Hottest pitching prospects in each farm system
The weather is warming up, and so are the arms down on the farm.
It’s time for our look at some of the hottest pitchers in the Minor Leagues. There are a total of 10 pitching prospects detailed below who made our inaugural list as well, putting them on the path for a very strong 2022. That, of course, means there are 20 newcomers, who are also headed in the right direction.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Dahian Santos, RHP (No. 28)
Ricky Tiedemann’s ascent through the system and prospect ranks has taken up a lot of attention, but don’t lose sight of what Santos is accomplishing in Single-A Dunedin. The 19-year-old right-hander has struck out 41 batters over 21 2/3 innings in his past five appearances, good for a 50.0 percent K rate in that span. That lack of contact has led to a 0.83 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and .088 average-against over his last 30 days. Santos doesn’t feature a ton of velocity with a low-90s sinker, but his low-80s slider has done more than enough to give Florida State League batters fits.
Orioles: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 3)
Rodriguez was fairly unhittable over the past month, with a big league callup sure to have happened if it hadn’t been for his lat injury. Over his last six starts, the top pitching prospect in baseball had a 0.79 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP, allowing just 16 hits and nine walks in 34 1/3 IP. He also struck out 47 (12.3 per nine) in that span and put up zeroes on the scoreboard in four of his six starts.
Rays: Taj Bradley, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 68)
We had Bradley as the Rays’ rep on the May 10 edition of the pitching hot list. He’s gotten even better since then for Double-A Montgomery. The 21-year-old right-hander owns a 1.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 25 strikeouts over 18 innings during these 30 days. His last outing on June 1 (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) may have been his best of the season so far as he pitched more than five innings for the first time in 2022. Bradley’s mid-90s fastball and upper-80s cutter/slider give him two plus pitches, and the curveball and changeup show enough promise that Bradley, who led the Minors in ERA last season, could continue this dominance the higher he climbs toward St. Petersburg.
Red Sox: Chris Murphy, LHP (No. 10)
Murphy has allowed six earned runs in his last six starts while fanning 36 in 29 2/3 innings to take over the Double-A Eastern League lead in ERA (2.18) and opponent average (.158). A sixth-round pick out of San Diego after topping the West Coast Conference in strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) in 2019, he can flash a plus fastball that reaches 98 with difficult angle, a plus changeup with fade and a solid slider.
Yankees: Ken Waldichuk, LHP (No. 5/MLB No. 89)
Waldichuk repeats as the hottest Yankees pitching prospect for the second straight month after permitting just four earned runs in five starts while fanning 39 in 25 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. The 2019 fifth-round pick out of Saint Mary's ranks fourth in the Minors in opponent average (.158) and ninth in ERA (1.43). He misses bats with tremendous shape and carry on a 92-98 mph fastball that he backs up with a sweeping slider and fading changeup.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Gavin Williams, RHP (No. 7)
The 23rd overall pick in the 2021 Draft, Williams has made this list in each of his first two months on the mound in pro ball. The East Carolina product has given up just three earned runs in his last five High-A starts with 38 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings and ranks sixth in the Minors in ERA (1.40) and 10th in opponent average (.167). His best pitch is his fastball, which carries mid-90s velocity deep into games and touches 100 mph, and he also owns a solid changeup.
Royals: Drew Parrish, LHP (No. 27)
Only one Double-A pitcher over the last 30 days has posted an ERA below 1.20. That would be Parrish, who posted a 1.16 mark over five starts for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The 24-year-old southpaw fits the definition of a crafty lefty to a tee. He doesn’t possess a ton of velo but good command and a plus changeup keep hitters from getting comfortable. The Royals promoted Parrish to Triple-A Omaha last Friday, and he left the Texas League with a 2.13 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 48 K’s in 55 frames.
Tigers: Austin Bergner, RHP (No. 28)
The 2019 ninth-rounder out of North Carolina was a solid performer in both starting and relieving roles last year but has settled quite nicely into a rotation spot with Double-A Erie. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has posted a 1.95 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings since the beginning of May, allowing more than one earned run in only one of his six starts in that span. Bergner’s mid-90s fastball and solid slider are the standouts of a four-pitch mix that’s aided his breakout campaign, albeit at 25 years old.
Twins: Steve Hajjar, LHP (No. 20)
The Twins have started slowly with Hajjar, their 2021 second-round pick out of Michigan, by putting him in Single-A Fort Myers. But you have to think he will be on the move soon if he keeps this up. The southpaw posted a 0.82 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP over the past month, striking out 36 in 22 innings. He’s now third in the Florida State League in K’s (57) and would be second in both ERA (2.16) and batting average against (.153) if he had enough innings to qualify.
White Sox: Sean Burke, RHP (No. 12)
A 2021 third-round pick out of Maryland, Burke is staking a claim to being the White Sox' best pitching prospect. Promoted to Double-A in early-May, he has logged a 3.27 ERA with 23 whiffs in 22 innings during his first five starts at that level while displaying a mid-90s fastball with carry and a solid knuckle-curve and slider.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Coleman Crow, RHP (No. 20)
The 21-year-old Crow struggled a bit out of the gate with a move up to Double-A this season, posting a 6.11 ERA in April. He seems to be getting his bearings now, however, with a 1.91 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over his last five starts. In 28 1/3 IP, he struck out 27 and walked just six. He's now in the Southern League top 10 for the season in ERA, WHIP and BAA.
Astros: Hunter Brown, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 98)
Another repeater from our hottest pitchers list last month, Brown has a 2.57 ERA with 26 strikeouts in his last 21 innings and leads the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in opponent average (.197) and strikeout rate (12.3 per nine innings) while ranking third in ERA (2.45) and fourth in strikeouts (60 in 44 innings). The 2019 fifth-round choice from NCAA Division II Wayne State (Mich.) dodges barrels with a mid-90s fastball that reaches 99 mph, a power curveball with tremendous depth and a hard slider.
A’s: Jeff Criswell, RHP (No. 18)
Criswell missed nearly all of his first full season in 2021, though he did make up for some lost time by pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Back in High-A to start the 2022 season, the former Michigan standout has been very solid of late, with a 2.88 ERA and 37 strikeouts over his last 25 innings. His last start on May 31st was his most dominant, with 11 K's in 5 1/3 innings. This recent surge has helped him move into the top ten in the Midwest league with his .184 BAA.
Mariners: Tyler Dollard, RHP (No. 14)
The 2021 season was the first full one Dollard ever spent as a starter, having largely served as a reliever at Cal Poly before moving into the rotation in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Mariners fifth-round pick clearly learned some lessons from his in-season promotion a year ago and has been very effective as a starter in Double-A this year. His 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over his last five starts have actually raised his season ERA to 0.95 and his WHIP to 0.89. He currently leads the Texas League in ERA and is second in both WHIP and BAA (.188).
Rangers: Cole Ragans, LHP (No. 29)
After making the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in 2021 while returning from his second Tommy John surgery, Ragans has made this list twice in two months and been the best performer in a prospect-laden Double-A Tulsa rotation. The 2016 first-rounder from a Florida high school has a 3.33 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 27 innings over his last five starts and ranks fourth in the Texas League in ERA (3.20) and whiffs (56 in 45 innings). His best pitch is a plus changeup with fade that he sets up with a low-90s fastball.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Andrew Hoffman, RHP (No. 24)
The Braves may have found a bargain in the 12th round of the 2021 Draft in Hoffman, a product of the University of Illinois and a participant in the first year of Major League Baseball's Draft League. He's enjoying a productive first full season of pro ball in High A, with a 2.82 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 51 innings. Hoffman seems to be really getting comfortable, posting a 2.00 ERA with 32 strikeouts over his last 27 innings.
Mets: Mike Vasil, RHP (No. 21)
The 2021 eighth-rounder showed improved velocity almost from the jump after joining the Mets' system, and he proved quickly to be too advanced for his Single-A St. Lucie assignment this spring. Vasil allowed only one earned run over his final five FSL starts (24 innings, 0.38 ERA), striking out 27 in that time, and earned a promotion to High-A Brooklyn just before May was up. His Cyclones debut was a little rocky, but he rebounded nicely on Saturday with two earned runs on three hits and one walk while striking out seven in five frames. His 2.66 ERA, 2.57 FIP and 1.00 WHIP are all the lowest among Mets full-season qualifiers.
Marlins: Eury Pérez, RHP (No. 3/MLB No. 33)
The youngest pitcher in Double-A (age 19), Perez got knocked around in his first three starts at that level but has been untouchable since, including giving up four runs in his last three starts with twice as many strikeouts (20) as baserunners (10) in 15 1/3 innings. Signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, he now has a mid-90s fastball, a dastardly changeup and a downer curveball, and he paces the Southern League in strikeout rate (13.3) and K/BB ratio (6.2).
Nationals: Cole Henry, RHP (No. 3)
Henry has made eight starts between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Rochester. He hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of them. Mind you, the 22-year-old right-hander has been limited in terms of innings after injury concerns in 2020 and 2021. He’s pitched more than five frames only once, and that came in his Rochester debut on Sunday (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K). But on a rate basis, he’s been as effective as anyone in Minor League Baseball with his 0.63 ERA and 0.63 WHIP through 28 2/3 innings on the season. Henry’s three above-average pitches (fastball, curve, change) should hold up as the summer goes along and he goes deeper into games.
Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (No. 1/MLB No. 72)
While he wasn't quite as dominant as he was in the opening month of the season that put him on our first hottest pitching prospects list, Painter was still pretty darn good. The 2021 first rounder had a 2.38 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over his last five starts, striking out 33 in 22 2/3 IP. The Phillies clearly saw enough, moving him up to High-A for a stiffer challenge.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Cam Robinson, RHP (No. 26)
Many know about Josh Hader’s incredible run out of the Milwaukee bullpen. How about Robinson’s hot stretch of relief three levels lower? The 22-year-old right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in his last 11 appearances (18 innings) for High-A Wisconsin while striking out 23 and walking only six in that span. He has earned eight saves in those 11 appearances and now leads all Minor Leaguers with 11 saves on the season as a whole. Robinson sports an above-average fastball and curveball and has shown enough improvement with his control to keep getting these high-leverage opportunities.
Cardinals: Gordon Graceffo, RHP (No. 22)
Few pitchers in Minor League Baseball have the same helium as 2021 fifth-rounder Graceffo. The Villanova product posted a 1.13 ERA with 26 strikeouts and only three walks in 24 innings in May for High-A Peoria, leading to a promotion to Double-A on May 24. His Springfield debut went swimmingly (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) while his second start was more of a step back (2 2/3 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), but Graceffo’s velocity gains, above-average changeup and good slider should help steady the ship swiftly in the Texas League.
Cubs: DJ Herz, LHP (No. 9)
Also the Cubs' most dominant pitching prospect in the first month of the season, Herz has held opponents to a .100 batting average while posting a 1.77 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings during his last five starts in High-A. A North Carolina prepster signed for an over-slot $500,000 in 2019's eighth round, he has used a mid-90s fastball, wicked changeup and spike curveball to log a 1.45 ERA with a .120 opponent average and 53 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings this season.
Pirates: Mike Burrows, RHP (No. 11)
Burrows broke out of the gate in his Double-A debut and appeared on this list last month, and he really hasn't let up, posting a 3.13 ERA and 28 K’s over his last 22 IP. His 2.36 ERA for the year places him third in the Eastern League, and the 22-year old has held batters to just a .193 average, good for fourth in the circuit.
Reds: Connor Phillips, RHP (No. 13)
The player to be named later in the Jesse Winker deal, Phillips has been lights out, especially of late, for his new organization. The 21-year-old right-hander posted a 1.86 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over his last five starts, striking out 41 in 29 innings of work. He currently tops the Midwest league with 72 strikeouts for the season and he is in the top 10 for ERA (2.57), BAA (.163) and WHIP (1.00).
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Luke Albright, RHP (No. 26)
A sixth-round pick out of Kent State last July, Albright lacks the flash of bigger names in the Arizona system, but he’s carving out a name for himself with his impressive early results in his first full season. Playing for High-A Hillsboro, the 6-foot-4 right-hander owns a 2.35 ERA and 1.00 WHIP and has struck out 20 over 23 innings in the last 30 days. He’s the only ranked Arizona prospect with an ERA below 3.00 in that span. He possesses two above-average off-speed pitches in his curve and change, and major improvements in control have helped aid this run of results in the Northwest League.
Dodgers: Gavin Stone, RHP (No. 18)
The second-to-last pick (fifth round) in the shortened 2020 Draft, Stone ranks second in the Minors with a 1.10 ERA and has permitted just two earned runs in his last four starts while striking out 30 in 21 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. The Central Arkansas product has a mid-90s fastball with good carry, flashes a plus changeup and also employs a hard slider/cutter.
Giants: Ryan Murphy, RHP (No. 11)
Murphy missed the first month of the season with back issues but has pitched well since in High-A, recording a 3.38 ERA, .190 opponent average and 27 strikeouts in 16 innings. A 2020 fifth-round pick from NCAA Division II Le Moyne, he ranked third in the Minors with 164 whiffs last season, a result of stuff (headlined by a 91-95 mph fastball with carry and a low-80s slider with depth) and advanced command.
Padres: Alek Jacob, RHP (not ranked among Top 30)
It’s been a rough stretch for ranked Padres pitching prospects, so we’ll go outside the Top 30 here. Jacob was a four-year pitcher at Gonzaga before going to the Padres in the 16th round in 2021. Less than one year later, the 6-foot-3 right-handed reliever has already jumped to Double-A San Antonio, after opening the season with 16 strikeouts over nine scoreless innings at High-A. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last five appearances for the Missions, striking out eight over eight frames in that time thanks to a difficult-to-face low arm slot.
Rockies: McCade Brown, RHP (No. 29)
The Rockies took Brown in the third round of the 2021 Draft after a solid season in Illinois’ rotation after not pitching much over his first two years because of injury and the shutdown. He's being brought along slowly, but it looks like he might be getting his feet under him with Fresno. Over his last four starts, the 6-foot-6 Brown has struck out 30 and walked just five over 19 2/3 innings. In his most recent start on June 2nd, he gave up just one unearned run and struck out seven in five innings.