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 (please note all stats are through Tuesday):
1) Vladimir Guerrero
Jr. – Third Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (NR)
He still may technically be on the IL, but Guerrero is back on the field at High-A and working his way towards his MLB debut. You could argue that he would’ve left Spring Training as part of the Major League roster had he not been injured and now it’s only a matter of time before he forces his way there now. The elite prospect in the game, there’s little doubt that he’s going to hit the ground running and make a significant impact upon his arrival.
2) Carter Kieboom –
Shortstop – Washington Nationals (NR)
With Trea Turner hitting the IL there was some speculation that Kieboom could immediately be summoned to the Majors to fill the gaping void. For now the team has opted to give him some time at Triple-A, instead utilizing Wilmer Difo, but for how long will that last? On Tuesday he enjoyed his breakout game (4-5, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB), and he’s coming off a year where he hit .280 with 16 HR (as well as 31 doubles and 1 triple) between High-A and Double-A.
Even when Turner is healthy, can we say that Kieboom wouldn’t be able to stick? His future may be at second base as it is, and with Brian Dozier getting off to a horrific start (.103 with 1 HR and 0 SB) the opportunity is there. With Washington off to a slow start, he could provide a much needed spark.
3) Oscar Mercado – Outfielder – Cleveland
Currently the only outfielder on Cleveland’s roster that is hitting above .250 is Tyler Naquin, and they’ve combined for 2 HR (both of which came recently) and 1 SB. For a team that needs a boost offensively could they look towards a seemingly consistent under-the-radar option for a boost?
It’s not like Mercado has gotten off to a good start, otherwise there would likely be more chatter for his arrival. Still he has 3 SB over his first four games and does have a .381 OBP over his first four games. Often overlooked and undervalued, there’s little question that Mercado will get a shot in the beleaguered Indians outfield. With the way that group is playing, the time should come sooner than you think. If you are someone searching for help in stolen bases, stash him now in deeper formats.
4) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago
White Sox (7)
When Carlos Rodon is your “ace”, how comfortable should you really be with your starting pitching? Lucas Giolito (5.73 ERA), Ivan Nova (7.71 ERA) and Reynaldo Lopez (10.00 ERA) have all struggled over their first two starts and any one of them could be replaced at a moments notice (and we aren’t even going to mention Ervin Santana). That should lead to an opportunity for Cease, who is often overlooked but should be considered among the better pitching prospects. The only thing holding him back could be his lack of upper level experience, having made just 10 starts at Double-A and just recently making his Triple-A debut (and impressing, with 5.0 shutout innings allowing 3 H and 0 BB with 5 K). When you post a 2.40 ERA with 160 K over 124.0 IP between High-A and Double-A, it’s easy to envision a team pushing the envelope (especially one that has often been aggressive with its promotions).
5) Forrest Whitley –
Starting Pitcher – Houston Astros (2)
Where exactly does he fit into Houston’s rotation? Long-term that’s not a question, and even currently it’s fair to wonder if Brad Peacock is going to be able to stick. As of Tuesday morning Whitley had not yet made an appearance in the minor leagues, and you have to think the Astros are going to limit his innings in order to save some bullets and let him work deep into the season (he only threw 26.1 innings in ’18 and has 137.1 innings since being selected in the first round of the 2016 draft). Some have called him the best pitching prospect they’ve ever seen, and when his time comes Whitley is going to be a potential difference maker. You could argue him as a Top 3 prospect, but the uncertainty of when he’s going to arrive drags his spot down.
6) Ke’Bryan Hayes –
Third Baseman – Pittsburgh Pirates (5)
Jung Ho Kang showed off significant power this spring, but strikeouts were a big part of his game and thus far that has carried into the regular season. Over his first 28 AB he’s struck out 10 times, leading to a .143 AVG and some lost playing time to Colin Moran. It’s not like Moran is a superstar, and you have to wonder if the team could soon turn to Hayes.
He hasn’t carried a strong spring into the regular season, though you have to wonder if part of that was due to the disappointment of not making the team after hitting .353 with 3 HR and 12 RBI over 34 AB. If he can find his footing, something we’d expect, it may not be long before Kang plays his way out of a job at the Major League level. That will lead to Hayes’ arrival and the potential to make an instant impact.
7) Griffin Canning – Starting Pitcher – Los
Angeles Angels (9)
First it was injuries that appeared to be opening up an opportunity, now it’s the recent abysmal performance from Matt Harvey. Regardless of the reason the Angels always appear to be looking for an option to start and Canning should be right at the top of the list of options. The 2017 second round draft pick looked good in his first start at Triple-A in ’19, tossing 5.0 innings allowing 1 R (0 earned) on 4 H and 0 BB, striking out 5, as he was generating ample groundballs (2.00 GO/AO). While he did stumble last year at Triple-A, the fact that the team was aggressive with his promotions tells you that they believe he can make an impact in short order. With 14 starts at Triple-A and a need quickly arising, his time could come before you know it.
8) Cavan Biggio –
Second Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (NR)
He has at least one hit in each of his first six games at Triple-A this season, hitting .400 with 2 HR and 1 SB. Even more impressive is his 4 K vs. 5 BB, a year after racking up 148 K vs. 100 BB at Double-A. If he can keep the strikeouts in check it is not going to take long before he forces his way into the mix for the Blue Jays. It’s not like they don’t have a need, with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. struggling (.129 with 10 K vs. 1 BB) and how long can they trust Freddy Galvis (shifting Gurriel to SS if they wanted to go with a youth movement). While he may not be promoted in the next few days, Biggio’s time is likely coming.
9) Justus Sheffield – Starting Pitcher –
Seattle Mariners (6)
Sheffield’s first start was poor, allowing 4 ER with 5 BB over 4.2 IP. That said how much is it going to be held against him? Acquired as part of the James Paxton trade it’s likely that he’s near the top of the team’s “next up” list and there’s good reason to think that there’s a need before long. They could rest Yusei Kikuchi, as he makes his transition to an MLB workload, and does anyone really trust Wade LeBlanc, Felix Hernandez or Mike Leake? Sheffield pitched to a 2.56 ERA over 88.0 innings at Triple-A last season as well as making his MLB debut, so one bad start should not deter you.
10) Shaun Anderson –
Starting Pitcher – San Francisco Giants (NR)
Anderson generally doesn’t get much attention, but could he find his way into the Giants rotation? Will they continue to trust a struggling Dereck Rodriguez (5.23 ERA)? Will Derek Holland or Jeff Samardzija continue to produce? The Giants are a rebuilding team and it makes sense to see what Anderson has to offer. A third round pick in 2016, he allowed 1 ER on 3 H and 1 BB, striking out 5, over 5.0 IP in his first start of ’19. Even more impressive was his 4.50 GO/AO, and while it was only one start he also had a 1.28 mark over 47.1 innings at the level in ’18. With upside in his strikeout rate and pinpoint control (33 BB over 141.1 IP overall last season) there’s a lot to like.
Graduated to Majors:
- Jonathan Loaisiga – Starting Pitcher – New York Yankees (3)
- Luis Urias – Second Baseman – San Diego Padres (10)
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Austin Hays – Outfielder – Baltimore Orioles (1) – He’s currently on the IL
- Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (8)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Nick Senzel (CIN), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)