Last year was undoubtedly the year of the rookie. Whether it was Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, or Noah Syndergaard, young talent thrived across the league; and we could see a repeat in 2016. While there's certainly less hype around the class of prospects that could see themselves called up this season, there are still a significant number of players in the minor leagues that could have a serious impact on their respective teams.
MLB Pipeline has Giolito ranked as the number one prospect in baseball, and for good reason.
"Giolito has the highest ceiling among Minor League pitchers, boasting an elite fastball that sits mid-to-upper-90s and a 12-to-6 curveball that he throws with power and hard, downer action. His changeup has steadily improved in the past two seasons and his confidence along with it, giving him a legitimate weapon against left-handed hitters."
He's starting 2016 in AA (where he ended the 2015 season), but he's likely not going to stay there for long. In 47.1 innings at Harrisburg last year, Giolito posted a K/9 of 8.56, a BB/9 of 3.23, a HR/9 of 0.38, along with an ERA of 3.80 and an FIP of 3.18.
The back-end of the Nationals' rotation isn't set, with Tanner Roark and Joe Ross currently occupying the 4th and 5th slots. While Giolito hasn't yet reached AAA, if he earns a promotion relatively soon, he could find himself in the big leagues when rosters expand, or sooner, if an injury creates a need.
Urias is another über starting pitching prospect. He's only 19-years old, but already has an elite repertoire of pitches.
"The best left-handed pitching prospect in the game. Urias possesses plus or better stuff across the board. He can throw his lively fastball, which parks at 91-94 mph, and reaches 97, for strikes on both sides of the plate. There's also some deception with Urias' heater, and opponents can't sit on it because he has such good feel for his big-breaking curveball and fading changeup."
If there's anything working against Urias at this point, it's his lack of prolonged experience. He's never thrown more than 87.2 innings in a season, and it's unclear if the Dodgers have an innings cap on Urias. If there is a limit to how much he can throw in 2016, that would seemingly hurt, but not extinguish, his chances of making the big league club this year.
The Pirates' right-hander is the 8th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year old pitcher has been in Pittsburgh's system since 2012. In 2015, he threw 121 innings between Low-A, AA, and AAA. He finished with a 2.53 ERA, along with a 2.68 FIP, and 149 strikeouts.
"His stuff is ready to get big league hitters out, starting with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball that gets swings and misses both in and out of the strike zone. When Glasnow returned from an ankle injury in 2015, his feel for his curveball was inconsistent, forcing him to throw his changeup more and helping him improve his third offering. Control has always been his biggest issue, but he's made significant strides in that area."
Glasnow's biggest problem is his high walk rate. For most of 2015, he didn't show any signs of trouble, but when he was promoted to AAA, Glasnow turned in a BB/9 of 4.83 in 41 innings. The Pirates' rotation is currently Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke, and Juan Nicasio. If Glasnow is ready, Pittsburgh likely won't have any trouble pushing Locke or Nicasio to the bullpen in order to create a rotation spot.
Arcia is Milwaukee's best prospect, and he could very well see action at the big league level in 2016. Last year in AA, he hit .307/.347/.453 with a wRC+ of 126, and thus far at AAA, he's hitting .333/.385/.333 with a wRC+ of 115.
"Arcia has always shown a knack for getting the barrel to the ball, but the quality of his contact improved considerably in 2015 and allowed him to get his raw power in games more easily. On top of that, his plus speed helped him accrue at least 20 steals for the third straight season, and he should continue to be a basestealing threat at the highest level."
Jonathan Villar is currently the Brewers' shortstop, and while he's not going to block Arcia, if he's successful this season, he could delay Milwaukee's top prospect. They're not competing for a playoff spot in 2016, and while it would be nice to get Arcia some major league experience if they can, the Brewers aren't going to start Arcia's service time clock until he forces the issue.
Who else should we be looking forward to as the season progresses? Let us know which prospects you're excited to see this year.