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Farm system rankings: Pitchers, 30-21

Nats hoarding arms; Tribe, Giants looking to move forward
Texas' Hans Crouse,'s No. 78 overall prospect, has won 11 of 15 decisions over the past two years. (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)
February 17, 2020

With the 2020 season rapidly approaching, is looking at the state of all 30 farm systems over the next month and ranking them in several different ways. The second installment, broken into three parts, focuses on pitchers and considers the quality and quantity of top talent in each system.

With the 2020 season rapidly approaching, is looking at the state of all 30 farm systems over the next month and ranking them in several different ways. The second installment, broken into three parts, focuses on pitchers and considers the quality and quantity of top talent in each system. The rankings, 30-21:

 30. Milwaukee Brewers

Let's begin with the obvious: Only 10 of the Brewers' top 30 prospects at the end of 2019 were pitchers, the lowest total in the bottom tier of these rankings. Third-ranked prospect Zack Brown -- the organization's top arm -- was Rule 5-eligible this winter but was not taken after a down year (3-7, 5.79 ERA with Triple-A San Antonio). The right-hander will join the Brewers in Spring Training along with fifth-ranked left-hander Ethan Small, No. 12 righty Drew Rasmussen and 30th-ranked lefty Clayton Andrews, who also plays the outfield. Right-hander Thomas Jankins, another non-roster Spring Training invitee, won 10 games with San Antonio. Dylan File led the organization with 15 wins across two levels and continues to climb the ladder. Entering his third full season, the 23-year-old righty was 9-2 with a 2.79 ERA last year with Double-A Biloxi. Right-hander Trey Supak struggled after a late-season jump to Triple-A (1-2, 9.30 ERA over 30 innings) but was stellar at Double-A, where Milwaukee's 11th-ranked prospect was named Southern League Pitcher of the Year. The 23-year-old was 11-4 with a circuit-best 2.20 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 122 2/3 frames with Biloxi and allowed two or fewer hits in nine of 20 starts for the Shuckers. Left-hander Aaron Ashby might have the highest ceiling among Milwaukee arms, thanks to a plus-plus curveball, but he'll have to work on his control after walking 60 over 126 innings at Class A and Class A Advanced. There are names to recognize, but barring some major breakouts, the Brewers have a ways to go before they see an arm climb into the Top 100.

 29. Boston Red Sox

Left-hander Kyle Hart led Boston's Minor League hurlers with 156 innings last year. He's the organization's 29th-ranked prospect. And he's 27. The good news is that hope abounds among the system's younger arms. Bryan Mata -- the system's No. 4 prospect and top arm -- is only 20 and No. 7 prospect Jay Groome is 21, though the latter has been limited to 66 innings over his first four seasons. Two others -- No. 6 Tanner Houck and No. 9 Thad Ward -- are both 23. Among the team's top-30 prospects, five other pitchers are 22 or younger: No. 16 Noah Song, No. 17 Chih-Jung Liu, No. 19 Durbin Feltman, No. 23 Ryan Zeferjahn and No. 25 Brayan Bello. However, Song's situation is unique: he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May and his military commitment could keep him from becoming a full-time pitcher for two years. Liu, 20, was inked during the offseason after earning MVP honors as Chinese Taipei won the Asian Baseball Championship. It's a system with either older pitching prospects with limited ceilings or, outside of Mata, younger pitching prospects who are far from contributing.

 28. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have the ninth-ranked system among position players, but the pitching side has some catching up to do. It does not help that No. 9 prospect Jose Soriano will miss the 2020 season after Tommy John surgery. The 21-year-old right-hander had a solid season in 2019, being tabbed a Midwest League midseason All-Star and going 5-6 with a 2.55 ERA across 77 2/3 innings with Class A Burlington. Left-hander Patrick Sandoval, the organization's eighth-ranked prospect, made his big league debut on Aug. 5 and went 0-4 with a 5.03 ERA in 10 games, including nine starts. No. 11 prospect Jack Kochanowicz, a right-hander plucked in the third round of last year's Draft, is only 19 years old and embarking on his first season of pro ball. Three of the team's top 30 prospects are two-way players: lefty first baseman/outfielder Jared Walsh (1-0, 4.15 ERA in 13 innings with Triple-A Salt Lake), right-handed outfielder William Holmes (0-2, 5.18 ERA in 24 1/3 innings across Rookie and Rookie Advanced ball) and outfielder Erik Rivera, a raw 19-year-old left-hander drafted in the fourth round last year. Sandoval's readiness scores Los Angeles some points here, but anyone looking for the excitement of Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh is best sticking to the position player side.

 27. Colorado Rockies

Leading Colorado's charge into the next decade could be a couple of left-handers. No. 2 prospect Ryan Rolison, a 2018 first-round pick, is 22 years old and a non-roster Spring Training invitee. He slipped out of the Top 100 after posting a 4.87 ERA in the California League, but he fanned 118 and walked only 38 over 116 1/3 innings in the hitter-friendly circuit. Eighth-ranked Ben Bowden was a second-round pick in 2016. He missed the '17 campaign because of a bulging disc in his back, but the 25-year-old reliever returned to toss 52 frames in 2018 and 51 2/3 innings last year. Among the intriguing up-and-comers is right-hander Ryan Castellani, a 2016 second-rounder. Last year, he was shut down in mid-June for elbow surgery and returned to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA over 16 2/3 innings, whiffing 20 while walking seven and not yielding a home run. Entering his fourth full season, 22-year-old Riley Pint has pitched only 26 frames across the past two years. The 2016 first-round pick has been plagued by an array of physical ailments -- forearm, oblique and shoulder tendinitis -- as well as command issues (124 walks in 156 innings). Left-hander Helcris Olivarez is only 19 and has not pitched above Rookie Advanced, but he's 10-6 with a 3.22 ERA over 148 1/3 innings with 177 punchouts and 74 walks since joining the organization in 2017. Rolison and Pint bring some flash to the system, but it lacks the ceiling and depth to break out of the bottom five.
• Farm system rankings: Position players 30-21, 20-11, 10-1 »

 26. Arizona Diamondbacks

There's one way to describe the arms on Arizona's farm: high risk, high reward. Sixth-ranked prospect Jon Duplantier made his Major League debut last April 1, yielding a hit while striking out two in three innings to pick up the save against San Diego. The 25-year-old right-hander totaled 36 2/3 frames in The Show but spent most of last season with Triple-A Reno and looks to be an insurance policy for the D-backs, considering their depth. His future role is also in doubt after bouncing between starting and relief in the Majors and Minors. Eighth-ranked prospect Levi Kelly is a 20-year-old strong-armed righty with a fastball that touches the mid-90s with a swing-and-miss slider that sits in the mid-80s. He held opponents to a .199 batting average with 126 whiffs in 100 1/3 innings last year with Class A Kane County. No. 9 Matt Tabor, a 21-year-old righty, posted a 2.93 ERA across 95 1/3 frames with Kane County and looks to build on a mid-90s heater. Eleventh-ranked prospect Corbin Martin, acquired in the deal that sent Zack Greinke to Houston, is a 24-year-old righty returning from Tommy John surgery but worth keeping an eye on as he regains his health because of his performance in the Astros system. There are 10 other pitchers among Arizona's top 30 prospects -- including No. 30 Kevin Ginkel, who tossed 24 1/3 innings with 28 punchouts as a reliever for the D-backs last year -- vying for big league looks, which can't hurt as the Dodgers stockpile talent. Further down, keep an eye on 2019 first-rounder Blake Walston. The 6-foot-5 left-hander is plenty projectable coming out of a North Carolina high school, but he'll have to show more than a plus curveball and above-average fastball to become Arizona's top Minor League hurler.

 25. New York Mets

New York will need to hit on several up-and-comers. To that end, 18-year-old right-hander Matthew Allan was a third-round choice in last year's Draft and zoomed to No. 4 on the Mets prospect board. (Many expected the hard-throwing righty to go much higher or head to college.) With three above-average pitches, including an upper-90s fastball, he's a must-watch candidate for a future rotation role in Queens. David Peterson has totaled 243 whiffs against 68 walks in 247 2/3 innings since the Mets selected the left-hander with a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft. The 24-year-old spent last season with Double-A Binghamton and received a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. How deep is the Mets' pitching? Prospects 9-16 at the end of 2019 were pitchers, including three drafted in the past two years: No. 9 Josh Wolf (2019), No. 11 Kevin Smith (2018) and No. 16 Ryley Gilliam (2018). Former Top-100 prospect Stephen Gonsalves, 25, entered the organization's top 30 list at No. 23 after getting claimed off waivers from the Twins. In 2018, the lefty worked 24 2/3 innings in the Major Leagues but spent last year toiling across three levels in the Minnesota system while working through elbow problems. Speaking of health issues, keep an eye on Thomas Szapucki, who shows a plus fastball and plus curve when he's on the mound but has dealt with shoulder and elbow issues in recent seasons. Keeping Simeon Woods Richardson (who was moved to Toronto in last year's Marcus Stroman deal) would have pushed this group higher. Instead, it lacks a Top-100 prospect until Allan can prove himself for a sustained time in the pros.

 24. Washington Nationals

Topping the list of potential Nats of tomorrow is No. 3 prospect and 6-foot-8 right-hander Jackson Rutledge, whose fastball flirts with triple digits. The 20-year-old was a first-round pick in last year's Draft and held opponents to a .169 batting average and 0.99 WHIP across 37 1/3 innings with stops in the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn and South Atlantic leagues. Concerns about his control and changeup keep him from the Top 100, but he's as close to that status as the defending World Series champs have on the pitching side. Fellow fireballer Mason Denaburg rates as the fifth-ranked prospect. A 20-year-old righty, he was the Nats' top pick in the 2018 Draft and worked through shoulder issues last year, compiling only 20 1/3 innings in the GCL. Among other arms to follow are No. 6 prospect left-hander Tim Cate (a knees-locking 12-to-6 hook is his best pitch), lefty reliever and 11th-ranked Matt Cronin (0.82 ERA in 22 innings with Class A Hagerstown last year) and several who project as potential right-handed bullpen stalwarts -- No. 13 prospect Reid Schaller, No. 16 Joan Adon, No. 21 Malvin Pena, No. 22 James Bourque -- and left-hander Nick Raquet, the Nationals' 29th-ranked prospect. Upper-level arms Wil Crowe and Ben Braymer could provide rotation depth in 2020, though the ceilings of both is limited to the back end of that rotation. It's a deeper group than first blush, but without a solid Top-100 name, Washington hangs back in the bottom 10.

 23. Texas Rangers

The Rangers possess two seriously intriguing arms. Hans Crouse has been pegged as a potential frontline starter with a plus-plus fastball and plus slider. The 21-year-old right-hander had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. His stock slipped a bit following the injury, but he could jump back into the Top 100 with a healthier 2020.  Cole Winn, a 20-year-old righty who was the team's top pick in the 2018 Draft, racked up 65 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings last year with Class A Hickory but he pitched to a 1.43 WHIP, largely because he issued 39 walks. No. 20 prospect Ronny Henriquez, a 19-year-old right-hander, is still a few years away from challenging for a roster spot in Arlington, but he's making noise with 99 K's in 82 innings with Hickory. Righty Yerry Rodriguez, 22, continues to improve, posting a 2.08 ERA last season with Hickory. The Rangers' No. 22 prospect held opponents to a .176 average and 0.90 WHIP across 73 2/3 frames with 85 strikeouts and 21 walks. Several ranked prospects -- No. 6 Joe Palumbo, No. 7 Brock Burke, No. 13 Jonathan Hernández and No. 28 Taylor Hearn -- have had Major League cups of coffee. Palumbo, in particular, should have little trouble slotting into the Texas rotation and could make a big impact with the big club in 2020. Meanwhile, No. 29 prospect Owen White, a 2018 second-round pick, will make his highly anticipated pro debut this year after Tommy John surgery. The organization looked better in this category a year ago when Crouse and Winn were pointing upwards, though Palumbo's ascendance saves some face. Returns to form all around and continued development by Henriquez could send the group into the top 20 12 months from now.

 22. San Francisco Giants

It's easy to get excited about a left-hander who can throw a low-90s heater and a nasty 12-to-6 breaking ball -- and 21-year-old Seth Corry fits the bill for San Francisco. As the Giants' only pitcher ranked among's Top 100 prospect at No. 99, Corry finished second among Minor League full-season qualifiers with a 1.76 ERA and led the South Atlantic League with 173 whiffs in 122 2/3 frames. Corry also had a streak of 32 consecutive scoreless innings en route to being named the SAL's Pitcher of the Year. Higher up the chain, 23-year-old right-hander Logan Webb made his Major League debut on Aug. 17. He threw 39 2/3 innings down the stretch for the Giants, going 2-3 with a 5.22 ERA in eight starts. Sean Hjelle is a 6-foot-11 righty who had the fourth-most strikeouts (139) among San Francisco Minor Leaguers last year while leading the organization with 143 2/3 innings pitched. Among the Giants' other ranked arms at the end of 2019, No. 12 Jake Wong and No. 18 Conner Menez offer rotation potential. A sleeper is 23-year-old righty Matt Frisbee, who was 9-9 with a 3.13 ERA, ,154 punchouts and 28 walks in 132 1/3 innings across two levels last season. Also, No. 28 prospect Dany Jimenez, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, was added in the offseason as a Rule 5 pick. He reached Double-A last season with the Blue Jays, relying on an upper-90s fastball, a two-plane break slider and a low-80s changeup and could be a quality bullpen addition if it all comes together in the bigs. 

 21. Cleveland Indians

There's a lot of upside in this system, but too many questions keep it from breaking into the teens section of these rankings. Start with the relievers. James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase will fit right into the back end of the Cleveland bullpen right away and have the highest floors of anyone in the system, considering their readiness to dominate. But again, mentioning relievers first can feel like damning with faint praise. The upside comes much lower. Ethan Hankins, the 35th overall pick in the 2018 Draft, and Daniel Espino, the 24th pick last year, both feature plus-plus fastballs and will have to work out their secondary offerings in the lower levels. Triston McKenzie was once a Top-100 prospect but crashed out after missing all of 2019 with back and pectoral injuries. Logan Allen is another former Top-100 talent but struggles at both Triple-A and the Majors between the Indians and Padres systems bring real questions about his ability to stick in a big league rotation. Other arms, like Luis Oviedo, Scott Moss and Sam Hentges add to the intrigue and depth. With a healthy McKenzie and potential breakouts from Hankins and Espino, it's possible Cleveland ends 2020 with three Top-100 pitching prospects. It's not there yet, however.

Duane Cross is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @DuaneCrossMiLB