We often caution against getting too excited about 16yo Latin American signings, as the gap between present and potential is often substantial. Pitchers are an especially dicey proposition, as one has to look no further than Michael Ynoa to see the inherent risks. While we at Diamond Futures have always been a big fan of the Braves’ Julio Teheran, he too has had his developmental concerns that have made us somewhat weary. Well, no longer. As the 19yo is presently carving up the South Atlantic League (SAL), we feel it is time to remove that protective veil, and dub Teheran as one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues. Not only does he have a significant low-90s fastball with exceptional, easy, movement, his breaking ball is quickly gaining notoriety as one of the game’s best. He’ll still need to improve his change in order to fulfill his potential, but he’s on the fast track to becoming a true front of the rotation star. For that, Julio Teheran heads this week’s Hot Pitcher list.
1) Julio Teheran, LHP, ATL
Building off of a solid 2009 effort in the Appalachian League (APY), Teheran has picked things up a notch this year. Over his last three starts he has posted a 0.49 ERA, a 0.818 WHIP and a 25:5 K:BB ratio, giving him 40 Ks in 33 innings on the year. Teheran is on the verge of becoming one of the top 5 pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues.
2) Rudy Owens, LHP, PIT
While not possessing an upside of anything more than a mid-rotation starter, Owens had a breakout 2009, and has been even better so far this season, where the 22yo has posted a 2.83 ERA in the Eastern League (ESL). Over his last three starts, Owens has a 1.50 ERA, a 0.722 WHIP, and an 18:3 K:BB ratio. He is looking more and more like a legitimate prospect with every start.
3) Michael Kirkman, LHP, TEX
Kirkman has had a bit of an up and down career since being selected in the 5th round of the 2005 draft. He put together a solid 2009 campaign, but has been somewhat overshadowed in the very deep and talented Texas farm system. Kirkman doesn’t dominate, but consistently fills up the strikezone and has the potential to be a middle of the rotation innings eater at the Big League level. Only 23yo, Kirkman has not been scored upon in his last 20 innings, while posting a 0.864 WHIP with a 21:9 K:BB ratio, leaving him with 1.82 ERA against the Pacific Coast League (PCL) this season.
4) Ian Krol, LHP, OAK
Had it not been for an unfortunate disciplinary incident prior to his senior season in high school that led to his dismissal from the team, Krol would have likely been a Top 40 pick in last June’s draft. Instead he fell to the A’s in the seventh round where they paid him first round money to sign. Only 19yo and virtually pitching in his back yard for Kane County, Krol is looking better with every start. Over his last three outings he has posted a 0.52 ERA, a 0.750 WHIP and a 14:3 K:BB ratio. He isn’t overpowering, but looks to have the quality stuff of a #2/#3 starter.
5) Tyler Skaggs, LHP, LAA
For much of last Spring, Skaggs was fighting Tyler Matzek and Matt Purke for the mythical title of ‘best available prep lefty’. But as Matzek was separating himself from the other two, Skaggs rolled an ankle and put an early end to his season…which somewhat inexplicable led to him being available to the Angels at the end of the supplemental round. Skaggs is a premium talent and has gotten off to a solid Midwest League debut, with a 0.47 ERA through his first five appearances. Only 18yo, Skaggs has posted a 0.00 ERA, a 0.556 WHIP and a 7:1 K:BB ratio over his last three outings.
6) Kyle Gibson, RHP, MIN
Prior to a late season forearm injury that caused him to drop to the middle of the first round, we had Gibson as the top collegiate pitching prospect not named Strasburg, entering June’s draft. The Twins look to have a steal here, as Gibson looks healthy and has been everything that has been expected of him. He pitches with a low- to mid-90s fastball, tremendous mound poise, fills up the zone and is perhaps the best groundball inducer at any professional level, as averaged by his 3.87 Ground Out/Fly Out ratio on the year. Over his last three starts Gibson has a 1.35 ERA, a 0.850 WHIP and a 14:6 K:BB ratio. Look for him to be a significant part of the Twins rotation in 2011.
7) Jose Ramirez, NYY
As a skinny 19yo in the Gulf Coast League in 2009, Ramirez led the League with a .159 average against, using mainly his low-90s fastball. Now starting to fill out, Ramirez has his fastball to nearly a mid-90s offering and has vastly improved his secondary offerings. This has led to a 0.95 ERA, 0.789 WHIP and a 17:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, and a 1.84 ERA on the year. With the Yankees lacking any Major pitching prospects at the upper levels, Ramirez joins Manny Banuelos as two of the systems brightest arms.
8) Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP, CLE
De La Cruz looked to be on his way to establishing himself as a premium pitching prospect when an elbow injury took away most of his 2009 season. He has avoided injury, and looks to be picking up where he left off. After posting a 2.45 ERA, a 0.709 WHIP and a 17:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, De La Cruz has ERA to 2.91 on the year.
9) Ryan Berry, RHP, BAL
Many teams were scared off of Berry by a mid-season shoulder injury in 2009 and a history of Rice pitcher abuse. Not the Orioles, as they landed him in the 9th round, giving him third round money to sign. Berry has thus far rewarded them, with a 0.43 ERA, a 0.762 WHIP and a 25:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, and a 2.23 ERA on the year, against SAL hitters. At 21yo, and with major collegiate experience, it looks time to challenge Berry with a promotion to the Carolina (CAR) League.
10) Bryan Morris, RHP, PIT
Considered a key piece in the Jason Bay trade, Morris has battled injuries throughout his professional career and has yet to put together a full season comprised of the promise that he occasionally shows. While a tad old, at 23yo, for the Florida State League (FSL), 2010 looks like this might be the year, as a 20 straight scoreless innings, with a 0.700 WHIP and a 21:2 K:BB ratio over his last three starts have left him with a 0.78 ERA on the year.
1) Jordan Walden, RHP, LAA
Once considered the top prospect in the Angels system, Walden battled injuries throughout the 2009 season and is battling ‘too easy to hit’ (.349 average against), as he has posted a 9.39 ERA through 9 appearances this year. The Angels have decided that Walden’s change isn’t likely to play in a starting role, and although he is still reaching the mid-90s with his fastball, Walden is staring at an almost certain bullpen role. Over his four appearances, Walden has posted a 11.70 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP. His star is fading rapidly.
2) David Huff, LHP, CLE
We cautioned against Huff as an Indian starter this spring, and he is apparently living down to our assessment, as his last three starts have yielded a 7.16 ERA, a 2.082 WHIP and a 7:9 K:BB ratio. At 25yo, he looks like a pitcher with little more than back of the rotation stuff, and the Indians have better options within their organization.
3) Tobi Stoner, RHP, NYM
While we have never been tremendously high on the Mets right-hander, he did put together a solid 2009 season that appeared to have him in line for a potential bullpen opportunity with the Big League club this spring. Things haven’t worked out well for the 25yo though, as he has been knocked around hard by International League hitters. Over his last three starts, Stoner has posted a 8.59 ERA, a 1.909 WHIP, and a 3:6 K:BB ratio.
4) Brody Colvin, RHP, PHI
Colvin was in consideration as a first round pick for much of last Spring, before the Phillies tabbed him in the 7th round and signed him to sandwich round money. While only 19yo, Colvin hasn’t exactly gotten off to a stellar start, as he has posted a 10.38 ERA with a 1.923 WHIP over his last three starts, leaving him with a 7.31 ERA on the year. It’s way too soon to panic, but this isn’t encouraging.
5) Joe Savery, LHP, PHI
Savery was the Phillies first round pick in 2007, and like many Rice pitchers, he came to them with a history of being overworked. Savery has regressed every year since being drafted, and now appears to be no better than back of the rotation or bullpen fodder at the Major League level. A 5.63 ERA, a 1.938 WHIP and a 8:9 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves him with a 5.57 ERA on the year, and an even more disturbing 1:1 K:BB ratio.