21. Luis Patiño, Tampa Bay Rays
Patiño was signed as an international prospect back in 2016 by San Diego and has steadily gotten better since. Luis has added a lot of muscle and velocity since being signed and that has helped him be able to climb the rankings. He was traded from the Friars to Tampa Bay as the headliner in the Blake Snell deal. While there are some things for Patiño to iron out, Tampa Bay should be able to help do so.
Luis isn’t a very big guy on the mound, but he can be very imposing. He comes at hitters with pretty solid stuff and he has a very athletic, repeatable delivery. His fastball can reach 99 and it usually sits 93-97. He backs that up with a slider-changeup combo with the former being the better of the two pitches to this point. Everyone once in a while he will put all of his stuff together and make it seem like he’s a legitimate ace. Other times he looks destined for the bullpen. The pure stuff Patiño is equipped with makes it plausible he turns into a legitimate number one. The question is how often that stuff will be present.
Luis has had some control issues as he has came up through the Minors. His mechanics aren’t out of sync, but he has a hard time throwing the ball over the plate as often as you would like. Patiño made his debut for the Padres in 2020 and gave up 14 free passes in just 17.1 innings. That is a far cry from where he needs to be if he wishes to be a starter long-term.
The numbers in his debut indicated all three of his pitches being solid to above average. If he can reign it in a bit and start to throw more strikes he has a chance to hit his ceiling. For people who may not be entirely sold on this young arm, remember he’s just 21 years old. If he were in this year’s draft we may see him challenge Kumar Rocker for the top spot. Luis is still fairly new to pitching as he’s only been on the bump of five or six years now so he’s still learning. Given the the of talent Patiño has shown up to this point and the track record Tampa Bay has with helping pitcher she their best, I’m not being against Luis.
22. Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves
Stop me is you have heard this before: the Braves have one of the better young players in the Minors. Anderson was picked third overall in the 2016 Draft by Atlanta and some were thrown off by the pick. He had a great senior season that made it possible he would end up in the first round, but no one thought he’d be picked third. The Braves must’ve known something everyone else didn’t as Anderson has turned himself into a stud.
Most people have Ian ranked a little higher than I do given how good he was in his debut. The people at Baseball America are really in on this guy as they have him ranked in the top 10. While I certainly believe he’s got the talent to be near the top of Atlanta’ rotation, I’m not entirely sold just yet. His debut was terrific as he had an ERA under two in 32.1 innings of work. His walks were a little high, but he was able to work out of a lot of jams. With the present stuff he has and the chance to only get better, I may be selling Anderson a little short.
The big reason Ian was so effective in 2020 was the changeup. Prior to last year, his fastball and curve were the pitches he used the most. Anderson made an adjustment with the great equalizer and it became his go-to pitch. Now, he profiles to have three above average or better pitches in his arsenal. His fastball sits 91-95 with the ability to touch 97 and that should only go up as he adds weight. He isn’t quite in Triston McKenzie territory when it comes to how skinny he is, but adding on some muscle is a need. To go along with his plus changeup and fastball, Anderson’s curve proved to be great in 2020 as batters whiffed at it 40.5% of the time.
The reason I pause on believing Ian is a bonafide ace right now is due to his spin rates and lack of control. His ability to throw strikes has always been shaky but he’s gotten away with it up to this point because of superior stuff. With his changeup developing the way it did, his elevated walk rate might not amount too much but it is something that has to be noted. The spin rate on his fastball and curve were very, very low last year and that makes me believe they might not be as good as what they were in 2020. Spinning it is crucial when it comes to missing bats. What he did last season might have been an apparition that we won’t see again.
Depending on who you are, you may believe there is so much room for Anderson to grow as he gets older. The most optimistic person views Ian as the undeniable ace of Atlanta’s young pitching core. If you’re more like me, you may view his future as solid, but unspectacular. Either way, the guy’s got a future in the league.
23. Riley Greene, Detroit Tigers
Greene was touted as the best pure hitter in his draft class. Guys with that sort of praise usually don’t wait very long before hearing their name called and that was the case for Riley as he was taken fifth in the 2019 Draft by Detroit. Greene’s best tool is his hit tool but he does everything else well. There’s a chance we could be looking at a legitimate five-tool prospect.
Like I said before, Greene’s at his best with the bat in his hands. He has a quick, smooth swing from the left side of the plate that’s as mechanically sound as they come. Greene is very instinctual at the plate, showing great prowess a hitter. He doesn’t often chase outside the zone and will use the entire field when necessary. As he adds more strength to his frame, Riley could become a very complete hitter. He has impressed a lot of people early on with how advanced he is for someone who hasn’t yet turned 21.
Riley’s other skills lag behind the bat, but that isn’t because they’re bad. He’s just such a good hitter that it’s hard for anything else he does to measure up. He has enough speed to man centerfield, but some worry he may be destined for a corner spot once he gets older. He doesn’t profile to be someone who slows down a ton given how long and tall he is. Even if he adds a little more weight, it won’t turn him into a non-factor in the speed category. The arm profiles to be pretty solid so if he has to play right field he the majority of his career he’ll be just fine. The thing that will take him from a good player to a great one is his power. Riley projects to have decent power with a chance for above average juice once he’s fully grown. His swing isn’t incredibly explosive, but there is some nice bat speed. At his best, Greene could have the juice to hit 25+ bombs.
The guy that comes to mind when I watch Greene is Christian Yelich. He may never hit as well as the 2018 MVP has at his peak, but the upside is there. If Riley’s speed and power don’t play up to the level of Yelich, then Michale Brantley would be the sort of outcome you’re looking at.
24. Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins
Kirilloff was taken with the 15th overall selection in the 2016 Draft by the Twins. They really liked the Pittsburgh area native’s feel to hit and it seems they were right to. Alex is one of the more professional hitters you’ll see in the Minors, displaying tremendous awareness of the strike zone. Kirilloff’s other tools are good, but his ability to hit will be what makes him an everyday player.
There isn’t any true weak spot to Kirilloff’s approach at the place. He doesn’t produce some of the incredibly loud contact some other players do, but he more than makes up for it everywhere else. Alex has plenty of power, but it more than likely rates out to be 55-grade at best. He handles velocity and can sit on breaking stuff, he can oppo, turn on a pitch, and makes adjustments at the plate very quickly. You can tell this is someone who will have a lot of success at the next level. When you watch Kirilloff in the box it just looks right. He never looks rattled and seems to always be controlling the situation.
His other tools aren’t quite as good as his bat, but he is a solid all-around prospect. Kirilloff is a corner outfielder with a legitimate chance to stick out there. If the defense starts to decline over time then first base would suit him fine. It isn’t a given he’ll need to move to first long-term; Alex is a good athlete and should have enough range and arm to play right field for a long time. If he did need to move to the infield, he has shown he’s comfortable there.
If I were to be nit-picky about Kirilloff I would say that he doesn’t walk all that much. He’s only walked about 6.5% of the time in the Minors, which isn’t that great. His low walk percentage might be a function of how often he makes contact but it may be a good idea for him to start taking a few more pitches. With how refined he is offensively it shouldn’t be much of a problem, though.
25. Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers
Matt Manning just looks like a front-line starter in every way. Some have had him ranked above Mize and Skubal (who we get into later) as he’s been healthy and seemingly getting better every year. Manning suffered a forearm strain last last year which has caused some people to back off a little bit. I’m not too worried because it is the only time he’s landed on the IL due to an arm issue. To go along with that, the reports are that he is back and healthy in camp. As much as people talk about Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, this guy might be the best arm of them all. Tigers fans should be excited about seeing him on the mound in a Detroit uniform this year.
Manning is a true power arm as his fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s and can reach triple digits from time to time. As he adds weight onto his frame he should be able to get to the top velocity more often. Manning has proved to more than just a thrower as he has been able to manipulate the fastball, making it cut and bear in on righties. His long legs help him get down the mound and really extend toward the plate, making the ball get on the batter very quickly. Manning doesn’t mess around either. He’s in and around the strike zone often as his fastball was in the zone 60% of the time in 2019.
Matt’s fastball isn’t all there is to like about this young man. Ever since high school, he’s shown the ability to spin a gnarly curve and that has held up as he’s made adjustments to his mechanics. It’s one of the better one-two combos in the Minors and should make him a really solid pitcher for years to come. Add in that his changeup has gotten steadily better as has his walk rate and he has a chance to be the best pitcher in Detroit.
26. Daniel Lynch, Kansas City Royals
Lynch was part of a KC class in the 2018 Draft that also had Brady Sinder and Jackson Kowar land with the Royals. Lynch is a tall, lean lefty with four solid pitches with a couple having a chance to be above average. He hasn’t been brought along as quickly as Singer or Kowar, but a standout performance at Kansas City’s alternate site makes it possible Daniel makes it to the Majors in 2021.
Lynch has some of the better stuff you’ll see out of a lefty in the Minors. He had a great slider and solid curve upon entering pro ball and has been his fastball and changeup progress over time. The Royals encouraged the young arm to start throwing his fastball more often and it has helped him reach extra velocity. Lynch sits 93-97 while topping out at 99 to go along with what many call a plus slider. His changeup took a big step forward in 2020 and he now feels more confident using that as well, giving Daniel a very well-rounded arsenal.
People who measure to Lynch’s size can have trouble keeping their mechanics in sync regularly, but that hasn’t really been the case for this young man. He delivers the ball with a three-quarters arm angle and keeps his levers aligned very well. That’s allowed him to keep his walks down as he’s only given up 37 free passes in 147.2 career innings. He keeps the all around the plate a lot which is exactly what you want to see with someone with his pitch mix. He also doesn’t give up the homer ball all that often as he’s given up only six home runs in his MiLB career.
27. Asa Lacy, Kansas City Royals
Lacy may end up being the better pitcher between he and Lynch, but given the track record Daniel has in the pros I had to put Asa slightly behind. Lacy dazzled at Texas A&M before being selected in the 2020 Draft fourth overall by the Royals. He has all the makings of a frontline starter as he deploys a very polished repertoire.
Lacy has a very solid pitch mix as he has a chance for four above average offerings with two looking like plus pitches. The two true out pitches for Asa has been his changeup and slider. His arm action allows for the break of his slider to be even more exaggerated as he throws with a three-quarters arm slot. I really enjoy watching him throw his changeup a lot as it looks undistinguishable from his fastball till it’s too late for the batter. He reminds me a little of Stephen Strasburg in the sense that he can come at you with so many different weapons that you can never set on anything.
The fastball and curve are by no means bad pitches, but they don’t rate out to be as good as the two previously mentioned. His fastball sat 92-96 with it reaching 98 in college. He does has some effort to his delivery so with a few mechanical adjustments he may be able to make that heat look effortless. Lacy’s curve is a good option he’ll more than likely use to throw batters off balance every one in a while.
Lacy has the pure stuff to dominate but he hasn’t had the control you’d hope for from a college arm taken in the top five. He’s by no means wild, but he does need to throw more strikes if he wishes to reach his ceiling. Even as is, Asa should be able to pitch at a high level for a long, long time.
28. Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore Orioles
Rodriguez was Baltimore’s first-round selection in 2018 as a prep arm from Texas. Grayson going 11th surprised some people as he wasn’t a name many though of as a top-30 guy. He had a very solid senior season and ended being a guy the Orioles fell in love with. So far, he’s proved to be the right pick as Rodriguez has steadily gotten better.
Grayson has added weight onto his frame since being drafted and it has helped him reach back for an extra mph or two on his fastball. He comfortably sits around 95 with the ability to get it up to 99. He showed back in high school the makings of a great slider that has only gotten better and looks like a potential plus offering. Rodriguez also features a developing changeup and a curve that rates out to a solid fourth pitch.
Grayson is just now 21 years of age and has shown he’s pretty advanced for someone who should just now being talked about in draft circles. He’s very athletic on the mound which has helped him keep his mechanics in line. He does a good job of repeating his delivery, allowing him to keep his walks number in check. With the kind of developing stuff Rodriguez has to go along with his control, he could be the number one pitcher in Baltimore.
Grayson has never pitched above Low-A so it’s a long shot to think he’ll find his way to the Majors this year. Baltimore doesn’t have a great pitching rotation and given how positive Rodriguez’s reports were coming out of the team’s alternate sight it isn’t out of the question. I think he may start in High-A with a chance to move up quickly. Maybe he finishes the year in AAA and finds his way to Camden Yards next season.
29. Spencer Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Howard started out in Cal Poly’s bullpen but moved into the rotation due to injuries. The move ended up being a good one for the righty as it helped put him on the track to being a second round selection in 2017. Howard comes at hitters with four solid pitches, but he has been inconsistent due to health and lack of control.
People are a little down on Spencer after his rough debut in 2020. While his numbers certainly weren’t good, the more concerning thing was his shoulder bothering him for the second straight year. Given the kind of stuff Howard offers up I don’t think people should read all too much into his 2020 stats but the shoulder issues are a different thing.
When Howard is right, he looks dominant. His home run, hit, and strikeout numbers through his MiLB career have all been stellar while the thing that’s held him back is walks. It hasn’t been too much of an issue for Spencer given how good of a pitch mix he offers up, but his lack of command could be a hinderance if it persists in the Majors. His walk rate was much better in 2019 but it ballooned back up near four per nine innings in his first taste of the Bigs.
Howard’s go-to is his fastball. It sits in the mid-90’s, reaching 99 at times with good life. Spencer has shown the ability to use it up in the zone effectively given the spin rate his heater has. He has two distinct breaking pitches with the slider being his more used offering. His curve rates out to be about as good as the slide piece but Howard doesn’t seem to be as comfortable throwing it. The changeup is a real weapon for Spencer as well. It’s very deceptive given the arm speed he’s able to throw it with. Howard’s equalizer is one you have to see in action to really appreciate it.
Spencer seems to be all systems go coming into the new year and he factors to be an important part of the Phillies’ rotation. By year’s end, Howard should solidify himself as the number three starter behind Nola and Wheeler with a chance to leap frog Zack at number two. The guy I keep coming back to when I think of a comparison for Howard is Trevor Bauer. They both have premium stuff but have a hard time consistently putting it all together. Bauer’s had two Cy Young caliber seasons with four or five average years wedged in between them. Spencer is the kind of guy that can dominate any given day. Will he, though?
30. Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers
Tarik had an amazing start to his pro career after being drafted by the Tigers in 2018. He was a ninth-round selection that has aggressively moved up the organizational ladder as Skubal made his MLB debut in the year of Covid-19. He didn’t fare well during his first taste of Major League action but people have high hopes for this young man.
There is some reliever risk in Tarik’s profile and that is why I chose to put him below the five pitchers listed above. None of them seem to have the same underlying issues Skubal has. Tarik has already had to have one Tommy John surgery and his mechanics tell me there may ben another in store somewhere down the line. He has a bit of an odd arm action where he gets his front arm way out in front. His throwing arm seems to lag just a bit, making for his upper and lower halves be out of sync. Skubal’s whippy back arm makes it hard for hitter to pick up the ball, but it looks like there is an awful lot of stress on his arm when he throws. He also uses his fastball an inordinate amount as he threw is 60% of the time in 2020.
Tarik has the size of a starter and the pitch mix to help him go deep into game which makes some of his concern worth looking past. I mentioned him throwing his fastball a lot and it’s for good reason. His placement and spin on the pitch makes it potentially a plus offering. He backs that up with a wipeout slider, giving the southpaw two legitimately well above average pitches. Skubal actually used his changeup more than his slider in 2020 and it worked out well. If the numbers on his change hold up, he might have a third plus offering. Tarik’s curve is his fourth pitch and it rates out to be average.
While there are some things Skubal does that are very impressive I still worry that he may end up being a reliever long term. Teams are starting to value guys out of the pen who can throw multiple innings and he may fit that bill. Given the stuff and numbers Skubal’s provided up to this point it may end up being the perfect role for this young lefty.