I have put together top-tier pitching staffs in previous years without even drafting a single pitcher among my first ten picks. It can happen. Breakout candidates are ripe for the picking every year in the middle to late rounds, and this year is no different.
The only rookie who fits into that category is Jeremy Hellickson, and really he is the only draft-worthy rookie around. He has big upside and was able to put it on display late last year. But he has an injury history to think about and, with all young pitchers, he could wear out toward the end of the year as he approaches 180 innings or more.
Mike Minor heads up the next tier of rookie pitchers. He looks like the frontrunner for Atlanta’s No. 5 job and has a great minor league pedigree. I’m not sold on his strikeout numbers sticking around, but he’s definitely worth a look if gets off to a hot start.
Kyle Drabek looks like a safe bet to open the year in Toronto’s rotation. He has good stuff but questionable control, and his minor league numbers haven’t been as dominant as you would like. He could take off, but I will wait and see.
Jordan Lyles and Michael Pineda are two potential aces who play for ball clubs in desperate need of their services. But we won’t see these guys in the majors until at least June. Either one could explode in the minor leagues and face a promotion that rivals the likes of Tommy Hanson or Stephen Strasburg of previous years.
In order of upside potential, Mark Rogers, Zach Britton, Andrew Oliver and Dillon Gee are among a group of advanced pitchers who have a good shot at some major league rotation time if an injury strikes.
This crop of relief pitchers has the potential to make a bigger impact than any other position.
Craig Kimbrel is the closest rookie to a closer job at this point. The only concern I have are his past command issues, but I’ll be all over him in the late rounds. He has to iron out his control, but Kimbrel has the talent and the job opening to finish the year as a top-5 closer. For real.
Jake McGee doesn’t have Tampa Bay’s closer job yet, but he has the potential to not only nail down the job early on this season, but put up some great numbers across the board.
Like Tampa Bay, the White Sox have a closer-by-committee setup at the moment, but Chris Sale is the most talented option and, like McGee, a high upside late-round addition.
Aroldis Chapman might be the most talented pitcher among this group of extremely talented relievers, but he doesn’t have the opportunity of the others thanks to Francisco Cordero. Where he’s being drafted, I’m letting him go this year.