There have been a number of incredible pitching talents, from Gavin Williams to Bobby Miller, that have made the jump from the Minors to the big league level this season. However, which MLB prospects are worth watching from a fantasy perspective? Let’s go over five interesting pitchers to keep an eye on.
Much of the attention this past spring in Phillies camp was devoted to hard-throwing right-hander Andrew Painter. The 20-year-old electrified across three levels last season, but health has kept Painter off the mound since the spring. Fellow first-round pick Mick Abel, however, has made sure that Phillies fans don’t forget about him. Through his first eleven starts of the 2023 campaign, Abel has struck out 60 batters across 50.2 IP and opposing batters have hit just .191 off the 21-year-old.
The tall righty can inundate hitters with a high-90s fastball with a lot of life and a sharp slider. He has hit-and-miss stuff, and it’s not out of the question that Abel can make it up to the Majors at some point later in the season. After all, a number of prominent AA pitching prospects — Bryce Miller and Emmet Sheehan, among others — have been promoted straight to the MLB level this season alone.
Acquired by the Cubs in the deal that sent David Robertson to Philadelphia, right-hander Ben Brown may be in Chicago very soon. The 23-year-old broke out last season between A+ and AA, when he struck out 149 batters over 104 innings. While he’s averaged nearly half a walk an inning in 2023 thus far, Brown has also struck out 93 over 63 innings between Tennessee (AA) and Iowa (AAA) this season and developed into one of the Cubs’ top prospects.
The 71st pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, former University of Houston star Robert Gasser put up strong numbers across three levels last season. The Brewers scooped Gasser up last August in the deal that sent Josh Hader to San Diego, and the 24-year-old’s continued to develop nicely in 2023. Gasser struck out 78 batters over his first 13 outings (68 IP) this season.
In the Minors, Gasser showed good command of his fastball and the ability to hit his spots up in order to induce whiffs. A lefty with a low ¾ arm slot and a solid slider to pair with his heat, it’s not out of the question that Gasser could play a factor into the Brewers’ plans this season.
Former Vanderbilt star Jack Leiter lit up radar guns and mowed down opposing NCAA hitters with ease in 2021. The Rangers took Leiter with the second overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, but it took the son of Al Leiter a bit of time to develop. Leiter walked 56 batters over 92.2 IP last season, part of the reason why he posted a 5.54 ERA in 2022. He’s been better in 2023, as he’s owned a 80:38 K:BB ratio through his first 13 starts of the season.
Leiter is a name to watch in fantasy, although we should admit it’s likely that the 23-year-old doesn’t see the Majors until next season. While he does have premium stuff, he still needs to find consistency with commanding it at the pro level.
Former first-round pick Jackson Rutledge’s development has been a roller coaster. Drafted by the Nationals in 2019, Rutledge logged just 73.2 IP between 2019-21, thanks to the COVID shutdowns and injuries. The 24-year-old put up decent numbers in 2022 with Fredericksburg (A), but has taken a strong step forward this season with Harrisburg (AA). Rutledge posted a 3.18 ERA with 56 strikeouts over 62.1 IP and a .649 opponent’s OPS.
Control is a cause for concern with Rutledge. However, his ability to induce ground balls and get outs makes him an intriguing asset for the Nationals. If he can continue to succeed at the higher levels of the Minors, the 24-year-old should get the chance to start at the MLB level soon.