Prospect Watch: Top 10 right-handed pitchers
Trio of 2013 Futures Game hurlers -- Bradley, Walker and Syndergaard -- leads list
MLBPipeline.com's 2014 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Thursday, Jan. 23, on MLB.com, as well as during a one-hour show on MLB Network airing at 10 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.
If the names on our list of top right-handed pitchers look familiar, that's probably because the top two -- Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker -- and two others -- Jameson Taillon, Dylan Bundy -- are among the Top 10 for the third straight year.
Seven of the 10 are former first-round Draft picks, including two of the top three 2013 choices in Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel. The three lowest-drafted players fell all the way to the supplemental first round: Walker, Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez.
1. Archie Bradley, D-backs: The No. 7 overall pick in 2011, Bradley might be the starting quarterback at Oklahoma if he hadn't signed with Arizona for $5 million. At age 20, he spent most of the season in Double-A and ranked third in the Minor Leagues in wins (14) and ERA (1.84), and sixth in strikeouts (162 in 152 innings). Bradley's 92- to 97-mph fastball and hard curveball are both swing-and-miss pitches, and he made strides with his changeup and command last season.
2. Taijuan Walker, Mariners: Walker became the youngest Mariners pitcher to win his debut when he beat the Astros on Aug. 30, two weeks after he turned 21. More of a basketball star and shortstop early in his high school career, he has been a quick study on the mound. Of course, it helps that Walker is a supreme athlete with a mid-90s fastball, and his secondary pitches (cutter, changeup, curveball) are coming along.
3. Noah Syndergaard, Mets: In exchange for sending National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays in December 2012, the Mets may have gotten a pair of future All-Stars in Syndergaard and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Few prospects can match Syndergaard's combination of stuff and pitchability. He keeps his fastball down in the strike zone and runs it up to 98 mph, and his hard curveball and changeup have the potential to become solid or better pitches.
4. Jonathan Gray, Rockies: Gray might have the best pure stuff in the Minors, which is why some scouts considered him the best prospect in the 2013 Draft. He drew comparisons with Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole before going No. 3 overall and signing for $4.8 million. Gray's fastball combines outstanding velocity (topping 100 mph) and heavy life, and his slider can be just as devastating.
grading the prospects
5. Jameson Taillon, Pirates: The Bucs introduced one future ace to their rotation last year in Cole, and they have another almost ready in Taillon. He signed for $6.5 million after being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft -- Pittsburgh would have taken him over No. 1 choice Bryce Harper -- and is putting the finishing touches on an impressive combination of stuff and polish. When Taillon is on, he achieves heavy sink on a 92- to 95-mph fastball and plenty of depth on a power curveball.
6. Mark Appel, Astros: One of only 17 players to go in the first round of two June Drafts, Appel was the eighth overall pick (by the Pirates) in 2012 and the top selection last year, when he signed for $6.35 million. He should be the first starting pitcher from the 2013 Draft to reach the Majors, and that could happen before the end of the 2014 season. Appel can get outs with a mid-90s fastball that holds its velocity and a hard slider, and his changeup is an effective third pitch.
7. Robert Stephenson, Reds: Only a handful of pitching prospects possess two potential plus-plus pitches, and Stephenson is a member of that select group. His four-seam fastball has touched 100 mph, but his power curveball may be even more devastating. Stephenson's control and command took a significant step forward in 2013, and he might not require much more time in the Minors despite being just 20 years old.
8. Dylan Bundy, Orioles: Considered the most advanced high school pitcher in years, Bundy went fourth overall in the 2011 Draft, signed a $6.225 million big league contract and was in the Majors the following September at age 19. That led to huge expectations for 2013, but he didn't pitch in a game and underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in late June. Given Bundy's impressive work ethic, he's expected to make a full recovery and regain his array of five plus pitches, highlighted by a mid-90s fastball and high-70s curveball.
9. Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays: Toronto has handled Sanchez with care, limiting him to 256 innings over four pro seasons. He still needs to learn to harness his stuff, but few prospects can match his ability to get swings and misses with three pitches. Sanchez can blow a fastball that peaks at 98 mph by hitters and make them look bad with a hard curveball and lively changeup.
10. Kyle Zimmer, Royals: With the potential for four solid or better pitches and the ability to command them, Zimmer has what it takes to pitch at the front of a rotation. It's hard to believe that the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 Draft originally attended the University of San Francisco as a third baseman. His best offering is a fastball that can reach the upper 90s and has terrific riding life, and his hammer curveball and hard slider give him two distinct and nasty breaking balls.
There are 39 right-handers on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, meaning there are plenty of quality pitchers who didn't make the cut for this Top 10. Signed by the Pirates for $600,000 as a fifth-rounder in 2011, Tyler Glasnow broke out last season, leading the South Atlantic League with 164 strikeouts and averaging 13.3 per nine innings. He's an intimidating presence with a 6-foot-7 frame, a fastball that reaches 99 mph and a sharp downer curveball.
If the Twins hadn't induced him to give up football by drafting him fourth overall last June and paying him a $4.5 million bonus, Kohl Stewart might have succeeded Johnny Manziel as quarterback at Texas A&M. One scouting director described Stewart as having the same pure stuff and more athleticism than Gray and Appel. When he's at his best, Stewart can show four above-average pitches, the best of which are a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.