Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #5: RHP, Ryan Helsley
Previously Ranked 10th in preseason, 4th at July Reranking
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft
THE QUICK WRITE UP
Everyone knows that Ryan Helsley is my favorite pitching prospect in the organization. His big fastball, big curve ball, big cutter, and good change up make him the best pitching prospect in the organization. However, he's been on the Memphis disabled list since June 10th with shoulder fatigue. Any time that a pitcher goes on the DL for about two months with anything shoulder related, well, that is a major concern. He's still the best pitching prospect in the organization in my book, but the shoulder issue is enough to warrant putting Dakota Hudson ahead of him on the list. Helsley is a fun pitcher to watch. He has a bit of an unorthodox motion and set up and it helps him create deception and repeat his delivery. I'd be anxious to see the stat cast data on his release point because, when watching at home on a crappy MiLB. TV feed, it appears that everything is coming out of the same release point just like it does with Jack Flaherty. That fact alone helps his "big" stuff play-up.
If you look at the stats, you might think "why was he so average while at Springfield this season but so good at Memphis? That doesn't make any sense!" That's a fair question, but the truth is that Helsley never should have been at Springfield this season. He should have started the year at Memphis and, if he had stayed healthy, he should have already been in the majors. His time at Springfield was about cleaning up and toying with some things. His time at Memphis was about owning hitters. Whether he eventually pitches out of the bullpen or the rotation, Helsley will be a major league player and contributor. Now we just wait and see what happens with that shoulder. If he was healthy he'd be the #2 prospect in the organization, in my book.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
Any conversation about what's worth getting excited about in regards to Helsley should begin with his high-spin fastball that gets on hitters faster than the flash gets around the bases (science, yo). He throws it with command both high and low in the zone effectively.
The other thing about his fastball is, it gains velocity as the game goes on. It might start out at 94 MPH, but by the 6th it'll be up to 96-98 MPH.
Yes, the fastball is monstrous, but it's complimented by a complete arsenal of pitches. His curve and change are both above average pitches but are plus when he's commanding them. His cutter is very good, too, but he doesn't command it as frequently or with the same authority that he commands his other pitches.
All four of his pitches touch an array of velocities and they come from the same arm angle/arm slot/ release point.
His motion is a little card board and stiff, but it creates deception. He starts and keeps his hands out and away from his body and he uses his massive trunk to hide the ball until it's over head.
He has a "massive trunk"
He's a strike out per inning pitcher with average command. He doesn't allow a lot of base runners, even when he is allowing walks.
He doesn't allow a lot of "hard hits.". He induces a lot of soft contact.
At the very worst, when healthy, Helsley will be a devastating back of the bullpen arm.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
Helsley is hurt. That he's been hurt since June 9th with shoulder fatigue is cause for alarm. That there hasn't been much in the way of an update since June 9th about the injury is an even bigger cause for alarm. It can't be screamed loud enough: SHOULDER FATIGUE IS THE BIGGEST RED FLAG FOR A PITCHER. We'll have to wait calmly and hope for the best.
Helsley walks too many hitters. With enough exposure at a level, he adapts and cleans up, but he still walks too many after he cleans up.
Helsley's home runs allowed number has spiked this year. That's worrisome when we start to examine the advanced approach of most upper-levels hitters. He's also pitching in The Pacific Coast League and the Texas League, so there is some helium in both of those numbers.
It'll be easy to run on Helsley. He's slow-ish to the plate
Helsley toys with hitters. He usually doesn't have much trouble getting ahead of hitters, but putting them away is usually the issue. More so than any pitcher I've watched in years, Helsley will get himself into a pitchers count early, then lose a hitter because he nibbles. His stuff is too good to nibble.
I maintain that the most likely outcome for Ryan Helsley is something similar to Bud Norris but with out the "white Nationalist" undertones. His ceiling is substantially higher than that, though. Maybe the 5% ultimate ceiling is something similar statistically to Lance McCullers if you replace McCullers nasty sinker with Helsley's nasty fastball. Maybe the 20% outcome is something closer to a more powerful version of Shelby Miller.
Thank you to Fangraphs for being a one stop shop for all things stats.
Thanks For Reading!!