2015 Prospect Watch: Top 10 left-handed pitchers
Dodgers' 18-year-old Urias leads list, followed by White Sox's Rodon, Jays' Norris
MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday, Jan. 30, on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.
Though all of the left-handers who ranked on last year's preseason Top 10 are still eligible to be considered for inclusion this year, there are still several new faces on this list. Julio Urias, Henry Owens and Andrew Heaney are the holdovers, albeit with their order reversed from last year.
Of the seven newcomers, four were taken in the first 17 picks of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Despite the youth of the pitchers on the list -- their average age is 21.4 -- several are likely to graduate this season. Heaney, Daniel Norris and Brandon Finnegan already have big league experience, and Carlos Rodon and Owens ended last season in Triple-A.
1. Julio Urias, Dodgers
Just 18 years old, Urias has proven to be well beyond his years. He flourished for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga last season, despite the fact he was by far the youngest player in the California League. Urias carved up the older hitters with his low- to mid-90s fastball, curveball and changeup, striking out 109 batters in 87 2/3 innings. Though the Dodgers have aggressively challenged him, they have also been cautious with his workload, trends that are likely to continue this season.
2. Carlos Rodon, White Sox
Entering last spring, Rodon was the favorite to be the top overall pick in the Draft. But he wasn't quite as dominant as expected during his junior season at North Carolina State, and ultimately went third overall. Rodon should quickly reach Chicago, and he has the stuff, size and makeup to become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher once he does.
3. Daniel Norris, Blue Jays
After an up-and-down start to his professional career, Norris turned a corner in 2013 and broke out in '14. He began the year with Class A Advanced Dunedin and ended it in the Major Leagues. Norris has ironed out the command issues that initially hampered his progress and is now able to dominate hitters with his dynamic four-pitch arsenal.
4. Henry Owens, Red Sox
As a followup to his breakout 2013 season, Owens delivered a sterling '14 campaign. He led the Minor Leagues in wins (17), ranked fourth in strikeouts (170) and started the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game for the U.S. team. Owens has a good feel for pitching and keeps hitters off balance with a mix of his low-90s fastball, changeup and curveball.
5. Andrew Heaney, Angels
Little more than two years after the Marlins drafted him ninth overall in the 2012 Draft, Heaney made his Major League debut. He appeared in seven games for Miami in 2014 before he was dealt, first to the Dodgers and then the Angels, in a wild day at the Winter Meetings. Heaney commands his whole arsenal well and is the most polished of any pitcher on the list.
6. Sean Manaea, Royals
Fully recovered from the hip injury that bothered him during his junior season at Indiana State and caused him to slide in the 2013 Draft, Manaea pitched well in 2014 for Class A Advanced Wilmington. Though the Royals were cautious with his workload during his professional debut, he led the Carolina League with 146 strikeouts in 121 2/3 innings. Manaea has three average-or-better pitches, but he will need to refine his control after averaging four walks per nine innings in 2014.
7. Kyle Freeland, Rockies
As a senior in high school, Freeland set the Colorado record with 145 strikeouts. Three years later, after an All-American season at Evansville, the Rockies drafted the Denver native eighth overall. Freeland has a deceptive delivery and generates plenty of ground balls with his heavy low-90s fastball.
8. Steven Matz, Mets
A second-round pick in 2009, Matz's professional debut was delayed until 2012 by a long recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Long Island native has quickly made up for lost time and reached Double-A Binghamton in 2014. Matz's loose, easy delivery allows him to throw his fastball in the mid-90s, and he mixes in a quality changeup and curveball.
9. Sean Newcomb, Angels
Undrafted coming out of high school, Newcomb improved significantly while in college. He set Hartford's career record with 243 strikeouts and became the school's highest drafted player when the Angels took him 15th overall in 2014. Listed at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Newcomb is an imposing presence on the mound, and his fastball can reach 98 mph.
10. Brandon Finnegan, Royals
Kansas City drafted Finnegan 17th overall in 2014 and thought he was advanced enough to help the Major League team almost immediately as a reliever. He did just that, joining the Royals' bullpen for the pennant race and then the playoffs. Finnegan ultimately became the first pitcher to appear in the College World Series and the World Series in the same year after leading TCU to Omaha in June. Despite his initial success as a reliever, he has the tools to start and will likely return to the rotation this year.
The Cardinals selected Marco Gonzales and Rob Kaminsky 10 picks apart in the 2013 Draft and both promising left-handers nearly made this year's list.
Gonzales was the first of the pair picked, going 19th overall. A two-way star at Gonzaga, he is now focused solely on pitching. He reached the Major Leagues in his first full professional season, appearing in 10 games for the Cards. Gonzales will likely play a bigger role with the team this year.
Kaminsky, meanwhile, was drafted out of high school and spent his first full professional season in the Midwest League. He was one of the youngest starters in the league, but more than held his own, posting a 1.88 ERA in 101 innings.