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 (1)
Guerrero continues to work his way back, as he’s at Triple-A and looking like he hasn’t missed a step since his dominant 2018 (which included a .336/.414/.564 slash over 110 AB at Triple-A). We all know that he’s the elite prospect in the game and now that he’s at Triple-A it’s just a matter of when the Blue Jays decide to pull the trigger and bring him to the Majors. In reality the move could come at any time (he’s hitting .385 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in four games since being bumped up), and while they may want to see him get a few more AB at Triple-A his time is coming (and quickly). He likely will just be the first of a few promotions as the team looks to remake their infield and send their rebuild into focus.
2) Carter Kieboom –
Shortstop – Washington Nationals (2)
Through Tuesday he was hitting .381, but 15 K over 42 AB is hardly what anyone wants to see. At least he has drawn 8 BB, and the strikeout total is easy to overlook considering the other numbers he’s posted (2 HR, 12 RBI and 1 SB). We can’t say that it wasn’t a concern last season, given these SwStr%:
- High-A (285 PA) – 10.0%
- Double-A (273 PA) – 10.4%
Of course he entered play on Tuesday with an improved 9.5% SwStr% (albeit in a small sample size). That’s promising, and with the need for Kieboom building as Wilmer Difo (.214 with 1 HR and 0 SB) and Brian Dozier (.152 with 1 HR and 1 SB) continue to struggle the potential for a recall only grows. Kieboom could start at SS now, and when Trea Turner returns shift over to 2B (where he’s ticketed for the future). The Nationals have always been willing to be bold, and his time is coming soon.
3) Forrest Whitley –
Starting Pitcher – Houston Astros (5)
Brad Peacock has been shifted to the bullpen due to the scheduling not necessitating a fifth starter for a stretch. However could the team ultimately decide to keep him there, opening up a spot in the rotation earlier than expected? There are other alternatives to step in and fill the void, but we all know Whitley’s time is going to come sooner rather than later.
Considered the top pitching prospect in the game (and some feel one of the best pitching prospects ever), his struggles in his most recent start could delay things slightly (he allowed 5 ER over 1.1 IP). That said the Astros will ultimately have a need at the back of the rotation and there’s no question that Whitley offers the most potential to fill it. For a team with World Series aspirations, they won’t be shy.
4) Michael Chavis –
Third Baseman – Boston Red Sox (NR)
What’s interesting with Chavis is the way he’s been deployed defensively in the early going, as he’s actually played as many games at second base (5) as he has at third base (5). Obviously the Red Sox want to see Dustin Pedroia return to being a productive option, but can they truly expect it? As it is he’s clearly going to need to get time off from the field, as evidenced by the team using him at DH and Christian Vazquez at 2B on Monday (Pedroia was off on Tuesday, with Eduardo Nunez slotting into second base, and he was forced to leave Wednesday’s game early). If Chavis proves he can handle the position defensively, the reeling Red Sox could easily look towards him to provide a boost.
It has been a slow start offensively, hitting .243 over 37 AB, though he has hit 3 HR and he hasn’t been plagued by strikeouts (8 K). Of course he entered play on Tuesday with a 13.8% SwStr%, and that’s something that will become an issue (especially if he’s promoted). Still there’s no questioning the power potential, the fact that the Red Sox could use a jolt of energy and that he’s already on the 40-man roster (making the promotion that much easier).
5) Cavan Biggio –
Second Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (8)
You can argue that Bo Bichette also deserves a spot on these rankings, but he’s gotten off to a poor start (.234 with 1 HR over 47 AB) and that’s going to keep him off for now. Biggio, on the other hand, is hitting .432 with 2 HR and 5 RBI over 37 AB. Even more impressive is that he’s walked (8) more than he’s struck out (7), and his 7.4% SwStr% further supports that type of discipline.
The Blue Jays have already shown that they are willing to make moves, with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. being demoted to Triple-A opening up a spot in the middle of the infield. Does the rebuilding team really want to depend on the likes of Freddy Galvis, Alen Hanson and Eric Sogard to fill the infield? We all know that Guerrero’s time is coming quickly, but don’t be surprised if Biggio joins him.
6) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago
White Sox (4)
There is promise in the White Sox rotation, outside of maybe Ervin Santana, though two of the youngsters are struggling with Rodrigo Lopez (8.84 ERA) and Lucas Giolito (6.19 ERA) carrying bloated ERA (and Ivan Nova also stumbling). That could open the door for the next wave of high upside arms, and Cease stands at the top of that list. He’s among the better pitching prospects, though often not given that type of credit, and he’s thrown 10.0 shutout innings at Triple-A to start his season (with 9 K vs. 1 BB and a 1.25 GO/AO). It’s possible that the team wants to give him a little bit more time at the upper levels before pushing him to the Majors (only 12 starts above High-A), but at 23-years old his time is coming quickly.
7) Adrian Houser – Starting Pitcher – Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
We spoke about Houser earlier in the week, which you can read by clicking here. With Freddy Peralta hitting the IL, opening a spot in the rotation for Saturday (Houser’s scheduled day to pitch is on Friday), and the likelihood that Corbin Burnes has pitched his way out of the rotation the chances for Houser to get an opportunity grows that much stronger (though with the struggles in the rotation it was already looking pretty good). His upside may be limited, but his opportunity is obvious.
8) Enyel De Los Santos – Starting Pitcher –
Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
The Phillies demotion of Nick Pivetta to Triple-A initially will shift Jerad Eickhoff into the rotation, but how long will that last? De Los Santos was already pushing for a second chance in the Majors (he debuted last season), opening up the season at Triple-A in impressive fashion:
- 04/06/19 – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 10 K
- 04/12/19 – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 K
All told that’s 19 K vs. 2 BB, and while there have been questions about his strikeout upside he appears to have unlocked his potential (11.7% SwStr% at Triple-A last season). If he can maintain that improvement there will be success, though he could struggle through some home run issues. He’s not a lock to produce, but there’s upside and opportunity. That alone is going to put him on radars.
9) Griffin Canning – Starting Pitcher – Los
Angeles Angels (7)
Canning is rolling early on this season, with a 0.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 11 K vs. 2 BB over his first 10.0 innings of work (two starts). The Angels are always on the hunt for help in the rotation, and this season seems to be no different. Already on the IL is Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and now Tyler Skaggs. For a team with hopes of making the playoffs, how long can they depend on Felix Pena or Chris Stratton?
Across three levels last season (including 13 starts at Triple-A) Canning posted a 3.65 ERA and enough in all three skills we look for:
- Strikeouts – 9.93 K/9
- Control – 3.49 BB/9
- Groundballs – 44.3%
His control has been even better in the early going this season and he could provide an instant boost for a team in desperate need of some help.
10) Ke’Bryan Hayes –
Third Baseman – Pittsburgh Pirates (6)
After getting a few days off Jung Ho Kang returned to the lineup on Tuesday and went 2-4 with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Of course he also struck out twice and is up to 18 K over 42 AB helping to lead to a .143/.217/.333 slash. Just how long will the Pirates be willing to deal with those types of numbers? Colin Moran has been better, but it’s also hard to envision him as being the answer.
Enter Hayes, who had a great showing this spring. He’s gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A, hitting .244 with 1 HR over 45 AB, but it may only take one small hot streak to get an opportunity. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster, and that could help to delay his ascent, though there’s little question that it will come before long.
Graduated to Majors:
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Oscar Mercado – Outfielder – Cleveland Indians (3)
- Justus Sheffield – Starting Pitcher – Seattle Mariners (9)
- Shaun Anderson – Starting Pitcher – San Francisco Giants (10)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Nick Senzel (CIN), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)