Major league teams do not like to pitch their top pitching prospects in the Arizona Fall league for fear of overusing their arms. The exceptions are for those pitchers whose season was shortened because of injuries who need to eat up more innings. The Arizona dry air also makes it tough for pitchers to be effective, tinkering with their confidence when they get lit up. This year there are a number of good pitchers in the AFL. Myworld thought we’d identify our top ten.
1. Archie Bradley (Diamondbacks/Surprise) - The Diamondbacks expected him to make his major league debut in 2014 after dominating in the minors in 2013 (14-5, 1.84). He struggled battling arm issues which could have impacted his effectiveness. In 18 starts at three different levels his ERA was 4.45. That has not improved in his four starts in the AFL (6.55) though his last start he threw four shutout innings. He is one of many pitchers on this list who sling the fastball in the mid-90s but his secondary offerings (curve and change) are all above average. Expect him in the Diamondbacks rotation in 2015.
2. Tyler Glasnow (Pirates/Scotsdale) - His stuff is nasty. He put up 2013 Bradley type numbers this year (12-5, 1.74). Opponents only hit .174 off him and he struck out 157 hitters in just 124 innings. His AFL numbers have not been quite as impressive (1-0, 2.70) with AFL hitters lighting him up for a .280 average. He had only given up one run in his first four outings, but his last outing he gave up three runs in less than four innings. Another pitcher who can hit the mid-90s with the radar, but his command still needs polish and his secondary pitches (curve and change) are not as strong.
3. Mark Appel (Astros/Surprise) - If you watched him at the beginning of the season you would wonder how he could have been the first player selected in the 2013 draft. He was 2-5 with a 9.74 ERA in the California League with everyone hitting like Ty Cobb against him (.372). Despite the poor performance he was promoted to AA where he salvaged his season (3.69 ERA). In the AFL he did not give up any runs in his first three starts, but in his last two starts he has been tagged for 9 runs in just 9 innings. That has raised his ERA to 3.43. He throws in the mid-90s with an excellent slider. After not signing their 2014 first round pick the Astros do not want to see Appel become a bust.
4. Kyle Zimmer (Royals/Peoria) - Kyle was the fifth player selected in the 2012 draft. His 2014 season was gutted because of injuries limiting him to just five starts and less than five innings. He was supposed to make that up in the AFL, but shoulder issues ended his fall season after three starts. He did pitch five more innings than he did in the minor league season and had an impressive 11 K performance in five innings in one outing. His fastball reaches triple digits but sits in the mid 90s with both a curveball and slider among his breaking pitches. He could be a stud if he can stay healthy appearing in the Royals starting rotation by the end of the 2015 season.
5. C.J. Edwards (Cubs/Mesa) - A pitcher who is slight of frame with durability concerns had those durability problems come up in 2014, limiting him to just 12 starts. Every year he has pitched minor league hitters have not cracked over a .200 average against him. He may look good as the Cubs closer if starting creates injury concerns for him. He has pitched well in the AFL with a 1.80 ERA in four starts and a .147 opponent average. Control has been an issue with five walks in ten innings. C.J. sits in the low to mid 90s with an effective curve and change.
6. Taijuan Walker (Mariners/Surprise) - The Mariners rotation awaits him in 2015. He was able to start five games for them last year in the major leagues (2.61 ERA) to show he was ready. He may have been up sooner if injury issues had not stalled his promotion. He did not dominate at AAA (4.37 ERA) but the Mariners promoted him despite mediocre numbers. His AFL season appears done after two starts (2.00 ERA). Another mid-90s fastball hurler with an excellent slider that could make him a number one starter.
7. Nick Howard (Reds/Surprise) - one of the few 2014 picks playing in the AFL. The Reds made him the 19 selection in the draft. Nick began his career at Dayton (3.74 ERA) and put up decent numbers. The appearances in the AFL (6.57 ERA) have proved to be a bit of a challenge. Opponents are hitting him at a .304 clip, though in his last appearance he pitched two shutout innings. His fastball is more comfortable in the low 90s, but he can dial it up to the mid-90s. Nick is still a two pitch pitcher with a decent slider and a rudimentary change.
8. Zach Davies (Orioles/Glen Desert) - Another pitcher who is slight of frame, but can still hit the mid-90s with his fastball, though it sits mostly in the low 90s. Zach had a nice season in AA (10-7, 3.35) and is often forgotten with the names of Dyaln Bundy, Hunter Harvey and Kevin Guasman in the rotation. In his last three AFL starts Zach has thrown 13 consecutive shutout innings lowering his AFL ERA to 2.04 in five starts. The opponents are hitting just .194 against him.
9. Raisel Iglesias (Reds/Surprise) - When the Reds signed the reliever out of Cuba they indicated his future could be in the starting rotation. For the short term they still have him pitching in relief. He did not pitch in the minors last year but he was the closer for his Cuban team, one of the top closers in the league. Raisel has yet to give up a hit in his three relief appearances, walking two and striking out one in three innings. The thought was to pitch him in Puerto Rico, but the Reds were concerned they would have no control over his useage. His fastball can hit 95 but he is more comfortable in the low 90s. He may need to improve his change to be effective in the starting rotation. In the bullpen he only needed his fastball and slider.
10. Chris Bassitt (White Sox/Glenn Desert) - Myworld had trouble finding a tenth, looking at Roberto Osuna or SamTuiuailale but based on the numbers Chris is putting up in the AFL we chose him. Chris sits second in the AFL in whiffs (22) despite not having any starts. He has made six relief appearances covering 13 innings and striking out 22. Opponents are only hitting him at a .184 clip. Last year he was used mostly as a starter, getting five major league starts (3.94). His AFL ERA is 0.69. When pitching out of the pen Chris is able to air out his mid-90s fastball. When in the rotation it sits in the low 90s. Secondary pitches which need some work (slider, curve and change) could keep him in the pen, especially with what he is showing in the AFL.