Brent Honeywell is the foremost practitioner of the screwball in the Minors. Yadier Alvarez's $16 million bonus was nearly twice as much as any other pitcher got during the 2015-16 international signing period. Riley Pint had the highest ceiling in the 2016 Draft.
What do these three right-handers have in common? Among all the pitchers on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, they possess the best combination of top three pitches (fastball, best breaking ball, changeup) plus control.
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Utilizing the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents big league average, we grade each of a pitcher's offerings and his ability to locate them where he wants. Honeywell (Rays, No. 31 on the Top 100), Alvarez (Dodgers, No. 49) and Pint (Rockies, No. 51) all tied for first at 240.
(As we did with the position-player version of the story, we'll issue a quick disclaimer. We understand that there's more to evaluating prospects than just adding up their tools. We consider other factors, such as track record of performance and how close or far they are from reaching their ceilings. This look is intended to be more interesting than scientific.)
Honeywell is notable for his screwball, which rates as a 65, and also as one of just three pitchers on the Top 100 to earn a 60 for his control. He might have the deepest repertoire on the list as well, as he employs a screwball, a 92-97 mph fastball (we graded it as a 60), a solid changeup (55) and cutter and a curveball he mixes in to keep hitters off balance. A relatively unheralded second-round pick out of Walters State CC (Tenn.) in 2014, he's on the cusp of arriving in Tampa Bay after posting a 2.58 ERA with 286 strikeouts in 279 1/3 pro innings.
Alvarez entered pro ball with much more fanfare after defecting from Cuba, costing Los Angeles not just his $16 million bonus, but also a matching tax penalty for exceeding its international spending pool. His arm speed and athleticism produce overpowering stuff: a 75 fastball that sits in the mid-90s and tops out in the triple digits, a 60 slider in the mid-80s and a 55 changeup and curveball. While his control merits only a 50 grade at this point, he showed more polish than expected in his pro debut and cut his walk rate to 2.5 per nine innings in low Class A late last season.
Pint's profile is more similar to Alvarez's than Honeywell's. He may own the best pure stuff on the Top 100 -- a 75 fastball that parks at 94-96 mph and can reach 102, a 60 power curveball that he can morph into a harder 50 slider when he wants and a shockingly advanced 60 changeup with fade -- which earns him Justin Verlander comparisons and made him the fourth overall pick last June. The caveat is that his delivery features considerable effort, detracting from his control (a 45) and command and leading to some concerns about his long-term health.
Six right-handers finished close behind Honeywell, Alvarez and Pint with tools totals of 235. That group includes top-rated pitching prospect Alex Reyes (Cardinals, No. 6), who can make hitters look silly with his 75 fastball and 60 curveball; Lucas Giolito (White Sox, No. 12), who ranked first a year ago with a total of 260 before his velocity and control regressed last summer; and Michael Kopech (White Sox, No. 16), who made headlines by reportedly hitting 105 mph in a game in July. We cited Kopech as having the best fastball and Giolito as possessing the top curveball in our breakdown of the best individual tools on the Top 100.
The other 235s belong to Francis Martes (Astros, No. 20), Anderson Espinoza (Padres, No. 25) and Jose De Leon (Rays, No. 33). Martes and Espinoza both feature 70 fastballs, with the former backing his up with a 65 curveball and the latter displaying a 60 changeup. De Leon is just one of four Top 100 pitchers to earn three different plus-or-better grades: 65 changeup, 60 fastball, 60 control.
The highest-graded left-handers are Jason Groome (Red Sox, No. 41) and Kolby Allard (Braves, No. 53) at 230. MLBPipeline's top-rated 2016 Draft prospect, Groome has one of the best curveballs (65) in the Minors, a fastball (60) that peaks at 97 mph with armside run and more polish (55 control) than a typical high schooler. Allard, considered by many scouts to be the best prep pitcher in the 2015 Draft, has a similar profile with a better changeup (55) and a little less curveball (60).