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 (the number in parenthesis is the prospects ranking from last week):
1) Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (1)
He’s begun his rehab and looked good in the process (4.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K). He would’ve opened the season in the Mariners rotation had he been healthy, so his inclusion here is somewhat of a formality. Once healthy he’s joining the Mariners rotation without question.
2) Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher (4)
The Orioles pushed him back a day when they thought they may need him to start one-half of a double-header (though they ultimately were not rained out). That tells you that he’s on call, once a need in the rotation arises. As we’ve said repeatedly, don’t let last season’s struggles deter you from investing in him. He has as much upside as any young starting pitcher, though he is going to have consistently tough matchups in the AL East.
3) George Springer – Houston Astros – Outfielder (3)
Had he signed the contract offered to him at the end of 2013, he likely would’ve opened the season on the Major League roster. The Astros are probably going to wait until the Super 2 deadline at this point, but it’s hard to imagine the Astros being able to keep him down. Strikeouts are always going to be a question (he’s opened the season with 5 K in 15 AB), but the 40/40 potential is unquestioned. How many players have that type of ability?
4) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher (5)
Randall Delgado was highly unimpressive in his first start of the season (6 ER on 10 H and 2 BB over 4.0 IP). For a team looking to win now, that’s simply unacceptable. The loss of Patrick Corbin has likely caused the Diamondbacks to overlook service time concerns, so another poor start or two from Delgado could certainly help accelerate Bradley’s arrival. Control could prove to be an issue, but there’s no questioning the upside potential of Bradley. He’s currently pitching at Triple-A, where he looked good in his first start (5.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 K).
5) Rafael Montero – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Pitching will ultimately be a strength of the Mets, it’s just a matter of when they want to bring the next wave of youngsters to the Majors. With more experience at the upper levels of the minors, Montero could easily arrive before the more highly touted Noah Syndergaard (though there is no arguing that Syndergaard has the higher upside). Montero was impressive in his first start of the season (6.0 shutout innings allowing 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 5) and has now worked 161.1 innings at the upper levels (Syndergaard is at just 60.0).
6) Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays – Starting Pitcher (NR)
You could argue that Aaron Sanchez will get the first opportunity in Toronto, but Stroman is at Triple-A and Sanchez is at Double-A. Dustin McGowan is going to get a few more opportunities to settle into the fifth spot in the rotation, but he’s obviously a serious question. Throw in questions regarding Drew Hutchison and the health of Brandon Morrow is always a concern, so you have to wonder when Stroman will get the call.
7) Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs – Shortstop (2)
There’s debate on when he could arrive at Wrigley Field, though is it possible that he simply forces the Cubs’ hand? There’s no questioning that he’s one of the highest upside players in the minors, and the team also showed that they were willing to be creative this spring by trying him out at 2B. There’s an obvious hole there, and a potential one at 3B as well, so it’s just a matter of when the Cubs decide to bring him up. Opening the season at Triple-A, he’s on the doorstep (though it definitely won’t happen until after the Super 2 deadline has passed). He’s gotten off to a slow start, with 6 K in 11 AB, though it’s just a matter of time before he settles in and thrives.
8) Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (NR)
There always seem to be two questions surrounding Taveras:
- Is he healthy?
- Where is he going to play?
That unfortunately hasn’t changed and the wait for Taveras’ arrival in the Majors rages on. He should get there, at some point, and remains one of the top prospects in baseball. The key for owners is to not get discouraged, as it seems like he’s been on the cusp forever.
9) Matt Davidson – Chicago White Sox – Third Baseman (8)
Gordon Beckham remains on the DL and Conor Gillaspie is a decent, albeit unspectacular, option at 3B. You can easily argue that Marcus Semien and Davidson offer the higher potential at the two spots, though. Strikeouts could easily prove to be an issue for Davidson, but we all know that the power is there. That’s his calling card and one that should get him to the Majors before long.
10) Joc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (NR)
No one is actually about to suggest Yasiel Puig is going to be sent to the minors, but he does continue to get himself into trouble with the Dodgers (his latest incident was being benched for arriving late to the ballpark) and always seems to be dinged up. In reality the Dodgers are in an enviable position, as they have a talent like Pederson at the ready if they decide to send Puig a message (or if one of their outfielders goes down to injury). At Double-A last season Pederson hit .278 with 22 HR and 31 SB (a year after hitting 18 HR with 26 SB). The strikeouts rose significantly (114 in 439 AB), but he also drew 70 BB. A solid talent, he deserves to be on fantasy radars.
- Jackie Bradley Jr. – Boston Red Sox – Outfielder (6)
Fell off the List:
- Jonathan Singleton – Houston Astros – First Baseman (10)
He needed a strong start, but it’s been anything but for Singleton (7 K in 15 AB). Once considered a top 1B prospect, he just doesn’t seem to be able to get out of his own way.
- Jake Marisnick – Miami Marlins – Outfielder (7)
With the Marlins offense rolling early on, Marisnick is likely going to be left at Triple-A for a bit.
- Alexander Guerrero – Los Angeles Dodgers – Second Baseman (9)
Questions about his upside rage on and the duo of Dee Gordon/Justin Turner are currently getting the job done. He should return to the Top 10 once he proves himself at Triple-A.
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Fangraphs