Part two of a two-part series, this article profiles the top teenage pitchers who are playing in full-season minor leagues. You can read Part One Here. I’ve written up five teenage pitchers who look like potential above-average starters and listed eight honorable mentions.
Dylan Bundy, BAL, Low-A
Some people may rank Bundy as baseball’s No. 1 prospect today. It’s still a small sample, but he’s making Clayton Kershaw’s Low-A numbers look somewhat pedestrian. Physically mature with a frame that already looks the part of a big leaguer, Bundy has elite arm speed and pitches with a very good tempo. Hitters have very little time to react and adjust to his deep, powerful arsenal. He won’t keep up his current 40 percent-plus strikeout rate, as he begins to throw 5-plus innings an outing, but Bundy is off to a historic start to his professional career.
Taijuan Walker, SEA, Double-A
After getting off to a blazing April, Walker has slowed in May. But it’s still amazing to see a teenage pitcher finding success in Double-A, especially one who came out of high school with raw mechanics. A big athlete (6-foot-4, 210 pounds), Walker has made steady progress with throwing strikes as he’s ascended through the minors. He has a power, swing-and-miss arsenal that could allow him to become a top-of-the-rotation starter. Even if he’s unable to make it as a starter, his power curveball and mid-90s fastball could allow him to dominate in a bullpen role.
Noah Syndergaard, TOR, Low-A
The ground ball doesn’t get enough respect in many circles. A pitcher who can induce ground balls and miss bats, while throwing strikes, can be dominant. And that’s what Syndergaard has been so far in Low-A. The vast majority of his strikeouts have been swinging. And aside from a four-walk performance last month, he’s hardly been walking anyone. Tall, lean and athletic, Syndergaard has good body control, a live arm and plenty of upside. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up having the best MLB career of any pitcher on this list.
Cody Buckel, TEX, High-A
Buckel, a guy I’m kicking myself for not ranking on my Top 100 this offseason, didn’t have quite enough fastball velocity to win me over entering the year. But he had everything else. Well, he’s added some velocity this year and he’s dominating High-A hitters so far. He’s also just one of two teenagers pitching above Low-A right now, along with Taijuan Walker. Relatively short, Buckel is a long-strider with a high arm slot, excellent tempo and advanced feel for pitching. He could move quickly and someday surface as a No. 2 starter.
Jose Fernandez, FLA, Low-A
Built like a taller Bartolo Colon -- that got you excited, didn’t it? -- Fernandez is making Low-A hitters look like little leaguers. The 14th overall pick from the 2011Draft throws a lot of strikes, a rarity for teenage pitchers, and pitches with an excellent tempo. There’s a lot of effort in his delivery, though, which is hardly ideal for a starting pitcher. That said, young pitching prospects who can throw in the mid-90s as starters are uncommon. Fernandez certainly has upside.
Honorable Mentions: Clayton Blackburn (SF, 19.3, Low-A), Michael Fulmer (NYM, 19.1, Low-A), Matt Wisler (SD, 19.6, Low-A), Jose Vicente Campos (NYY, 19.8, Low-A), Jason Garcia (BOS, 19.5, Low-A), Joe Ross (SD, 18.9, Low-A), Jefferson Olacio (CHW, 18.3, Low-A) and Archie Bradley (ARI, 19.7, Low-A).