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Friday March 5th, 2021 5:55AM

Top pitching prospects have had their struggles in 2020

By The Associated Press
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Kansas City's Brady Singer took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Thursday. Then, a night later, Casey Mize began a game with five hitless frames for Detroit.

For fans of the Royals and Tigers, it was a welcome glimpse of what the future could hold.

Singer and Mize were both drafted in the first round in 2018 — Mize was the top pick overall — and each has had a chance to pitch during this pandemic-shortened season. Neither has particularly good numbers overall, but this past week was a step in the right direction.

Singer is 2-4 with a 4.66 ERA in nine starts. His eight-inning effort Thursday was the first time he'd lasted at least six. Mize hasn't gone six innings yet, but he went 5 1/3 on Friday for his longest start. He is 0-1 with a 5.85 ERA.

These two aren't alone with their growing pains. Plenty of other young pitchers have had similar struggles this year. Toronto's Nate Pearson (0-0, 6.61 ERA) made four starts but has had elbow issues recently, San Diego's Luis Patino (0-0, 5.52) has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen, and Philadelphia's Spencer Howard (1-2, 5.92) has lasted five innings in only one of his six starts. Tarik Skubal, Mize's teammate with the Tigers, is 1-2 with a 7.27 ERA.

However, there are success stories among the game's current group of pitching prospects. Sixto Sanchez (3-1, 1.69) pitched a complete game Sunday for Miami. It was the seven-inning kind — part of a doubleheader — but Sanchez has caught Pedro Martinez's attention and drew a complimentary tweet from the former star.

Ian Anderson (3-0, 1.64) has been impressive through four starts for Atlanta. Dane Dunning of the White Sox (1-0, 2.70) and Deivi Garcia (1-1, 3.06) of the Yankees are off to nice starts.

IT'S A RACE?

The San Diego Padres don't look satisfied with a postseason spot. They've won seven in a row and are within 2 1/2 games of the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West. Those two teams have the best records in the National League and the top two run differentials in all of baseball.

They play a series in San Diego starting Monday night.

TRIVIA TIME

Tim Anderson of the White Sox has raised his batting average to .362, the top mark in the major leagues. He also led the majors in hitting last year at .335.

Who is the last player to lead the majors in batting average in consecutive seasons?

HIGHLIGHT

Albert Pujols reached another milestone Sunday when he hit his 660th home run, tying Willie Mays for fifth on the career list. Only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez have more.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Alec Mills was hardly a top prospect when he was drafted in the 22nd round in 2012. He made his big league debut in 2016 but had only 14 starts under his belt before tossing a no-hitter Sunday for the Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee. Mills' gem was a team effort. He struck out just five and walked three.

The 28-year-old Mills traveled quite a path to reach this moment. He was a walk-on at Tennessee-Martin and had Tommy John surgery a year after being drafted by Kansas City.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Larry Walker led the majors in hitting in 1998 and 1999, when he was with Colorado. Walker hit .363 in '98, then followed that up with a .379 mark the following season. He also hit .366 in 1997 but finished second to Tony Gwynn.

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Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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