Last year was the year of the hitter, with rookies like Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Starlin Castro and a host of others taking the league by storm and giving fans a new breed of future superstars to root for. Next year, however, is shaping up to be the pitchers’ turn to show their stuff as front-line starters seem to be popping up in nearly every organization. Here are 10 to keep an eye on for next season:
Tyler Skaggs, LHP — Diamondbacks, 6’4″, age 20, double-A Mobile
26 G 9-6 2.86 ERA 1.10 WHIP .213 BAA 191 K/46 BB 154.1 IP 11.2 K/9
It is extremely rare to see a 20-year-old pitcher get stronger as the season goes on, let alone better. Skaggs falls in the “outlier” category and may have the highest ceiling of anyone on this list. Over his last seven games, the imposing lefty has gone 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.73 WHIP, and a ridiculous 54 K/8 BB over 44 innings. He tossed seven innings of shutout baseball his last start, giving up three hits while striking out a career high 12 with no walks. He mixes a mid-90s fastball with a hammer curve that drops off the table, embarrassing hitters along the way. The Diamondbacks are going to have one of the best rotations in baseball soon, and Skaggs will be the leader of the group.
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Matt Moore, LHP — Rays, 6’2″, age 22, triple-A Durham
26 G 11-3 1.93 ERA 0.94 WHIP .184 BAA 200 K/43 BB 149 IP 12.1 K/9
The fact that Moore isn’t in the majors already is a testament to the depth of pitching the Rays have assembled in recent years. He simply has nothing left to prove in the minors anymore, but there just isn’t room for him in the rotation right now. The frontrunner for Minor League Player of the Year (MLPY), Moore is among the leaders in almost every statistical category and tossed a no-hitter on June 16. Since his promotion to triple-A, he is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over eight games. His fastball is a plus-plus pitch, hitting upper 90s with great movement. His slider and change should develop into plus pitches, and his command is pinpoint.
Julio Teheran, RHP — Braves, 6’2″, age 20, triple-A Gwinnett
24 G 15-2 2.22 ERA 1.13 WHIP .228 BAA 121 K/43 BB 141.2 IP 7.7 K/9
The Braves are building another championship-caliber pitching staff, and Teheran should be a huge factor along the way. He has excellent command of his pitches, and his mound presence separates him from most. His fastball sits in the mid-90s range with very good movement, and his curve and change are both plus pitches. Unfazed pitching on the road, he has gone 8-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 12 games away from the familiarity of home.
Trevor Bauer, RHP — Diamondbacks, 6’1″, age 20, double-A Mobile
7 G 1-2 5.96 ERA 1.52 WHIP .257 BAA 43 K/12 BB 25.2 IP 15.1 K/9
The numbers above look kind of awful, but that’s what happens when you give up 10 ER in 1.2 IP like Bauer did Tuesday. The only number you really have to know about is the 15.1 K/9. Bauer was the third pick in this year’s draft and was the most talked about player leading up to it. With his Tim-Lincecum like delivery, he was able to stifle college hitters this past season to the tune of a 13-2 record, 1.25 ERA and an NCAA-best 203 K in 136.2 innings. He primarily throws just two pitches, a fastball and curve, but he throws so many variations of them that hitters never know what is coming, nor can they pick it up from his unorthodox delivery.
Joe Wieland, RHP — Padres, 6’3″, age 21, double-A San Antonio
25 G 13-3 1.79 ERA 0.96 WHIP .226 BAA 144 K/18 BB 150.2 IP 8.6 K/9 8 K/BB
Another candidate for MLPY honors, Wieland’s season has been nothing but ups. The Rangers’ third-round pick in the 2008 draft, he tossed a no-hitter on July 29 against his current team before being traded to them days later. He currently leads the minors in ERA and is among the leaders in wins and WHIP. His 8 K/BB ratio is second only to teammate Robbie Erlin’s 9.4 K/BB. Wieland won’t overpower you, instead he controls the game with his supreme control and fearlessness on the mound.
Robbie Erlin, LHP — Padres, 6’0″, age 20, double-A San Antonio
24 G 8-4 3.19 ERA 0.92 WHIP .220 BAA 141 K/15 BB 138.1 IP 9.2 K/9 9.4 K/BB
Erlin and Wieland are very similar pitchers who have shared the same mound at every stop in their careers. They were both part of the trade that sent reliever Mike Adams to the Rangers. In return, the Padres received two future top-of-the-rotation guys in the mold of Greg Maddux. Erlin’s control and aggressiveness are his best tools, and he isn’t afraid to throw any pitch in any count. PETCO Park was built for guys like Erlin, and he should get a chance to help the rebuilding Padres next season.
Shelby Miller, RHP — Cardinals, 6’3″, age 20, double-A Springfield
23 G 9-6 2.98 ERA 1.23 WHIP .226 BAA 155 K/50 BB 126.2 IP 11.0 K/9
Miller was suspended for an unspecified violation of team policy. The talent is unquestionably there even if the head always isn’t. He may have the best fastball of anyone in this group, often hitting 98 mph with movement, and is competitiveness on the mound is through the roof. He still needs to work on his command but Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan is a magician with young hurlers.
Jacob Turner, RHP — Tigers, 6’5″, age 20, triple-A Toledo
19 G 4-5 3.60 ERA 1.18 WHIP .240 BAA 104 K/34 BB 125 IP 7.5 K/9
Turner has gotten a taste of the big leagues this season and fared quite well in his lone start giving up two runs in 5.1 innings while striking out six. His fastball is a plus pitch already, while his secondary pitches, change and curve, are catching up fast. Another ultra-competitor on the mound, Turner should only benefit from playing alongside one of the best in the game in Justin Verlander.
Eric Surkamp, LHP — Giants, 6’5″, age 24, single-A San Jose
23 G 10-4 2.02 ERA 1.08 WHIP .205 BAA 165 K/44 BB
Surkamp was impressive in his spot start last week for the Giants going six innings while giving up only one run on six hits. The 6’5″ lefty isn’t a hard thrower but has excellent command of all three pitches. He is among the leaders in ERA, WHIP and Ks this season and should get a crack at a loaded Giants rotation next season.
Jarred Cosart, RHP — Astros, 6’3″, age 21, double-A Corpus Christi
25 G 9-9 3.72 ERA 1.26 WHIP .236 BAA 92 K/51 BB 135.1 IP 6.1 K/9
A big righty with one of the best fastballs in the minors, Cosart is ending the season on a high note. Over his last four games, he is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 23 innings. A 2008 draft pick of the Phillies, he was traded to the Astros as part of the Hunter Pence deal. With the Phillies having one of the best rotations in the history of the game, the move opened the door for Cosart to break into the Astros rotation next season. He has battled injuries the past couple of seasons, but when healthy, has front-of-the-rotation stuff.