Adam Foster


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Top young arms: Part 2

Friday, March 30, 2012

Elite prospects who don't dominate out of the gates can fall off the radar. But there's a learning curve with any young ball player. I call the first year or two of learning in the big leagues Prospect Purgatory. There's a wide range of potential outcomes, and patience is paramount. Utilizing the qualification criteria listed below, this article is aimed at projecting how some of today's young, coveted arms will perform. And check out Top Young Arms: Part 1.

Qualification Criteria
1. Age 23 or younger
2. Less than 125 career MLB innings pitched
3. Upside is as an above-average MLB starting pitcher
4. Has already pitched in the big leagues

For a look at my top 100 prospects, player rankings, projections and more, get Rotoworld's Draft Guide.

Henderson Alvarez, RHP, TOR
Age: 21

A sinker baller with outstanding command, Alvarez sits in the mid-90s with elite, elite...ELITE downward movement. His slider was no better than average in 2011, but it could quickly become average and maybe better. Though he doesn’t command it as well as his fastball, it flashes big, sharp break. His changeup is a swing-and-miss offering. Athletic, he hides the ball well and works quickly with a good tempo.

Prediction: Alvarez SHOULD emerge as a top-of-the-rotation starter, so long as he can stay healthy. He could pitch like a No. 2 in 2012 and turn into one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball by 2013. It’s big, big upside.

Jordan Lyles, RHP, HOU
Age: 21

A strike-thrower, Lyles works up in the zone with a high-80s-to-low-90s fastball that has solid, late life. His curveball can be a strikeout pitch. Lyles is tall, athletic and able to repeat his delivery well, though he doesn’t offer much deception. He pitches with confidence, despite his below-average fastball velocity. He’s at his best when he’s working quickly and getting ahead of hitters, which he does well. He didn’t throw his changeup often in 2011, but he was able to finish hitters with it.

Prediction: Lyles could be a No. 2 starter if he ever gains fastball velocity or continues to improve his already impressive fastball command. Otherwise, he’s a solid bet to have a fine career as a mid-rotation starter, perhaps as early as 2012.

Julio Teheran, RHP, ATL
Age: 21

While he’s very much a young, elite prospect, Teheran is far from a lock to be a No. 1-2 starter. He has excellent arm speed and generates excellent velocity, but his fastball is pretty straight and he leaves it up in the zone a lot. He is going to be home-run prone. His changeup is a plus pitch. He also shows a curveball that could be above average. Coordinated with good balance, he throws with a bit of effort. Combine that with his arm speed, and he may be a guy who isn’t equipped to exhibit elite fastball command.

Prediction: Teheran should find his way into the Braves rotation for a good chunk of 2012 and show the stuff to be a No. 3-4 starter. He has No. 2 upside, but he has some work to do before he gets there. Age and time are both on his side.

Jacob Turner, RHP, DET
Age: 20

 Equipped with a good curveball, solid changeup, low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and a potential above-average sinker, Turner has the arsenal to stick in the big leagues for a while. He gets ahead of hitters with his four-seamer and locates it well. It doesn't have much movement but it gets on hitters quickly. While his curveball doesn’t have eye-popping depth or bite, it has consistent break and he commands it well. It was a strikeout pitch for him during his brief stint in the big leagues last season. His changeup compliments his fastball and curve well. Turner, who was shut down with a dead arm during spring training, should make his way back to the big leagues quickly if healthy. Though he’s pretty smooth in his windup, his delivery causes him to throw with a good amount of effort. This hasn’t negatively impacted his command, but it’s not exactly what you want to see from a guy who’s trying to prove he can throw 175-plus innings a season.

Prediction: He has a quality four-pitch mix that he commands well. He isn’t overpowering, so expecting him to become a top-of-the-rotation starter could be a bit much, but then again he has the arsenal depth and command to possibly turn into a No. 2. For 2012, expect mid-rotation performance.

Alex White, RHP, COL
Age: 23

The headlines around Alex White over the last few months haven’t been positive, but his upside on the mound has been evident for over half a decade. A sinkerballer with a four-seamer that touches the mid-90s, he throws a lot of strikes but can get a little sloppy in the strike zone. His sinker has outstanding, late break. His slider and changeup can both get swing-throughs, especially down in the zone -- his slider has tight, near-12-to-6 break. He didn’t command either particularly well during his time in the big leagues last year. And he’s hittable when he’s up in the zone. He has a balanced delivery with good arm speed and tempo.

Prediction: White has No. 2 upside, which could become within reach as he continues to improve his command down in the zone. Until then, he’s going to have some outings where he gets hit around, as he doesn’t have the stuff to get too much of the plate. I’d expect him to pitch like a slightly-below-average MLB starter this season but there may be a little more in there.

Founder of Project Prospect, Adam started contributing to Rotoworld in 2012. He can also be found on Twitter.
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