Joey Lucchesi – Padres
Lucchesi has the stuff to make him a great pitcher in this league, and a delivery that mimics Clayton Kershaw’s. This is his first season in the MLB and he’s already proven to be one of the Padres better starters, that’s not really saying much, but for a Rookie to be the best pitcher on your team is not common in the MLB. He’s just 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA as of now, but he averages 9.13 K/9 which is pretty impressive for a lefty pitcher. His best pitch according to scouts is his change-up which he uses very effectively off of his fastball. Lucchesi is allowing 1.52 HR/9 which is not great, but as he matures and learns how to pitch to batters in the MLB, this number will dip down.
Lucchesi has a fastball that will sit around 89-92, a slider with late break, an average at best curveball, and an above average change-up that produces a high swing and miss rate. None of his pitches necessarily blow hitters away, but his command is what makes him effective. He has a lot of quirks about him, including a stabbing motion he makes with his arm during his wind up, similar to Ubaldo Jimenez. Lucchesi is just 24 years old and has time to develop into a great starter in this league, hopefully the Padres will bring in some Veterans to help him learn and grow.
Walker Buehler – Dodgers
Buehler and the guy above him put on a show for everyone in Mexico. Buehler and 3 other pitchers combined for a no hitter against the Padres. I think the upside on Buehler is the second highest of anyone on this list. It’s been said that he has the best curveball out of the top 100 prospects and I don’t disagree. His curveball velocity ranks in the top 5% of the MLB and has an incredible amount of late break making it very difficult to hit. He also has a fastball that sits in the high 90s and he’s even touched 100 before. These two pitches play off of each other very well and can account for some terrible looking swings from his opponents. Buehler also throws a slider, but doesn’t use it as much as he uses his other two pitches. If Buehler can develop his slider and add a fourth pitch, possibly a change-up, he’ll be terrorizing opponents for the rest of his career.
The biggest problem with Buehler right now is control. If he starts off a game and doesn’t have his fastball command, he doesn’t do well. He definitely needs to be more consistent with his fastball control because his other pitches work off of his fastball. If a batter knows his fastball isn’t finding the zone, it’s easier for him to sit on a curveball or slider. Luckily for Buehler, he usually has his fastball command and can make his opponents look silly if they’re sitting on a certain pitch. The Dodgers keep cranking out stud pitchers; hopefully they can keep Buehler healthy.
Mike Soroka – Braves
Soroka beat Noah Syndergaard in his first game in the MLB. He got called up the morning of his start and came out firing on all cylinders. His fastball looked electric and at only 20 years old, there’s still potential for him to develop his arm and get his fastball to triple digits. Not only is he able to really sling his fastball up to the plate, but he has tremendous control which allows him to limit his walks. In 14.2 innings this season, he’s given up 4 walks against 15 strikeouts. Neither of these numbers really blow me away, but he got called up somewhat unexpectedly and he’s still young. 3 of those walks came in one start against the Giants, which is also the one game he’s lost thus far.
His 6’5″ stature is definitely going to help him in this league. It’s pretty damn intimidating when you get a guy 6’5″ or above on the mound throwing 95+ with ease that can also bury pitches low in the zone or bring it up to eye level. It doesn’t matter where he puts it, you’ll most likely swing and miss. The unfortunate thing for Soroka is that he only has three pitches. Fortunately, all three of his pitches are above average according to scouts. His fastball is his best pitch rated at 60 and his curveball and change-up are both rated at 55. I’d like to see him develop another pitch because it’d make him more unpredictable, but if he’s able to command all three pitches on any given night, opposing batters are going to have a rough time.