Previewing the Freshman Hurlers

The 2015 baseball season opened with some intriguing first-year names on the 25-man rosters fielded by the 30 MLB organizations. Over the next few days I’ll be looking at key names to know in the freshman class of 2015, beginning with the rookie hurlers.

Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies: Butler probably doesn’t get enough love based solely on how good his stuff is… when he’s healthy. Unfortunately, he battled shoulder issues last year and missed time in the spring with shoulder weakness. He earned a roster spot nonetheless and his ground-ball tendencies (along with his strikeout stuff) make him a good fit for pitching in Colorado. If his body holds up, he could be one of the more successful Rockies starting pitchers in 2015.

Miguel Castro, RHP, Blue Jays: The Jays made the curious decision to promote Castro to the big leagues after he opened the 2014 season in extended spring training. He’s actually never played full season ball and is less than two years removed from pitching in the Dominican Summer League. A starter in the minors, he’ll pitch out of the bullpen with his mid-90s heat and could eventually unseat Brett Cecil who’s earmarked for the closer’s gig but has battled health issues this spring.

Kendall Graveman, RHP, Athletics: Acquired from Toronto in the off-season in Josh Donaldson deal, Graveman could be a beast in the A’s home stadium. Already an extreme-ground-ball pitcher, the few hits into the air should die nicely in the friendly confines of his new home park. His newly-developed cutter gives him a nice weapon and he has enough fastball to keep hitters honest. Graveman, 24, was a value pick as an eighth round draft pick less than two years ago and opened the 2014 season in Low-A ball.

Raisel Iglesias, RHP, Reds: Cuban baseball players are all the rage and the Reds have already dabbled successfully in the market with Aroldis Chapman. Iglesias will begin his pro career in North America in the back end of the Reds starting rotation. He doesn’t have the dominating stuff that Chapman possesses but he has more than enough power and polish to miss bats and quickly move up the depth chart. Don’t be surprised if he’s the second or third best starter for the Reds by the end of the year.

Juan Jaime, RHP, Nationals: Jaime spent four years in short-season ball while battling command issues and health woes. When he’s on, he shows wipeout stuff as witnessed by his 352 strikeouts in 246 minor league innings. The Braves’ bullpen is a bit of a dog’s breakfast — especially after the trade of Craig Kimbrel — so Jaime could quickly find himself in high leverage situations if he can find the plate a little more consistently.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays: A talented amateur hurler, Norris signed out of high school for $2 million but struggled through his first pro season and posted an ERA north of 8.00. It took just two more years for him to straighten things out and reach the Majors. He’s now one of the top southpaw prospects in the game and just continues to get better. The loss of Marcus Stroman for the year (to a blown out knee) gives Norris some breathing room to establish himself as a big league hurler.

Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Blue Jays: Like Norris, Sanchez was helped by the injury to Stroman. Originally ticketed to open the year as a reliever, he’ll now pitch out of the starting rotation — the role he was accustomed to in the minors. Sanchez has dominating stuff but it moves so much that it’s hard to command at times so the extended role will definitely be a challenge. Toronto will have two veteran arms pitching in Triple-A — Randy Wolf and Johan Santana — so there is a bit of a safety net… just not a large one.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Will there be a young hurlers part two that details what Archie Bradley can bring with the stuff he was showing in the fall league and this spring?