Baseball's 10 best left-handed pitching prospects are coming to big league ballparks soon. Very soon.
Brendan McKay (Rays) already made his big league debut in 2019 before getting sidelined last year with shoulder issues, and Tarik Skubal (Tigers), Garrett Crochet (White Sox) and Brailyn Marquez (Cubs) all appeared in the Majors in 2020. MacKenzie Gore (Padres), Daniel Lynch (Royals) and Nick Lodolo (Reds) look like locks to break in this year, and it's not out of the question that Asa Lacy (Royals), Matthew Liberatore (Cardinals) and DL Hall (Orioles) could do so as well.
There's little turnover from last year's southpaw Top 10. Early 2020 first-round picks Lacy and Crochet replace a pair of Athletics, Jesús Luzardo (graduation) and A.J. Puk (shoulder surgery).
The Top 10 (ETA)
- MacKenzie Gore, Padres (2021)
- Tarik Skubal, Tigers (2021)
- Daniel Lynch, Royals (2021)
- Asa Lacy, Royals (2022)
- Matthew Liberatore, Cardinals (2021)
- Garrett Crochet, White Sox (2021)
- Nick Lodolo, Reds (2021)
- Brailyn Marquez, Cubs (2021)
- DL Hall, Orioles (2022)
- Brendan McKay, Rays (2021)
Complete List »
Fastball: Crochet, Marquez (80)
Both Chicago teams have a rare left-hander with a top-of-the-scale fastball. Crochet went straight from the University of Tennessee to the Majors and averaged 100.1 mph during six scoreless relief innings, and he also generates high spin rates on his heater. Marquez's velocity has increased steadily since he received the largest bonus ($600,000) of any left-hander in the 2015 international class, and he has reached 102 mph.
Curveball: Liberatore (60)
The top high school pitching prospect in the 2018 Draft, Liberatore is extremely advanced for a 21-year-old pitcher. That includes his feel for spin, which produces an upper-70s curveball with exquisite depth, as well as his ability to locate it and the confidence to throw it in any count.
Slider: Gore, Skubal, Lynch, Lacy, Crochet (60)
Half or our Top 10 left-handers possess a plus slider, and perhaps the best of that group belong to the 2020 draftees, Lacy and Crochet. Lacy's mid-80s slider got harder and sharper during the spring at Texas A&M, while Crochet has similar velocity and uses his long arms to create difficult angle.
Changeup: Gore, Lacy (60)
Lacy's changeup was his best weapon in high school, featuring fade and sink and deception, and can become even better if he uses it more often. Gore's change has heavy sink and he mixes it well with his four-pitch repertoire.
Other Pitch: McKay (60)
McKay's curveball was his out pitch when he starred in college at Louisville, but now his cut fastball may be his best secondary offering. He developed the upper-80s cutter after signing for $7,005,000 as the fourth pick in the 2017 Draft, initially using it as another option against left-handers.
Control: Gore, Lodolo, McKay (60)
All three of these lefties pound the strike zone, and Lodolo was especially impressive in his pro debut in 2019, when he was the first pitcher selected (seventh overall) in the Draft. He didn't issue a single walk and struck out 30 in 18 1/3 innings between Rookie ball and low Class A.
Highest ceiling: Gore
The best pitching prospect in baseball, Gore didn't arrive in the Majors as expected in 2020 because his mechanics got out of sync. But he still has front-of-the-rotation upside with the potential for four plus pitches and control to match, not to mention a deceptive delivery.
Highest floor: Lodolo
Though Lodolo has the most ho-hum stuff among the Top 10 lefties, he still has three solid pitches and can put them wherever he wants. A good bet to be at least a No. 4 or 5 starter, he has just 18 1/3 innings of pro experience but shouldn't need much more time in the Minors.
Rookie of the Year candidate: Skubal
Skubal's 5.63 ERA in eight appearances with the Tigers was misleading. He posted an impressive 37/11 K/BB ratio in 32 innings, showing the ability to miss bats with his fastball, slider and changeup, and will have move success once he reclaims the command he demonstrated in the Minors.
Highest riser: Crochet
After his sophomore season at Tennessee, Crochet projected as a second- or third-round pick in the 2021 Draft. Then his stuff took a massive leap during fall practice and he became the first player to make his pro debut in the Majors since Mike Leake in 2010. The White Sox have him on the same path as Chris Sale, bringing him to Chicago as a reliever but envisioning him as an eventual starter.
Humblest beginning: Skubal
Skubal had Tommy John surgery as a Seattle University sophomore in 2016, sat out the next season and had trouble throwing strikes when he came back in the spring of 2018. That enabled the Tigers to steal him with a ninth-round pick and a $350,000 bonus. The eight other American pitchers on the Top 10 were all first-round choices.
Most to prove: McKay
The best two-way prospect since Dave Winfield, McKay reached Tampa Bay during his second full pro season but didn't take the mound in his third, which ended with surgery to repair a torn labrum last August. It's unclear when he'll return to the mound and if the Rays will have him focus strictly on pitching when he does.
Keep an eye on: Reid Detmers, Angels
Taken 10th overall last June -- one pick ahead of Crochet -- Detmers should be one of the first 2020 draftees to advance to the Majors. He's similar to fellow former Louisville star McKay at the same stage of their careers, working with three pitches, a plus curveball and advanced command.