The months of August and September can be rough on Minor League pitchers. Many are reaching their innings caps and/or pushing the limits of their career-high workloads, leading to some rougher results.
Key words there: can be.
The possibility of a late-season slowdown only makes those pitchers who do dominate in the closing weeks stand out all the more. Many of them are first-time honorees on our list of hottest ranked pitching prospects. However, 11 have appeared on such groups before as they’ve carried earlier momentum into their final outings of 2022. The king of them all is top Phillies prospect Andrew Painter, who appears here for a 2022-record fourth time. That’s what happens when you have a 1.24 ERA over 94 2/3 innings in your first full season.
These are some of the hottest pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues, one for each organization:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Hayden Juenger, RHP (No. 8)
Toronto selected the 22-year-old right-hander in the sixth round last year, and the Missouri State product has already reached Triple-A Buffalo, where he’s working as a multi-inning reliever. And a quite effective one at that. Juenger has a 1.93 ERA over his last five appearances (9 1/3 innings) and has struck out 11 of the 33 batters he’s faced in that span. Since debuting with the Bisons on July 27, he’s allowed one or zero earned runs in 11 of his 12 outings and now owns a 3.27 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over that time. Juenger, who sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and features a good slider, is on track to move north of the border in just his second full season in 2023.
Orioles: Mike Baumann, RHP (No. 16)
While his last start in the big leagues was so-so (5 IP, 3 ER), Baumann’s outings in Triple-A leading to the one-start callup were sharp, especially his last three. The right-hander went 16 innings in those three starts, allowing just two earned runs, walking two and striking out 21, to make his second straight hot pitchers list.
Rays: Mason Montgomery, LHP (No. 7)
This is Montgomery’s first appearance on a pitching hot list in 2022, which sounds crazy given the year he’s had until you remember he’s in the same organization as Taj Bradley. The 2021 sixth-rounder jumped to Double-A Montgomery in the middle of July and has settled into the Southern League well of late, posting a 1.80 ERA with 15 strikeouts and only two walks in his last three starts (15 innings). The 22-year-old left-hander has a 3.12 ERA and 44 K’s in 43 1/3 innings with Montgomery and ranks fourth in the Minors with 162 punchouts in 113 frames on the season as a whole.
Red Sox: Wikelman Gonzalez, RHP (No. 15)
The 20-year-old right-hander has swing-and-miss stuff with a 92-95 mph fastball, upper-70s curve and fading changeup, and the more he works with that mix, the better he’s been in 2022. There’s a good case that Gonzalez has actually posted improved results following a mid-August move from Single-A Salem to High-A Greenville. (He tossed six no-hit innings in his final start at the former.) He has a 2.65 ERA with 23 strikeouts and six walks in four starts (17 frames) with the Drive and most recently tossed a five-inning outing for the first time in the South Atlantic League on Wednesday. Consistent control will be the deciding factor in Gonzalez’s pursuit of a Major League rotation spot.
Yankees: Clayton Beeter, RHP (No. 9)
Beeter was acquired from the Dodgers in the Joey Gallo deal at the Trade Deadline, and early returns have been stellar. The 23-year-old right-hander has transitioned seamlessly to Double-A Somerset, where he has a 1.10 ERA and 29 strikeouts in five starts (16 1/3 innings). It certainly helps that Beeter isn’t working deep into games, but it’s still notable that he fanned nine batters in back-to-back Patriots starts lasting 4 1/3 and 4 2/3 innings on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, respectively. A plus fastball and curveball will push Beeter toward the Bronx.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Tanner Bibee, RHP (No. 8)
The Shane Bieber route continues for Bibee, a repeat honoree on this list. The 23-year-old has posted six straight quality starts for Double-A Akron -- completing exactly six innings in each of those outings -- and has a 1.90 ERA with 41 strikeouts and seven walks over 36 frames in that time. The 2021 fifth-rounder was selected out of Cal State Fullerton for his pinpoint control but has taken a jump in stuff with a 93-97 mph fastball and above-average slider. His 6.7 K/BB ratio on the season ranks fourth among full-season qualifiers.
Royals: Beck Way, RHP (No. 10)
Way’s latest outing for High-A Quad Cities could have gotten him on this list alone. The 23-year-old right-hander fanned 10 Beloit batters over eight no-hit innings last Saturday. Only a career-high 108 pitches kept him from going for the full no-hitter. The start is just the latest in a series of quality outings for Way since his trade from the Yankees in the Andrew Benintendi deal; he has a 2.25 ERA and 35 strikeouts in his last five starts (28 innings) for the River Bandits thanks to a 93-96 mph fastball and sweeping slider.
Tigers: Ty Madden, RHP (No. 4)
If the jump from High-A to Double-A is meant to be the toughest in the Minors, someone ought to tell that to Madden, who has been dominant of late for Erie following an early August promotion. In his last five starts with the SeaWolves, the 2021 32nd overall pick has a 1.21 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings. Last Friday alone, he struck out a career-high 10 Bowie hitters in a six-inning gem. The University of Texas product has a 2.92 ERA with 119 K’s in 114 innings as he nears the end of his first full season.
Twins: Louie Varland, RHP (No. 10)
Varland was pitching so well, the Twins called him up to make his big league debut on Wednesday, giving up two earned runs in 5 1/3 IP against the Yankees in New York. He had just been promoted to Triple-A in early August and had just a 1.69 ERA in four starts with St. Paul, allowing 15 hits in 21 1/3 IP, walking only three with 27 strikeouts.
White Sox: Sean Burke, RHP (No. 9)
Chicago has made waves for its series of callups known as Project Birmingham, but one pitcher who has been with the Barons since mid-May has been opening his fair share of eyes lately. Over his last five starts, Burke has fanned 38 of the 82 batters he’s faced for a K percentage of 46.3. He struck out at least six in each of those appearances and punched out a career-best nine over five scoreless innings in an Aug. 23 gem against Mississippi. The 2021 third-rounder uses three above-average pitches in his heater, curve and slider to generate those whiffs, and his 122 K’s on the season are fourth-most among White Sox farmhands.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Chase Silseth, RHP (No. 7)
Silseth became the first member of the 2021 Draft class to reach the big leagues when he debuted in mid-May and while his time with the Angels has been uneven, he’s been really good in Double-A all year. He makes his second hot pitchers list based on his 3.24 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 32 K’s in 25 IP over his last four starts. He whiffed 21 in his last two starts alone.
Astros: Hunter Brown, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 71)
Brown makes his third hot pitchers list of the season, and this isn’t even counting his stellar big league debut, when he tossed six shutout innings. In his previous four starts leading up to his debut, the right-hander had a 2.66 ERA and .147 BAA, allowing just 10 hits over 20 1/3 IP.
A’s: Joey Estes, RHP (No. 24)
It’s been a bit of an up-and-down move to High-A, and first season in the A’s organization since coming over in the Matt Olson deal, for Estes. But he’s finishing it off on a high note. In 22 IP, the 20-year old allowed just 15 hits (.192 BAA) and five walks, posting a 3.27 ERA and nifty 0.91 WHIP.
Mariners: Taylor Dollard, RHP (No. 7)
Dollard is putting the finishing touches on one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the Minor Leagues and he has three appearances on this list to show for it. He’s gone 5-0 in his last five starts, with a 2.93 ERA and 0.90 WHIP, which has actually raised his season ERA to 1.95.
Rangers: Tekoah Roby, RHP (No. 15)
Roby doesn’t turn 21 until later this month, but that hasn’t kept him from missing bats all season in High-A. He’s been really solid down the stretch with a 2.79 ERA over his last four starts. In 19 1/3 IP, he’s given up 16 hits and only four walks while striking out 24.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Kyle Muller, LHP (No. 2)
Muller picked up his first Major League win on Aug. 13, then kept pitching well back with Triple-A Gwinnett. He yielded just three runs (1.37 ERA) on 15 hits over 19 2/3 IP in three starts, a continuation of his most consistent season to date, making the list for the second time in the last three months.
Marlins: Dax Fulton, LHP (No. 8)
Last Friday, Fulton made just his second start for Double-A Pensacola, gave up a game-opening single to Chattanooga leadoff hitter Mike Siani and then didn’t give up another knock the rest of the way in a dominant six-inning performance. The last time the 6-foot-7 southpaw allowed more than two earned runs in a start was July 8 with High-A Beloit. Since then, he has a 1.49 ERA and 46 strikeouts over eight starts (42 1/3 innings).
Mets: Dominic Hamel, RHP (No. 12)
Hamel set a career high with seven innings pitched during his most recent High-A Brooklyn start last Friday in which he struck out nine, walked none and scattered three hits. He has a 2.86 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings over his last six outings with the Cyclones -- numbers that should help the 2021 third-rounder end on a bright note. He leads all Mets Minor League hurlers with 137 K’s on the season.
Nationals: Jarlin Susana, RHP (No. 8)
The Nats acquired five young players (plus Luke Voit) in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell blockbuster, and of those five, Susana might be the biggest wild card. That aside, he also has his own significant ceiling, as he’s shown since the Deadline deal went down. To wit, his first Single-A inning ended on a 103 mph fastball. The 18-year-old right-hander owns a 2.30 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings between Fredericksburg and the Florida Complex League through his first five starts as a Washington prospect.
Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 25)
Painter continued to make a very strong case for pitching prospect of the year honors by being the only pitcher to make this list four times. Clearly missing the memo that the jump to Double-A, not to mention pitching in hitting-friendly Reading, was hard, the 19-year old posted a 1.03 ERA over his last four starts. He allowed just 19 hits (.200 BAA) while posting a ridiculous 32/2 K/BB ratio in 26 1/3 innings of work, with three of his four starts coming with Reading.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Carlos Rodriguez, RHP (No. 19)
Rodriguez -- not to be confused with the Milwaukee outfield prospect of the same name -- spun six perfect innings and tied his career high with nine punchouts in his sixth High-A Wisconsin start last Saturday. He’s yet to allow more than two earned runs in any of his Timber Rattlers outings since debuting for the club on Aug. 5, and he has a 1.44 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 31 1/3 frames following the callup. The 2021 sixth-rounder’s above-average heater and changeup give him a chance to be a solid starting prospect for Milwaukee.
Cardinals: Dionys Rodriguez, RHP (No. 19)
Rodriguez entered his Aug. 19 start for High-A Peoria with a 4.59 ERA through 100 innings, all in the Midwest League. That ERA has fallen to a more manageable 4.21 in his four starts since. The 22-year-old right-hander enjoyed his best start of the season on Aug. 31, when he struck out seven over five no-hit innings at home against Wisconsin. His 93-94 mph fastball and mid-80s slider give him enough above-average pitches to believe in, and if he can continue to refine them (or take a jump with his changeup), this latest run proves he might be on the way to a 2023 breakout.
Cubs: Luke Little, LHP (No. 27)
While being used in relatively shorter outings, the 6-foot-8 lefty has been very tough to hit all year, now across two levels. Four of his five appearances in this period came up in High-A and he posted a combined 0.54 ERA (one earned run in 16 2/3 IP), while yielding just nine hits and seven walks (0.96 WHIP) while striking out 22.
Pirates: Anthony Solometo, LHP (No. 9)
The Pirates have been cautious usage-wise with their 2021 second-round pick, but the lefty has been dominant in the Florida State League. He clearly has plenty left in the tank, posting a 1.61 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his last five starts, holding hitters to a .139 BAA while striking out 24 in 22 1/3 IP.
Reds: Chase Petty, RHP (No. 7)
A 2021 first-rounder the Twins sent to the Reds in the Sonny Gray deal, the teenager pitched his way up to High-A. And while he scuffled at first, he’s been solid of late, making his second hot pitchers list by posting a 2.38 ERA and 0.84 WHIP over his last five starts with Dayton. In 22 2/3 IP, he allowed only 16 hits and three walks while whiffing 28.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Brandon Pfaadt, RHP (No. 4/MLB No. 94)
A 2.48 ERA over a five-game stretch makes anyone look good. That’s especially true for a pitcher for whom some of those starts came in Pacific Coast League launching pads like Reno, Salt Lake and Albuquerque. Pfaadt was called up to Triple-A in early August and continues to put his plus control, mid-90s fastball and promising changeup to good use with 35 K’s and nine walks over 29 innings in his five most recent starts with the Aces. Time might be running out for a 2022 debut, but he could enter Spring Training as a potential rotation option for Arizona.
Dodgers: Nick Nastrini, RHP (No. 12)
After finishing up his stay in High-A with six shutout innings, Nastrini has been solid in four Double-A starts over the past month. Overall in the five outings, he has a 2.70 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 26 2/3 IP. He’s stuck out 39 and held hitters to a miniscule .124 BAA.
Giants: Trevor McDonald, RHP (No. 22)
A promotion up to High-A didn’t slow McDonald down; in fact, he’s been even better over his first two appearances with Eugene. Across two levels, spanning six outings and 30 1/3 IP, the right-hander had a 1.48 ERA and struck out 37 while holding hitters to a .218 BAA.
Padres: Jackson Wolf, LHP (No. 14)
Wolf’s next appearance will be with Double-A San Antonio, and he’s certainly earned the end-of-season cameo with the way he performed of late with High-A Fort Wayne. The 6-foot-7 southpaw had a 2.90 ERA, 28 strikeouts and a .168 average-against in his final five starts (31 innings) with the TinCaps. His 10 K’s on Aug. 12 against Lake County marked his second time reaching double-digits in the category this season. With a plus slider and above-average curveball, Wolf has been downright dominant against lefties (.170/.244/.223), which might point to a future in the bullpen, but he’s holding his own lately as a starter.
Rockies: Jaden Hill, RHP (No. 10)
The numbers over the last month aren’t overwhelming, with a 3.97 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in five outings and 11 1/3 IP. But he did strike out 18 in that span and reports of his stuff coming off of Tommy John surgery have the Rockies very excited.