Prospect Wars: Travis Sherer’s Top 100 Pitcher Highlights

Travis wields the light side of the force to explain some of his picks as Prospect Wars continues.

Prospect Wars Schedule: Methodology Rankings Travis’ Ranking Highlights Adam’s Ranking Highlights On the Farm Podcast
Top 100 Pitchers June 24 June 25 June 26 June 27 June 28
Top 100 Hitters July 1 July 2 July 3 July 4 July 5


When Adam Lawler and I set out to rank the top 100 pitching prospects, we knew there would a lot of differences. We did not know there would be this many differences: There were more than 70 players that one of us ranked in the top 100 and the other did not. That is a lot of discrepancies. What can account for that?

You mean, other than the fact that I know what I’m doing and Adam doesn’t?

Well, we both explained earlier in this week in our methodology primer, we value different things. Also, once you get past roughly 35-40 in the ranks, it becomes more about minute differences and slight personal preferences than about the more important things like repertoire, velocity, and whatnot. That said, we figured we’d highlight some of the differences between our rankings in a pair of articles. The pitchers I want to highlight are below and Adam’s article explaining his side comes out Thursday. You can also catch us debate our methodologies and ranking differences this Friday in our On the Farm podcast.

So let’s get into it:


My Highest Pick that Adam Didn’t Rank

#22 Osiel Rodriguez, RHP, NYY, Age: 17


Coming in 22nd on my rankings is Osiel Rodriguez. His absence on Adam’s list is the largest discrepancy I have and should be addressed. It’s only a matter of time before this 17-year-old phenom starts shooting up prospect lists. Signed by the Yankees in 2018 for less than $1 million, Rodriguez has the most dynamic arm in his class. The Cuban righty hit 97 mph at 15 and sits 94 before reaching voting age. He’s already got a plus curveball and a passable changeup. At 6’3″ and 205 pounds, Rodriguez debuted in the Dominican Summer League last week, striking out three in his first two innings of pro ball. It all sounds great, but there is a major hurdle for Rodriguez: mechanics. Right now he simply doesn’t have any semblance of a consistent motion on his delivery. As far as hurdles go, however, this one can be cleared with the help of a competent farm system, which the Yankees have. Rodriguez is in the top quarter of my list because I believe he has one of the highest ceilings in the minor leagues.


Pick Below Top 50 to Pop This Year

#73 Luis Gil, RHP, NYY, Age: 20


In retrospect, I wish I’d put Luis Gil higher on my list. He’s one of those guys that you watch his motion and he doesn’t even look like he’s trying, but then you see he’s hitting triple digits while he’s yawning—that is how effortless his delivery is. Like all Yankees prospect pitchers, Gil has tremendous heat. He sits 95 mph with a plus slider, a decent curveball, and a rough changeup. With a repertoire like that, how isn’t he ranked higher? Command… he doesn’t have much. So far, Gil has advanced to Single-A with a career BB/9 of 5.48. Now, that has significantly improved to a still-unacceptable 4.07 this year, but it also hasn’t yet affected his performance, as he’s dominating with the River Dogs in 2019 to the tune of a 1.81 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and 81 Ks in 59.2 IP (12.22 K/9). If his walk rate continues to drop, Gil could easily be a top 50 prospect by the beginning of 2020.


Some Highlights

#18 Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL, Age: 19


On paper, Grayson Rodriguez has everything you want from the top pitching prospect in your team’s system. He’s big (6’5″, 240 lbs), he’s young (19);, and he can straight up throw gas. A part of Rodriguez’s appeal is that he sits 94 mph and can hit 99 when he wants to. If you are in a dynasty league, you want this guy. He’s got a plus fastball, a plus slider, and a decent curveball—as a teenager. It’s no wonder he has been lights out in Single-A this year with a 2.42 ERA in 10 starts, striking out 72 poor souls in 52.0 innings. Rodriguez has also significantly cut his walk rate this season, from 3.26 per nine innings to 2.60. If you want to pick nits, you can say you don’t like his compact, upper-body-heavy delivery, but that is something very minor when there are guys in the top 20 still trying to locate their fastball.


#39 Daniel Espino, RHP, CLE, Age: 18


Reaching 100 mph with the heater as a high schooler is no longer an anomaly, but it is still valuable, especially when there is a plus slider and at least the remnants of a pro-level curveball. There are definitely pitchers closer to the majors and more developed in general, but I’m looking for potential all-stars when I draft prospects and Daniel Espino fits that criteria. He also has better-than-average command for a high schooler who was just picked in the 2019 draft. The fact that he was selected by the Cleveland Indians only makes me more excited, as this organization has been one of the better performing orgs when it comes to pitcher development. I’m eager to see how his debut goes. If he begins mowing down guys in Rookie-A, snag him while you still can.


#42 Shane McClanahan, LHP, TB, Age: 22


Another late pick by the Rays with high upside was Shane McClanahan in 2018 at 31st overall. It may not seem like a late pick, but McClanahan was considered a top-10 pick part of the way through 2018 after putting up video game numbers for two NCAA seasons:


Shane McClanahan – U. South Florida IP ERA WHIP K BB
Freshman (2017) 76.0 3.20 1.11 104 36
Sophomore (2018) 76.0 3.42 1.30 120 48
Total 152.0 3.31 1.20 91 33


The WHIP is a little high for me, which is something that has continued in the minors (1.17), but the strikeout potential is too intriguing to ignore. So far McClanahan has been effective in pro ball. He was recently promoted to High-A after posting a 3.40 ERA and 12.57 K/9 in Single-A. How does he do it? Gas. Not only does he touch triple digits, but he also employs a near-plus curveball and a less-than-good change. What will McClanahan have to do to jump 50 spots in prospect rankings? Limit free passes. So far he’s at about five walks per nine innings, which really should be half that if he wants to be a starter. There is an excellent chance he becomes an elite opener/reliever as well.


#66 Graeme Stinson, LHP, TB, Age: 21


Thought to be a potential top-15 pick at the start of the 2019 college season, things went south on Duke’s own Graeme Stinson pretty quickly. In 2018, Stinson was one of the best college pitchers in the country, sporting a 1.89 ERA with 98 punchouts in 62 innings. He looked like the same pitcher in March, striking out 18 batters in 13.1 innings, but then lost velocity and was shut downfor two months on March 15 before the Blue Devils admitted he wasn’t going to pitch the rest of the season. There was a combination of a hamstring injury and a mystery arm injury that likely led to the drop in velocity, which is only concerning if it continues. I’m of the opinion that the Rays once again rule the draft with picks like this, stealing him with the 128th pick. If Stinson’s injuries were just a blip, he’s maybe the best pitcher in the draft. A power lefty, this 6’5″, 250-pound mountain of a man sits at 95 mph with a high 80s slider that is the best in the draft. A usable changeup and questionable control complete this potentially dynamic profile.


Guys Adam is High on, I’m Not So Much

#57 Bryse Wilson, RHP, ATL, Age: 21


Say what you want about Bryse Wilson, I think most people can agree that the Braves are being far too aggressive in his promotion. For a pitching prospect with one plus pitch right now—and that plus pitch being a fastball (maybe)—I just don’t understand why the Braves are letting him start MLB games at 21. He’s a good prospect, but not an elite one—I’m not sure that is in his future either. Adam believes he is, putting him at #31. I just can’t get there. He really doesn’t have the kind of stuff potential to be dominant at the big league level. Right now he’s a fastball/changeup pitcher who sometimes has a good slider. His command is advanced for his age, but he’s also not commanding elite stuff. Being only 21, some unforeseen growth could change that, but on his current projection, he’s a back-end starter for me. That said, I do like the way he pitches. He’s not afraid to attack the zone and put it anywhere. It remains to be seen if that kind of pitcher can be a successful starter in the new homer-happy league.


#96 Jose de Leon, RHP, TB, Age: 26


Jose de Leon was all the rage in 2015 and 2016, when he was putting up video game numbers in Double-A and Triple-A. We’re talking sub-3.00 ERAs, sub-3.00 walk rates, sub-1.00 WHIPs and over 12.0 K/9. He was an efficient, changeup throwing machine with near-plus control. Then he had Tommy John surgery in 2018; he hasn’t been the same pitcher since. He hasn’t been terrible. He’s striking out a guy per inning with acceptable ERAs (3.00+), but the control is either just not back yet or isn’t the same. Also, the game has changed since de Leon has been away. Since his lackluster debut with the Dodgers in 2016, he has only pitched 60 innings, and over those two-plus years, successful pitchers sitting in the low 90s are harder to find. My counterpart has him ranked #34, but to me, this is his last chance. If he does not show signs of effectiveness in the majors this season, he will begin 2020 as a 27-year-old arm with an extensive injury history and an antiquated repertoire. Sounds like a guy nearing the end of the line… or the end of this list.


#NA Anderson Espinoza, RHP, SD, Age: 21


After two Tommy John surgeries, I do not know why Anderson Espinoza is on anybody’s list. Adam has him #83, and to me, if this list were extended to 125, he might make it. Before his elbow exploded, he had the potential for three plus pitches. Now it is hard to say since he hasn’t pitched since 2016. There are simply too many unknowns. Also, he wasn’t that good even when he was healthy. He may have had potential, but it was raw, to say the least. Yes, he was only 18 years old when he pitched in Single-A in 2016, but he posted a 4.49 ERA and 1.38 WHIP with 100 Ks in 108 innings. Simply put, he probably shouldn’t have been in Single-A as an 18-year-old anyway. Now he’s going to be 22 before he takes the mound again. Does he start in Single-A now? If he does and he’s the same pitcher he was four years earlier, how does that warrant a top-100 spot?

Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Travis Sherer

All Seattle Mariners fans have learned the future is all we have because the present is always too painful. I am Western Washington University alum, a local sportswriter, an official NCAA basketball statistician, a freelance radio and television production statistician, and a minor league standup comedian. Follow me @ShererTravis on Twitter.

5 responses to “Prospect Wars: Travis Sherer’s Top 100 Pitcher Highlights”

  1. al says:

    Can Brendan McKay be a difference maker for the Rays during the second half of the year? Is he worth owning more than say…. Matz, Pivetta, Alcantara, Joe Musgrove???

    • Travis Sherer says:

      Thanks for reading. McKay could be a difference maker, especially with how in flux the Rays’ rotation is. He could come up as early as late July or early August. The only problem is he hasn’t pitched more than 77 innings in a season of pro ball. If he goes another month in the minors, he’ll be pushing 90 innings. We’ll know a little more about the Rays’ plans if they start skipping him or inexplicably taking him out early in games. If they don’t, and they bring him up, he would probably only get a handful of starts, putting him at 120 total innings on the year. Any more than that and it is a significant increase in volume, despite throwing 100 in college twice.

  2. BJ says:

    Even after reading your methodology, I still cannot fathom how both of you ended up with Cody Carroll on your lists. And Adam had him as the 16th best pitching prospect!
    Overall, I’m very surprised at how many relief-only arms made it on both your lists (Elledge, Daysbel, McAvene) – can you explain a little more about what those players in particular did to stand out?
    Lastly, Adam included Spencer Jones at #88; however, MiLB.com indicates that he was released in March. What’s the situation there?

    • Travis Sherer says:

      I can’t speak for Adam, or at least, I won’t. I will say that most if not all of the relief only guys that I selected were after pick 80. This is a reflection of how important impact relievers have become in the game today both in high leverage situations (the Burdi brothers) and as openers or multi-inning guys (Poche).

    • Adam Lawler says:

      I think you have the wrong Spencer Jones. The Angels draft the 18-year old two-way player and lefty out of high school this year.

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