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Ranking The Top LHP Prospects, Breakout Stars For 2019

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Jesus Luzardo (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

After several down years, the lefthanded pitching crop is the best it has been in some time.

The emergence of Jesus Luzardo and an influx of high draft picks (A.J. Puk, MacKenzie Gore, Brendan McKay, DL Hall, Matthew Liberatore) have provided a serious injection of talent into the lefthanded pitching prospect ranks. The emergence of international signees Adrian Morejon and Jose Suarez and the signing of Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi have further bolstered the crop.

It isn't the deepest group, but there are still plenty of low-level sleepers who could make big jumps in the next year or two.

Rating: 3 out of 5 starts

  1. Jesus Luzardo, Athletics
  2. A.J. Puk, Athletics
  3. Justus Sheffield, Mariners
  4. MacKenzie Gore, Padres
  5. Yusei Kikuchi, Mariners
  6. Brendan McKay, Rays
  7. Adrian Morejon, Padres
  8. DL Hall, Orioles
  9. Matthew Liberatore, Rays
  10. Logan Allen, Padres
  11. Daniel Lynch, Royals
  12. Luiz Gohara, Braves
  13. Jose Suarez, Angels
  14. Kyle Muller, Braves
  15. Joey Wentz, Braves
  16. Ryan Weathers, Padres
  17. Taylor Hearn, Rangers
  18. Sam Hentges, Indians
  19. Caleb Ferguson, Dodgers
  20. Keegan Akin, Orioles
  21. Brailyn Marquez, Cubs
  22. Jojo Romero, Phillies
  23. Shane McClanahan, Rays
  24. Genesis Cabrera, Cardinals
  25. Framber Valdez, Astros
  26. Darwinzon Hernandez, Red Sox
  27. Lewis Thorpe, Twins
  28. Anthony Kay, Mets
  29. Jay Groome, Red Sox
  30. Patrick Sandoval, Angels
  31. Stephen Gonsalves, Twins
  32. Kolby Allard, Braves
  33. Joe Palumbo, Rangers
  34. Trevor Rogers, Marlins
  35. Cionel Perez, Astros
  36. Ranger Suarez, Phillies
  37. David Peterson, Mets
  38. Ryan Rolison, Rockies
  39. Kris Bubic, Royals
  40. Thomas Szapucki, Mets
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Prominent 2020 MLB Prospects Who Missed League Top 20s

Here are top prospects worth keeping tabs on despite limited workloads in in 2019.

As part of our 2019 position rankings, BA staffers are picking one breakout prospect and one prospect they are concerned about at each position. Here are the selections for righthanded pitchers.

BEN BADLER

Breakout: Brailyn Marquez, Cubs

Marquez is still a few years away, but there's a lot to build on and signs of things moving in the right direction. His velocity has trended up, so he's regularly pitching in the mid-90s and cranking it up to 98 mph from the left side, with a power slider that helps him miss bats. There are safer bets if you're looking at lefties on this list, but Marquez is one of the more exciting southpaws in the lower levels.

Red Flag: Luiz Gohara, Braves

It's going to be a big year for Gohara. In 2017, his stuff was the type of arsenal you see in a pitcher at the top of a rotation, with mid- to upper-90s heat with a wipeout slider. Last year, the pure stuff backed up. Less velocity, less snap to the slider. It showed in the results, too. He's still a 22-year-old who already has major league experience, and I think there's hope he returns to 2017 form this year, but the atrophy of his stuff is definitely a concern, even taking into account all of the off-the-field tragedies he dealt with.

KYLE GLASER

Breakout: Taylor Hearn, Rangers

The Rangers' acquisition of Hearn for Keone Kela was one of the shrewder veteran-for-prospect swaps at the trade deadline last year. It's rare to find a lefty who sits in the mid-90s as a starter, and his slider and changeup are both improving. For all the concerns about his command and control, Hearn posted a perfectly respectable 3.3 BB/9 mark last year while recording 9.8 strikeouts per nine at Double-A. He also showed durability in logging 129 innings. That kind of power arm with improving secondary stuff that is also durable is rare to find, and should make Hearn a strong contributor in the majors sooner rather than later.

Red Flag: Stephen Gonsalves, Twins

Gonsalves has reached the majors and deserves a ton of credit for it. That's a huge accomplishment and one not to be taken likely. At the same time, it's just very, very difficult to see him having any kind of long-standing success. It's light stuff with poor control, a bad combination that major league hitters will crush. We saw that happen in Gonsalves' first stint last year (24.2 IP, 28 H, 18 ER, 22 BB, 16 K) and it's hard to see it getting any better unless both his stuff and control jump significantly.

JOSH NORRIS

BreakoutDarwinzon Hernandez, Red Sox

Hernandez may not be a starter in the long run, but his mid- to upper-90s fastball and wipeout breaking ball should play well out of the bullpen. He dominated in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 24 hitters in 11.1 innings, and he still has room to sharpen his command. In a Red Sox system picked nearly dry by trades (albeit shrewd ones), Hernandez stands out as one of the brighter prospects.

Red Flag: Jay Groome, Red Sox

Very little has gone right for Groome since being drafted 12th overall in 2015. He got hurt during his first game in what was to be his first full season, then got slammed upon his return. He had Tommy John surgery in May 2018, and isn't slated to return until sometime toward the middle of 2019. Once he gets there, he's going to have to prove that the dynamic arsenal he possessed as a high school star is still intact. 

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