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) Javier Baez – Chicago Cubs – Second Baseman/Shortstop (NR)
How convenient is it that Baez has moved to second base at Triple-A just when Darwin Barney is designated for assignment and Arismendy Alcantara is moved to centerfield? It seems perfect, doesn’t it? We discussed Baez in detail yesterday (click here to view), so we are going to be short and concise here. Strikeouts remain a concern (30.1% for the season), though he has shown some improvements in July (22.0%). With the opportunity now there, coupled with his power and speed, what’s not to like outside the potential to drag down your average a little bit?
2) James Paxton – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (NR)
According to Bob Dutton of The News Tribune (click here for the article):
“Plans then call for Paxton to join the Mariners on their road trip. If all goes well, he could return to the big-league rotation Aug. 2 against the Orioles in Baltimore.”
He’s made six starts in the Majors between 2013 and 2014, going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Obviously he’s not that good (.189 BABIP, 90.2% strand rate) and he does have a history of control issues (minor league career BB/9 of 4.0). There is strikeout upside, with a 9.7 K/9 in the minors, though that number also took a step back over 151.2 innings at Triple-A (8.3). There’s enough to like, but don’t expect him to replicate the numbers he’s shown in the Majors thus far.
3) Mookie Betts – Boston Red Sox – Outfielder (3)
He’s back at Triple-A and he hasn’t missed a beat, hitting .375 with four extra base hits (2 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run) over his first 7 games back. Was it that the Red Sox simply didn’t give him an opportunity to adjust to the Majors? It’s quite possible and, with the Red Sox looking like they are going into rebuilding mod with the trade of Jake Peavy, it’s highly likely that Betts gets another opportunity before long. We all know the type of upside that he has, so don’t let his .235 average in his 35 AB audition in the Majors dissuade you. It takes time to adjust and he just wasn’t given it. Next time around he should be significantly better and worth owning in all formats. The question just is when the opportunity comes.
4) Joc Pederson – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (1)
There are mixed reports regarding if Pederson’s arrival could come sooner than we think. Could a veteran be traded? There are rumors of a Matt Kemp trade, though it is hard to imagine with the Dodgers in the midst of a pennant race. Could Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford be dealt? That’s a lot more believable, though time will tell.
Regardless, the Dodgers clearly feel they have a need in centerfield as they have started trying Yasiel Puig in the spot. Pederson is the answer, the Dodgers just need to find a way to fit him in and feel like he’s ready. Strikeouts are the biggest concern, though he’s shown signs of getting that back in check (20.0% strikeout rate in July through Friday). Given his power, speed and ability to draw a walk, if he has that in control he could potentially bring the total package.
Given the actual need, it’s just a matter of when the Dodgers clear the spot. It could come sooner than we think.
5) Maikel Franco – Philadelphia Phillies – Third Baseman (5)
The Phillies are finally showing signs of moving on from Ryan Howard, or at least a willingness to sit him down (currently to get Darin Ruf into the lineup). It’s easy to imagine that Franco would be in that mix if he had produced earlier this season, but he’s suddenly on fire at Triple-A and should soon get a look whether it’s at first base or third base (it’s not like Cody Asche has been tearing the cover off the ball). While he hasn’t actually been hitting for significant power, he’s hitting the ball and generating extra base hits. Don’t be surprised if he makes his debut sometime in August and, if the power returns (and it should), could be a difference maker.
6) Andrew Heaney – Miami Marlins – Starting Pitcher (6)
How long will it be until the Marlins bring their top prospect back to the Majors? It really shouldn’t be long, considering Jacob Turner’s 6.03 ERA and Brad Hand currently holding down a spot in the rotation. Heaney struggled in the Majors when given the opportunity, but given his minor league career 9.06 K/9, 2.20 BB/9 and favorable home ballpark and there’s going to be a lot to like. All young pitchers are going to have their ups and downs, but next time around the results should be better.
7) Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets – Starting Pitcher (NR)
If the Mets trade Bartolo Colon, could Syndergaard get his first taste of the Major Leagues? You could argue that it will be Rafael Montero who gets the first opportunity, but there’s no question that Syndergaard has the higher upside despite his struggles at Triple-A and injury plagued season. That said, he still owns a 9.10 K/9 and 2.87 BB/9, reflecting the same numbers he’s shown coming up through the minors (9.9 and 2.6, respectively).
It’s easy to argue that his home ballpark has been part of the problem, with a 5.51 ERA at home and a 4.79 mark on the road (still unspectacular, but not as awful). There’s also been bad luck, with a .375 BABIP and 64.3% strand rate. There’s no questioning the stuff and moving out of the PCL and into CitiField would obviously be a favorable move. There’s an awful lot to like and it’s nearly impossible to find that type of strikeout potential off your waiver wire. Ignore the raw numbers and focus on the stuff.
8) Archie Bradley – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher (4)
Just when we thought Bradley may have turned the corner, putting up his best start on July 19 (10 K and 1 BB over 7.0 IP), he goes out and gets shelled his next time out. Lasting just 2.2 innings he allowed 7 ER on 5 H and 3 BB, striking out 3, we are again left wondering what the future holds for Bradley.
His control has always been a question, and it continues to be with 17 BB over 28.0 IP at Double-A this season (4.8 BB/9 over his minor league career). He really needs to correct the issue if he wants to be a top flight starting pitcher in the Majors, which remains his ceiling. It’s also likely that he gets his first taste of the Majors this season, with the team getting his feet wet now so he’s ready to make an impact in April 2015. Can he get it together in time to be fantasy relevant, though? That remains to be seen as starts like this last one could keep him down until September.
9) Alex Meyer – Minnesota Twins – Starting Pitcher (7)
We continue to wait and see if Meyer can consistently find his control, as that’s likely all that’s standing in his way between him and a Major League promotion (as well as potentially Trevor May). At 6’9” the control is generally the last thing to come around and it’s going to take more than one start (8 K and 0 BB over 6.0 IP in his last outing) to convince us of anything. Over his minor league career he owns a 10.32 K/9 and 50.3% groundball rate, but his 4.17 BB/9 this season obviously hangs over him. Until he gets there he may be stuck at Triple-A.
10) Anthony Ranaudo – Boston Red Sox – Starting Pitcher (9)
Allen Webster is the first to fill in for Jake Peavy, though you have to wonder when Ranaudo will get his opportunity to start at this point? In 21 starts at Triple-A Ranaudo owns a 2.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, though he doesn’t offer the same strikeout rate as some other pitching prospects (7.42 K/9 this season, 7.9 in his minor league career). It’ll be interesting to see how he fares when he gets the opportunity, but the Red Sox are clearly trying to evaluate everything for the future.
Others Considered: Micah Johnson (2B. Chicago White Sox), Michael Foltynewicz (SP, Houston), Kris Bryant (3B, Chicago Cubs), Noah Syndergaard (SP, New York Mets), Matt Wisler (SP, San Diego Padres), Domingo Santana (OF, Houston Astros), Rob Refsnyder (2B, New York Yankees), Christian Walker (1B, Baltimore), Dariel Alvarez (OF, Baltimore), Jake Lamb (3B, Arizona), Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland), Trevor May (SP, Minnesota), Taijuan Walker (SP, Seattle)
Fell Off The List:
- Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (2) – With James Paxton set to return, Walker is going to get time at Triple-A to work through his issues
- Nick Kingham – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (8) – He struggled in his last outing and rumors are swirling that the team could ultimately acquire rotation help at the deadline
- Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies – Starting Pitcher (10) – Sure he could get an opportunity, but fly ball tendencies and Coors Field simply aren’t a good mix.
Make sure to check out all of our Rest of Season Rankings:
*** Make sure to pre-order Rotoprofessor’s 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide!! The guide comes complete with projections of over 350 players, expended rankings, sleepers, and so much more (including constant updates up until opening day). For just $6 you will get everything you need to dominate your fantasy league and one lucky subscriber will win a free autographed Brett Favre 8×10! For more information and to place your order, click here. ***