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 (1)
He continues to give us hope that he has finally been able to turn the corner and reach the expectations we’ve had for him for so long. His outing on April 22 does give a little bit of concern (3 BB, 3 K over 6.2 innings), but overall the results have clearly been there. He bounced back strong on Sunday (2 ER on 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 7, over 7.0 IP) and now has 36 K vs. 9 BB over 31.2 IP this season. With Carlos Carrasco clearly struggling (6.95 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) in the rotation and service issues not a concern, it’s simply a matter of time before Bauer gets his opportunity in the Majors.
2) Gregory Polanco – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (5)
Polanco has been assaulting Triple-A pitching, showing both power and speed (.400/.460/.644 through Sunday), while the Pirates outfield (outside of Andrew McCutchen) is full of holes. Originally it looked like the Pirates only needed one outfielder, but with Starling Marte also struggling there could potentially be two holes to fill (the Jose Tabata/Travis Snider platoon is destined to be replaced). There is no question that Polanco has little left to prove in the minors and with the Pirates a “now” team, they can’t afford to leave one of their best talents marinating in the minors. At this point the only question is when he is going to arrive.
3) Jonathan Singleton – Houston Astros – First Baseman (2)
When the Astros recalled George Springer they set a precedent that they weren’t going to let future contract concerns impact their decision on promoting a prospect. While they could keep Singleton in the minors for a little bit longer, after his dismal 2013 campaign, it’s going to be hard to justify for much longer. Astros’ first basemen are among the worst in baseball, a hodge podge of virtually useless options in other scenarios who are slashing .161/.235/.280 through Sunday. However Singleton is raking at Triple-A, showing a power bat that the team desperately needs in the middle of their lineup (especially with Springer struggling and being miscast as the cleanup hitter). Strikeouts are the only concern (28 K over 89 AB), but that’s an issue for the Astros in general so why should that stop them?
4) Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays – Starting Pitcher (4)
Ben Nicholson-Smith of sportsnet.ca (click here for the article) had the following quote from assistant GM Tony LaCava:
“It’s just a matter of the opportunity and the right time for him. We think his time is coming soon.”
Even more interesting, in a separate article Shi Davidi (click here to read) is reporting that, “The Toronto Blue Jays are aligning Marcus Stroman’s next start with that of Dustin McGowan, a sign the prized prospect may be nearing his big-league debut.” In other words, Stroman had his scheduled Sunday start pushed back to today, so if the Blue Jays opt to pull the plug on McGowan Stroman is ready to step in immediately. It makes sense, with McGowan owning an ugly 6.88 ERA and 1.82 WHIP on the season.
The AL East is currently wide open, so it would definitely make sense for the Blue Jays to take an “all hands on deck” type of approach. Stroman has shown the total package in his four starts at Triple-A this season, with an 11.32 K/9, 2.61 BB/9 and 53.6% groundball rate. Pitching in the AL East is always going to be scary, but strikeouts are hard to find and he is a must own option in all formats.
5) Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (9)
The Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos platoon in centerfield continues to disappoint, with the Cardinals’ centerfielders hitting .228 with 1 HR and 3 SB through Sunday. The Cardinals in general have been one of the lowest scoring teams in baseball (89 runs scored, tying them for 26th in the league), so they could look for a shot in the arm from one of the elite prospects in the game. The Cardinals Triple-A outfield could all be candidates (in fact, Randal Grichuk was recalled on Sunday night, though he likely won’t play every day), but Taveras’ ability to play centerfield gives him the edge. Back on the field after a minor ankle injury, fantasy owners may finally be treated to Taveras arriving in the Majors. Now is the time to grab him, because the Cardinals aren’t about to sit idly.
6) Jesse Biddle – Philadelphia Phillies – Starting Pitcher (NR)
While Cole Hamels has returned, Roberto Hernandez is still in the Phillies rotation… How much longer can that really last? Biddle has exploded recently at Double-A, with 21 K and 2 BB over his last two starts (14.0 innings). Now the owner of 38 K vs. 7 BB over 28.1 innings, how much more does he need to prove? It’s possible home runs could be an issue (40.3% fly ball rate in ’14, 41.1% in ’13), especially pitching in Philadelphia, but the upside is certainly there. It’s just a matter of when the Phillies opt to give him an opportunity.
7) Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – Starting Pitcher (7)
There’s no obvious void for the Orioles in their rotation, but how long can they really keep Gausman down? The Orioles are clearly limiting his innings, preparing to have him as an asset to them late in the season. While others will be turned off by his gaudy numbers in the Majors in 2013, don’t make that same mistake.
8) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher (3)
The general manager has said that they won’t bring Bradley in when people are going to see him as the savior, despite the obvious need in the rotation. The team has shown signs, though it may not be enough. He’s struggled of late, failing to go more than 4.1 IP in three straight starts (12 ER over 12.1 innings). He’s going to need to do better than that to make it to the Majors, and you have to wonder how quickly the Diamondbacks are going to push him at this point.
9) Jesus Aguilar – Cleveland Indians – First Baseman (NR)
On the surface it wouldn’t appear like there’s no obvious spot for Aguilar, but the Indians’ DHs have actually been abysmal this season, with a SLG of .231 through Sunday (worst of any AL team). In other words, you could easily argue that there’s a dire need for Aguilar. He’s absolutely raking at Triple-A, with 7 HR, and could obviously give the lineup a boost. If he keeps hitting, he’s going to force their hands.
10) Maikel Franco – Philadelphia Phillies – Third Baseman (NR)
He’s struggled overall, but he could be getting right at the perfect time (RBI in three straight games and 6-18 over his past 4 games). Cody Asche continues to struggle in the Majors, being dropped all the way to eighth in the lineup recently. The biggest issue with Franco may be his defense, as many people feel like he’s destined to be a first baseman over the long haul. However that’s not going to be an option for a while and, unless Asche can get himself right, Franco is going to find his way into the Majors before long.
Just Missed: Eddie Butler (SP, Colorado), Andrew Heaney (SP, Miami), Jesse Biddle (SP, Philadelphia), Rafael Montero (SP, New York Mets), C.J. Cron (1B, Los Angeles Angels)
Fell off the List:
- C.J. Cron – Los Angeles Angels – First Baseman (6) – Playing time is a question, though it’s not impossible the Angels try to fit him in
- Rafael Montero – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (8) – He’s still first inline should the Mets need a starter, there are simply higher upside options whose team arguably have bigger needs
- Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs – Shortstop (10) – There’s no questioning the upside, but the strikeouts at Triple-A could delay his arrival (thanks to the presence of Arismendy Alcantara). As soon as he solves it, he’s going to shoot up the rankings
Sources – Minor League Baseball, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, MLB.com