Pitchers are the position of injury. These guys try to hurl a ball in an unnatural motion as hard as they can repeatedly. On top of that, they also contort their arms in a way that creates great amounts of stress on relatively weak ligaments just to make the ball react to faster flowing air under the ball.
The physics of baseball is incredible, but the destructive nature of the game on an arm is mind boggling. Many of the old-timers will talk about slowly building arm strength over the first 20 years of your life and being careful of overuse. But even then, the incredible force put on the arm in baseball and the repeated torque of breaking balls will harm even the strongest of arms. So it’s no wonder that pitchers are the position where more injuries occur than any other.
That being said, a can’t miss prospect could see his whole career fall apart with an injury before that career ever gets on track. He has to learn and mature and doesn’t provide the immediate impact that a hitter could provide. The pitchers here won’t just walk in and blow away the world’s best hitters. It will take a little while for them develop, so be patient. In time they will reward you.
Something else to consider is the jump from amateur ball to the pros. High school and college coaches call every pitch for their pitchers, which causes them to struggle to learn “how to pitch” once they reach the pros. The last three seasons saw the five different Cy Young Award winners all take time to develop. Four of them didn’t win a Cy Young Award until they were in their second MLB organization, none of them won a Cy Young Award before their sixth year in professional baseball, and only two of them were drafted in the first round (neither in the top 10). Keep this in mind before you leap out and grab Casey Mize or any other pitcher projected to be drafted highly in next month’s MLB Draft.
So with all this, you probably have come to realize that I view pitching as a crap shoot and that you can’t trust them. This is kinda true, which is why I do so much streaming. This allows me to pick up pitchers a week at a time and toss them aside as soon as I see a better option on the waiver wire. If your league doesn’t place restrictions on free agent pickups, this is a great way to go. If not, you have to be a bit more selective about your targets.
Alex Reyes is likely to start for the St. Louis Cardinals this week. He is coming back from ligament reconstruction surgery and has destroyed minor league hitters in his rehab outings giving up no earned runs and striking out 44 batters in 25 innings of work. If for some reason he is available in your league, now will be your last chance to grab him because he’ll be a 4-category monster. The hype rocket is on the launch pad and is scheduled for a Wednesday liftoff.
Michael Kopech has elite stuff. The changeup and slider are top shelf and the fastball is even better. He can hit 100 on the radar gun and is a true competitor. He will be a star, but it won’t be right away. Kopech is another potential 4-category stud. He should be pitching on Chicago’s South Side by Independence Day.
Mitch Keller has a good fastball with great command. His curve is above average but a third offering is still in question as the changeup isn’t ready for prime time. He won’t punch out a lot of batters and could take a while to really develop into a quality pitcher without that third pitch. He’s not on the same tier as Reyes and Kopech, but he’ll be a quality pitcher, in time.
A.J. Puk was ready to make his MLB debut when his elbow blew out and he has already undergone Tommy John surgery. Puk should be ready for the 2019 season and should dazzle upon his return. He dominated his two seasons in minor league ball, striking out 224 batters in 158 innings. His overpowering stuff will still play in The Show.
Even Further Away
Forrest Whitley is not your average pitcher. He has a herky-jerky delivery and five – yes five – above average pitches. The fastball is the elite pitch, but the others will all get him outs. The command is still a work in progress. He’s a big kid (6’7” and 240 pounds) but is still young. He’s probably a few years away, but this is the guy I am watching down the road. ETA 2020
Sixto Sanchez throws gas. He’s a little guy with a big arm. The command is fine for an 18 year old who is still a few years from making his big league debut and in time he should improve. The changeup plays well off the fastball and can make hitters look silly. The other secondary pitches are good enough, but he will win the day with the heat. ETA: 2021
Tip of the Week
If you are considering pitchers to pick up coming off an injury, don’t be afraid of elbow injuries. These are becoming common place and most pitchers can come back from ligament reconstruction at full strength in relatively short order.
Shoulder problems are a completely different story. I avoid any pitchers with shoulder injuries and I try to trade away my guys who start to develop these injuries. Shoulder injuries rarely go away completely and usually lead to bigger problems that can end a player’s career early.