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Whitley leads list of Top 10 RHP prospects

January 14, 2019

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.When it comes to right-handed pitching prospects -- well,

MLB Pipeline will unveil its 2019 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release, we look at baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.
When it comes to right-handed pitching prospects -- well, pitching prospects who throw with either hand -- there's Forrest Whitley and then there's everyone else.
The Astros' 2016 first-round pick has rated as the best pitching prospect in the Minors since the start of last season and, naturally, headlines MLB Pipeline's rankings of the best righty prospects at the start of 2019. He's one of six repeaters from our list of top 10 right-handers a year ago. Of the others, Shohei Ohtani and Walker Buehler graduated to the big leagues, while Alex Reyes (Cardinals) and Triston McKenzie (Indians) just missed the Top 10.

Though prep right-handers are considered the riskiest demographic in the Draft, it's interesting to note that six members of our Top 10 were selected out of high school: Whitley, Michael Kopech (White Sox), Mitch Keller (Pirates), Dylan Cease (White Sox), Mike Soroka (Braves) and Hunter Greene (Reds). A seventh, Sixto Sanchez (Phillies), signed at age 16 out of the Dominican Republic.
Top 10 Prospects by Position
The Top 10 (ETA)

  1. Forrest Whitley, Astros (2019)
  2. Casey Mize, Tigers (2020)
  3. Michael Kopech, White Sox (2020)
  4. Mitch Keller, Pirates (2019)
  5. Dylan Cease, White Sox (2019)
  6. Mike Soroka, Braves (2019)
  7. Sixto Sanchez, Phillies (2020)
  8. Brent Honeywell, Rays (2019)
  9. Kyle Wright, Braves (2019)
  10. Hunter Greene, Reds (2021)
    Complete list »
    Top Tools
    Best Fastball: Kopech, Greene (80)
    Kopech often climbs above 100 mph with late running action on his fastball, while Greene reached triple digits more easily than any high school pitcher ever and hit 103 during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game last July. Both ended the 2018 season on the shelf with elbow injuries, however, with Kopech requiring Tommy John surgery and Greene getting shut down with a sprain before returning to the mound in mid-December.

Best Curveball: Cease (65)
Cease was MLB Pipeline's 2018 Pitcher of the Year after going 12-2 with a 2.40 ERA and ranking fifth in the Minors in opponent average (.189) and eighth in strikeout rate (11.6 per nine innings). He has a hammer curveball with depth and power, and hitters can't try to sit on it because he can blow them away with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and reaches triple digits.

Best Slider: Kopech (65)
Like his fellow White Sox pitching prospect Cease, Kopech backs up an electric fastball with a nasty breaking pitch. He gets two-plane break on a slider that sits in the mid-80s and approaches 90 mph, a big reason why he has averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in pro ball.

Best Changeup: Whitley (65)
Whitley can miss bats with four different pitches, including a devastating changeup with fade and depth that plays extremely well off his 93-98 mph fastball. It has helped him dominate left-handers as a pro, limiting them to a .196/.284/.275 line in three pro seasons.
Best Other Pitch: Mize (70)
Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 Draft and signed for $7.5 million, the second-largest bonus in Draft history. One of the attributes that made him so coveted by pro teams was his mid-80s splitter, which dives at the plate and serves as his changeup.

Best Control: Mize, Soroka, Sanchez, Honeywell (60)
Soroka has exceedingly advanced control and command for a young pitcher, which helped him reach the big leagues at age 20 last May. Mize also scores well in both categories, leading NCAA Division I with a 12.1 K/BB ratio in 2017 and ranking fifth with a 9.8 mark in 2018.

Superlatives
Highest Ceiling: Whitley
Whitley has a 93-98 mph fastball with natural life, a pair of high-spin breaking pitches and a dastardly changeup. He's one of just five high school first-rounders this millennium to advance to Double-A during his first full pro season, joining a select group that also includes Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Dylan Bundy. He still needs to upgrade his command but looks like a future Cy Young Award winner.
Highest Floor: Mize
Mize had the best combination of stuff and polish in the 2018 Draft and the same is arguably true in the Minors. Besides his unhittable splitter, he also throws a 92-97 mph fastball with running life and a plus mid-80s slider that he can transform into a cutter when he wants.
Rookie of the Year Candidate: Soroka
Only two of these right-handers have had success in Triple-A, and one of them is Honeywell, who missed all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. That leaves Soroka, who had his moments with the Braves before getting shut down with shoulder soreness in mid-June. He's healthy again and the most talented of the youngsters who'll compete for the fifth spot in Atlanta's rotation.
Highest Riser: Cease
With the exception of Mize, who was a junior at Auburn, all of the other nine righties on this list entered last season as Top 100 Prospects. Cease ranked lowest among them at No. 61, in part because he had worked just 162 innings in three years after having Tommy John surgery coming out of high school, but he eased concerns about his durability with his spectacular 2018 performance.
Humblest Beginning: Sanchez
Of the nine drafted pitchers on this list, the lowest selection and bonus belong to Honeywell -- and he was a supplemental second-rounder who signed for $800,000. By contrast, the Phillies stumbled upon Sanchez when he was throwing batting practice at a workout for Cuban catcher Lednier Ricardo in 2014 and snapped him up for $35,000.

Most To Prove: Honeywell
Honeywell seemed like a lock for the Rays rotation after a strong 2017 season, during which he was MVP of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and helped Durham win the Triple-A national championship. Then he blew out his elbow while throwing batting practice early last spring, requiring Tommy John surgery in February that cost him all of 2018.

Keep An Eye On: Luis Patino, Padres
As if baseball's best farm system wasn't already overflowing with talented right-handers, the Padres have another one in Patino, signed for $120,000 out of Colombia in 2014. He has a mid-90s fastball that peaks at 99 mph, a pair of power breaking balls in his slider and curveball and a developing yet promising changeup.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.