by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Which prospects are on the verge of making an impact in the Major Leagues? This weekly column will rank the ten who are closest (as well as other names that are being closely considered). Keep in mind that while talent is factored in opportunity plays a major role, so there may be some “lesser” prospects who rank fairly highly on the list (ITC = In the Conversation; NR = Not Ranked):
1) Wil Myers – Tampa Bay Rays – Outfielder (1)
2013 Statistics - .283, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 41 R, 7 SB over 237 AB
Myers has been on fire since the calendar turned to June (.341, 4 HR, 11 RBI in 10 games) and is one of the premier prospects in the game. The question isn’t if Myers will get called up, it really is just when. While Tampa has been one of the better offenses of late, he’s making it difficult to keep him down.
2) Zack Wheeler – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (3)
2013 Statistics – 4-1, 4.14 ERA, 66 K, 25 BB over 63.0 IP
It has been all but confirmed that Wheeler will make his Major League debut next Tuesday, with the Mets scheduled for a day/night double header against the Braves. His overall numbers have not been impressive, but we do have to take his current setting into account. He actually owns a 2.92 ERA on the road (5.88 at home) this season and has 30 K vs. 9 BB over his past 33.0 IP. He’s not going to be Matt Harvey, but he has the potential to be a solid starting pitcher immediately (albeit an inconsistent one, like most rookie starters).
3) Jonathan Villar – Houston Astros – Shortstop (6)
2013 Statistics – .275, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 30 R, 22 SB over 233 AB
Villar gets a major boost as a middle infielder, because the position is so shallow this season (and there really are no other impact prospects that appear to be on the verge since Nick Franklin is already in the Majors). He also should soon be inline for an opportunity, with Houston shortstops hitting .239 with 5 HR and 4 SB (and the team currently in an overall offensive funk). His biggest question has always been his strikeouts, which he has seemingly figured out (5 K in 31 AB in June). It’s a small sample size, but it easily could be enough for an Astros team that needs to find out if he can be the solution at shortstop for the next few seasons (considering Marwin Gonzalez and Ronnie Cedeno are not the answer).
4) Kyle Gibson – Minnesota Twins – Starting Pitcher (4)
2013 Statistics - 6-5, 3.16 ERA, 69 K, 26 BB over 79.2 IP
Consistency is the name of te game at this point, as he has allowed 2 ER or fewer in five of his past seven starts (and six of his past nine). Of course, those other two starts saw him allow 10 ER over 9.0 IP. He brings solid strikeout numbers, good control and the ability to generate groundballs. Throw in a favorable home ballpark and what exactly is there not to like? Once he proves that he can avoid that awful start he is going to be in the Majors.
5) Nick Castellanos – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (5)
2013 Statistics – .298, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 47 R, 1 SB over 262 AB
Do the Tigers need an offensive boost? No, but don’t think that’s going to stop them. Castellanos owns an overall .374 OBP and has been even more impressive in June (.432/.510/.750). He has seven multi-hit games since June 2 and, with Andy Dirks failing to produce gaudy numbers, Castellanos appears primed to force Detroit’s hand and give him a shot in the Majors.
6) Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins – Third Baseman (NR)
2013 Statistics – .325, 16 HR, 50 RBI, 51 R, 9 SB over 209 AB
Sano destroyed Single-A pitching (.330, 16 HR, 48 RBI), forcing the Twins to recently promote him to Double-A (0-3 with 2 RBI in two games). Just 20-years old it would’ve seemed like a long-shot earlier in the year that he would make his Major League debut in 2013. He is one of the premier offensive prospects in the game and the Twins have an obvious hole at third base. With him at Double-A, it’s starting to look more and more like the future could come sooner than expected.
7) Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
2013 Statistics – 2-0, 1.86 ERA, 26 K, 6 BB over 29.0 IP
After spending time in the Cardinals bullpen, their rash of injuries have necessitated Martinez being sent to Triple-A to be stretched back out as a starter once again. He has looked good thus far, allowing 3 ER in 17.1 innings of work (4 starts) and you could argue that his upside is greater than that of Michael Wacha. He needs to fix his control (5 BB in hist first 11.1 IP), but he didn’t walk a batter in 6.0 innings last night.
8) Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati Reds – Outfielder (8)
2013 Statistics – .251, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 42 R, 40 SB over 255 AB
Hamilton continues to try and make up for his awful April, including 8 SB in his past four games. There is no questioning his speed and the other numbers are starting to come around as well. When the Reds need a spark, Hamilton should be the option they turn to.
9) Jimmy Nelson – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
2013 Statistics – 5-5, 2.78 ERA, 84 K, 24 BB over 77.2 IP
He pitched well in his Triple-A debut (5.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 7 K), though he struggled with his control last night (6 BB over 3.2 IP). Given the struggles in Milwaukee it really is just a matter of time before he is given an opportunity, assuming he pitches well. How long can the team really keep running guys like Alfredo Figaro (despite his strong outing last night, which did come against Miami) and Wily Peralta out there? Overall Nelson has 84 K, 24 BB and a 1.57 GO/AO. In other words, there’s an awful lot to like.
10) Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
2013 Statistics – 2-2, 4.02 ERA, 55 K, 28 BB over 53.2 IP
He showed better control in his last outing, which arguably was his best performance of the year (7.0 shutout innings, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K). It’s going to take more than one outing, however, to convince anyone. He will get another shot this season, but if he can’t consistently throw strikes he is going to have problems excelling.
In The Conversation:
Jarred Cosart – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
Back-to-back rough outings have definitely slowed things down (8 ER over 9.1 IP) and he has actually now walked 16 in his last 14.1 innings of work. Considering how good he was and the incredible need of the Astros, he remains on this list… At least for now. Another poor outing or two could knock him off.
Robbie Erlin – San Diego Padres – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
After pitching well in his spot start we know Erlin is going to get another opportunity in San Diego. It’s just a matter of when it comes. He throws strikes (45 K vs. 18 BB) and the big ballpark in Sam Diego (0.83 AO/GO) will definitely help him excel.
Wilmer Flores – New York Mets – Infielder (NR)
It’s become obvious that the Mets are going to overhaul the entire team this season, so be prepared to see a few names popping up on this list over the next few weeks. The problem with Flores is that he is a man without a position and he hasn’t posted power numbers in the PCL (6 HR). He is hitting .314, though, and has added 22 doubles and 2 triples. He can clearly hit and it is just a matter of time before the Mets give him a shot in Fushing, whether it is at first base or second base.
Sonny Gray – Oakland Athletics – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The back of the A’s rotation has righted itself, but Gray continues to pitch well and is just waiting for his chance. Over 76.1 innings in the PCL he has 77 K, 26 BB and a 1.92 GO/AO. Pitching in Oakland, that is a recipe for success. Keep a close eye on the situation.
Jake Marisnick – Miami Marlins – Outfielder (NR)
The consensus has always been that Christian Yelich would be the next Miami outfielder to join the mix, but is that really a given at this point? Yelich is on the DL and Marisnick is raking (.353/.405/.735 in June). He has 8 HR and 8 SB in 147 AB at Double-A and easily could be the first choice to join Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna in the outfield.
Hunter Morris – Milwaukee Brewers – First Baseman (NR)
It’s somewhat surprising that he has not yet gotten an opportunity and, with Corey Hart on the road to recovery, time is running out. Tha said, Morris is doing his best to force the Brewers’ hand. Sure he’s hitting .246 overall, but he hit .311 in May and has delivered 13 HR. Keep a close eye, as the Brewers do still have a need at first until Hart is back on the field.
Cesar Puello – New York Mets – Outfielder (ITC)
The Mets need help in the outfield and Puello certainly could help to fill that need. Like we said with Flores it is clear that the Mets want to find out what they have with some of their young players. Unlike with Flores, Puello has a position and fills a clear void on the Major League roster (do they really have one capable Major League outfielder). He may not arrive until the trade deadline, but there’s little doubt at this point.
George Springer – Houston Astros – Outfielder (NR)
The owner of 18 HR and 18 SB in 228 AB, you would think Springer would be a lock to find himself in the Top 10 portion of this list. Unfortunately he has registered 78 K in 232 AB, an extremely concerning number considering he is only at Double-A. Sure he has power and speed, but until he learns to make regular contact he is going to be a risk to hit .220 or worse.
Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (ITC)
So much talent, but no where to play. We have to think that he will get his opportunity, eventually, but it’s a matter of how St. Louis fits him in. It isn’t unthinkable that he is held at Triple-A until September.
Yordano Ventura – Kansas City Royals – Starting Pitcher (10)
He had a bit of a hiccup in his second Triple-A start (5 ER over 4.2 IP) and needs to get his control back in order (6 BB over 9.2 IP). That said, we would expect him ot make the adjustments necessary. A potential innings limit (he only threw 109.1 innings in 2012) could come into play, however, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Tony Cingrani – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher (2)
Mike Zunino – Seattle Mariners – Catcher (7)
Oswaldo Arcia – Minnesota Twins – Outfielder (9)
Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
Jake Odorizzi – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (ITC)