KATOH’s Most Improved Pitching Prospects So Far

Now that we’re nearly one month into the minor-league season, 2017 performances are starting to mean something. The 2017 sample size is still small, but it’s large enough at least to merit a look at those prospects who may be in the midst of a breakout. This article aims to do just that by calling attention to the 10 pitchers who have most improved their KATOH+ projections over the season’s first few weeks. (The most-improved hitters were examined yesterday.) A reminder: a player’s KATOH forecast denotes his projected WAR total over the first six seasons of his major-league career.

Wilmer Font, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.6
Current KATOH+ Projection: 1.9

Over the winter, KATOH tabbed Font as one of the most compelling minor-league free agents due to his serviceable performance as a starter in Triple-A last year. Through five Triple-A starts in 2017, Font possesses a 31% strikeout rate and 7% walk rate, giving him one of the best FIPs in Triple-A. As a 26-year-old journeyman, Font isn’t much of a prospect, but he’s currently pitching like one as a starter in Triple-A.

AJ Puckett, RHP, Kansas City (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.4
Current KATOH+ Projection: 1.4

Puckett was just OK in his pro debut last year after the Royals selected him in the second round. He’s pitched better this year, however, increasing his strikeout rate from 18% to 21% following his promotion from Low-A to High-A.

Nick Pivetta, RHP, Philadelphia (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 1.7
Current KATOH+ Projection: 2.7

Pivetta pitched well between Double-A and Triple-A last year, but has elevated things to an entirely different level this season. In three Triple-A starts, he pitched to a 0.95 ERA, striking 33% of batters faced while walking less than 3%. Said performance has earned him a well-deserved spot in the Phillies’ rotation.

Brett Martin, LHP, Texas (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 1.0
Current KATOH+ Projection: 1.9

A relatively nondescript Rangers farmhand heading into the year, Martin has been quite effective at the High-A level so far. Working as a starter, the 6-foot-4 lefty has struck out 28% of opposing batters and has allowed just a single home run.

Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 2.9
Current KATOH+ Projection: 3.8

Gohara enjoyed a breakout campaign last season in the lower rungs of the Mariners organization. He’s built on that success in 2017 in his first few starts with his new organization, the Braves. In five High-A starts, he’s struck out 27% and walked 5%, yielding a FIP below 2.00. Not bad for a 20-year-old.

Luis Diaz, RHP, Los Angeles (AL) (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.3
Current KATOH+ Projection: 1.2

To KATOH’s delight, the Angels scooped up Diaz as a minor-league free agent over the winter. He’s rewarded them with a 33% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate as a starter between Double-A and Triple-A. As a 25-year-old journeyman, Diaz isn’t much of a prospect, but his numbers suggest a future in the big leagues.

Domingo Acevedo, RHP, New York AL (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.9
Current KATOH+ Projection: 1.7

A 6-foot-7 flame-thrower who’s always shown promise, Acevedo has seemingly made some strides this year. He’s struck out 28% of batters faced, kept his walks in check, and unlike last season, has induced a fair number of grounders. He’s already 23, however, so KATOH would like to see him perform above A-ball before really buying in.

Beau Burrows, RHP, Detroit (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.5
Current KATOH+ Projection: 1.3

Burrows was the 22nd-overall pick in 2015, but he underwhelmed in Low-A last season. He matriculated to High-A this year, where he’s added nearly 10 points to his strikeout rate. On the downside, Burrows has yet to record a ground-ball rate below 40% at any minor-league stop.

Mike Clevinger, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 2.1
Current KATOH+ Projection: 2.9

Clevinger pitched solidly in the minors last year and also threw 53 near-replacement innings for the Indians. This season, he’s dialed his strikeout rate up to 29% in Triple-A and also cut down on his walks. Clevinger technically isn’t a prospect anymore, but the 26-year-old is forcing his way back into Cleveland’s plans.

Jacob Faria, RHP, Tampa (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 2.0
Current KATOH+ Projection: 2.7

A member of the 2017 All-KATOH team, Faria’s numbers have always outshone his scouting reports. He outdid himself in April, though, striking out a slick 36% of batters as a 23-year-old starter in Triple-A. Walks remain an issue for the 6-foot-4 righty, but his performance suggests he’s ready for the next level.

We hoped you liked reading KATOH’s Most Improved Pitching Prospects So Far by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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EonADS
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EonADS

Right on time for Clevenger; with Kluber on the DL we have need of his services.