One year does not make a career, and we’ve all seen players bounce back from down years to have big seasons and beyond. Conversely, prospects who have one big season don’t always continue on an upward trajectory.
It is true that many who appeared on last year’s list of pitching prospects who boosted their stock have indeed gone on to bigger and better things, with right-handers Chris Paddack of the Padres and Mike Soroka of the Braves the shining examples.
These 15 hitting prospects boosted their stock
Who from the list below will use their strong 2019 campaigns as a catapult to sustained big league success remains to be seen. But they definitely have used this season to make a significant jump up prospect rankings.
Nate Pearson, RHP, Blue Jays No. 1/MLB No. 13 (Preseason: 39)
Pearson’s first full season in 2018 was over almost before it started after an arm fracture from a line drive forced him out of his first outing. He did return to throw very well in the Arizona Fall League, and he kept going in 2019 as he pitched across three levels and finished with a sparkling 2.30 ERA, .176 batting average against and a 10.5 K/9 rate while walking just 2.4 per nine.
Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers No. 2/MLB No. 26 (Preseason: 30)
We always knew Manning had upside thanks to his stuff and athletics. He really put it all together in the Double-A Eastern League in 2019. He finished second in the league with 148 strikeouts (10.0 per nine versus 2.6 BB/9), second in WHIP (0.98) and third in ERA (2.56), all while limiting hitters to a .192 batting average.
Luis Patino, RHP, Padres No. 3/MLB No. 30 (Preseason: 38)
Patino was on this list a year ago, when he really popped up during his full-season debut. But anyone who saw his electric stuff in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game this year knows why he’s on the list again. He also managed to pitch his way up to Double-A, still as a teenager, finishing with a 2.57 ERA, .198 BAA and an 11.7 K/9 rate.
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles No. 2/MLB No. 44 (Preseason: 51)
Unranked at the start of the season, Rodriguez is now squarely in the Top 50 after a first full season that showed he was worthy of being the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. The 19-year-old was outstanding in the Futures Game and struck out 12.4 per nine while holding South Atlantic League hitters to a .171 batting average against.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Mariners No. 2/MLB No. 48 (Preseason: 66)
The Mariners started their 2018 first-round pick out slowly, sending him to the South Atlantic League, but he showed quickly that he was more than just a pitchability college guy and that his stuff was getting better. He finished the year two levels up higher, in Double-A, with a combined 2.13 ERA, .198 BAA, 11 K/9 and just 2.2 BB/9, all while being poised to impact the big league rotation in 2020.
Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers No. 2/MLB No. 32 (Preseason: 49)
Another repeat on this “boosted stock” list, May just kept getting better and better in 2019, going from Double- to Triple-A and up to the big leagues before his 22nd birthday. The Futures Gamer had a combined 3.38 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning and just 29 walks in 106 2/3 IP before making a contribution to the Dodgers’ playoff push.
DL Hall, LHP, Orioles No. 3/MLB No. 60 (Preseason: 64)
While he still needs to work on his command, Hall showed his plus stuff from the left side worked just fine in his second full season of pro ball before a lat injury shelved him in early August. Carolina League hitters managed just a .189 BAA, and he struck out 12.9 per nine to give the O’s a second pitcher on this list.
Deivi Garcia, RHP, Yankees No. 1/MLB No. 62 (Preseason: 59)
The undersized right-hander began the year in the Florida State League, but got bumped up to Double-A before his 20th birthday. After 11 starts along with a Futures Game and Eastern League All-Star nod, he earned one more promotion to Triple-A. Despite a couple of rough outings in that last stop, he still struck out a combined 13.3 per nine while topping 100 (111 1/3) for the first time in his career.
Daniel Lynch, LHP, Royals No. 3/MLB No. 72 (Preseason: 68)
After Lynch had a very strong pro debut in the summer of 2018, the only thing that slowed him down was a minor arm issue that shelved him for over a month. He was very effective in the Carolina League when healthy and finished with a combined 2.99 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. He could further boost himself with a strong AFL showing.
Jordan Balazovic, RHP, Twins No. 4/MLB No. 78 (Preseason: 97)
Balazovic not only pitched his way onto the Top 100, he vaulted from a No. 19 preseason spot on the Twins’ Top 30 to his current placement. Another Futures Gamer in this group, the Canadian right-hander was dominant across two levels of A ball at age 20, finishing with a combined 2.69 ERA, .193 BAA and 12.4 K/9 rate (versus just 2.4 BB/9).
Shane Baz, RHP, Rays No. 6/MLB No. 92 (Preseason: 90)
The Rays didn’t send Baz out to full-season Bowling Green until early May to monitor his innings, but once he got there, he was pretty dominant outside of a lull in late June and July. He finished with a 1.61 ERA in August to show he had plenty left in the tank and had a 2.99 ERA and .213 BAA in 81 1/3 IP overall. Facing more advanced hitters in the AFL will be a fun challenge to watch.
Tarik Skubal, LHP, Tigers No. 4/MLB No. 97 (Preseason: NR)
Because of Tommy John surgery that cost him nearly two years at the University of Seattle, and an uneven year in 2018 after that, Skubal was a wild card in that June’s Draft. The Tigers rolled the dice in the ninth round, and he put any issues from his college days quickly behind him. Skubal pitched his way to Double-A in his first full season, struck out 13.1 per nine (2.7 BB/9) and held hitters to a .196 batting average over 122 2/3 IP.
Josiah Gray, RHP, Dodgers No. 4/MLB No. 99 (Preseason: NR)
The trade of Yasiel Puig et al to the Reds in December keeps paying dividends, with infielder Jeter Downs having a huge year, and Gray, a 2018 draftee from the D-II ranks, following suit on the mound. No. 18 on the Dodgers' preseason list, Gray pitched his way across three levels, from A to Double-A, and finished with a 2.28 ERA, .207 BAA and 10.2 K/9 rate (2.1 BB/9).
Edward Cabrera, RHP, Marlins No. 7/MLB No. 100 (Preseason: NR)
The Marlins system has improved not only because of trades and recent drafts, but because of the development of players like Cabrera, who signed back in 2015. He’s been handled carefully workload-wise, but he managed to pitch his way to Double-A at age 21, posting a 2.23 combined ERA to go along with a .190 BAA and 10.8 K/9 rate (2.9 BB/9).
Spencer Howard, RHP, Phillies No. 4 (Preseason: NR)
If not for a shoulder issue that kept him off the mound for nearly two months, Howard would likely be even more on the prospect radar. Once he came back, he made a beeline up the ladder and was very impressive with Double-A Reading. While he logged just 71 innings -- he’ll make up for some of the in the AF -- he did strike out 94 (11.9 per nine) while walking just 16 (2.0 per nine) and held hitters to a .173 batting average.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.