There are a plethora of young arms just teeming with talent at the Minor League level and narrowing it down to just five names was quite the task. Maybe it’s all the technology or advanced training tools available now to young players, but whatever it is, guys are developing much faster and showing utter dominance at a much younger age. After sorting through each team’s top prospects, these five young flamethrowers stand out above the rest and offer the most fantasy value for this upcoming season. And since the majority of you have never had the pleasure of seeing them pitch, I’ve included some video for each player.
I also have to mention a few parameters for this group. Shane Baz (SP – TB) would definitely be included on this list, as well as possibly a few others (Sixto Sanchez (SP – MIA), Edward Cabrera (SP – MIA), Reid Detmers (SP – LAA) to name a few), but just for the sake of this article, I’m only going to shed light on players that the casual fantasy manager may not have heard of. Meaning, I’m going to be sticking to prospects who have not yet seen the bright lights of the Major Leagues.
Rodriguez is a star in the making, but I can’t imagine any scenario for the O’s to rush him straight out of Spring Training. Other than giving the fanbase something to cheer about, there’s just no reason to push his service clock or progress. Baltimore won’t contend again this year and with only 18 starts above the Single-A level, it may take until early-to-mid-summer to catch a glimpse of Baltimore’s future ace. Of course, the power righty is so good, they may not have a choice.
Over those 18 starts in Double-A, Rodriguez registered a preposterous 31.9 K-BB percentage and a .165 opponent BA. He has a vast repertoire of pitches and throws in the very high 90s with his heater. If he continues to develop and dominate the way he has, fantasy managers could have a steal on their hands.
Baltimore hasn’t had an ace of this caliber in years, and if all goes as planned Rodriguez could be the start of the monumental turnaround that the organization so desperately needs. Even if he doesn’t get the call until late June, he’s still worth selecting at the end of drafts. And if your league has N/A or Minor League slots, you may think about taking him much earlier. He is that good.
As usual, Grayson Rodriguez was pumping gas all afternoon. ⛽️
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 18, 2021
I saw Hunter Greene pitch in high school and even back then, he looked like a major-leaguer. Pumping 95 with ease past helpless varsity lineups, you knew Greene was going to be something special. The kid also raked at the plate and played a nearly flawless shortstop.
After being selected as the second overall pick in 2017, the Reds transitioned him to full-time starting pitcher and the results, other than the impressive strikeout rates, were rather mediocre. He then suffered an elbow injury which led to Tommy John, wiping out his 2019 season. 2020 was also nonexistent because of COVID-19, but the following year Greene returned to the mound and reminded everyone why he was labeled a can’t miss prospect. Greene went 5-0 over seven starts in Double-A while producing an ERA under 2 with 60 strikeouts. He then moved up to Triple-A where he struggled with command a bit and gave up a few too many gopher balls, but his inflated ERA of 4.13 was mainly due to just a couple of bad starts.
Once Greene learns to be a bit more consistent, the sky is the limit for him. At 6’5″, 230 pounds he’s an imposing figure on the mound with a plus-plus fastball and above-average control. He showed remarkable resilience after not pitching in games for two years by returning with even more impressive numbers. And now, with Cincinnati likely to trade away at least one of their frontline starters, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Greene getting his initial taste of the big leagues during the first half of the season.
Hunter Greene earned his first Triple-A win last night in his home debut for the @LouisvilleBats, whiffing six over five scoreless frames and topping out at 102 mph. #RedsMiLB pic.twitter.com/g85Ei1xH1R
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) June 24, 2021
And then there’s this.
BREAKING NEWS: Hunter Greene just hit 104 MPH.
He’s a starting pitcher…
— Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) June 18, 2021
The Mariners have a surplus of exciting young arms in their farm system, but the one closest to making a splash in the Show is likely George Kirby. Think of Kirby as Logan Gilbert (SP – SEA) 2.0. On a similar path as Gilbert, Kirby pitched 6 Double-A games in his age 23 season and will likely start this year in Triple-A. Meanwhile, Gilbert threw 9 games in Double-A in his age 23 season, started in Triple-A the following year and then was called up after just one start. Both were drafted in the first round of their respective years (Kirby in 2019, Gilbert in 2018) and both are power righties who are towering on the mound.
Kirby shows excellent control with all of his pitches, which is evident by his low 4.1 percent walk rate in the Minors, and can reach triple digits with his fastball. Seattle is in a great position to make its first trip back to the playoffs in over 20 years this season, so if Kirby can help them achieve that goal and beyond, he likely won’t be kept down for long (just as Gilbert wasn’t).
*And just a quick side note: His teammate Matt Brash is also on the cusp of stardom. He just needs to keep his walks in check. Brash’s stuff is filthy and when he does get called up to the bigs, his strikeout rates should also be massive. He’s not ranked as high as Kirby though, so if you’re picking between the two, I’d go with the more polished Kirby for long-term value. The Mariners have a couple of other young star pitchers in the making as well, but they’re a little farther down in their development and likely won’t be seen much of, if at all this season. That could all change of course if there are a number of catastrophic injuries to the starting staff. So in other words, keep track of Mariners pitching!
George Kirby's fastball was up to 102 this year.
Scouts love his slider.
The @MsPlayerDev righty was the top pitching prospect in High-A West this year.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) October 18, 2021
Cavalli played at all three levels in the Minors last season despite being drafted just the year prior. The Oklahoma native faded as the year waned on, but that doesn’t take away from what the young right-hander was able to accomplish.
Combing 11 starts in Double-A and seven in Single-A, the 6’4″, 230 pound Cavalli produced a 2.37 ERA with 151 strikeouts in less than 100 innings. Additionally, he only allowed a total of three home runs. Control was a bit of an issue, especially down the stretch when he hit Triple-A, but that is to be expected when a young pitcher is playing in his first season of professional baseball. His stuff is lights out, including a high-velo fastball and a devastating changeup to go along with a commanding presence on the mound.
With the Nats desperate for starters and a handful of games at Triple-A already under his belt, the 23-year-old and former first-round pick could be producing at the big league level as early as June. He’ll need to exhibit better control and results before earning his call-up, but if he’s anything like he was in the first half of last season, it won’t take him long.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 12, 2021
The Marlins have so many talented young starters, rumors have been swirling they may choose to package one or two of them to land an impact bat. If that’s the case, it would definitely open up a faster track for some of their younger stars to get in the game. Even if they don’t, however, Meyer’s abilities make him someone worth heavily tracking.
The third overall pick in the 2020 draft has ridiculous stuff, including a fastball that can reach triple digits and a wipeout slider. His stuff and makeup are so good that the organization, which generally slow plays its prospects, started him immediately in Double-A. He dominated over 22 starts all season (including two in Triple-A), but there is some thought that he may be better served to start his MLB career as a reliever. With a smaller frame and two plus offerings, that may be his future, but he does possess a decent changeup and he only pitched as a starter last year, averaging just over five innings per game.
The Marlins will likely cap his innings total again this season, but if and when he does make it to the Big Leagues, his stuff will play regardless of role.
Marlins No. 3 prospect Max Meyer spun a quality start for @BlueWahoosBBall:
9 K (ties career high) pic.twitter.com/nhp0Stya7E
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 12, 2021
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Second Base
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: First Base
- Top 5 Prospects Per Position: Outfielders
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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.