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) Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians – Starting Pitcher (3)
The biggest issue with Trevor Bauer has always been his ability to throw strikes. Thus far in 2014 he appears to have put that behind him, with 5 BB over 18.0 innings of work (with one of those starts coming in the Major Leagues). Couple that with his ability to strike batters out (26 on the season, with starts of 8, 9 and 9 strikeouts) and there is an awful lot to like.
Cleveland Indian starting pitchers owned a 5.11 ERA entering Monday, third worst in the league. While they aren’t likely going to make a change on Danny Salazar (7.71 ERA) or Corey Kluber (5.40 ERA), would it really be surprising if Carlos Carrasco (7.31 ERA) is removed from the rotation? Couple potential opportunity with the chance that he’s found his control and Bauer could return to the Majors at any moment
2) Jonathan Singleton – Houston Astros – First Baseman (5)
He’s absolutely caught fire recently, with 6 HR from April 10-19, helping put a slow start and his horrendous 2013 out of our minds. With the Astros recent promotion of George Springer, they have shown that service time isn’t going to be the determining factor if/when a prospect joins the club, only adding to his potential appeal. The Astros lineup could certainly use more help (52 runs scored, last in the league) and Astros first basemen owned a .164 average and .284 SLG (fourth worst in the league) entering play on Sunday. He’s going to be joining the Astros, it’s just a matter of when.
3) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher (4)
Yes, he struggled in his last outing (4 ER on 7 H and 2 BB over 4.1 IP) and Arizona’s GM Kevin Towers was recently quoted as saying (click here for the full article):
“I would not bring him up in this environment the way we’re playing,” Towers said. “I know how it would be perceived if he came up: ‘Archie is going to save us.’ I don’t want to do that to a 21-year-old kid. If it gets to the point where we straighten this thing out and it’s a more positive environment here and he’s throwing the ball well, we’ll do it regardless of the clock.”
However, the Diamondbacks season is already reaching a tipping point. While they may not want to put the pressure on Bradley, they also may not have a choice. Otherwise their 2014 campaign could be over before we even reach May 15.
4) Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays – Starting Pitcher (8)
While Toronto’s overall starters ERA isn’t bad, it’s buoyed by a 0.64 mark for Mark Buehrle. Obviously R.A. Dickey isn’t in jeopardy of losing his rotation spot, but the same can’t be said for Dustin McGowan and Brandon Morrow is always a risk to get hurt. Stroman is considered one of the best pitching prospects in the league and also is coming off a tremendous performance at Triple-A (5.1 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 9 K). Over his minor league career (146.1 IP) he owns a 10.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 and it is only a matter of time before he arrives in the Majors. Pitching in the AL East is not going to be ideal, but the upside is unquestioned.
5) Gregory Polanco – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (NR)
He has tremendous upside, the question is how quickly the Pirates will push him to the Majors with Travis Snider and Jose Tabata currently holding down the fort. Are those stellar options? Obviously not, and Pirates right fielders are hitting just .217 with 2 HR thus far. Polanco has a path and is a clear upgrade for the team, it’s simply a matter of when it comes.
6) C.J. Cron – Los Angeles Angels – First Baseman (7)
On the surface it doesn’t appear like there’s a spot for Cron at the Major League level, with Albert Pujols at first base and Raul Ibanez at DH. However, with both Josh Hamilton & Kole Calhoun on the DL could the Angels try playing Ibanez in the outfield a little bit more? He’s only played 1 game out there in 2014, but he saw 100 games in the outfield in 2013 so it’s not an impossible thought. It’s not like the Angels’ replacements are tearing things up (J.B. Shuck and Brennan Boesch), and Cron is tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A (10 doubles and 4 HR in his first 72 AB). His arrival could come sooner than anyone is expecting.
7) Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher (1)
He’s coming off a poor outing (4 ER over 3.0 IP) and actually hasn’t gone more than 4.2 innings in any of his three starts this season. Control has been a clear problem, with 8 BB over 11.2 innings, though that wasn’t a problem in 2013 (27 BB over 129.2 innings). It’s definitely possible the Orioles are simply limiting his innings so he’s available to them late in the year, but his performance also needs to improve. He’s going to arrive, likely before long, but he needs to make a bit more of a statement.
8) Rafael Montero – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (6)
As we’ve said before, while Noah Syndergaard is the bigger named Mets’ pitching prospect it will likely be Montero who is the first to arrive in the Majors given his increased experience at the upper levels of the minors. While Montero did struggle a bit in his last outing (4 ER over 4.0 IP), he owns a 24-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate over his first 21.1 innings. With a Triple-A career 3.19 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 110.0 innings, while playing in one of the worst environments in baseball, there’s a lot to be excited about. Of course the Mets seem more apt to give starts to Daisuke Matsuzaka early on (he’s currently pitching in the bullpen), so Montero’s stock does drop slightly.
9) Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (9)
There’s competition as to who the first outfielder the Cardinals would recall is, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty also performing well at Triple-A. However Taveras is the better prospect and also can play CF, which is where you would think the Cardinals need would come (St. Louis centerfielders entered play on Monday hitting .250 with 1 HR and 2 SB). One of the elite prospects in the game, Taveras is not a player to overlook.
10) Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs – Shortstop (NR)
Baez was out with an ankle injury, but he’s back in action now and the Cubs showed that they were willing to be creative with him this spring. It’s possible that he cracks the Majors at 2B (though you could argue it will be Arismendy Alcantara who gets the first shot), and when he does arrive he is going to clearly be a must own option. The question is when the Cubs opt to bring him up and nothing more.
Just Missed: Eddie Butler (SP, Colorado), Andrew Heaney (SP, Miami), Jesse Biddle (SP, Philadelphia)
- George Springer – Houston Astros – Outfielder (2)
Fell off the List:
- Mike Montgomery – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (10)
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference