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) Nick Castellanos – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (2)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .296, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 55 R, 3 SB over 311 AB
With Andy Dirks continuing to struggle (.255, 6 HR, 21 SB), Castellanos is pushing hard for his Major League debut. He has produced every month, but saved his best work for June thus far (.355, 4 HR, 13 RBI). As we have been saying, the Tigers have much more glaring needs to fill (like their closers spot), but when has that ever stopped them before? Castellanos represents a clear upgrade and it’s only a matter of time before e gets his opportunity.
2) Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (6)
2013 Minor League Statistics – 3-1, 1.96 ERA, 38 K, 10 BB over 41.1 IP
With Michael Wacha being skipped a few turns to conserve his innings, Martinez jumps to the head of the line in St. Louis if a need arises. With questions at the back of the rotation, that’s not unthinkable. Martinez has a 1.82 ERA in six starts at Triple-A, to go along with 29 K, 9 BB and a 1.74 GO/AO. He also is coming off arguably his best start tossing 7.2 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 0 BB, striking out 8. Having experience in the Majors, he could step in and thrive.
3) Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (NR) 2013 Minor League Statistics – 5-7, 2.30 ERA, 100 K, 32 BB over 90.0 IP
Walker had control problems, at times, while at Double-A but he clearly solved them with 2 BB or less in each of his final nine starts. Recently promoted to Triple-A, he closed his time at Double-A with a bang (6.2 IP, 12 K, 0 BB) and last night was unphased in his Triple-A debut (6.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). Unlike Danny Hultzen in 2012, if Walker can stand up under the PCL spotlight, he is going to soon be pitching in Seattle.
4) Xander Bogaerts – Boston Red Sox – Shortstop (ITC)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .296, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 49 R, 6 SB over 267 AB
He has struggled this far at Triple-A (.229 average), but he’s shown signs of turning things around over the past few days (5-14, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R over his past three games). With Will Middlebrooks struggling and being sent back down and the Red Sox in for a dog fight in the AL East, could they turn to Boagaerts for a spark (much like the Orioles did a year ago with Manny Machado)? That suddenly is looking like a very realistic possibility, meaning Bogaerts needs to be owned in all keeper formats.
5) Sonny Gray – Oakland Athletics – Starting Pitcher (4)
2013 Minor League Statistics – 7-5, 2.85 ERA, 90 K, 29 BB over 88.1 IP
The A’s recently demoted Dan Straily, with his rotation spot to be skipped thanks to off days, but what happens if he struggles at Triple-A? Could the team be convinced to let him work out his issues there giving Gray a chance? Gray continues to impress, with at least 6 K in seven straight starts (he has gone at least 6.0 IP in each start and only walked more than 2 once over this span). There are questions (you can read our profile by clicking here), but at this point it’s hard to ignore the upside.
6) Cesar Puello – New York Mets – Outfielder (ITC)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .338, 14 HR, 51 RBI, 47 R, 17 SB over 216 AB
The Mets need outfielders and, when Marlon Byrd is traded (you have to think they will try to cash in on his surprising season), Puello should get an opportunity. Just to give you an idea of what he’s done, in April he had 0 HR and 8 RBI… While he’s playing at Double-A, does sending him to Las Vegas, where he could put up video game like numbers, really matter? The Mets need help and they need to find out if Puello could potentially be one of the solutions. They are primed to spend this offseason (at least if you believe the chatter) and being able to take one outfield spot off their shopping list would go a long ways.
7) Brad Miller – Seattle Mariners – Shortstop (ITC)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .316, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 52 R, 6 SB over 253 AB
Nick Franklin is settling in to 2B and Dustin Ackley is working in the outfield (and returning to the Major Leagues). That leaves Miller to supplant the offensively inept Brandan Ryan. Granted, the team appears comfortable with Ryan due to his defense, but as the season slips away they could easily opt to instead see what Miller offers. They just don’t have enough offense overall to think that Ryan can be in their regular lineup for much longer.
8) Josh Phegley – Chicago White Sox – Catcher (NR)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .317, 13 HR, 36 RBI, 36 R, 1 SB over 210 AB
How much longer can the White Sox really stick with Tyler Flowers behind the plate? Rumors of a fire sale continue to swirl, which should mean that no one is safe. The concerns may be disrupting the pitching staff, but at this point does it really matter? Phegley has shown more offensive potential and should soon see an opportunity.
9) Hunter Morris – Milwaukee Brewers – First Baseman (NR)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .238, 14 HR, 36 RBI, 31 R, 3 SB over 244 AB
You have to start to wonder why Morris has not yet gotten an opportunity, as Corey Hart continues to see no return in sight. Morris has struggled to hit for a decent average, but he would provide some potential thump in the middle of the order. He certainly offers more potential than what the team is currently using at the position, so you have to think he will get a look before long.
10) Jonathan Singleton – Houston Astros – First Baseman (8)
2013 Minor League Statistics – .258, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 15 R, 0 SB over 97 AB
These are no longer your impatient Astros, rushing prospects to the Majors. That means that, just because someone has reached Triple-A doesn’t mean they are going to quickly make the next jump. The team clearly wants to see growth and ability. Singleton would’ve opened the season at Triple-A had it not be for a 50 game suspension, so you can argue that he’s closer than the Astros’ other prospects, but unless he cuts down on the K (36 K over 97 AB) his promotion isn’t imminent either.
In the Conversation:
Jarred Cosart – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
He had major control issues from May 30 – June 15 (20 BB over 19.1 IP), something he needs to put far behind him before the Astros bring him to the Majors. That said, he still owns a 3.09 ERA over 75.2 IP in the PCL with 79 K and a 2.54 GO/AO. They are impressive numbers, to say the least.
Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati Reds – Outfielder (10)
We continue to play the waiting game when it comes to Hamilton and his arrival in Cincinnati. It’s going to happen, the question just is when. Of course, he also continues to battle hitting .250+, so nothing is imminent. Could he ultimately be nothing more than a pinch runner in September?
Erik Johnson – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
A potential innings limit is what stands between Johnson and making an impact with the White Sox this season (there is no doubt they have a need). The 23-year old recently made his Triple-A debut after posting a 2.23 ERA over 84.1 IP at Double-A.
Jake Marisnick – Miami Marlins – Outfielder (ITC)
Justin Ruggiano has suddenly made himself a viable option once again in the Miami outfield, which could delay the arrival of Marisnick (or any other young Miami OF). That said, Marisnick continues to rake in June (.353, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 12 R, 3 SB in 68 AB) and could force the teams hand as they try to plan for 2014 and beyond.
Jimmy Nelson – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (7)
Yovani Gallardo’s name is growing more and more popular in trade rumors, which alone would clear a spot in the rotation. Considering Milwaukee’s starter’s ERA is among the worst in the league, Gallardo’s spot shouldn’t be the only one in question. Nelson has struggled with his control at Triple-A (13 BB over 15.0 IP), but the strikeouts and groundballs are still there. Once he adjusts, it shouldn’t be long before he reaches Milwaukee.
Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins – Third Baseman (ITC)
The move to Double-A has slowed Sano (.150 over 40 AB), but there is little questioning his potential impact. With the Twins having nothing to play for, we likely won’t see Sano before September (if at all) anyways.
George Springer – Houston Astros – Outfielder (ITC)
The much debated outfielder was recently pushed to Triple-A, but like we said with Singleton that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is on the precipice of the Majors. There’s no questioning his power/speed potential, but he’s going to need to prove something at Triple-A first. If he produces, he could force his way into the Top 10 within two weeks.
Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (ITC)
The difference between Taveras and Billy Hamilton is that the Reds do have a need in the OF. Taveras is one of the premier prospects in the game, but right now he’s just waiting his turn.
Jonathan Villar – Houston Astros – Shortstop (3)
The Astros did indeed send Marwin Gonzalez down, but it was Jake Elmore who was recalled to take his spot. It is looking more and more like Villar may not make an appearance until September and, if Elmore makes an impact, how much playing time will even be there? Villar’s potential keeps him relevant, as does the potential for Elmore to slide to 3B.
Michael Wacha – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (1)
He’s having a few starts skipped to conserve his arm, which could actually push him behind Carlos Martinez on the depth chart. Barring an injury there is only one potential rotation spot in flux, meaning Wacha could be a ways away from returning.
Kyle Gibson – Minnesota Twins – Starting Pitcher (5)
Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians – Starting Pitcher (9)
Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
Injured But Not Forgotten:
Dylan Bundy – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher
Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets – Catcher
Danny Hultzen – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher
Christian Yelich – Miami Marlins – Outfielder