5. Chris Heston - Giants
Heston is a 27 year old rookie who spent a long time in the minors. He's also already thrown a no-hitter for the Giants. The East Carolina grad probably does not have a really high ceiling as a Major Leaguer, but he's here and filling a role for a contending team as a starting pitcher. There have been good starts, and a few bad ones, but everything about Heston's numbers suggests he is just an average pitcher. His ERA+ is 102, FIP 3.37, and his K/9 and BB/9 are 6.8 and 2.9. Just average. I think that the no-hitter he pitched against the Mets earlier in the year might garner him a Rookie of the Year vote or two, but he's not a serious contender.
4. Taylor Jungmann - Brewers
Jungmann has pitched well enough that perhaps he should be higher than five on this list, but I am not sure if he's going to keep up his current level of performance. Perhaps I will look back at this list in a year and shake my head for putting him fifth, or perhaps I will look back and think about why I did not put a player like Carlos Rodon, who has a higher ceiling without the success in the Majors, on this list. In the minors Jungmann started almost 90 games with an ERA just over 4.00 a WHIP of 1.358 and a K/9 rate under 7. Kind of blah, but throw in the fact that his walk rate is almost 4 and he kind of seems like the fifth starter/long reliever type. The Brewers put him at the end of the rotation and he's done nothing but pitched well since. Well might be selling it short. He's K/9 rate is suddenly almost 8, his walk rate is 2.6, he's given up 2 home runs in 71.2 innings, and has an ERA+ of 174. If he had enough starts to qualify his 2.89 FIP would put him in the top 10. Again, I am not sure this is a true picture of what Taylor Jungmann truly is as a pitcher, or we are just witnessing a hot streak that will end when he starts facing teams a second and third time. I like his curveball.
3. Joe Ross - Nationals
What in the world were the Padres thinking by trading this guy? For Wil Myers? Seriously, I think that Ross is going to be a really good pitcher for a long time. This spot on my list this morning is sort of the dividing line, Jungmann and Heston might be solid pitchers at best, Ross and the two names lower on the list have high ceilings and could be much more than solid pitchers. He has only made seven starts, and I get the feeling the Nationals are being really careful with the right handed pitcher, but his numbers are quite impressive. More than a strikeout per inning, an FIP of 2.56, and an ERA+ of 137. My favorite number on Ross, just seven starts in, is his 47 strikeouts versus 4 walks. Seems Pedro Martinez like. I am eager to see how the rest of the season plays out for Ross, but I would imagine a goos showing will mean that the Nats find a spot in the rotation, full-time, for him next season.
2. Lance McCullers - Astros
McCullers was a first round draft pick of the Astros back in 2012. They have added a lot of other talent to their Minor League system since they drafted McCullers, so I feel like he gets overshadowed often by guys like Carlos Correa and Mark Appel. Still, McCullers has 14 Major League starts under his belt and his striking out more than a batter per inning with a FIP under 3. I have never seen McCullers in person, but I know a lot of people have been really impressed by him and think he will be a very good pitcher for a long time.
1. Noah Synergaard - Mets
Syndergaard is clearly the class of the rookie pitchers this year. Coming into the season he was almost universally rated as a top 10 prospect by publications like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. Unlike some of the previous names on this list, who are out performing their minor league numbers, Syndergaard has dominated since starting his career. His ERA has been right around 3 in almost 100 starts and he has averaged more than a strikeout per inning throughout. Really his roughest year in the minors was last year when he had an ERA of 4.60 in the offensive minded Pacific Coast League. The Mets started him out there again this year and he was dominating in five starts. Since being called up to the Mets he has started 15 games this season and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning while holding down an FIP of 2.78. If he had enough innings to qualify for the league leader board he would be in the top 10 in that statistic behind Garret Cole. His K/9 is in line with pitchers like Cole Hamels and Lance Lynn. I have watched a couple of his starts this season and have been really impressed with his stuff. Syndergaard clearly can be a front line pitcher in the Majors for a long time.