Yesterday, I discussed the nine pitching prospects who regularly throw their fastball at the highest velocities in the minors. The pitchers’ fastballs on the list ranged from 99 to 101 MPH, and that is consistent velocity at the high end of their game range! But that’s now all THE BOARD gives us. We also have “Tops”, which is where the prospect pitcher’s fastball maxes out at. Perhaps he throws that hard just once a game, or every couple of games. But it’s fun to peruse the list of absolute hardest throwers. Obviously, there’s going to be quite a bit of overlap with yesterday’s list, so while I’ll include all pitchers that max at 100+ with an FV of at least 40+, I’ll only discuss those I haven’t discussed in previous prospect scouting & stats posts.
|Name||Org||Age||Top 100||Org Rk||FV||Tops|
So apparently Hans Crouse sits 94-97 MPH, yet can max out his fastball at 102 MPH! That’s a crazy jump from the high end of his regular range. In fact, the five MPH jump is the highest of any prospect pitcher on THE BOARD. At Single-A, Crouse’s strikeout rate has plummeted from his more impressive marks at lower levels, and sat below the league average. That’s pretty surprising for someone who could pump in the gas, but I guess since it’s really just hitting a high of 97 MPH regularly, that’s nothing special. He has been an extreme fly ball pitcher, which is scary in this home run happy age, but at least he improved his walk rate to an excellent level in 2019. He’s got a lot to improve upon to be worth caring about in keeper leagues.
Jackson Rutledge’s 101 maxed out fastball helped him earn a 70 grade on the pitch, and led to a near 30% strikeout rate, driven by an excellent 16.3% SwStk%. The 2019 17th overall pick has only 37.1 professional innings under his belt for us to evaluate, but with a high octane fastball, a solidly graded slider, and a decent graded curveball, he’s one to follow.
I’m not sure why Tahnaj Thomas has remained in the Rookie league every season since 2017, so we’ll need to check in on his skill rates against better competition to really assess how his stuff and big fastball translates into strikeouts.
To go along with his 100 MPH fastball that graded out at 65, Luis Medina also pairs it with a 60 grade curveball. Like Thomas above, the Yankees prospect also spent three seasons in the Rookie league, so even though he’s been a minor leaguer since 2016, he’s still only made it to High-A, and only thrown 10.2 innings there. Amazingly, his strikeout rate keeps rising, but control has been a major issue. So major, in fact, that in 2018, he walked 46 batters in 36 innings, which was only one less walk than strikeout! It appears his stuff is pretty darn good, but he’ll have to get a better idea of where he’s throwing that stuff to have any chance of moving up the ladder.
Since Single-A, Shane McClanahan’s strikeout rate has been on the decline, but his SwStk% has actually risen, which is odd to see. I’m curious which wins out — does the strikeout rate stick in the low 20% range with the SwStk% coming down to match (in which case he’s not much of a prospect), or does the strikeout rate rebound back up to his Single-A or High-A days to match his SwStk% (in which case he’s worth watching)?
Here’s actually a perfect example of why you should always use K% instead of K/9 (and BB% instead of BB/9). McClanahan’s K% was just 23.3% at Double-A, which is pretty meh. However, because of a crazy .450 BABIP which brought many more batters to the plate each inning, he posted a 10.3 K/9, which is elite. That K/9 is deceptively high because of all the extra batters he faced each inning thanks to the high BABIP. It’s not a true indication of his strikeout skills, while his K% is.
Even with a 100 MPH max fastball, Jorge Guzman has seen his strikeout rate slide down to just 22.6% at Double-A. Combine that with a double digit walk rate (two seasons in a row!) and a 51% fly ball rate, and you get a pitcher who should be far from your keeper league team or radar.
We haven’t seen a whole lot from Nick Mears, but in what small samples we have, his underlying skills have been relatively strong. His strikeout rate, although dropping at each stop, has remained above 30%, while his walk rate has been solid. I would have liked to see a slightly higher SwStk% to back up that 30%+ strikeout rate, but it’s decent enough. Pitching in the National League and in a pitcher friendly ballpark should help his future ratios.
Carlos Hernandez enjoyed a strikeout rate surge at Single-A in 2019 and continued to display good control. While a 60 grade fastball is solid, none of his other pitches standout, so we’ll have to wait to find out if the strikeout rate spike was a fluke or the result of something clicking.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.