Prospect Watch: Top 10 right-handed pitchers
Hellickson, Teheran, Drabek head list of potential future aces
The 2011 version of MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list will be unveiled on Tuesday, Jan. 25, on MLB.com as well as on a one-hour show on MLB Network, airing at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLB.com takes a look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
The adage about never having enough pitching has some truth to it, and there appears to be plenty of pitching coming up through Minor League systems. If this list is any indication, a rush of high-end talent is on the way, with no one on this Top 10 list projecting to be anything less than a high-quality No.3 starter.
1. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: The Matt Garza trade has opened the door for the next of what seems like a steady stream of Rays pitching prospects. Hellickson has outstanding stuff, with a fastball, changeup and curve, which look even better because of his outstanding command. He goes right after hitters and won't hurt himself with walks. Now the No. 5 guy in the rotation, his ceiling is much higher than that.
2. Julio Teheran, Braves: Teheran jumped on the fast track in 2010, pitching across three levels. He's got a terrific three-pitch mix (fastball, changeup, curve), all of which are at least above-average. Just 20, his command on the mound belies his years and that, combined with his stuff, points to a future at the top of a rotation. Atlanta already has Tommy Hanson and Mike Minor. It may not take too long for Teheran to join them.
3. Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays: Doug's kid had a pretty good first season in Toronto's organization after coming over from Philadelphia in the Roy Halladay deal. He was the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Year and made his big league debut in September. With one of the best breaking pitches in the Minors, Drabek also throws a lively fastball and a changeup that's improved considerably. A strong competitor, he's ready to take on the AL East as part of the Jays rotation.
4. Michael Pineda, Mariners: Just 22, Pineda should be getting more attention from prospect fans. His 2009 season was injury-hampered, but he came back strong last year and looked like a front-line starter. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has three pitches -- fastball, slider and changeup -- and can command all of them. He should get a long look this spring. Eventually he and King Felix could make for a very potent 1-2 punch.
Top 10 RHP prospects
5. Jacob Turner, Tigers: The Tigers will be aggressive with their young starters, so it's not surprising Turner reached the Class A Advanced Florida State League in his first full season. He's got the stuff, a feel for pitching and the mound presence to keep moving quickly. Once just a hard thrower, he's much more of a pitcher now, having made significant progress with his secondary stuff. With improved command, he could hit Detroit with Rick Porcello-like haste.
6. Jameson Taillon, Pirates: High school pitchers like this don't come around often. Taillon has size (he's 6-foot-6), stuff (he can throw four pitches for strikes), command and makeup. Three of those pitches are plus at times, and the changeup isn't far behind. He's yet to make his pro debut, but he has the type of arm at his age that could move him fairly quickly through the Pittsburgh system.
7. Shelby Miller, Cardinals: It's looking like taking a high school pitcher with the 19th overall pick in 2009 was a good move for the Cards. While having his innings monitored carefully in his first full season, Miller went to the Futures Game and finished strongly. He has a plus fastball, and his curve and changeup progressed a great deal. With the kid gloves off, he could start to move quickly up the ladder.
8. Casey Kelly, Padres: Kelly was a must-have for the Padres when they sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox this offseason. And while Kelly's numbers in 2010, his first season as a full-time pitcher, weren't pretty, scouts agreed that his pure stuff was as good as ever. It might even be better this year, thanks to some maturity and the focus on pitching. With experience, he'll regain command of his fastball-curve-changeup combination, and his performance will quickly catch up with his stuff.
9. Jarrod Parker, D-backs: Parker ranks this highly even after missing the 2010 season following Tommy John elbow surgery. A tireless worker, his rehab went well, and he was throwing very well in the instruction league last fall. His plus fastball is mostly back, and he's got a plus slider to go with it. His changeup was coming around pre-surgery and it should return without much difficulty. You always want to be cautious when projecting a T.J. surgery returnee, but don't be shocked to see Parker in Arizona this season.
10. Jordan Lyles, Astros: The Astros seem to be turning things around with a youth movement as a once-somnambulant farm system is starting to produce players. Next up could be Lyles, who is only 20 years old. He's got a three-pitch mix -- fastball, breaking ball, changeup -- and in many ways his secondary stuff is better than the fastball. But the heater and the other pitches get better grades because he commands them so well and he's got a very good feel for pitching. He's in the No. 5 starter mix in Houston, but even if he goes down to Triple-A to start the year, Astros fans should see him in 2011.
To be eligible for the list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.