Anthopolous traded RHP Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers. He, too, made a few starts in the major leagues at the end of last year and, like Minor, he struggled.

Drabek has three very good – bordering on ‘plus’ – pitches. His calling card is a 12-to-6 curveball, which can be devastating. He has both a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball, which sit in the low-to-mid-90s. Historically, his problem has been the lack of an out-pitch to use against lefties, although he added a cutter and worked on refining his curveball last year with great success(lefties his .227 against him in Double-A).

In Eastern League play, he walked 68 hitters in 162 IP, demonstrating that he, like Braves LHP Minor, needs to improve on his command if he is to have success in MLB.

4. Michael Pineda, SEA

2010 performance: 11-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.112 WHIP, 154 K (combined stats at Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma)

Pineda, 22, will be placed on an innings restriction in 2011, so you can bet you won’t see him in the big leagues until late-June, and he’ll be shut down in early-September. There is rampant conjecture he’ll be limited to as few as 120 IP and as many as 150 IP in 2011.

Pineda can be dominant at times. He has an explosive mid- to high-90s fastball that will top out at 100+ on occasion. His slider is still a work in progress… he made strides last year but still has a tendency to get under it a little – causing it to flatten out. He has an upper-80s changeup that is probably too hard and doesn’t offer enough differentiation to his fastball.

He has a high-effort delivery that makes it difficult to throw strikes repeatedly… and which could eventually lead to arm problems.

5. Zach Britton, BAL

2010 performance: 10-7, 2.70 ERA, 1.239 WHIP, 124 K (combined stats at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk)

Britton is close to being big-league ready after splitting last year between Double-A and Triple-A. He has a low-90s fastball, a “plus” slider and an effective changeup, but his out pitch is his sinker – which Baseball America says is the best in the minor leagues.

As with cost-conscious Seattle, I expect the Orioles will hold back in bringing Britton to the major leagues until June (at least).

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