MLB Prospect Watch: MacKenzie Gore, Casey Mize, Forrest Whitley among game's best pitching prospects

In last week's edition of the Watch, we covered the candidates for the No. 1 prospect title now that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is in the majors. By chance, none of the best candidates were pitchers. Rather than leave the arms out in the cold, we decided to dedicate this week's version to highlighting the three pitchers who have a case for being known as the best in the minors.

Casey Mize, RHP, Detroit Tigers

We've already dedicated an entire Prospect Watch this season to the Tigers and their collection of young arms. Mize, the No. 1 pick in last June's draft by way of Auburn, is the best of the bunch. He has a well-rounded arsenal, including a low-to-mid-90s fastball and diving splitter that figures to serve as his out pitch. He's also dominating the minors thus far -- he threw a no-hitter in his first start at the Double-A level -- and could theoretically debut this season. For various reasons, including those related to service-time and workload-management, Mize probably won't debut until next season. Still, he's looked the part of a No. 1 pick from a SEC program.

MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres

The summer prior to last, Gore was the No. 3 pick in the draft. Unlike Mize, Gore is a former prep southpaw whose delivery features an extreme leg kick. He has everything one wants in a frontline pitching prospect: good frame, strike-throwing ability, and the potential for three above-average or plus offerings, including his trademark curveball. Presumably the Padres will continue to take a conservative approach with Gore, who has yet to throw more than 60 innings in a season. Once he reaches the majors -- likely in late 2020 or 2021 -- he has the chance to be a special pitcher.

Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

Entering the season, Whitley probably would have received this tag without much competition. He's had a rough year, however, dealing with an injury and suspension that have collectively limited him to less than 50 regular-season innings since the start of 2018. He's also been less-than-dominant so far in Triple-A. Nevertheless, Whitley projects to be a front-end starter thanks to an absurdly deep arsenal (he has five pitches and each of them is at least average), a huge frame (he's listed at 6-foot-7), and a repeatable delivery. Add it all up, and the Astros should have a ready-made replacement for Gerrit Cole should he leave in free agency.

No matter which of the three you prefer, they each have the potential to develop into All-Star-caliber starters.

Now, onto the rest of the Watch.

Prospect watch

Geraldo Perdomo is a teenage shortstop with more walks than strikeouts in A-ball and a chance to have three plus tools when it's all said and done. Keep his name in mind heading forward.

Jeremy Walker is poorly named since he's walked just one batter across his first six starts. Consider that a good sign since control was one of his question marks.

Michael Baumann is practically begging for a promotion: He's fanned 29 more batters than he's walked in 18 ⅔ innings.

Rusney Castillo is still hanging around and playing fairly well at Triple-A. He's presumably never again going to see the light of day in Boston.

Matt Swarmer has a bizarre delivery and a good changeup. He's currently fanning a batter per inning in Triple-A and could eventually see the Show if his results improve.

Danny Mendick is an average middle-infield prospect who has hit well enough in the upper minors to warrant a big-league shot some point soon.

Jonathan India continues to perform worse than his draft stock and SEC-program pedigree would suggest he should.

Steven Kwan is reaching base 42 percent of the time in High-A in what is his first full season as a pro. He doesn't have much in the way of tools, but that's still impressive.

Southpaw Nick Kennedy has had his velocity tick up since moving to the bullpen, making it easier to envision him filling a big-league role someday.

Brock Deatherage has a great surname and 12 steals on 13 tries. Just don't look at the rest of his numbers.

Other arms in the system get talked about more, but Corbin Martin has a chance to stick in a big-league rotation and could be ready by summer's end.

The No. 14 pick last June, Nick Pratto has struggled in an aggressive assignment to High-A. 

It's not clear how Matt Thaiss will fit into the Angels lineup, and the lack of power is concerning, but he's drawn more walks than he's recorded strikeouts and he deserves a look at some point this year.

Last year's sixth-round pick, Bryan Warzek has had a tough time finding the zone this year: he's walked 23 batters in 21 innings. It's not what you want.

Zac Gallen is up to 40 innings in Triple-A with a 1.12 ERA and 9.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He should give Marlins fans something to look forward to whenever he reaches the Show -- and Lord knows that should be before long.

Keston Hiura continues to rake. It's just a matter of time before he makes his big-league debut.

Devin Smeltzer has struck out 36, walked three, and yielded zero home runs in 37 innings split between Double- and Triple-A. He has a funky crossfire delivery with a low release point and should pitch in the majors sooner than later thanks to a deep collection of secondary offerings.

Rajai Davis is 10-for-11 on stolen-base tries. Triple-A batteries have no chance.

The Yankees acquired outfielder Josh Stowers as part of the Sonny Gray trade. He's hitting quite well in A-ball and should move up sooner or later. He has the chance to be a starting outfielder if all goes well.

Part of the return on Sonny Gray in the other trade involving him, speedy middle infielder Jorge Mateo already has seven triples.

Edgar Garcia just joined the Phillies bullpen. He should be a useful weapon to have in the middle to late innings behind a strong fastball-slider combination. 

The good news: 20-year-old Lolo Sanchez has an OPS near .900 and has stolen 10 bases. The bad news: He's been caught six times and has walked less than five percent of the time.

Josh Naylor deserves a shot in the majors with someone -- he's hitting nearly .300 with more walks than strikeouts and seven home runs in the offense-friendly PCL. It's unclear if he'll ever get that opportunity with the Padres, however.

The Giants claimed former Rays prospect Andrew Moore off waivers. He's a pitchability right-hander whose stuff and performance have backed up over the past year.

More than half of outfielder Jack Larsen's plate appearances have ended in a walk, a strikeout, or a home run.

Think Austin Gomber wants back in the majors? He's dominating Triple-A.

Josh Fleming has below-average velocity, but he's a command artist who has walked just two batters in his first 32 innings at Double-A.

Originally a 16th-round pick, Tyler Phillips has proven to be a good find. His command and his changeup are the keys to his success.

Jacob Waguespack doesn't have impressive numbers, but he's a physical right-hander whose fastball-breaking ball combination could get him to the majors at some point.

Tim Cate is a little lefty with a big curveball. In his last four starts he's compiled 24 innings and 27 strikeouts while holding the opposition to 12 hits and five runs. It stands to reason he'll move up soon.
CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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