Fantasy Baseball: 4 Pitching Prospects Who Could Make an Impact This Season
Every year, there are certain rookies who take the league by storm and are difference-makers in fantasy baseball. Just look at the last few years, for example.
Last season, we saw Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Noah Syndergaard, and Miguel Sano step up and put up huge numbers. In 2014, we were treated to three rookie starting pitchers with a sub-3.00 ERA, as Jacob deGrom, Masahiro Tanaka, and Collin McHugh made immediate impacts. That class also included a 36 home run season from Jose Abreu and late-season contributions from Mookie Betts and George Springer.
If you look at this year's class, the likes of Corey Seager, Byung-Ho Park, Trevor Story, and Kenta Maeda were all hot commodities in season-long drafts. Several of them are already making noise, including Story, who has four homers in his first three games.
While those players all have some huge potential this season, you most likely already missed out on the opportunity to draft them. You could buy into the hype and trade for them now, but what if I told you there was another option?
There are other rookies with as much potential as the aforementioned youngsters, and they are likely all available in your fantasy league. All you have to do is exercise a little bit of patience.
Intrigued? You should be -- there is some serious ace-potential in the minors right now, and several will be ready to contribute to your fantasy team from June to September, if not sooner. Here are four starting pitchers who have the ability to make a difference on your fantasy team down the stretch.
Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals
21 years old
2015 Minor League Stats: 7-7, 3.15 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 131 K, 117 IP
Lucas Giolito will be listed as a top-five prospect pretty much anywhere you lookand is considered the top pitching prospect in the minors by almost all.
The 6'6" 2012 first round pick has a live arm and a fastball that regularly runs into the upper 90s. Both his fastball and curveball rate out as elite pitches, and his changeup is beginning to develop into one as well.
In 117 innings between Single-A and Double-A, Giolito posted a 3.15 ERA and 2.46 FIP with a 26.5 percent strikeout rate and 7.5 percent walk rate.
Giolito will likely be called up in June after the Super 2 arbitration date passes. If Washington's number five starter, Tanner Roark, struggles early on, Giolito could get a quicker call-up.
Keep a close eye on Giolito to start the season. The sky is the limit, and he could be a number two fantasy starter down the line pitching against a weak National League East.
Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates
22 years old
2015 Minor League Stats: 7-5, 2.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 136 K, 109 1/3 IP
At 6'8" with a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s, prospect Tyler Glasnow naturally draws comparisons to Randy Johnson. Similar to Johnson, Glasnow's high release point makes his fastball seem like it is coming in even harder than it is, but he struggles to maintain consistency in his release, due to his large frame.
Glasnow's fastball and curveball are already plus pitches, and he has developed his changeup into an average Major League pitch. He used this deadly combo to compile a career 2.36 ERA, along with an absurd 32 percent strikeout rate.
The only real concern left with Glasnow is his control. The right-hander has posted a career walk rate of 11.9 percent in the minors.
If he can rein in his filthy arsenal a bit and limit the walks through his first few starts, expect to see him in the Majors sooner rather than later. At the latest, expect to see him in the Majors sometime in June. Monitor the news closely. If Glasnow is promoted, he becomes a must-add in all formats. He's talented enough that it is worth considering stashing him before then, depending on the depth of your league.
Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins
21 years old
2015 Minor League Stats: 14-5, 2.87 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 175 K, 166 1/3 IP
Jose Berrios had been somewhat overshadowed by Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano in his time in the minors, until last season when he absolutely dominated both Double-A and Triple-A competition. There was talk about bringing the youngster up to help the Twins make a postseason run last season, but Minnesota instead decided to take the safe route and postpone the debut of their ace in the making until 2016.
Considering what Berrios did in the minors last season, it doesn't seem likely that the Twins will delay his Major League debut for much longer. Between the two levels, he threw 166.1 innings, and his Triple-A numbers back up the belief that he can be a top of the line ace for the Twins. In 12 Triple-A starts, Berrios posted a 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 27.7 percent strikeout rate, and 4.7 percent walk rate. To put those numbers in perspective, one Major League starter posted an sub-2.70 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP with a strikeout rate above 27 percent and a walk rate below 5 percent in 2015. His name is Clayton Kershaw -- perhaps you've heard of him.
Obviously Berrios' numbers were posted in the minors over a smaller sample size. That doesn't change the fact that they were ridiculous. He already has developed three plus pitches and has much better control than most pitchers his age. He is Major League ready and is going to be a contributor to someone's fantasy team this year. Make it yours!
Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds
23 years old
2015 Minor League Stats: 8-11, 3.83 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 140 K, 134 IP
Cincinnati's first-round pick from 2011, Robert Stephenson, is finally prepared to make his big-league debut, following Homer Bailey's stint on the 15-Day disabled list. Bailey's injury isn't thought to be overly serious, but the Reds are desperate for help in the rotation. This is likely just going to be a spot start, but if Stephenson is able to impress in his time in the Majors, it's conceivable that he could stick around.
Stephenson's best pitch is his fastball, which he runs up into the upper 90s. His curveball and changeup also both grade out well and complement his powerful heater. If he continues to improve on his fastball control, he projects out as a frontline starter.
While Stephenson has consistently struggled with his command in the minors, he still possesses overpowering stuff, as evidenced by his career strikeout rate of 25.6 percent. If he can cut down on the walks, he could be one of the best pitchers for Cincinnati. Until he proves that he can, though, take a wait and see approach. Be ready to pounce if he is able to put together a few quality starts for the Reds to start the season.