The acronym TINSTAAPP has been popularized by the analysts at Baseball Prospectus, and anyone who has played Fantasy can see the appeal in the expression for which it stands: There's No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect. From shallow redraft leagues to the deepest of dynasty leagues, owners consistently go gaga over the latest can't-miss pitchers, yet many of them do, in fact, miss. It's a recipe for frustration.
Some pitchers, like Trevor Bauer, who were highly touted as prospects, struggle to find consistency once they reach the majors, and others like Matt Moore, have had their careers sidetracked by Tommy John surgery. Others yet, like Archie Bradley, just take a longer time to develop than we expect. But it's not just the pitchers who disappoint that make the chase for pitching prospects a perplexing one. It's also the Jacob deGroms and Dallas Keuchels who pitch like phenoms, even though they weren't treated as such during their minor league careers.
If it were easy to pick future stud pitchers from outside the ranks of the top-tier prospects, we would not only be more successful as Fantasy owners, but we'd probably have a nice career waiting for us in a major league front office. Clearly, it's not easy, but I will take a stab at it. Five of the pitchers who appeared in Sunday's Futures Game strike me as the type of pitcher who could be far better than what his minor league numbers and current reputation would indicate. By virtue of being good enough to get invited to the Futures Game, it's hard to call any of these pitchers obscure. These five, however, are still managing to be underrated.
Tyler Beede, Giants
Beede may be as well known for his rap aspirations as for his achievements on the mound, but Fantasy owners may be overlooking a future stud. Part of the reason Beede may be neglected in Fantasy is his low strikeout rates, but his sinker has been so effective that he aims to induce early contact. That helped Beede compile a 2.24 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League, though some control issues have led to a bloating of his ERA (3.86) and BB/9 ratio (3.6) since his promotion to the Double-A Eastern League.
Though Beede likens himself to fellow Giant Chris Heston, in time he could be the superior strikeout pitcher. Heston's average fastball velocity hovers around 90, while Beede's offerings are typically in the mid-90s. As we have seen with Aaron Nola, who also went in the first round of last year's June amateur draft, pitchers can become better at getting strikeouts as they progress through the minors. Beede has that sort of potential, but even if it goes unrealized, he could be highly effective as a ground ball specialist.
Sean Newcomb, Angels
Newcomb cracked Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospect list, so it may seem like a stretch to tag him as "under the radar." but he hasn't achieved anywhere near the notoriety of Giolito or Tyler Glasnow. At 6'5" and 240 pounds, the lefty has an imposing presence, and he can dial his fastball up to 97 mph. In fact, he hit 96.5 mph at the Futures Game (per BrooksBaseball.net), where he worked a perfect inning. With a career 11.4 K/9 ratio over 23 minor league starts, strikeouts don't appear to be a problem, but he has walked just over one batter per two innings.
In an interview conducted just hours before the Futures Game, Newcomb said he wasn't worried about his walk rate, as many of the bases on balls he has issued were the product of "competitive" plate appearances that were extended by fouled-off pitches. Time will tell if Newcomb can find better control and efficiency, but if he does, he could rise quickly through the upper minors.
Amir Garrett, Reds
Garrett has spent the last two seasons devoted to his baseball career after having juggled baseball with college basketball, playing first for St. John's and then transferring to Cal State Northridge. He says he has "caught up" to his teammates and competitors, now that he is a one-sport athlete, and this season's results confirm that. Garrett has racked up 89 strikeouts in 84 innings in the Florida State League, where he has posted a 2.79 ERA.
For a pitcher on a trajectory to pitch at Great American Ball Park, a surging flyball rate is not a positive trend, so it is something to watch in Garrett's case. Not surprisingly, he has been better in his home starts at pitcher-friendly Daytona (2.03 ERA) than on the road (3.82 ERA), but Double-A Pensacola will be a better test of how well he can limit extra-base hits. A more encouraging split that the left-handed Garrett has is his .238 batting average allowed against righties.
Zach Davies, Orioles
While a couple of Davies' teammates at Triple-A Norfolk -- Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson -- have received major league callups and more media attention this season, Davies himself has been having a quietly impressive campaign with a 2.70 ERA. This comes on the heels of Davies having one of the better performances in the 2014 Arizona Fall League, in which he compiled a 1.75 ERA with 23 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings.
Davies has been a consistent inducer of ground balls over his four-year minor league career, and though his K/9 ratio has dipped to 7.7 this season, he is maintaining a 12 percent whiff rate that is well above league average. The Orioles have a lot of pitching depth in their minor league system, so Davies may have a limited window to make an impression. Given his recent results, he should get a chance to crack the Orioles' rotation at some point by next season.
Frankie Montas, White Sox
Montas laid an egg in the Futures Game, allowing three runs in just 2/3 of an inning, but his fastball topped out 101.7 mph, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Even with that extreme heat, Montas has been basically an average strikeout pitcher over the last couple of seasons, though his whiff rate has increased from 8 percent to 10 percent in his second tour at Double-A Birmingham. His minor league stats have been all over the map, having had some seasons with high K-rates and others with questionable control. A pessimist may say that Montas has lacked consistency, but a more charitable view is see Montas as a breakout candidate who has shown the ability to miss bats, throw strikes and get grounders at various junctures of his minor league career.