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It’s prospect ranking season!
The countdown to the release of the Top 100 list officially begins, as it has for the past few seasons, with the Top 10 right-handed pitching prospects list.
Not surprisingly, the RHP list is a deep one and there will undoubtedly be many more than 10 righties on that Top 100 list, which goes live on Jan. 27, in conjunction with the MLB Network special at 8 p.m. ET (also streaming on MLB.com). The list starts with the player everyone is curious to see in action, the Angels’ two-way star Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani was added to the 2017 Top 10 RHP list when he signed with the Angels. There are two newcomers to the list compared to the end of 2017.
1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
2. Forrest Whitley, Astros More »
3. Michael Kopech, White Sox More »
4. Brent Honeywell, Rays More »
5. Walker Buehler, Dodgers More »
6. Mitch Keller, Pirates More »
7. Alex Reyes, Cardinals More »
8. Hunter Greene, Reds More »
9. Triston McKenzie, Indians More »
10. Sixto Sanchez, Phillies More »
Fastball: 80 – Ohtani, Kopech, Greene
All three get top-of-the-scale grades for their heaters, with the ability to crack triple-digits. Kopech’s might be a slight shade behind the other two solely because they have better command.
Curveball: 65 – Whitley, Buehler
Both have nasty breaking stuff, with the ability to throw both a curve and a slider. The curve is a true out pitch for both right-handers, power breaking balls with excellent depth and spin.
Slider: 65 – Ohtani, Kopech
These two again. Both offer plus power sliders, though both have also shown some inconsistencies with the pitch. It’s on more often than not, and projects to be a swing-and-miss offering for each of them.
Changeup: 60 – Honeywell
This is one of Honeywell’s five pitches he chooses from in any given start, and it’s a beauty of an offspeed pitch. It can miss bats as well as generate weak contact.
Other: 65 – Ohtani (splitter), Honeywell (screwball)
The splitter is a popular pitch in Japan and Ohtani’s is nasty, a low-90s pitch that dives out of the strike zone. Honeywell doesn’t throw the screwball, a very uncommon offering, frequently, but when he does, it’s unhittable.
Control: 60 – Honeywell, Keller, Sanchez
Honeywell, Keller and Sanchez all have plus control, and Keller was pinpoint especially in the Arizona Fall League, but it’s hard to look past Honeywell’s career 2.0 BB/9 rate (Keller is at 2.4).
Highest Ceiling – Ohtani
There is some serious upside on the list, making it a little tough to pick just one. But Ohtani comes to the States with three pitches that get a 65 or higher on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. That’s hard to beat.
Highest floor – Keller
Typically highest floor, or who has the highest likelihood of reaching his potential, goes to an advanced college type. But Keller’s stuff to go along with his outstanding command and size makes him the safest bet to meet expectations.
Rookie of the Year candidate – Ohtani
Honeywell, Buehler and Reyes were other guys on this list who seem certain to make big contributions in the big leagues this year, but how can anyone other than Ohtani be the choice for most likely to contend for Rookie of the Year honors?
Highest riser – Whitley
The Astros’ first-round pick in 2016 wasn’t on the top 10 RHP list in 2017. After pitching across three levels and reaching Double-A as a teenager in his first full year, the 6-foot-7 right-hander has jumped all the way up to No. 2 on the list.
Humblest beginnings – Honeywell
Honeywell was pitching at Walters State Community College in 2014 and wasn’t even on MLB.com’s Top 200 Draft prospects list. He went No. 72 overall in the Competitive Balance Round B and signed for $800,000, the smallest bonus of any of the right-handers on this list.
Most to prove – Reyes
Maybe an argument could be made that Ohtani belongs in this slot as well, but Reyes’ return from Tommy John surgery will be important as the Cardinals try to get back to the top of the NL Central.
Keep an eye on – Matt Manning, Tigers
Manning, the Tigers’ first-round pick in 2016, has just five starts in full-season ball, so he clearly has a ways to go. But the 6-foot-6 former basketball standout has a ton of ceiling and a strong full season in 2018 could see him climb onto this list.