Top Breakout Prospects to Watch For 2024: Pitchers

Throughout the minors there are countless top prospects who could soon become stars on the mound. Here are a few key arms to watch in 2024.

TEMPE, - MARCH 16: Caden Dana #91 of the Los Angeles Angels warms up prior to the 2024 Spring Breakout Game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Saturday, March 16, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Marison Bilagody/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

With every Minor League full season level officially under way, it’s time to highlight some of our favorite breakout pitching prospects. There’s so many talented arms across each level that this article could probably be 30 names long. But I wanted to highlight some of the names I am most excited for heading into 2024.

Caden Dana – RHP – Angels

The top pitching prospect in the Angels system, Dana enjoyed a strong showing between High-A and Double-A as a 19-year-old before being shut down in mid July to reportedly manage his innings. Selected in the 11th round of the 2022 draft, Dana signed for second round money ($1.5 million).

Standing at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Dana repeats his delivery pretty well for a big-bodied, young arm. His 93-95 mph fastball has a chance to be a plus pitch, with above average ride at the top of the zone while his plus slider is his best weapon. His curveball and changeup give him a chance for a legitimate four-pitch mix as he gains a more consistent feel.

Alex Clemmey – LHP – Guardians

A 6-foot-6 southpaw with high octane stuff, Clemmey has turned plenty of heads since being drafted in the second round last July. Beyond the stuff ticking up for Clemmey, he has improved his ability to repeat his funky delivery and pour in strikes. Sitting 94-96 mph and flirting with triple digits, his delivery makes hitters feel even more rushed.

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Working off of his fastball is a power curveball that has the makings of a plus pitch, tunneling well off of his fastball. Command and the development of his changeup will be the questions long-term, but the 18-year-old has the goods to simply overpower lower level hitters and he seems to gain polish each time he toes the rubber.

Nolan McLean – RHP – Mets

One of my favorite live looks of the spring, McLean is a fun and athletic arm. Still getting run as a two-way prospect for the Mets, McLean projects best on the mound where his mid 90s fastball jumps from his 5.3 foot release hight and short arm delivery.

The right-hander can really spin it, whether it be his short, hard slider at 89-90 mph or his sweepier breaking ball in the mid 80s. The former features downward dive in addition to cut, while the latter frequently eclipses 3,200 RPM with late, sharp sweep, making the two breaking balls useful weapons against hitters from both sides.

McLean mostly worked out of the bullpen and his control has been shaky, however his athleticism and limited experience (57 collegiate innings) provide optimism that he can improve in that regard.

Henry Lalane – LHP – Yankees

The No. 9 prospect in the Yankees system, the projectable yet polished Lalane offers tantalizing potential. Walking just four hitters in 24 1/3 innings at the complex is impressive for any teenage arm, but when you consider the fact that he is a 6-foot-8 southpaw, the early command Lalane possesses is remarkable.

Lalane’s fastball sits in the mid 90s, touching 97 mph with good life and possibly more in the tank. His changeup also flashes plus, working well off of the heater. Though he is still looking for a decent breaking ball, Lalane’s stuff and pitchability should make him a nightmare for lower level hitters this year.

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Ty Floyd – RHP – Reds

Cut from the Bryce Miller cloth, Floyd is the type of pitcher who could similarly put up more impressive numbers as a pro than he did in college. The Reds No. 5 prospect sits 93-95 mph with his fastball, boasting elite carry from a low release height; the pitch could reach double plus territory.

Much like Miller, the secondaries are a work in progress at this stage. Floyd’s slider flashes above average and the changeup is a work in progress.

Even if the slider is not completely there for Floyd, his fastball is so unique that he could dominate pro hitters with extremely high usage. That said, both of his secondaries were trending in the right direction through the back half of his junior season. Floyd could rack up whiffs with the best of them in High-A.

Cole Schoenwetter – RHP – Reds

A fifth round pick who received early second round money to forego his commitment to UC Santa Barbara. The right-hander enjoyed some late helium in the draft cycle thanks to great fastball characteristics and a smooth, low-effort delivery that makes an uptick from his low 90s velocity easy to dream on.

Already possessing a good feel for both his curveball and changeup, Schoenwetter possesses a quality three-pitch mix headlined by a fastball that could play as plus out of the gate. He’ll likely make his pro debut at the complex before traveling to Low-A Dayton where his pitch mix could give lower level hitters fits.

Thomas Harrington – RHP – Pirates

While Harrington enjoyed a solid 2023 season, he may just be scraping the surface of his potential. He’ll get a slightly delayed start to the season due to what is believed to be minor shoulder discomfort before joining a loaded Double-A Altoona rotation.

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The Pirates No. 7 prospect, Harrington’s fastball and slider lead the way and he worked on a splitter during the offseason that could be a difference-maker. Add in a taste-breaking cutter and above average command and there is plenty to like with Harrington.

Adam Macko – LHP – Blue Jays

Finally healthy last season, Macko provided flashes of what can be a really exciting arm. His fastball, slider and curveball all have a chance to be above average or better, with the curveball already in the plus territory. Not only did Macko eclipse a career-high in innings last season, but his fastball ticked up over his final few starts, coinciding with dominance.

Now sitting closer to the mid 90s with more than 18 inches of induced vertical break from a below average release height, Macko’s fastball looked like a plus pitch down the stretch in 2023 with his two breaking balls tunneling well off of it. The Jays No. 5 prospect will mix in a decent changeup as well. Command and health are the two keys for Macko, both of which trended in the right direction last season.

Luis Perales – RHP – Red Sox

A unique delivery with even more unique pitch characteristics, Perales features an over-the-top delivery, but creates an uphill angle as his hands break and he takes his arm back. This creates a bit of a slingshot effect, with his arm being the last thing that the hitter sees.

Averaging 21 inches of induced vertical break–albeit from a higher release–minimal horizontal movement and built-in deception make it arguably the best fastball in the Red Sox system. His slider flashes above average along with a decent cutter and fringy changeup that all play up from a release point that aids tunneling along with a fastball that encourages hitters to cheat.

Command will be a determiner for the soon-to-be 21-year-old, though he improved in that regard as the season progressed.

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Sean Sullivan – LHP – Rockies

A second round pick in the 2023 draft, Sullivan fits the mold of what the Rockies have been attacking in the draft the last few years: unique and lefty. Following in the footsteps of sidewinding 2022 third rounder Carson Palmquist, Sullivan’s rare blend of low release and great extension make his low 90s fastball a whiff machine. He poured the pitch in for a strike more than 70% of the time in his final season at Wake Forest.

Sullivan’s best secondary pitch is his changeup that is extremely difficult to differentiate out of his hand, but he did not use it much once he started coming out of the bullpen for Wake. Good control and a fastball that is plus or better from a rare look for hitters give Sullivan a strong baseline and if the secondaries are even slightly improved in 2024, he could be in for a monster season.

David Matoma – RHP – Pirates

Rarely will you see an arm yet to pitch above the DSL crack the top 15 for a good farm system, but Matoma is that electrifying. A modest, wiry build listed at 6-foot, 154 pounds, Matoma touched triple digits before his 18th birthday averaging more than 96 mph on his heater in his pro debut.

His gyro slider in the upper 80s dives under barrels when he stays on top of it, but it can get away from him. As the Uganda native continues to compile innings, his feel to pitch should improve, though there’s a chance the high-effort delivery Matoma features could be contributing to his spotty secondary command. The pitch has a chance to be plus, along with a developing changeup. Matoma is a unique talent.

Hunter Barco – LHP – Pirates

Barco was looking like a first round pick in the 2022 draft before a torn UCL put an end to his campaign. The Pirates still took the talented southpaw in the second round, awaiting his pro debut until July of last year. While Barco’s velocity was understandably down a bit as he shook the rust off, he has ticked back up to 92-93 mph this spring with his slider looking sharper, with more separation from his splitter.

A strike thrower who picks up plenty of contact on the ground, Barco hides the ball well and creates difficult angles for hitters from both sides of the plate from. As he continues to regain his above average command, Barco should balance weak contact with enough whiff to be a quality starting option.

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Trace Bright – RHP – Orioles

An intriguing four pitch mix, Bright can attack hitters in a few ways. His above average fastball featuring more than 19 inches of induced vertical break sets the tone for his plus curveball with good depth at 80 mph.

The differentiator for Bright this season will be his feel for his slider and changeup. As he mentioned in the MASN All Access segment, his improved fastball command has helped him get ahead with increased confidence in his breaking balls as a put away pitch, especially the downer curveball separating off of it.

Though he did not consistently land it for a strike, Bright has flashed good change-ups and his slider was more effective as the season progressed. There was a little more sharpness to his stuff in my live looks this spring.

Thomas White – LHP – Marlins

A 6-foot-5 lefty who won’t turn 20 years old until the end of the season, White already sits mid 90s with his fastball along with a good feel for a pair of secondaries. His curveball stands out as his best pitch with two-plane break that can be devastating to lefties, but is sharp enough to bury towards the back leg of righties.

White’s change-up could give him a third plus pitch and he showed a great feel for it during Spring Training. While it’s extremely early in the development of both White and Marlins first rounder Nobel Meyer, White was the name that continued to come up during Marlins camp as the primary pitching prospect standout.

While his long arm action can result in some inconsistent command, he stays around the strike zone enough and has the stuff to get away with pitching from behind a bit more.

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Owen Murphy – RHP – Braves

A low 90s fastball with great characteristics, Murphy allowed too much hard contact in 2022 and dealt with some velocity fluctuations as he was stretched out in his first full pro season. A first round pick in 2022, Murphy’s fastball could be a big whiff pitch despite his lack of velocity, averaging nearly 20 inches of IVB from just a 5.6 foot release height, similar to Cristian Javier.

Murphy’s gave away too many pitches last season when trying to elevate his fastball, struggling to hit his spots in the top third of the zone. He looked much improved in this regard during the spring while averaging a tick more on the fastball (we’ll see if he can maintain it).

Both of Murphy’s breaking balls can be above average offerings, with the 20-year-old having a much better feel for his slider. He landed it for a strike 70% of the time in 2023, sometimes leaving it in the zone too much. His curveball is an excellent out pitch to lefties with plenty of vertical separation from his fastball. As he weaponizes his fastball more effectively, Murphy should pick up strikeouts in bunches with minimal free passes handed out.