Spring Training News for Pitching Prospects in the Top 50

How have the best prospect pitchers fared this spring?

The early part of spring training is always my favorite. Watching top prospects go face to face as MLB players, even if it is only for a matter of weeks, is always entertaining. Fans were treated to Paul Skenes vs. Jackson Holliday not once, but twice! Jackson Jobe set baseball Twitter on fire when he debuted in the ninth inning of a 1-0 win over the Twins. The dozens of storylines that revolve around spring training have excited fans throughout March.

The inaugural Spring Breakout series has only added to the excitement. The series of games offered fans a chance to watch prospects that they would normally only get to see on backfields. Pitchers were no exception, as fans were treated to glimpses of future aces all weekend. Here is a rundown of every top-50 prospect pitcher’s performance so far this spring:

 

The Run Down on Pitching Prospects

 

Paul Skenes: Good at Baseball

 

Skenes’ first spring training outing made all sorts of headlines. He faced two former first overall picks Adley Rutschman and Jackson Holliday, as well as former No. 2 pick Heston Kjerstad, and retired them all. Skenes then got the start in the Spring Breakout, once again against the Orioles. If the former LSU Tiger was impressive the first time he faced the O’s, this time he was downright dominant. He struck out Enrique Bradfield Jr. on a 102 mph fastball in the zone, then got Jackson Holliday to chase a 92 mph changeup for his second punchout. Skenes was so impressive, that there was some chatter floating around that he would make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster. However, Bucs GM Ben Cherington shot that down on March 5th, announcing that the No. 3 overall prospect would remain in the minors.

 

Jackson Jobe: Also Good at Baseball

 

Baseball Twitter was set alight after Jobe’s spring training debut. The Tigers’ top pitching prospect was everything that was advertised and more. Jobe touched 101.8 miles per hour on the radar gun and dominated the Twins en route to picking up a one-inning save. Jobe showcased a full arsenal in his short stint in the spotlight. His cutter sat at around 96 miles an hour, adding a changeup at ~86 mph and a 2900 rpm slider that sat around 84 mph. One inning is not enough of a sample size to bet an entire future on, but man…Tigers fans have a special arm on their hands. The Tigers have improved their rotation coming into 2024, so they can afford to be cautious with Jobe. Expect him to start the year in AA with the intention of a 2025 call-up.

 

Jacob Misiorowski: Spring Breakout All-Star

 

I said on a live stream in January that Misiorowski is one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the game. His outing on March 17th against the Royals proved me right. The 6’7″ right-hander struck out five batters in 2.2 innings as the starting pitcher in the Brewers Spring Breakout game. He showcased his electric fastball and wipeout slider, and the Royals hitters couldn’t get close to it. He struggled with control slightly (three walks) which eventually led to his removal from the game. That said the stuff is legit, and with some more maturity he will be a real difference maker at the MLB level.

 

Rhett Lowder: Spring Breakout All-Star

 

Lowder came into camp with a lot of hype. His spring training appearances would be his first professional outings. He did not disappoint in the slightest. In two appearances in major league games, he’s allowed just one run and struck out two. He showed incredible poise for a man who had never pitched in a professional game before. The highlight of his spring was during the Spring Breakout game against the Rangers. In two scoreless innings, he struck out two more batters showcasing the arsenal that made him the No. 7 overall pick last year. The Reds can be slightly aggressive with the righty this season and could start him as high as AA. Lowder may be next in the trend of recently drafted pitchers being fast-tracked to the major leagues.

 

Mick Abel: Better than Advertised?

 

I’ll admit it. Before this spring, I had not done my due diligence on Abel. I had been under the impression that there were two tiers to Philly’s pitching prospects: Andrew Painter and everybody else. Abel has proved me wrong and then some. In 2.2 spring innings, he is yet to allow a run and struck out four. During his appearance against the Yankees on March 11th, he punched out Juan Soto on a heater. He went right back to the fastball to get Everson Pereira too. In the Phillies’ Spring Breakout game against the Tigers, he struck out three more batters in two innings. His mid-90s fastball was especially effective and played off his breaking pitches well. Abel briefly reached AAA last year, so he could start 2024 there. If all goes well, Abel could be pitching in Philadelphia before long.

 

AJ Smith-Shawver: 9.35 ERA + 2.08 WHIP = AAA

 

After coming into spring camp hoping to lay claim to the fifth rotation spot for the Braves, things did not go to plan. Smith-Shawver has pitched in four games so far this spring, and three have ended with him giving up more than three earned runs. He put together one strong outing on March 4th against the Twins, striking out five in 2.2 scoreless innings. Atlanta optioned the 21-year-old to AAA Gwinnett on March 11th, where he will serve as the ace for the Stripers. The Braves will hope that his spring struggles aren’t an indication of his big-league performance, as he’s likely the first call-up should a spot open up in the rotation.

 

Ricky Tiedemann: Injuries Suck

 

Like Smith-Shawver, it hasn’t been the easiest spring for Tiedemann. He was scratched from his first start of the spring with a hamstring issue and has struggled to find innings since. The 21-year-old lefty has managed just two appearances for the Blue Jays in spring ball so far. In those appearances, he gave up three runs and struck out three. A positive sign so far has been the lack of walks. After putting up more than five walks per nine innings in 2023, he’s walked just one batter in spring ball so far. Don’t read too much into the inflated ERA after only 3.2 spring innings. The Blue Jays will likely start Tiedemann in AA to start 2024, but a strong start could move him through the system fast.

 

Cade Horton: Rain Delayed

 

Horton was slated to get the ball in the Cubs opening Spring Breakout game, but Mother Nature had other ideas. The Cubs and White Sox were rained out at Sloan Park on March 15th, meaning fans will have to wait to see the Cub’s #2 overall prospect. Even without participating in any of the Cub’s spring training games so far, Horton is still building hype. Both MLB.com and The Athletic reported that Horton took on All-Star Ian Happ in live at-bats to help the outfielder recover from injury. Horton faced Happ four times, striking him out twice. Happ was only able to force weak contact in the other two at-bats. If Horton can maintain this effectiveness to start the minor league season, it won’t be long until you see him at Wrigley Field.

 

Jack Mueller

Jack Mueller is a senior undergraduate student at Miami University studying Journalism and Sport Management. Before joining PitcherList, Jack worked for the Orleans Firebirds (Cape Cod Baseball League) and the Chicago Dogs (American Association) as an advance scout and data analyst.

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