Valuing Rookie Pitchers for 2018

It’s tough to get excited about this year’s batch of rookie pitchers. One reason is that most of the top arms (Reyes, Gohara, Buehler, Flaherty) have already debuted in the majors. Many of the other top-ranked arms have not pitched in double-A yet.

With this year’s class looking down, there always seems to be a few pitchers who come out of nowhere like Luis Castillo did last season. He wasn’t picked among the top 600 players in NFBC and now he near a top-100 pick. Jake Faria and Dinelson Lamet were a couple other arms who were off owner’s radars. It just takes a pitcher gaining a couple ticks on his fastball or developing a new pitch to shoot up in talent.

I found it best to be aggressive on this these mid-season call-ups. They may be getting promoted because they are ready. Investigate any recent scouting reports and don’t be afraid to roster them if they’re talented.

Alex Reyes (258 ADP, min 172, max 383, ranked #16)

I wrote up Alex Reyes in detail a few days ago. I think his value at 258 ADP is fine and is possibly going a bit late.

Brent Honeywell (276 ADP, min 213, max 359, ranked #15)

He’s a five-pitch stud according to every scouting report. Also, he’s major league ready.

The question will not be talent but opportunity. Right now, the Rays have five starters with Chris Archer and Blake Snell as locks. Jake Odorizzi, Jake Faria, and Matt Andriese are all suspect talents.

Here’s how I see the situation working out. Honeywell will be in the minors until one of the other five falter or gets injured and then he gets the call. The team gets an extra year of control by keeping him down a couple of weeks and he comes up quickly.

With this scenario, he is at least reserve round pick in all leagues. Possibly earlier in deeper leagues where a cheap good middle reliever can take his place until the call-up.

Luiz Gohara (288 ADP, min 241, max 381, ranked #31)

Luiz Gohara’s prospects have been covered in detail here at RotoGraphs with Paul mentioning him three times and I did a Quick Look. To say the least, we like him.

Michael Kopech (326 ADP, min 251, max 414, ranked #20)

I’m all in on the Kopech train until his arm blows out throwing his upper-90’s fastball. The 21-year-old’s command used to be a huge red flag but it’s showing signs of improving as he’s gotten closer to the majors.

Level: BB/9
A-: 8.3
A+: 5.0
AA: 4.5
AAA: 3.0

While not great but an improvement as he’s matured into his body.

All signs point to him getting called up near the season’s start. No one is holding back his promotion to the White Sox rotation. He’s projected for around 10 K/9 so he should at least be a source of strikeouts.

Walker Buehler (362 ADP, min 266, max 461, ranked #27)

I featured Buehler in the same Quick Looks piece as Gohara. He’s going to need to regain his control (and stay healthly) to be an effective MLB pitcher.

He looks like he’ll be more of a swingman with some starts and as a two to three inning guy in the bullpen. The Dodgers aren’t going to pitch him every day. It’s tough to pay too much for him.

Jack Flaherty (371 ADP, min 280, max 461, ranked #65)

I’m not a huge Flaherty when I watched him late last season. While he has decent zip on his fastball (93 mph) it’s very hittable. He not able to throw his two breaking pitches for strikes so he must keep coming back with the fastball when behind.

Most prospect write-ups have him as a mid-rotation arm which occupies the last couple of spots in a fantasy rotation. It’s tough for me to get excited over him. I could be wrong.

Mitch Keller (528 ADP, min 421, max 615, ranked #23)

I have a soft spot for Keller as he is the first pitcher to put a 100 on my radar gun.

I agree with the scouting reports in that he needs a third pitch. He’s just fastball/curve right now. With the Pirates in reload mode, I expect them to keep him in the minors until he develops that pitch. They don’t need him in the majors in 2018 until he has developed it.

A.J. Puk (531 ADP, min 285, max 710, ranked #30)

In deep leagues, Puk should be owned. From all reports, his stuff is above-average to plus. As a major conference college arm, he won’t need as much seasoning to be ready.

His minor league strikeout rates have all been over 11 K/9 while his walk rate is acceptable (~3.5 BB/9). He’s a rookie arm I’m willing to roll the dice with.

Max Fried (532 ADP, min 423, max 664, ranked #78)

He’s likely going to start for the Braves. He might have one of the five best curveballs in the game. His fastball sits at 93 mph. He’s like one tweak away from being a productive major league pitcher. At pick 532, or even his minimum pick of 423, why not take a chance.

The big issue with Fried is his control. He just hasn’t been able to throw strikes. Ever. He’s had several injuries so they may be the cause. He’s one to keep an eye on in Spring Training to see if he gains any control.

Mike Soroka (622 ADP, min 461, max 732, ranked #34)

His stock improved by one grade across the board in 2017. I’m not sure if the Braves have anything they want him to work on. If not, he may be up in the majors sooner rather than later. He doesn’t look like an impact arm but he one of the few prospects with any kind of control (2 BB/9 or less at all minor league levels).

Alec Hansen (686 ADP, min 519, max 748, ranked #72)

One pure upside, he should be going higher than most of these prospects. He K/9 was over 10 at all three level he pitched at last year. His walk rate was around 3.0 BB/9 at those levels. Also, he looks to be an extreme flyball pitcher with a 35% GB%. The extra popups will help to maintain a low BABIP and an ERA under his ERA estimators. Buy sooner rather than later.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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6 years ago

Flaherty posted a 13.3% SWSTR in his 5 starts and 1 relief appearance, with his rate rising steadily over each appearance. He went from 5.6% in his debut against the Giants to 22.2% in his final start against the Brewers (yeah, I know, the Brewers. but still, 22.2%!). Sure, small sample size, but I’m buying in the garbage rounds.

6 years ago
Reply to  nooten

Remember the Flaherty you saw at the end of 2017 was a guy who was pitching after a lot of innings. Somehow he got minor leaguers out with his stuff, at a high rate.