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) Jimmy Nelson – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (2)
What does Nelson need to do in order to be recalled at this point? After tossing 7.0 shutout innings on Friday night, with 9 K and 2 BB, he now owns a 1.66 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. Throw in being a groundball pitcher and what exactly is there not to like?
He has Major League experience and once the Brewers decide that there’s a need in the rotation he should hit the ground running. He brings the trio of skills we love to see and will be pitching for one of the best teams in baseball in 2014. If he’s still available stash him now, because he should produce down the stretch.
2) Arismendy Alcantara – Chicago Cubs – Second Baseman (5)
Most people are drawn to Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, but it’s Alcantara who will likely be the first infielder to arrive in Chicago. As we’ve said he’s already on the 40-man roster and could step right into the second base job, where he would represent a significant offensive upgrade (Darwin Barney has gotten the bulk of the AB there, hitting .205 with 2 HR and 1 SB in 156 AB).
While we would like to see a little bit better plate discipline (23.4% strikeout rate vs. 6.3% walk rate), Alcanatara offers extra base hit power as well as speed. If you need a middle infielder, he’s likely the best available who can make an impact in the near future.
3) Matt Wisler – San Diego Padres – Starting Pitcher (NR)
It took some time for Wisler to find his footing at Triple-A, but he’s been significantly better since the calendar turned to June (3.38 ERA, 1.30 WHIP). Since joining the Padres as a seventh round draft pick in 2011 he’s displayed strikeouts (8.71 K/9) and control (2.46 BB/9). While we’d love to see him generating more groundballs (39.2%), that shouldn’t be an issue pitching half his games at Petco Park. At the very least he could be a viable streaming option at home immediately, but there is more potential than that. There’s no question that the team has a need in the rotation, so it’s just a matter of when he gets his shot.
4) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher (NR)
If he hadn’t missed time due to injury he likely would’ve already been up in the Majors. He showed control issues in his first start at Double-A (4 BB in 4.0 IP) of 2014, something that has been a disturbing trend since being drafted in 2011 (4.75 career BB/9). There’s no arguing the strikeout ability (9.72 K/9) and he also does a solid job of generating groundballs (46.1%), however pitching in Arizona allowing that many walks could easily come back to bite him.
The Diamondbacks are a team looking to build for the future, so he should arrive once he works his way back and the fire sale begins. That said, there are going to be bumps along the way unless he can start avoiding the walks. Keep that in mind before investing too heavily in him.
5) Domingo Santana – Houston Astros – Outfielder (9)
Santana hasn’t garnered all that much attention. Maybe it’s because he was overshadowed by the likes of George Springer and Jonathan Singleton in Houston’s farm system. Maybe it’s because he’s a 21-year old at Triple-A and no one expected much right away. Regardless of the reason, you had better believe people are now taking notice.
While Springer and Dexter Fowler fill two-thirds of the Astros’ outfield, Santana should soon take the other spot. Strikeouts were the biggest concern heading into the season, given his mix of power and speed, but he continues to improve in that regard (22.9% in June). It’s not a stretch to see him in the Astros’ outfield in August, as the team continues to build for the future.
6) Nick Kingham – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (6)
We will have a full scouting report of Kingham coming shortly, but the Pirates have a clear need in the rotation and having been promoted to Triple-A recently he could be on call at any moment. He’s made four starts at Triple-A and dominated, with a 0.34 ERA, 20 K and 5 BB over 26.2 IP. While he showed strikeout ability in the lower minor leagues, it simply hasn’t been there this season (74 K in 97.2 IP). That is a bit of a red flag, especially since he has never been a significant groundball pitcher. Good control is nice, but he needs another skill to go with it.
Hopefully he’s just working on other things and can turn the strikeout stuff back on, but that remains to be seen.
7) Jake Lamb – Arizona Diamondbacks – Third Baseman (7)
There’s no question that the Diamondbacks are going to unload some veterans, as they look to build for the future. While we don’t know if Martin Prado will be one of the casualties, his flexibility should open a door for Lamb regardless.
While he hasn’t hit for a ton of power, he’s been an extra base machine at Double-A this season (28 doubles, 5 triples, 11 home runs) and has shown an ability to make good enough contact (22.1% strikeout rate). Obviously there’s going to be a concern making a big jump, but the power should continue to grow and he has the upside to make a splash once he arrives.
8) Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The Rockies’ starters have been abysmal this season, with 12 pitchers already making starts including names like Yohan Flande and Christian Bergman. Injuries have been part of the problem, but are hardly the only excuse. The Rockies’ have already given Eddie Butler a try (though he’s currently on the DL) and it’s only a matter of time before they turn to their other top pitching prospect.
Gray’s numbers haven’t been impressive this season overall, but since being drafted he’s shown both control (2.26 BB/9) and strikeout stuff (9.62 K/9). While home runs could be an issue in Coors Field (38.4% groundball rate), that’s going to be an issue with any starter in that ballpark. His locale is going to temper expectations, however, and keep him lower on these rankings.
9) Robert Refsnyder – New York Yankees – Second Baseman (NR)
Here’s an example of a player who is hardly a “big name” prospect, but he’s been producing big numbers and could soon get an opportunity. Splitting time between Double and Triple-A he has hit .348 with 9 HR, 39 RBI, 51 R and 7 SB. Throw in 23 doubles and 7 triples, as well as an ability to make consistent contact (14.8% strikeout rate in the minors) and he clearly has had a successful season.
Yankees’ second baseman entered Monday hitting .249 (16th) with 22 RBI (25th) and 36 R (16th). While that’s not as bad as it could be, the guy that’s carried the load is the injury prone Brian Roberts (.238 with 3 HR and 7 SB). Don’t be surprised if the Yankees try to give their team a bit of a boost.
10) Joc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder // Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs – Shortstop (10)
We will continue to lump these two together, despite Pederson being sidelined with an injury. Both have too much potential not to be included, especially since they could be recalled if/when an opportunity arises. That said, unless they can get the strikeouts in check both could also struggle.
Others Considered: Micah Johnson (2B. Chicago White Sox), Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia), Michael Foltynewicz (SP, Houston), Archie Bradley (SP, Arizona), Kris Bryant (3B, Chicago Cubs), Trevor May (SP, Minnesota), Noah Syndergaard (SP, New York Mets)
- Mookie Betts – Boston Red Sox – Second Baseman/Outfielder (1)
- Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (3)
- Oscar Taveras – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (4)
Dropped off Rankings:
- Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (8) – He should get an opportunity, at some point, but his struggles at Triple-A and battles with injuries should delay his arrival
Sources – MILB.com, Minor League Central, Baseball Reference, MLB.com
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