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Here are MLB's Top 10 RHP prospects for 2020

@JimCallisMLB
January 14, 2020

MLB Pipeline will reveal its 2020 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com, which will be broadcast on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release of the Top 100, we'll examine baseball's top 10 prospects at each position. Get

MLB Pipeline will reveal its 2020 Top 100 Prospects list with a one-hour show on MLB Network and MLB.com, which will be broadcast on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Leading up to the release of the Top 100, we'll examine baseball's top 10 prospects at each position.

Get ready to see most of the game's best right-handed pitching prospects in the big leagues this season. We anticipate that eight of our nine highest-rated righties will pitch in the Majors in 2020, and the lone exception (Luis Patino) could surface in San Diego if he continues his rapid development.

Forrest Whitley (Astros), Casey Mize (Tigers) and Michael Kopech (White Sox) headlined our right-handers list entering 2019, and they all rank among our four best a year later. The lone newcomer at the top of the list is Nate Pearson (Blue Jays), who needed just 105 1/3 pro innings to advance from junior college to Triple-A.

Though high school right-handers are considered the riskiest demographic in the Draft, half of our top 10 were selected out of the prep ranks: Whitley, Kopech, Matt Manning (Tigers) and Grayson Rodriguez (Orioles) in the first round, plus Dustin May (Dodgers) in the third. Additionally, Sixto Sanchez (Marlins) and Patino (Padres) were signed as 16-year-olds on the international market.

The Top 10 (ETA)
1. Casey Mize, Tigers (2020)
2. Nate Pearson, Blue Jays (2020)
3. Forrest Whitley, Astros (2020)
4. Michael Kopech, White Sox (2020)
5. Sixto Sanchez, Marlins (2020)
6. Dustin May, Dodgers (2020)
7. Matt Manning, Tigers (2020)
8. Luis Patino, Padres (2021)
9. Spencer Howard, Phillies (2020)
10. Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles (2021)
Complete list »

 

Top 10 Prospects by Position
RHP - Breakdown | List
LHP - Breakdown | List
C - Breakdown | List
1B - Breakdown | List
2B - Breakdown | List
3B - Breakdown | List
SS - Wednesday, Jan. 22
OF - Thursday, Jan. 23
Top 100 - Saturday, Jan. 25

Top Tools

Best Fastball: Pearson, Kopech (80)
Pearson and Kopech regularly operate in the upper 90s and push into triple-digit territory with late run that makes their fastballs even more difficult to hit, though Kopech did miss all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery. Pearson famously hit 104 mph during the Arizona Fall League's 2018 Fall Stars Game, while Kopech reached 105 during a 2017 start in high Class A.

Best Curveball: Whitley, Manning (60)
Whitley and Manning have high spin rates and downer action on their curveballs. The curve is Manning's lone breaking pitch, while Whitley also utilizes a slider that he can transform into a low-90s cutter, both of which can be better than his curve at times.

Best Slider: Kopech (65)
Six of our top 10 right-handers have quality sliders, but a healthy Kopech has a well above-average slider on the most consistent basis. His sits in the upper 80s with two-plane break, and it was his best offering during his brief big league debut in 2018.

Best Changeup: Whitley, Sanchez, Howard (60)
All three of these guys complement mid-90s fastballs with plus changeups that tumble at the plate. While Whitley and Sanchez showed promising changeups as teenagers, Howard came out of Cal Poly in 2017 with a below-average change but made tremendous progress with it during 2019.

Best Other Pitch: Mize (70)
Mize's split-finger fastball is one of the most devastating pitches in baseball. It's a mid-80s offering that dives abruptly at the plate, and some scouts say they've never seen a pitcher command a splitter better than Mize does.

Best Control: Mize, Sanchez, May (60)
Mize led NCAA Division I in K/BB ratio (12.1) in 2017, ranked fifth (9.8) in 2018 and logged a nifty 4.6 mark while reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. That last figure equals Sanchez's career K/BB ratio in five pro seasons, and his control is one of the reasons he reached Double-A at age 20. May has recorded similar numbers in the Minors and struck out 32 while walking just five in 34 2/3 big league innings last August and September.

Superlatives

Highest Ceiling: Whitley
Whitley has five different pitches that can grade as plus or better when they're on in his fastball, curveball, slider, cutter and changeup. No other pitching prospect can make that claim.

Highest Floor: Mize
Few pitchers can match Mize's combination of stuff and command, which is why the Tigers made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. The only real question with him is health, as he was shut down at times in two of the last three seasons.

Rookie of the Year Candidate: May
May can rival Whitley's ceiling and Mize's floor, as he has a pair of well above-average pitches in his fastball and cutter (not to mention flashes of a plus curveball) and has pounded the strike zone throughout his pro career. He continued to show the same after reaching the Majors last August and pitched well in the National League Division Series.

Highest Riser: Howard
A second-round pick in 2017, Howard had an up-and-down first full season in pro ball, though he gave a glimpse of his upside by throwing a no-hitter in the low Class A South Atlantic League playoffs. He took a huge step forward in 2019 despite missing two months with shoulder soreness, significantly improving his changeup and control and capping his year with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League.

Humblest Beginning: Sanchez
The Phillies were attending a workout for a Cuban catcher in the Dominican Republic in February 2015 when they stumbled upon Sanchez, whom they signed for a mere $35,000. He began to open eyes when he led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast league with a 0.50 ERA in his U.S. debut in 2016, and his stock continues to rise.

Most To Prove: Whitley
Though Whitley is unquestionably talented, he has pitched just 86 regular-season innings in the previous two years because of a 50-game drug suspension and minor oblique and lat injuries in 2018, then shoulder inflammation and command problems in 2019. Expected to contribute in Houston last year, he got rocked for a 12.21 ERA in Triple-A and his season went downhill from there, though he did finish by leading the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts.

Keep An Eye On: Logan Gilbert, Mariners
Gilbert's velocity fluctuated while he battled mono during his junior season at Stetson in 2018, but that didn't preclude the Mariners from drafting him 14th overall. He didn't make his pro debut until 2019, when his heater bounced back and he also showed a solid slider, changeup and control while racing to Double-A.

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