Baseball’s youth movement has been on display already this season with Yordan Alvarez mashing long home runs, Peter Alonso never looking back from spring training and the arrival’s of Jordan Yamamoto, Daniel Ponce De Leon, and Zac Gallen. We’ve seen time and time again pitching prospects can be exploited in the betting market because most oddsmakers don’t know how to properly price them, so let’s dig in on who you should be on the lookout for come call up time in the starting pitching market.
1. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros
One of my favorite pitching prospects in baseball along with Casey Mize (who we won’t see this year), Whitley was the best arm in the 2016 draft and has run through the minor league batters since his journey began.
He has struggled in the hitter-happy PCL at triple A this season, but he is the number two pitching prospect in baseball for a reason and when he makes his debut for Houston, he’s going to either take the place of a departing Gerrit Cole, or form a three headed monster with Cole and Verlander that rivals anyone in baseball.
Whitley is an eventual ace, just make sure you jump while he’s not priced as one. He’s likely to be used the same way the Dodgers used Julio Urias and Walker Buehler last season in the playoffs, so you’ll be able to live bet him most likely to start.
2. Brendan McKay, LHP/DH/, TB Rays
My love of Brendan McKay knows no limits, and I think he has the potential to be -gasp- even better than Shohei Ohtani. McKay is a great two way player, but he’s special on the mound, in three starts this season, he’s thrown two shutouts and allowed 3 runs to the Yankees in five innings.
It’s a short sample size, but if you watched him in the minors, he’s yet another example of the forward thinking Rays front office. In between Double-A and Triple-A he recorded a 1.22 ERA and 11.9K/9 in 66 innings. He also had four home runs in 15 games at Triple-A prior to his call up.
3. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
You know I love the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching tree, and Mitch Keller has a chance to be the next great Pirates pitcher following the foot steps of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and co. Keller put up a spectacular 3.21 ERA in Triple-A this season striking out 101 batters in just 87 innings. Under Ray Searage, he should only get better.
He had one start this season, letting the big lights get to him allowing a grand slam in the first inning, but followed it up with three shutout showing what he is capable of. He struggled a bit in his two starts after, giving up six runs to Atlanta, but in his most recent start on June 18th, he gave up only two earned runs in five innings against Detroit.
It will all be for the best though, as Keller got his feet wet and can pitch freely under Searage’s guidance, he continues to dominate Triple-A, coming off 7.1 innings of one run ball in his last start.
4. Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Chicago has some of the best pitching prospects in baseball, and while Michael Koppech is out for the year recovering from Tommy-John surgery, Dylan Cease has shined.
We’ve already seen Dylan Cease make his debut, allowing three runs in five innings to the Tigers, and followed it up by giving up four runs in five innings to the Royals. He needs to fix his control problems, but Chicago has nothing to lose by letting him work out his problems at the highest level, he struck out 73 batters in just 68 innings at Triple-A and makes for a great buy low candidate at underdog prices for the second half.
5. Justus Sheffield, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Justus Sheffield was the crowned jewel in the trade that sent James Paxton to the Yankees and all he did was dominate Double-A with a 1.62 ERA, striking out 40 batters in 39 innings before the call up to Triple-A. He struggled to adjust with the call up to Triple-A, giving up 20 runs over seven innings but since being sent back down to Double-A, he has found his groove again, allowing three runs since June 14.
Seattle has shown they can call him up for spot starts despite the level he’s currently at, as he made one start against Texas this season, allowing two runs in three innings. He projects as a version of CC Sabathia with a great slider that can wipe out bats.