There is no such thing as a pitching prospect or at least that’s the old adage. The phrase speaks to the uncertainty of a pitcher’s development and health. Position players have a rather ubiquitous aging curve and while not everyone adheres to that aveage, the trajectory is generally accepted as true. Not so with pitching prospects. Additionally, the potential for career ending or significant surgery greatly out paces their position player counter parts.
Predicting pitching prospects is a game of probabilities with higher uncertainty or error bars. The truth is that there are such things as pitching prospects; they’re simply a far more volatile and risky proposition than a position player prospect. The Cardinals find themselves with a bevy of arms right now that can throw, regularly, over 95 mph. From Shelby Miller to Tyrell Jenkins with Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal wedged in between, the organization is flush with impressive arms.
One aspect of following the minors that I find intriguing is that set of pitchers right after those guys. The Joe Kelly’s of the world (who I’ve long been an on record fan of). Because even if the odds are that those big arms will blow out an elbow ligament or contract Rick Ankiel syndrome, there’s another set of guys who can, on occasion, perform in the reverse and start striking out 16 batters in a playoff game.
Right now, I’ve got two pitchers that might be borderline top 20 prospects. In AAA is the comeback kid of Scott Gorgen. After missing much of 2010 and all of 2011 to injury, Gorgen returned to Springfield this year and found success peddling a fastball, changeup combination that isn’t going to light up any radar guns. He’s struggling since his promotion to AAA as his walk rate has jumped but he maintains the look of someone who could be a back of the rotation pitcher someday. In some ways, he’s another Kyle McClellan with a varied repretoire which is more dependent on the breadth of the arsenal than any one pitch.
The other is Seth Maness. After a season of showing excellent command, Maness is showing incredible command. He’s leading AA starters in walk rate. If he were to pitch 200 innings, he’d walk around 11 & 12 batters based on his aggregate rate this year (split between Palm Beach and Springfield). Whether his stuff holds up remains to be seen but the command is nothing short of incredible.
Who am I missing? In the comments, brag on any of the prospects in the system not named Miller, Rosenthal, Martinez or Jenkins.