BRADENTON, Fl. – It was tempting to go to Disney today to see all of the Indianapolis starters pitch. But I decided to skip that trip today and head over to Pirate City for coverage for two reasons. The first reason was that we already wrote three articles on those guys this week, which can be found below.
John Dreker has been following the game today, and was passing along some notes while I was on the field and then editing video. From the sound of things, those articles above aren’t out of date yet. Tyler Glasnow struggled with his control, which is a problem that stems from nerves and the lack of the ability right now to drop his curveball in for strikes early in the count. The last update I got as of this writing was that Jameson Taillon was doing well, striking out Freddie Freeman on a swinging fastball, and throwing a nasty curve to Jeff Francoeur. He needs experience against upper level guys, and this is a good step for him.
The second reason I skipped the trip was because today was set to be a big day at Pirate City. For one, I knew yesterday that Cole Tucker would be throwing from shortstop, and wanted to get video and an update from him on his rehab from labrum surgery. That update can be found here.
Live batting practice has also started up in camp, and I was looking forward to the group going today. Thanks to wonderful timing, I was able to see some of the best young pitching prospects in the lower levels of the system. If you’re wondering which players might be able to replace Glasnow, Taillon, and the NGTs (Non-Glasnow Taillons, aka my short code so I don’t always have to type Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams separate from Glasnow and Taillon…if anyone asks in future posts, refer them to this definition) as the top pitching prospects in the game, then it would be someone from this group. I managed to get video of some of the best guys, while also running around and getting photos of the rest of the pitchers today.
The first guy I saw was Mitch Keller, who is the top young pitcher in the lower levels of the minors. I could see Keller making the jump to West Virginia this year, which would be pretty exciting to watch. He’s got a fastball that can hit mid-90s with an effortless delivery, and a nice curveball to pair with that, along with a developing changeup. I wouldn’t put a hard upside on him, but will say that I think he’s got a ton of upside, and his ceiling could start coming into focus this year.
The next guy was last year’s Breakout Prospect of the Year, Yeudy Garcia. He’s a hard thrower who works 93-96, touching 97, with a lot of movement on his fastball and a slider that has really developed well in the last year. Garcia should start in Bradenton this year (I’m saying should because I haven’t heard anything official, but you can pretty much guarantee that), and could make it to Altoona by the end of the season. When I say that Keller is the top young pitching prospect, I’m referring to his age. Garcia is the top pitching prospect of this group, but will be 23 this year, versus 20 for Keller. Garcia is still young, but he’s not in the same group as these other guys, and some of the other younger guys in the system.
Luis Escobar might be my big pitching sleeper this year, which has become really difficult to say recently. In the 2016 Prospect Guide, we listed him as a sleeper candidate, and the number 48 prospect in the system. I had some good writeups about his fastball last year, pointing out his 91-93 MPH fastball, which touched 95, along with a plus curve when he had command of the pitch. I also called Escobar a breakout candidate at the start of the year.
That was all before Keith Law rated him 12th overall in the system, one spot ahead of Yeudy Garcia. That’s a ranking I disagree with big time right now. It may end up looking like a great call in a few years, but Escobar isn’t the number 12 prospect in the system, and isn’t ahead of Garcia. A big reason is shown in this video — his control and command aren’t consistent. That’s what I saw last year in the GCL, and saw at times today. You can see this in the video below.
As for where Escobar ends up, I could see West Virginia due to the talent and stuff, but I could also see Morgantown due to the lack of control and command. That will be something to watch as Spring Training continues.
If I was picking four lower level pitchers to highlight, then Gage Hinsz would be the last guy on this list. But Hinsz pitched yesterday (and you can see the video here), which is why he isn’t in this article. I’d also include Stephen Tarpley. He pitched today, but that came at the same time as Keller.
Billy Roth is behind both of those guys, but definitely a top 50 prospect, and one of the more interesting lower level guys. This wasn’t a great session for Roth, who was wild and inconsistent, while showing a drop and drive delivery that probably isn’t helping his fastball much. That fastball was sitting in the 93-96 MPH range for most of last season, and while he’s had some big control problems in the past, he did improve the walks last year.
Roth has some great stuff, and if he gets the control ironed out, he could also be a guy who could shoot up in the prospect rankings. I’d definitely separate these guys (and we did), listing Garcia and Keller as top 20 prospects, and Escobar and Roth as top 50 guys who could jump in the top 30 or higher by this time next year.
Finally, here are some photos of some of the other pitchers today. I couldn’t get video of them all, but managed to run to each field to get as many photos as I could, including a few guys we haven’t gotten shots of before.