In the shortened 2020 season, many young arms were called upon to help out pitching staffs. Six of last year’s Top 10 right-handed pitchers got innings in the big leagues, though only one -- Dustin May of the Dodgers -- graduated off of prospect lists as a result.
As a hopefully full 2021 season looms, expect more of the same. Seven of our new Top 10 should either continue to establish themselves in big league rotations or make their debuts this year, with several having the chance to compete for Rookie of the Year Award honors.
It’s a good split of high-school-aged draftees or signings (Sixto Sánchez, Ian Anderson, Luis Patiño, Matt Manning, Grayson Rodriguez) and college draftees (Nate Pearson, Casey Mize, Max Meyer, Emerson Hancock and Logan Gilbert), with Meyer and Hancock representing the 2020 Draft class.
The Top 10 Prospects (ETA)
1. Nate Pearson, Blue Jays (2021)
2. Casey Mize, Tigers (2021)
3. Sixto Sánchez, Marlins (2021)
4. Ian Anderson, Braves (2021)
5. Luis Patiño, Rays (2021)
6. Matt Manning, Tigers (2021)
7. Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles (2022)
8. Max Meyer, Marlins (2022)
9. Emerson Hancock, Mariners (2022)
10. Logan Gilbert, Mariners (2021)
Complete List »
Fastball: Pearson (80)
Even though he struggled a bit in the big leagues and missed time with a flexor strain in his elbow, the fastball was still as impressive as it’s always been. It averaged 96.3 mph and topped out at 101.5 mph during his time with Toronto, and he averaged an impressive 2,300 rpm spin rate on the four-seamer.
Curveball: Manning (60)
Manning has the lone plus curve in the Top 10, and it’s his out pitch. It’s a true 12-to-6 hammer with hard downer action and high spin rates.
Slider: Meyer (70)
Many felt Meyer could get big league hitters out with his slider immediately after signing. It was the best pitch among all arms in the 2020 Draft, a wipeout breaking ball that touches 91 mph and from which he adds and subtracts depth.
Changeup: Sánchez, Rodriguez (65)
Sánchez threw his upper-80s changeup more than any other pitch during his time in the big leagues in 2020, an unhittable offspeed pitch that dives at the plate and misses a ton of bats. Rodriguez’s changeup has now become his best secondary offering, thrown in the low 80s and diving/running under the barrel consistently.
Other pitch: Mize (70)
While his results in the big leagues weren’t optimal, Mize showed that his mid-80s splitter is still close to top-of-the-scale, with way better than league average vertical movement on the diving pitch.
Control: Mize, Sánchez (60)
We’re willing to give Mize a mulligan on his control issues in the big leagues last year based on his track record of throwing strikes (1.4 BB/9 in college and 1.9 BB/9 in the Minor Leagues). Sánchez’s athletic frame and repeatable delivery helped him limit walks to 2.5 per nine in the big leagues last season, continuing a trend from the Minors, where he’s walked just 1.8 per nine in his career.
Highest ceiling: Rodriguez
There are many candidates on this list to claim this category, but Rodriguez’s size, stuff, feel for pitching and age (he’ll be 21 for all of 2021) make it easy to imagine the 2018 first-rounder topping this list in the future.
Highest floor: Mize
With three plus pitches, an average curveball and a sinker, it’s hard to match Mize in terms of his repertoire and feel for throwing it -- again, despite his early struggles in the big leagues. That combination of stuff and command is the reason he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, after all.
Rookie of the Year Award candidate: Anderson
Many on this list will see considerable time in the big leagues in 2021, but no one pitched as well as Anderson did during a big league debut in 2020. Especially given his postseason, it’s hard not to put Anderson high on any National League ROY Award candidates list.
Highest riser: Anderson
Anderson wasn’t on the Top 10 a year ago at this time, but a combination of graduations from the 2020 list and Anderson’s performance in Atlanta catapulted him up to No. 4.
Humblest beginning: Sánchez
The Phillies almost accidentally found Sánchez, seeing him when they were scouting a Cuban catcher in the Dominican back in 2015. They were able to sign the right-hander for just $35,000; he made his United States debut in 2016 and was up in the big leagues in 2020, at age 22, with the Marlins.
Most to prove: Mize
While we are giving him a mulligan, it still is a little concerning that Mize posted a 6.99 ERA over his seven big league starts in 2020 and was hit harder than anyone expected. This year offers a new start, but he’ll have to show he can miss barrels more consistently.
Keep an eye on: Quinn Priester, Pirates
Though he didn’t throw an official pitch in 2020, like many Minor League arms, few pitching prospects are generating more buzz than the Pirates’ first-round pick in '19. The Illinois high school product threw well when he joined the organization’s alternate training site late in the summer and then was lights out during instructional league play in Florida, with some believing he could be at or near the top of this list in a year’s time.