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; INJ = Injured. All statistics through August 13):
1) Xander Bogaerts – Boston Red Sox – Shortstop (1)
2013 Statistics – .302 (129-427), 14 HR, 64 RBI, 67 R, 7 SB
Will Middlebrooks may have gotten the first crack at the 3B job in Boston, but does anyone really believe that he is going to run with it at this point? While Bogaerts hasn’t hit a home run in August (he actually hit one yesterday), he is hitting .333 with 4 doubles in his 54 AB. When Will Middlebrooks struggles again, the Red Sox are going to be forced to finally turn to Bogaerts. Will he produce a Manny Machado like impact? It certainly is not impossible.
2) Travis d’Arnaud – New York Mets – Catcher (3)
2013 Statistics – .290 (29-100), 3 HR, 19 RBI, 23 R, 0 SB
He’s finally healthy and is producing big numbers since being put back at Triple-A (7-15, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R in five games). The Mets lineup needs significant help, especially with David Wright potentially out for the season and Wilmer Flores now banged up. He should arrive any day (once John Buck goes on the paternity list) and once he’s up he likely isn’t going back down.
3) George Springer – Houston Astros – Outfielder (2)
2013 Statistics – .300 (128-427), 32 HR, 95 RBI, 95 R, 38 SB
The concerns over his average remain, but there is no questioning Springer’s ability on the field. Part of the reason Springer falls is that he isn’t on the 40 man roster of yet, so the Astros would have to clear a spot to get him to the Majors. They may or may not want to do that, though he won’t be up before September at this point regardless. If he arrives, however, he’s going to play and could make a major impact.
4) Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (9)
2013 Statistics – 6-2, 2.10 ERA, 57 K, 24 BB, 68.2 IP
He recently received a spot start, but was quickly sent back to Triple-A. However, with Michael Wacha moving to the Major League bullpen, Martinez is now the obvious choice should an injury open up a spot in the rotation. He has shown control issues, which could limit his appeal, but there is no questioning his potential.
5) Marcus Semien – Chicago White Sox – Middle Infielder (6)
2013 Statistics – .287 (127-442), 17 HR, 54 RBI, 99 R, 21 SB
The White Sox are looking towards their future, as veterans like Jake Peavy and Alex Rios have been jettisoned to open up playing time for their youngsters. With 75 K vs. 89 BB and obvious power and speed, it’s hard not to like Semien (especially now that he’s getting time at Triple-A). Could Alexei Ramirez be the next player sent packing? Could Semien get the call to replace Gordon Beckham at second base? Either scenario is possible and, if he gets a chance, Semien brings obvious fantasy appeal.
6) Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (5)
2013 Statistics – 7-9, 2.88 ERA, 136 K, 47 BB, 125.0 IP
He needs to be added to the 40 man roster, but the Mariners have shown that they aren’t shy about promoting their prospects this season. Walker figures to play a role in their 2014 plans, so getting him a little bit of experience this season makes plenty of sense. Considering the struggles some of their pitchers have had (i.e. Aaron Harang), what do they really have to lose? Obviously it would be easier if Walker had not gone cold over his past four starts (15 ER over 20.0 IP) and if he wasn’t closing in on a likely innings limit (126.2 IP in ’12). That said, it would be surprising if he didn’t get at least a few starts before being shutdown.
7) Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (ITC)
2013 Statistics – .310 (54-174), 5 HR, 32 RBI, 25 R, 5 SB
One of the elite prospects in the game, Taveras is finally getting healthy and has returned to the field. The Cardinals are in a dog fight with the Pirates, and you know they want to avoid playing a one-game Wild Card playoff. That means getting their most talented players onto the field, and Taveras certainly applies. It would take an injury or two to get him into the lineup regularly, but if that happens there’s no questioning his upside.
(Update – It was announced last night that Taveras would undergo season ending ankle surgery)
8) Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati Reds – Outfielder (ITC)
2013 Statistics – .256 (112-437), 6 HR, 39 RBI, 66 R, 69 SB
He’s finally starting to hit, at .298 in August, but with Ryan Ludwick back its likely coming too little, too late. At the least, he could easily see time in September as a pinch runner and, if something happens, he could be even more. There’s no questioning his speed (at least 15 SB per month, excluding August) and he can definitely provide help. The question is if he will get an opportunity, but with September quickly approaching his time is now.
9) Nick Castellanos – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (10)
2013 Statistics – .278 (128-461), 13 HR, 64 RBI, 73 R, 4 SB
He has started to turn things around, with a .273 average in August, but he needs to do more to force the Tigers hand. Detroit is scorching hot at the moment and they really have no reason to rock the boat. There’s no questioning that Castellanos will get an opportunity, but maybe not until September at this point? If he had been producing (.212 in July) he may have already been recalled, but his lack of power (only 10 HR last season) will also cap his upside.
10) Jason Rogers – Milwaukee Brewers – First Baseman (ITC)
2013 Statistics – .264 (109-413), 20 HR, 79 RBI, 59 R, 6 SB
Is Yuniesky Betancourt really the answer at first base? With no obvious internal option, with Corey Hart a free agent and no lock to return, could Rogers get an opportunity? He’s hitting .264 with 20 HR and 79 RBI at Double-A, with only 74 K over 413 AB (he’s been even better of late, with 2 K vs. 11 BB in his past 10 games). He would have to be added to the 40 man roster, but it may be worth it for the team to get a look and see what he could do.
In the Conversation:
Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher (ITC)
Even with Ian Kennedy traded to San Diego, the Diamondbacks are getting healthy and have Tyler Skaggs so it’s hard to find a spot for Bradley to fit into the Major League rotation this season. That said, he’s an elite talent and is making quick work of Double-A.
Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher (NR)
He hasn’t been impressive at Triple-A (5.20 ERA over 27.2 IP) and he struggled in the Majors (6.21 ERA over 33.1 IP). That said, there’s no questioning his talent and he could factor into the team’s bullpen plans down the stretch.
Erik Johnson – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (NR)
He missed some time in July, but it has no ill effects since he returned. In three August starts he’s posted a 1.42 ERA, 18 K and 2 BB over 19.0 IP. What’s not to like, with 113 K vs. 33 BB over 122.0 IP? Of course, you have to wonder how many more innings the team will allow him to throw (he had 92.1 innings in ’12), but you have to love the makeup (he also has a 1.20 GO/AO). Once he gets his opportunity, he’s got the potential to excel.
Zach Lee – Los Angeles Dodgers – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The Dodgers are all in for 2013, and that could mean giving Lee an opportunity should they need help in their rotation. Once a source of depth, there’s no guarantee that someone like Chris Capuano continues to get the job done at the back of the rotation. Lee has been impressive at Double-A this season, with a 3.10 ERA, 117 K and 29 BB over 124.2 IP (as well as a 1.40 GO/AO). It’s a long-shot that he even gets an opportunity this season, but you never know.
Rafael Montero – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The New York Mets have suddenly stockpiled young pitchers. We all know what Matt Harvey has done and Zack Wheeler is doing, while Noah Syndergaard is quickly making a name for himself in the minors. Montero, however, could be the next youngster to arrive. He’s pitched well in the PCL (3.60 ERA, 54 K, 21 BB over 65.0 IP), though the biggest holdup is that he isn’t currently on the 40 man roster. That will likely prohibit him from getting a chance in 2013, with his Major League debut more likely to come in 2014.
Mike Olt – Chicago Cubs – Third Baseman (ITC)
He continues to struggle at Triple-A, hitting .141 with 2 HR in 71 AB since the trade to Chicago. Overall he’s hitting .201 with 115 K over 313 AB. There’s no questioning the power potential and the Cubs’ need at the hot corner, but if Olt can’t make contact he’s going to continue stewing at Triple-A.
Chris Owings – Arizona Diamondbacks – Shortstop (ITC)
Owings has produced overall (.331 with 12 HR and 16 SB), but he’s hit a slide of late. In August he’s hitting just .182 without a home run or stolen base. The team is committed to Didi Gregorius, but with what Owings has shown he could easily get an opportunity if the spot opens up.
Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins – Third Baseman (ITC)
We all know the talent, but it’s highly unlikely he gets a look in 2013 (no matter what he does on the field). In 2014? That’s a different story.
Jonathan Singleton – Houston Astros – First Baseman (ITC)
He’s struck out 94 times over 246 AB (including 73 K over 187 AB at Triple-A) and the power just hasn’t been there (5 HR in the PCL). Starting with the 50 game suspension, 2013 is quickly shaping into a lost season for Singleton. There’s no questioning his potential or his spot in the Astros future, but it’s hard to imagine much production at this point.
Michael Taylor – Oakland Athletics – Outfielder (NR)
It’s not like the Athletics outfield is a pillar of health so, if a need should arise, Taylor should get a second look (he’s on the 40 man roster, unlike Michael Choice). He has been the “better” option at .290 with 16 HR and 72 RBI in the Pacific Coast League, though he struggled in Oakland (1-23) earlier this season.
- Avisail Garcia – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder (4)
- Sonny Gray – Oakland Athletics – Starting Pitcher (8)
- Andrew Lambo – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (7)
- Michael Wacha – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (ITC)