Each team's youngest top pitching prospect
A week ago, we featured the youngest hitters ranked among each organization’s Top 30 prospects. Now it’s time to shine a light on the mound.
While the hitting group was stacked largely with international signees, this crop of young pitchers is much different. A total of 25 of the 30 arms listed below came to the pro game via the Draft.
Blue Jays: Irv Carter, RHP (19 years old) (No. 15)
Carter was a classic example of why it can be important to pay more attention to the signing bonus than the Draft spot. The 6-foot-4 right-hander, who turned 19 in October, slid to the fifth round back in July but signed with the Blue Jays for $850,000, the club’s second-highest bonus of the 2021 process. Carter earns above-average grades for his low-to-mid-90s fastball and low-80s slider, and there could be more in the tank as he matures.
Orioles: Carter Baumler, RHP (19 years old) (No. 27)
The Orioles saved money when they took Heston Kjerstad No. 2 overall in the shortened 2020 Draft and that allowed them to go over slot to sign Baumler for $1.5 million in the fifth round. The Iowa high school standout showed glimpses of excellent stuff at instructs that fall before blowing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery, so the organization will get its first real look at him in competition in 2022.
Rays: Nick Bitsko, RHP (19 years old) (No. 12)
Bitsko was always going to be a long-road pick for the Rays, who took him 24th overall in 2020 after he reclassified to enter the Draft a year early. That road added a few miles when the 6-foot-4 right-hander underwent shoulder surgery last winter. Bitsko still has yet to throw a pitch in a pro game, but before the injury, he showed a mid-90s fastball, plus curveball and average slider and change. He still won’t enter his 20s until June 16 next year, so time very much remains on his side.
Red Sox: Wilkelman Gonzalez, RHP (19 years old) (No. 14)
Signed for $250,000 back in 2018, Gonzalez has added about 10 mph to his fastball over the past couple seasons. The 19-year-old now sits in the low- to mid 90s and has a pair of secondary pitches that can be solid to plus in time. While consistency with his pitches is a work in progress, Gonzalez has shown an ability to throw strikes and posted a 2.91 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 16 walks over 52 2/3 innings.
Yankees: Brock Selvidge, LHP (19 years old) (No. 17)
One of the top performers from the inaugural MLB Draft Combine, Selvidge was picked in the third round of the 2021 Draft. The Yankees prospect sits in the low 90s with his fastball and is also armed with a changeup and a sharp low-80s slider. Selvidge, a southpaw, struggled a bit with command in his professional debut, though his clean delivery provides confidence that he’ll possess at least average control once he’s fully developed.
Guardians: Daniel Espino, RHP (20 years old) (No. 5)
A first-round pick (24th overall) from the 2019 Draft, Espino can touch triple digits with his fastball and also possesses quality breaking balls in his low-80s slider and high-70s curveball. Espino’s stuff helped him generate 152 strikeouts over 91 2/3 innings in his first full season (2021), though the 20-year-old does sometimes struggle with control and command.
Royals: Frank Mozzicato, LHP (18 years old) (No. 7)
Kansas City shocked many in the industry by taking the Connecticut southpaw/MLB Pipeline’s No. 39 Draft prospect at No. 7 overall last July. The Royals signed him for well below slot at $3.55 million, but the move wasn’t all about the savings. The club was intrigued by Mozzicato’s plus curveball (easily his best pitch right now), and it believes he’ll add more velocity after topping out around 93. Lest anyone forget: Mozzicato threw four straight no-hitters for East Catholic last spring.
Tigers: Jackson Jobe, RHP (19 years old) (No. 3, MLB No. 46)
In a Draft light on prep pitching, Jobe stood head and shoulders above his peers in the 2021 class, and that was reflected in his spot at No. 3 to Detroit and $6.9 million signing bonus (second-highest in the entire Draft). Jobe’s four-pitch mix receives above-average to plus-plus grades, headlined by a high-spin slider that has a chance to be elite. He also touches 96 with his fastball and gets good spin rates on that as well. Following the graduations of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning, Jobe instantly became the face of pitching in the Tigers system.
Twins: Chase Petty, RHP (18 years old) (No. 7)
The Twins took the New Jersey prep product No. 26 overall in last July’s Draft and he got his professional feet wet with five innings in the Florida Complex League. He can touch triple digits and sit in the upper-90s with his fastball, throwing it with plus life, and he complements it with a plus slider. His changeup is behind, but he has some feel for it, and while he’s not that big, he’s athletic and can throw strikes, though the effort in his delivery had some amateur scouts worried.
White Sox: Tanner McDougal, RHP (18 years old) (No. 16)
After an impressive showing on the showcase circuit and notable performances at the inaugural MLB Draft Combine, the White Sox selected McDougal in the fifth round of the 2021 Draft. The son of former pro pitcher Mike McDougal, Tanner touches 96 mph with his fastball and also throws both a slider and curveball. He will need to improve upon his consistency and command, though his development will be put on hold a bit as he recently underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the 2022 season.
Angels: Alejandro Hidalgo, RHP (18 years old) (No. 18)
Hidalgo signed with the Angels for just $30,000 at the start of the 2019-20 international signing period and made a strong first impression last fall at instructs. The 6-foot-1 made his United States debut in 2021 in the Arizona Complex League, using his advanced feel for three pitches to miss bats (10.3 K/9) over 27 innings.
Astros: Alex Santos, RHP (19 years old) (No. 8)
Using a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that flashes plus, Santos pitched to a 3.46 ERA with 48 strikeouts over 41 2/3 innings with Low-A Fayetteville in his 2021 professional debut. The 72nd pick from the 2020 Draft, Santos is regarded as one of the best high schools arms to come out of the New York City area in recent memory. With an athletic frame, it seems to be a safe bet that Santos will remain a starter long term.
A’s: Grant Holman, RHP (21 years old) (No. 17)
A two-way player for two years at California, Holman showed off electric stuff at times as a pitcher only in 2021, landing him in the sixth round of last summer’s Draft. The right-hander has the chance to have a legitimate four-pitch mix coming from a strong and durable 6-foot-6 frame and he got the opportunity to test the pro waters with 15 innings in Low-A ball after signing.
Mariners: Juan Pinto, LHP (17 years old) (No. 30)
The Mariners were very busy at the start of the delayed 2020-21 international signing period, handing out eight bonuses of six figures or higher. Pinto received the highest bonus of any pitcher the organization signed, getting $700,000. He’s a projectable southpaw with a frame that’s going to add strength easily, pointing to a lot more in the tank with his three-pitch mix. He’s yet to throw his first competitive professional pitch.
Rangers: Tekoah Roby, RHP (20 years old) (No. 24)
Selected in the third round of the 2020 Draft, Roby flashed three plus pitches in instructional league last summer and began his professional career this year with Low-A Down East. The Florida prep product posted a 2.45 ERA and struck out 35 over 22 innings in his debut.
Braves: AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP (19 years old) (No. 18)
The Braves took Smith-Shawver in the seventh round of the 2021 Draft, but they had to go well over slot to sign him away from playing football and baseball at Texas Tech with a $997,500 bonus. He didn’t pitch a ton as an amateur, so he’s raw on the mound, but he has a strong and athletic 6-foot-3 frame, a fastball that touches 95 mph now and a rapidly-improving curve. Adding a changeup will be an early order of business.
Marlins: Eury Perez, RHP (18 years old) (No. 6)
Signed for $200,000 in July 2019, Perez has seen his stock skyrocket since joining the Marlins organization. The teenager has grown four inches and added 45 pounds since signing and pitched to a 1.96 ERA over 78 innings in his professional debut. Perez struck out 108 batters across two levels of A ball last season and touched 97 mph with his fastball. The Dominican Republic native, who also throws a curveball and changeup, is full of projection as he continues to grow and mature both physically and mentally.
Mets: Calvin Ziegler, RHP (19 years old) (No. 13)
Ziegler only turned 19 on Oct. 3, yet he was Draft-eligible in each of the last two summers. After getting unselected in 2020, the Ontario native was taken in the second round this July on the strength of what he showed at a Florida academy. That included a mid-90s fastball, quality breaking pitch and changeup that can flash at least average. There are some concerns about his ability to throw strikes consistently, but the Mets will give him plenty of runway to iron those out.
Nationals: Andry Lara, RHP (18 years old) (No. 4)
Washington signed Lara for $1.25 million in July 2019, and in the two years since, the 6-foot-4 hurler, who turns 19 on Jan. 6, has fit comfortably within the system’s strength that is right-handed starting pitching. Lara sits in the mid-90s with his velocity and shows an above-average curveball. He moved stateside this past season and posted a 4.66 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings in the Florida Complex League and at Low-A Fredericksburg.
Phillies: Andrew Painter, RHP (18 years old) (No. 3)
The Phillies took high school right-handers with their first-round pick two years in a row, taking top prospect Mick Abel in 2020 and Painter in 2021. The Florida prep standout tossed six shutout innings and struck out 12 during his brief pro debut and has an exciting four-pitch mix all coming from a 6-foot-7 frame. He’s athletic and repeats his delivery well despite his size.
Brewers: Logan Henderson, RHP (19 years old) (No. 19)
You don’t see many teenagers with true plus changeups. Henderson fits the bill. The 19-year-old righty used the change to great effect at McLennan (Texas) CC, where he won a Junior College World Series last spring. He posted a 1.66 ERA with 169 strikeouts over 97 2/3 innings on route to the title, and the Brewers liked enough of what they saw to take him in the fourth round. Henderson’s fastball and curveball only earn average grades, and he doesn’t have a lot of projectability at 5-foot-11. It’ll be on the changeup to push his climb in the Milwaukee system, barring other improvements.
Cardinals: Alec Willis, RHP (18 years old) (No. 22)
Ulnar nerve decompression surgery from 2020 delayed Willis’ ability to pop up on radars, but he did so enough this spring to get a $1 million signing bonus from St. Louis as a seventh-round pick. Standing at 6-foot-5, the 18-year-old right-hander has plenty of projection remaining and could show more velocity than his present 90-94 mph heaters in time. His curveball and changeup are decent enough secondaries as well. Willis just needs more opportunities to pitch and allow the stuff to tick up with experience.
Cubs: DJ Herz, LHP (20 years old) (No. 13)
Herz pitched to a 3.31 ERA with 131 strikeouts over 81 2/3 innings across two level of A ball in his first full season. The southpaw is gaining feel for a changeup, but typically operates with a mid 90s fastball and a low-80s slider. While the 2021 season was Herz’s first full year as a professional, he’s been in the Cubs system for a bit as he was picked in the eighth round of the 2019 Draft.
Pirates: Anthony Solometo, LHP (19 years old) (No. 7)
After taking Henry Davis No. 1 overall in the 2021 Draft, the Pirates aggressively went after high-end high school talent with their next three selections. Outfielder Lonnie White was the youngest hitter featured last week and Solometo, the southpaw with an exciting three-pitch mix, funky delivery and projection, is about three months younger than Bubba Chandler, who was taken in the round right after Solometo.
Reds: Lyon Richardson, RHP (21 years old) (No. 13)
Richardson is the oldest player on the list, one who will be 22 for all of the 2022 season. Taken out of high school back in 2018, Richardson’s stuff ticked up during the shutdown and he’s capable of throwing his fastball in the mid-90s and will show signs of both a curve and a slider, as well as a changeup, though he’s been inconsistent results-wise.
D-backs: Jacob Steinmetz, RHP (No. 25)
Steinmetz made headlines as one of two Orthodox Jewish players selected in this year’s Draft when he was taken in the third round by the D-backs, just ahead of his 18th birthday in July. A Long Island native, he pitched for a southeast Florida program this spring and showed an above-average fastball and 55-grade curve, leading to his climb up Draft boards. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has the capacity to grow into more stuff, and controlling that arsenal should be a focus in the Arizona system.
Dodgers: Peter Heubeck, RHP (19 years old) (No. 24)
Gatorade’s 2021 Maryland high school player of the year, Heubeck signed with the Dodgers for an over-slot $1,269,500 and immediately showed impressive stuff in his short professional debut. A four-inning sample size isn’t much, but nevertheless Heubeck fanned nine and gave up just one hit. The right-hander sits in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball, though his best pitch is an upper-70s 12-6 curveball.
Giants: Eric Silva, RHP (19 years old) (No. 22)
A fourth-round pick from the 2021 Draft, Silva has thrown just two innings in pro ball. The 19-year-old sits in the mid 90s with his fastball, though he tops out at 97 mph. He also throws a solid breaking ball and is working on a fading changeup. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Silva isn’t the biggest prospect out there, but his arm speed and athleticism give the Giants confidence he’ll remain a starter long term.
Padres: Victor Lizarraga, RHP (18 years old) (No. 18)
San Diego indicated how highly it thinks of Lizarraga by sending the Mexico native stateside to the Arizona Complex League before he turned 18 in November. He made 11 starts in Rookie ball, posting a 5.10 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 30 frames while getting his feet wet. Lizarraga typically sits more in the low-90s for now but has the frame at 6-foot-3 to develop into more heat. His curveball and change have every chance to keep him in a starting role for years to come.
Rockies: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (21 years old) (No. 14)
Signed back in 2016 for just $77,000, Olivarez stood out as the youngest player at the Rockies’ alternate site in 2020 and he did strike out 10.1 per nine during his full-season debut in High-A ball in 2021. He has an exciting fastball-curve-changeup repertoire, though he struggled with his command last year, walking 6.1 per nine.