KATOH’s Most-Improved Pitching Prospects So Far

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the 10 pitching prospects who had most improved their KATOH+ projections over the season’s first few weeks. Now that we have a more meaningful sample of games to analyze and a new Baseball America top-100 list baked in, I’m repeating that exercise. It’s still early in the season, but not too early to start identifying players who are performing better than they have in the past. A reminder: a player’s KATOH forecast denotes his projected WAR total over the first six seasons of his major-league career. I performed a similar exercise for hitters yesterday.

To ensure I am writing up actual prospects rather than fringey ones, I set a minimum KATOH+ projection of 4.0 WAR this time around. I still listed the five most-improved lesser prospects at the bottom.

Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 2.9
Current KATOH+ Projection: 5.6

Gohara was utterly filthy in High-A this year. He struck out 27%, walked 7%, and didn’t concede a single homer over seven starts, likely due to his 57% ground-ball rate. That performance earned him a promotion to Double-A. Unfortunately, he injured his arm in his first start.

Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 5.7
Current KATOH+ Projection: 8.3

Honeywell was a highly regarded prospect headed into the year, but he’s quickly establishing himself as one of the game’s tippy-top pitching prospects. He opened the year in Double-A, but forced his way to Triple-A after just two starts. The 22-year-old had struck out 33% of batters this year and has walked a mere 6%

Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 8.0
Current KATOH+ Projection: 9.9

McKenzie has spun a 1.95 ERA in at High-A this year on the strength of a 34% strikeout rate. As a result, he has unseated Alex Reyes and Thomas Szapucki to become the top pitching prospect by KATOH+. Though he’s just 19, the 6-foot-5 righty has little left to prove in A-ball.

Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Philadelphia (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 3.6
Current KATOH+ Projection: 5.4

Although his ERA sits at 3.70, Sanchez’s peripherals have been impeccable. He’s struck out 29%, walked just 3%, and has yet to allow a homer this year. In fact, he’s never allowed a homer in three years as a professional. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, is that he’s done all of this as an 18-year-old in full-season ball. As a pitcher who’s still a few years away, Sanchez has some risk, but he’s doing it all right now.

Luke Weaver, RHP, St. Louis (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 6.5
Current KATOH+ Projection: 8.2

Weaver was one of KATOH’s favorite prospects heading into the year, and 22 innings of 0.41-ERA ball later, he’s only improved his stock. He’s allowed just one walk this year and has struck out 19. It seems he’s ready for another crack at the big leagues.

Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 5.2
Current KATOH+ Projection: 6.8

Pittsburgh bumped Keller up from Low-A to High-A this year, and he’s more or less replicated last season’s performance so far. His strikeout rate and walk rates remain excellent, and he’s even dialed his ground-ball rate up to 54%. The 21-year-old has an awful lot going for him and continues to impress.

Joe Jimenez, RHP, Detroit (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 2.5
Current KATOH+ Projection: 4.1

Jimenez established himself as an elite relief prospect last year, when he zipped through three minor-league levels and struck out 38% of opposing hitters. He’s somehow managed to be even more dominant in Triple-A this season, where he’s posted an absurd 54% strikeout rate and an 8% walk rate to go with it. His first tour of duty in Detroit didn’t go well, but he’ll be back soon and could dominate.

Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 2.6
Current KATOH+ Projection: 4.0

KATOH’s never been a huge fan of Newcomb due to his walk issues, but it’s starting to buy in now that he’s dialed his strikeout rate up to 28% following his promotion to Triple-A. Walks remain an issue for Newcomb, but 6-foot-5 23-year-olds succeeding in Triple-A are rare.

Franklin Perez, RHP, Houston (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 6.6
Current KATOH+ Projection: 7.9

Perez has yet to allow a run in 14.1 innings in High-A and has whiffed 29% of batters. The 19-year-old was almost as dominant in Low-A last season. As a teenager who’s dominated A-Ball hitters for over a year, Perez appears to have a bright future ahead of him.

Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 4.8
Current KATOH+ Projection: 5.9

Neither Flaherty’s numbers nor his stuff have ever been truly dominant. Instead, he’s been consistently very good against older competition since the Cardinals drafted him out of high school in 2014. His performance has ticked up this year, however, as he’s spun a 0.99 ERA at Double-A with a 45:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Now that the 21-year-old has made a mockery of Double-A, a promotion to St. Louis shouldn’t be too far off.

*****

Fringier Prospects Who Are Improving

Brett Martin, LHP, Texas (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 1.0
Current KATOH+ Projection: 3.7

Freddy Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.5
Current KATOH+ Projection: 3.1

Luis Diaz, RHP, Los Angeles (AL) (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.3
Current KATOH+ Projection: 2.4

Tyler Webb, LHP, New York (AL) (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 1.0
Current KATOH+ Projection: 3.1

Touki Toussaint, RHP, Atlanta (Profile)
Preseason KATOH+ Projection: 0.7
Current KATOH+ Projection: 2.6

We hoped you liked reading KATOH’s Most-Improved Pitching Prospects So Far by Chris Mitchell!

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

This is practically a list of my favorite pitching prospects. On the higher end you’ve got Honeywell, McKenzie, and Perez. On the lower end you’ve got Sixto, Martin, and Peralta.

matt
Member
matt

I have never understood why McKenzie hasn’t gotten more top prospect love, between command, current stuff, and projection he to me seems like a top 25 prospect

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

The dude is hilariously thin. He’d be thin for a basketball prospect. But the stuff is great! And he is super-projectable.
There aren’t that many prospects with #1 upside. Alex Reyes. Michael Kopech. Yadier Alvarez. Anderson Espinoza. I think McKenzie deserves to be on that list too.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
Member

I saw video of McKenzie. He makes Carl Edwards Jr. look like me.