In this series we are taking a look at some of the best prospects in the majors this season. While the list certainly isn’t as comprehensive as might be possible, these are some of the guys we see as worth watching and should make an impact in 2013 or maybe just slightly down the road. Think of them as some guys you should keep an eye on.
While most of the hurlers I focus on project as starters, it doesn’t mean that roles won’t change or that someone totally off the radar will turn into the next big star, either as a part of someone’s rotation or bullpen. So here are some of my American League impact pitchers for 2013.
Dylan Bundy (RHP, Orioles): The 20-year-old right-handed hurler was just a year out of high school when he made it to the big leagues back in 2012. He only pitched eight innings, but he did it brilliantly, going 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA. He’s still unpolished and somewhat raw at times, but he possesses two plus pitches (fastball and changeup) and his curve looks like it will become a plus pitch over time. His fastball tops out in the high 90s and his control is good. He’ll need some seasoning, but this kid looks like he’ll be Cy Young material several years down the road.
Danny Hultzen (LHP, Mariners): Hultzen is a big lefty who looks like he’ll make an impact in Seattle later this year. He doesn’t project as an ace, but a solid second or third starter with a fastball that tops out at around 93-94 MPH, a good changeup and a developing slider that looks like it could be a third plus pitch. He struggled with control last year at Class AAA, but his past performance suggest that it was an abnormality, rather than a trend. If he regains his form and steps up at AAA, we should see him by midseason where he’ll be a long-term boost to Seattle’s rotation.
Kyle Gibson (RHP, Twins): Just two years past Tommy John surgery, Gibson is beginning to regain the form that sent him climbing through Minnesota’s farm system. He not surprisingly struggled in AAA last year but put together a solid bit of pitching in the Arizona Fall League, leading us to believe that he’ll regain his form and possibly even add a bit of speed to his fastball. He’s got the makeup to be a starter, and his 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings at AAA last year and his 11 strikeouts per nine innings in the AFL show that he could be dominant.
Allen Webster (RHP, Red Sox): Looking for the first Pawsox player to get called up to the big leagues? Webster is your man. He’s the top prospect the Sox got back when they dealt Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers. He’s got a high ceiling, throws a mid-90s fastball, possesses a solid curve and induces plenty of ground balls. His biggest weakness at this point is his control, which at times seems to disappear. He’s starting the season at AAA but should get a chance, either as a starter or a reliever (depending on if his slider or changeup can morph into a third pitch), at some point.
Bruce Rondon (RHP, Tigers): Rondon almost took over the Tigers closer gig out of spring training, but he struggled mightily with his control this spring, showing he just wasn’t ready. Odds are he’ll be back and in that role very quickly so long as he rights his ship at AAA. He throws a triple digit fastball, a good slider and a changeup too. Don’t be surprised if he’s back by mid May if the Tigers don’t make a move in the interim.
Chris Archer (RHP, Rays): Archer is going to either be one heck of a starter or one heck of a reliever, and we’ll probably learn which by 2014, based on what happens this year. Archer currently possesses two plus pitches (fastball and slider) but took steps forward last season with the development of a changeup and added to both his control and command. If he progresses he’s a starter. If not, he’ll be a solid reliever who piles up some strikeouts. He managed 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings at AAA Durham last year. Trevor Bauer (RHP, Indians): It’s hard to say if Bauer will ever be a ace pitcher, but he projects as a better than average hurler who won’t in any case be worse than a No. 2 or 3 guy. He’s got a major league fastball and a good curve. Where he tends to struggle is with control, which at this point is inconsistent, leading both to free passes and fat pitches in the strike zone. Once he tames those control issues and develops at least one of his secondary pitches (slider, splitter and changeup) he should have enough of arsenal to start beating major league hitters with regularity. Cleveland will give him plenty of chances this year, but it's probably 2014 or 2015 when we really see his stock rising big time.
Also on the radar: Dan Straily, Taijuan Walker, Martin Perez, Jarred Cosart, Jake Ororizzi, James Paxton, Aaron Sanchez, Kyle Zimmer, Kevin Gausman