Pitchers That Just Missed The Top-54 List
Note: The players below are in alphabetical - and not rank - order.
Ryan Dull: Dull burst onto the professional scene in 2013 when he posted a 2.40 ERA in 60 innings at three different levels (Low-A, High-A and Double-A). Dull struck-out 78 and walked just nine. He struggled during a late season stint with Midland that season and during that fall’s Arizona Fall League, however. In 2014, Dull returned to Midland. He got off to a slow start with the RockHounds, but in late May, he began to figure things out. After posting ERAs of 4.70 and 5.73 in April and May, Dull posted ERAs of 0.96, 1.23 and 2.19 in June, July and August, respectively. He finished the year with a 2.88 ERA in 56.1 innings. He once again struck-out more than a batter an inning (61) and he walked 15. Dull isn’t overpowering, but his fastball is an out-pitch because of its dramatic movement. It gets to the plate and disappears on hitters. His change-up is also an out-pitch, and he has improved his slider since turning pro. Dull can be vulnerable versus lefties, but he smothers right-handed hitters. He may not begin the year in Triple-A because of the A’s organizational depth, but Dull should get some significant time there this season.
Heath Fillmyer: Fillmyer was mostly a position player in high school and early in his junior college career, but his arm strength piqued the interest of his coaches and they moved him to the mound. He showed a lot of promise in his 2014 JUCO season and came to the A’s in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. The A’s keep Fillmyer on a short leash during the 2014 regular season to ensure he would have enough innings left to participate fully in the A’s fall Instructional League. In 9.2 innings for the AZL A’s, Fillmyer allowed three runs on five hits and five walks. He struck-out 10. Fillmyer worked on tweaking his delivery during Instructs and made significant progress. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and he has two promising secondary offerings with the breaking ball and the change-up. Fillmyer should be allowed to throw a lot more innings this season and is likely to come out of the starting rotation. He will turn 21 in May.
Kyle Finnegan: The 2014 season was all about process for Finnegan. The right-hander from Texas spent much of the season working with the A’s coaching staff to break-down and rebuild his throwing motion. The results on the field were uneven, but Finnegan made significant progress with his mechanics by year’s end. Pitching mostly for Beloit, Finnegan posted a 3.69 ERA in the Midwest League. In 119.2 MWL innings, Finnegan held opposing batters to a .227 BA. However, he struck-out just 55 while walking 52. Finnegan has the stuff to miss bats, but he had a difficult time repeating his delivery last season. He missed time during the second half of the year, as well. The A’s liked what they saw from Finnegan during their fall Instructional League and he is currently pitching at the A’s spring mini-camp. When his throwing motion is in sync, Finnegan has a lively fastball that can touch 97. He also developed a solid change-up last season. If he can repeat his mechanics better this year, Finnegan could make an impact in the High-A Stockton rotation.
Kris Hall: The hard-throwing right-hander struck-out 12.23 batters per nine innings for the High-A Stockton Ports in 2014. The A’s 2012 eighth-round pick battled control problems at times last year, but he was also very difficult to hit. In addition to the strike-outs, he allowed just 42 hits in 56.2 innings (.210 average against). Hall was a starter in a piggyback rotation in Beloit in 2013, but he moved to the bullpen after an injury cost him five weeks in May and June. Hall remained in a relief role in 2014 with Stockton. Mostly a fastball-slider pitcher as a reliever, Hall has late-inning stuff with a fastball that sits 93-96 and a swing-and-miss slider that generally sits in the high-80s. Hall’s change-up is inconsistent, as is his command. The change-up may never be a weapon, but he will need to improve his command to be effective in the upper-levels. If he is able to do that, however, Hall could race quickly up the A’s prospect chart.
Nate Long: Long had a breakthrough 2014 campaign. Expected to pitch out of the Midland bullpen at the start of the year, Long moved into the rotation after Raul Alcantara and Tanner Peters went down with injuries. Long quickly became a staff leader. He went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA in a career-high 150 innings for the RockHounds and then pitched well during the post-season. Long exceeded his career-high innings pitched by more than 40 innings. He isn’t a hard-thrower, but he mixes his pitches well and locates down in the strike-zone. Long posted a 126:49 K:BB last season with a 1.30 GO/AO. His cutter allows him to be effective versus both righties and lefties. It took him a few years to find his rhythm as a pro. He is in his final season under his original A’s minor league contract. He has demonstrated that he can both start and relieve and that he is durable. Long will be 29 throughout the season and will be seeking his first legitimate opportunity in Triple-A in 2015.
Zach Neal: The A’s picked up Neal just before the start of the 2013 season and he has been a valuable member of the A’s upper-level starting pitching depth ever since. Originally a Miami Marlins’ prospect, Neal had a 4.35 ERA in 165.2 innings with the Midland RockHounds in 2013. In 2014, he pitched at three levels, with the bulk of his innings coming in Triple-A. Between the three levels, Neal had a 3.09 ERA. He is one of the best strike-throwers in the A’s system. Neal walked just 20 last season. He also allowed just eight homeruns. Neal’s fastball sits in the 88-91 MPH range and he has an excellent slider. He is aggressive within the strike-zone, but he did a better job in 2014 of missing the heart of the plate than he did in 2013. He has also been an innings-eater the past two seasons, pitching more than 165 innings in both seasons. Neal turned 26 in November. He is competing for a spot in the Nashville rotation this spring.
Tanner Peters: Injuries have slowed Peters’ development since turning pro in 2011. Peters missed half of the 2012 season and virtually all of the 2014 regular season with arm problems. Last year, Peters was shut down in April, but he returned to the mound in the Arizona Rookie League during the final few weeks of the season. He then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. When healthy, Peters has one of the best curveballs in the A’s system. He also has an effective slider and excellent fastball command. Peters is only 6’0’’, 165 pounds. With his build and injury history, his future may be in the bullpen.
Jake Sanchez: Acquired for Michael Taylor midway through last season, Sanchez made a strong first impression on the A’s. The right-hander made 12 starts for High-A Stockton. He posted a 3.42 ERA and struck-out 72 with 17 walks in 71 innings. That followed his performance with Low-A Kannapolis at the start of the year, when he had a 2.80 ERA and a 66:14 K:BB in 61 innings. Sanchez was undrafted out of college, but he caught the eye of the White Sox after pitching well in the independent Frontier League. Sanchez has excellent command of his fastball and a solid slider and change-up. He should make the jump to Double-A this year.
Jordan Schwartz: Selected out of Niagara University in the fourth round last year, Schwartz got his feet wet in professional ball with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. Pitching in relief, Schwartz had a 4.82 ERA in 18.2 innings. He struck-out 14 and walked 13. Schwartz was a two-way player in college and is fairly raw as a pitching prospect despite coming out of a four-year school. The A’s loved his arm strength and he began to show what kind of pitcher he can become this fall at the A’s Instructs. Schwartz’s fastball can touch 96 and he has a promising breaking ball and the beginnings of a solid change-up. Schwartz made a number of significant changes to his delivery this fall. He should get a chance to start in 2015 and could move up the rankings quickly if the changes he made in the fall carryover into the regular season.
Murphy Smith: Smith has been stuck in Double-A for the past three seasons despite pitching well for Midland the past two seasons. The right-hander spent much of last year in the bullpen, and the A’s now envision Smith as a reliever moving forward, however, he had to pitch in the rotation for the RockHounds at times last year because of injuries to other pitchers. Smith struggled in a starter’s role last season, but he showed a lot of promise as a reliever. In 58 innings out of the bullpen, Smith had a 2.95 ERA and a 43:17 K:BB. He didn’t allow a homerun and he had a 1.60 GO/AO. Smith has always had a lively fastball, but it had a tendency to flatten out on him at times. Smith has changed his release point over the past two years and that has added some movement to the fastball. He can touch 95 with the pitch. His breaking ball and change-up are also weapons for him at times, although they are still inconsistent. When he’s on, Smith attacks the bottom half of the strike-zone and gets a lot of groundballs. If he can stay in a relief role this season, Smith could finally breakthrough to Triple-A.
Lee Sosa: The results haven’t been there yet for Sosa, but the A’s like his potential. The big right-hander has plus arm strength and his fastball has been clocked as high as 97. He tends to fall in love with that fastball, however, and even lower-level hitters have been able to time him up. Sosa’s breaking ball gets a lot of movement, but he doesn’t yet throw it for strikes, so hitters can sit fastball. If Sosa can tighten up the breaking ball, he has the stuff to make an impact as a late-inning reliever. However, his command will need to improve. He has also been hampered by minor injuries that have held back his development some the past two years.
Matt Stalcup: The A’s 9th-round pick in 2013, Stalcup split his 2014 season between the rotation and the bullpen in Beloit. The left-hander put up better overall numbers as a reliever, but he pitched well as a starter the final two months of the season and has a good chance of sticking in that role in 2015. Stalcup struck-out 55 and walked just 12 in 56.2 innings over the final two months of last season. He worked much of the year with Snappers’ pitching coach Craig Lefferts on repeating his delivery and Stalcup made significant strides in that area in 2015. Stalcup has a tight breaking ball and a good change-up. He can touch 94 MPH with his fastball and generally sits 87-92 as a starter. Stalcup is a strong candidate to start the year with High-A Stockton.
Jeff Urlaub: Urlaub finally broke through to the Triple-A level in 2014, only to suffer an elbow injury after only six appearances at that level. Urlaub had surgery and missed the final three months of the season. He is back on the mound this spring and has a chance to be ready by Opening Day. The left-hander has a career 223:43 K:BB in 223.2 minor league innings. Urlaub isn’t a hard-thrower, but he locates his high-80s fastball very well and he has a good breaking ball. He has been compared to former A’s set-up man Jerry Blevins. A healthy Urlaub could factor into the A’s relief depth chart this season.
Corey Walter: Walter was the A’s 28th-round pick this season. The big right-hander had mediocre numbers with West Virginia, but he immediately improved as a pro. Walter had a 2.33 ERA and a 27:11 K:BB in 27 innings for the A’s two short-season clubs in his pro debut season. He continued to improve during the A’s fall Instructional League. He worked on sticking a firmer landing, which improved his command by keeping him on a straighter path to homeplate. He earned the Most Improved award during Instructs. Walter’s four-seamer can touch 94 and he has a good sinker, a promising change-up and a curveball that bends late. He is a strong breakout candidate for 2015.