He needed several months to the let the elbow inflammation subside, but Cole said Saturday that he is healthy and ready to pick up a baseball again. With pitchers and catchers not reporting for another two-plus months, Cole has plenty of time to gradually rebuild strength. The 26-year-old will be a popular bounce-back candidate in drafts.
Bickford also tested positive for marijuana prior to the 2015 draft, so the penalty increased to 50 games now that he committed his second offense. Formerly one of the Giants' top prospects, the right-hander wasn't nearly as dominant in five starts in the Brewers system as he was during his time in the Giants organization, and this situation only erodes his prospect shine a bit more. There's no denying his strong ability to strike batters out (10.1 K/9 last season), but his makeup will need to improve if he wants to remain in high standing with the Brewers.
Jackson, the 45th overall pick in 2010, transitioned to a full-time relief role in 2016. He was able to post a 3.69 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A despite issuing 32 free passes in just 46.1 innings, which speaks to his stuff -- he can dial up his fastball in the upper 90s with consistency. However, Jackson wasn't able to overpower major league hitters the same way, giving up 22 hits (including four homers) in 11.2 innings with Texas. He will try to earn a spot in the Atlanta bullpen in spring training.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle intimated that Kuhl was a favorite for one of the three vacancies behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon during a session with reporters at the Winter Meetings this week. Oddly enough, Kuhl had more success away from home in 2016, posting a 2.72 ERA in 46.1 innings outside of PNC Park compared to a 7.03 mark in 24.1 innings at home. More importantly, he showed signs of progress in the second half, including an 18.8 percent strikeout rate and 3.77 ERA (.250/.311/.399 line against) after the All-Star break.
Ross had surgery in October to remove a rib as a method of treating thoracic outlet syndrome, so his availability for the start of spring training, and subsequently Opening Day, is in question. Estimates pegged Ross as a likely $9 million pitcher if he had received a contract from the Padres, so it's likely that he'll be seeking a one-year deal in a similar range to prove that he's healthy with the hope of cashing in as a free agent after he logs quality innings in 2017.
He was the third piece in a package that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals. Dunning was used as a reliever at Florida due to the Gators' depth in the rotation, but he is a legitimate starting pitching prospect. He features a mid-90s fastball, a potentially plus changeup and a slider that could develop into a useful third pitch. The White Sox were reportedly quite high on Dunning during the draft process, so it is not surprising he was included in this deal. Look for him to be assigned to Low-A, with a chance to move quickly, as is often the case with pitching prospects in the White Sox's system. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez headlined Chicago's return package.
It may seem unlikely that Garrett would be legitimately in the mix for this spot, considering he did not even receive a September call-up last year, despite being on the 40-man roster. However, he has just one minor league option remaining, so the Reds may want to see what they have in Garrett as a big league starter. He turns 25 in May, and is older than Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed, both of whom have logged a handful of big league starts and will be competing withe Garrett in spring training for the fifth starter spot. The 6-foot-5 southpaw's strikeout rate dipped from 25.1 percent to 19.7 percent after getting a promotion to Triple-A, while posting an 11.3 percent walk rate -- his worst such mark since he was in rookie ball in 2012. At this point, it is hard to suggest Garrett profiles as more than a No. 4 starter, and he may be better suited for a high-leverage relief role in a Reds bullpen that is sorely lacking a power lefty.
While he maintains his prospect eligibility entering his age-24 season, Stephenson's prospect star has crashed and burned, as he has been unable to fix his control issues at Triple-A or in the big leagues. He posted a 6.50 FIP and 31:19 K:BB in 37 innings (eight starts) with the Reds last year and has posted walk rates above 11 percent at every stop above High-A. His changeup and curveball were effective offerings, but hitters posted a 205 wRC+ against his 93 mph fastball. He will need to significantly improve his command of that pitch if he has any hope of making it as a starter. Stephenson will compete with Cody Reed and Amir Garrett for the fifth spot in the rotation, with Tim Adleman serving as a fall-back option if the three youngsters don't impress in spring training.
A rebuilding team like the Reds can afford to give Reed a fairly long leash in the rotation, even after last season's considerable struggles after he joined the big league roster. Reed has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, but MLB hitters absolutely teed off on both pitches last year, so it would seem his fastball command and sequencing are the two areas he needs to address if he wants to be a starter long term. He will be competing with Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett for that fifth spot, with Tim Adleman serving as the fall-back option if none of the youngsters do enough to win the job. If Reed is not in the rotation, he could work out of the bullpen to continue to gain experience against big league pitching, or he could remain stretched out at Triple-A, as he has three minor league options remaining.
Locke will compete with Tom Koehler for the fifth spot in Miami's rotation. He has a career 4.41 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 644.1 innings, and has not posted a strikeout rate north of 18 percent since 2012. Last year was perhaps Locke's worst professional campaign, as he notched a 5.44 ERA and his strikeout rate fell to an abysmal 12.9 percent.