Image credit: Red Sox RHP Isaac Coffey (Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)
RoboScout unveils its final installment of potential breakout prospects in 2024, examining pitchers across the upper levels of the minors who are undervalued entering the offseason.
You can find earlier versions of this series here.
- Underrated hitters at the lower levels
- Underrated hitters at the upper levels
- Underrated pitchers at the lower levels
Isaac Coffey, RHP, Red Sox
Coffey reached Double-A to end the year, but his work in High-A first caught the eye of RoboScout. His 89-mph fastball doesn’t light up any Stuff+ models and, as a result, Coffey ranked outside the Red Sox Top 30 to end the 2023 season. RoboScout, who does not know that Coffey’s unique sidearm delivery means that his arsenal probably shouldn’t be inputted into a “traditional” Stuff+ formula, still has Coffey as the No. 22 pitcher in High-A despite folding the below average Stuff+ into his composite rating.
Coffey’s deception is indirectly outputted as solid results: the horizontal (arm side) run on his fastball is an absurd 21 inches and, as one would expect from a side/submariner, extremely flat as it crosses the plate. The pitch gets above-average whiffs and produces “plus” run value despite the pedestrian velocity because of the unique look and his ability to command it in the zone. Coffey supplements his two-seam fastball with a curveball that has over 19 inches of horizontal (glove side) sweep. That means he has over 40 inches of variation in his side-to-side horizontal run. To put that in perspective, Rays RHP Kevin Kelly had the largest difference between fastball arm-side run and breaking ball glove-side run at 38 inches between his sweeper and sinker. Phillies RHP Luis F. Ortiz and Yankees RHP Michael King had 35 inches of difference between their sweeper and sinkers.
|Pitcher||Horizontal Variance||xwOBA SI||xwOBA CU/SL|
|Isaac Coffey||40”||.296 (milb)||.262 (milb)|
|Luis F. Ortiz||35”||.298||.262|
In general, Coffey finds himself in a similar situation to D-backs LHP Yu-Min Lin, who finished the year ranked No. 14 in Arizona’s system. Traditional scouting reports and pitch arsenal evaluations divisively lag behind their actual production. One more interesting data point? From a performance point of view, the most similar age-23 seasons in High-A to Isaac Coffey since 2007 are Tanner Bibee (2022), Bailey Ober (2019) and Joe Ryan (2019).
Although Coffey did get promoted to Double-A, he did prevent runs nearly as well, posting a 3.92 ERA over 57 innings in Portland, though he did have a 11.3 K/9 which was top-40 for Double-A with at least 50 innings pitched.
Coleman Crow, RHP, Mets
Let’s start with a little peek behind the curtain to RoboScout’s process. I begin the exercise at the top of RoboScout rankings at each level and skip over pitchers, in descending order, who are well-regarded in the industry. I keep going until I land on a name that is not universally acclaimed relative to the other pitchers in the same tier. In other words, the top five starting pitchers in Double-A are Andrew Abbott (CIN), Eury Perez (MIA), Connor Phillips (CIN), Emmet Sheehan (LAD), and Ricky Tiedemann (TOR). They are all well-known prospects who are not “underrated per RoboScout”.
Crow ranked 14th in Double-A despite throwing only 24 innings. The Mets acquired Crow from the Angels as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal. The righthander is now on the mend following midseason Tommy John surgery and he also experienced elbow troubles in 2022, so he carries tremendous risk. That said, the stuff and results can’t be overstated.
Although some of his Statcast metrics must be discounted because he accrued the majority of his stats with the pre-tacked Southern League ball, his data cannot be attributed so reductively to “the ball.”
I first mentioned in early May how his curveball has some of the highest horizontal sweep and spin rate of any curve in baseball. In fact, it has the most glove-side run of any curveball in the upper levels, including the majors. He doesn’t stop there. His four seam fastball — in large part due to his low release slot — has an extremely flat vertical approach angle (VAA) leading to whiffs, especially up in the zone. He also throws a high-spin slider with 10 inches of horizontal sweep that elicits above-average chases and weak contact. With a curveball bordering on double plus, an above-average four-seamer and a solid slider, Crow has mid-rotation potential assuming he can make a full recovery and rebuild his stamina. He’s one of RoboScout’s most fascinating targets to watch.
Landen Roupp, RHP, Giants
RoboScout ranked Roupp No. 19 in Double-A on the strength of a solid 17.5% strikeout-to-walk percentage in his age-24 season. That also doesn’t account for his future MLB home ballpark being a pitcher’s haven. Roupp’s repertoire primarily consists of a two-seam fastball and curveball that both grade better than average according to our internal Stuff+ model. While a two-seamer is generally one of the least effective pitches in terms of run value per pitch, he manages to extract additional run prevention out of the 93-94 mph offering on account of his low release point, 16 inches of arm-side run, and above-average extension.
His curveball is a true plus pitch that gets over a foot-and-a-half of glove-side sweep. He seems capable of throwing it in the zone when needed, or eliciting chases (and whiffs) at a plus rate as a putaway pitch. Although he does also throw a well-rated, high-RPM slider with excellent glove-side sweep that batters struggled to square up, he threw it less than five percent of the time in 2023. Roupp is in a similar phylum as Ryan Walker by way of a predominantly two-pitch mix from a lower arm-slot and whose pitches have over 15 inches of horizontal break in opposite directions. Expect the 25-year old Roupp to arrive in San Francisco at some point in 2024. If he continues to refine his command, he could debut in the rotation.
Porter Hodge, RHP, Cubs
Those only looking at Hodge’s 5.13 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in Double-A, due mostly to his 5.47 BB/9, might wonder why Hodge is identified here, especially considering he is ranked No. 88 by RoboScout. Two words: his stuff.
His four-seam fastball comes directly over the top – with a precise 12:00 tilt and no horizontal movement at all – and over seven feet of extension. That makes the 94-mph velocity come onto hitters faster than expected. His cutter sits at an impressive 93 mph and was the second-fastest cutter thrown in Double-A (minimum 30 pitches). The pitch also has nearly four inches of horizontal cutting action. To have that kind of cut on a pitch thrown with such velocity is extremely rare. You can see how much of an outlier it is below when comparing horizontal cutting action in inches to cutter velocity (mph).
But we saved the best for last — his slider. Hodge imparted the third-most horizontal sweep (17 inches) of any pitcher who reached Double-A and threw 100 or more sliders. Yet Hodge uniquely located it in the zone 67% of the time. And when his slider’s hellacious movement runs it out of the zone, it elicited chases nearly 39% of the time, leading to an overall plus run value. Hitters must also contend with the movement profile of his curveball, which has over 16 inches of horizontal movement but a difference of 12 inches of IVB from the slider.
Hodge’s Double-A walk rate was 13.6%, so he needs to sharpen his command, but the raw ingredients might be there considering his 39% ball percentage in 2023. Hodge doesn’t turn 23 until February and already has 80 Double-A innings. He could reach Chicago by the second half of 2024, with a chance to find a home in the rotation in 2025.
Chayce McDermott, RHP, Orioles
McDermott ended the year ranked No. 14 in Baltimore’s system, but RoboScout ranked him the No. 21 pitcher across all of Triple-A. McDermott has a mid-90s fastball with vertical life that generates plus whiffs and an incredible per-run pitch value. His mid-80s slider has nearly a foot of horizontal break and is almost as effective as his fastball in terms of run prevention.
But the 2021 fourth-round pick out of Ball State has struggled with control for nearly his entire professional career. His command woes particularly affected his curveball, which had a 34% CSW, 41% whiff percentage and induced a 33% chase rate in 2022, but took a step back in 2023 in conjunction with iffy strike-throwing. McDermott’s potential as a rotation piece hinges on harnessing his overall command. RoboScout sees him as a league-average pitcher at peak which, especially to an Orioles organization that currently lacks big league pitching depth, would be extremely valuable.