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) Nick Senzel –
Outfielder – Cincinnati Reds (NR)
Senzel was only unranked because he was injured, but he’s back on the field and that means he should be on the precipice of his MLB debut. He played centerfield in his first two games at Triple-A, though he also could fill in at second base given the struggles of Jose Peraza and having played 28 games there last season. Regardless of the position, the Reds are going to find a spot for his bat.
He’s coming off a year where he hit .310 with 6 HR and 25 RBI over 171 AB, while he also added 12 doubles and 2 triples (showing a little bit more power upside). Throw in a solid 10.2% SwStr% and 9.8% walk rate and there’s a lot to like in his approach/profile at the plate. As long as he can stay healthy, something that’s never been a given, he’ll make an immediate impact upon his arrival.
2) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago
White Sox (6)
Cease isn’t the best pitching prospect in baseball, but he’s not necessarily far off and pitches for a team with desperate needs in the rotation. Just look at the ERA of some of the starters who have made at least three starts for Chicago thus far:
- Lucas Giolito – 5.30
- Reynaldo Lopez – 7.46
- Ivan Nova – 8.42
- Ervin Santana – 9.45
How much rope they give some of them remains to be seen, but Cease is already on the 40-man roster and has impressed in his first three starts at Triple-A (1.84 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 14 K, 3 BB and 1.55 GO/AO over 14.2 IP). They may want him to gain a little bit more experience (67.0 IP above High-A), but it shouldn’t be long.
3) Yordan Alvarez –
Outfielder – Houston Astros (NR)
The question isn’t about his talent, as he’s hitting .324 with 10 HR and 26 RBI over 63 AB (not to mention 13 K vs. 12 BB). The question is where does he fit in Houston? Alvarez has primarily played in the outfield this season, but with George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick filling those spots extremely well there may not be a clear opening. Could he shift back to first base? How about be utilized as the DH? Yuli Gurriel and Tyler White have combined for 1 HR and 8 RBI, and those have all come from Gurriel. That could be the spot for him, and with the way he’s pounding the baseball he’s going to soon force the team to make a move.
4) Cavan Biggio –
Second Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (5)
Vladimir Guerrero has gotten the call and Bo Bichette is hurt and will miss some time. That leaves Biggio standing alone as the next man up, and it shouldn’t be long before the Blue Jays make the call. He’s clearly trying to force their hand, hitting .418 with 3 HR and 10 RBI over 55 AB at Triple-A. Even better has been his approach at the plate, as he’s walked (13) more than he’s struck out (10) and rarely swung and missed (8.0% SwStr%). The team is currently utilizing Eric Sogard at second base, and while he’s producing thus far he’s a career .240 hitter and will soon turn 33-years old. He’s simply not the future, and it makes sense to let Guerrero and Biggio develop together (though the addition of Biggio would require a 40-man roster move, something they may want to wait to make).
5) Nate Lowe – First Baseman
– Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
The question is where does Lowe fit in for Tampa Bay, with both Yandy Diaz and Ji-Man Choi performing fairly well. Of course Choi has just 1 HR and 6 RBI over 63 AB, so it’s hard to call his hold on a spot in the starting lineup strong.
Lowe, on the other hand, is raking at Triple-A hitting .293 with 3 HR over 58 AB. He’s added 7 doubles, showing that there’s a little bit more power potential, and he’s also walked (13) nearly as much as he’s struck out (16). Throw in a miniscule 5.3% SwStr% to start the year and what exactly is there not to like? He could give a boost to a lineup that can always use it in order to keep up in the AL East, and it may not be long before he forces their hand.
6) Forrest Whitley –
Starting Pitcher – Houston Astros (3)
Whitley has gotten off to a slow start this season, but he’s the premier pitching prospect and it’s only a matter of when he’s called on to fill a spot at the back of the rotation (where there is a need). Is it really worth dissecting numbers that we know don’t reflect his actual talent? When he arrives he’s going to be a difference maker, and the aggressive Astros could make that move within the next few weeks.
7) Griffin Canning – Starting Pitcher – Los
Angeles Angels (9)
The Angels continue to be a team in desperate need of help in the rotation, so how long can they keep Canning sitting at Triple-A? Over his first three starts he owns a 0.56 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, with 17 K vs. 2 BB over 16.0 IP. How can that not be seen as an improvement over Chris Stratton (7.04 ERA)? How about some of the other struggling starters, like Trevor Cahill (5.47 ERA)? The Angels are a team that are always looking to compete for a World Series title and having these types of starters help to cost them games simply can’t be allowed. A move has to be made, and Canning should be on the precipice of getting an opportunity.
8) Monte Harrison –
Outfielder – Miami Marlins (NR)
He was under consideration for a spot last week, and with all of the graduations he’s an easy addition to this week’s list. The Marlins outfield has flat out been bad, with no one hitting above .223. That should soon lead to an opportunity for Harrison, who is on the 40-man roster and raking at Triple-A with .327 with 3 HR and 3 SB over 49 AB. The big concern is the swing and miss to his game, with a 15.3% SwStr% leading to 17 K. That’s a scary number, especially since it could balloon even further upon reaching the Majors. That said he does have 9 walks and there’s no question the combination of power and speed he can bring to the table. There is the risk of a poor average, but the opportunity and other skills could offset it.
9) Kyle Wright –
Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (NR)
Maybe Touki Toussaint deserves this spot? Maybe another of Atlanta’s numerous pitching prospects? That’s part of the problem with Atlanta, because they can easily just rotate the options as opposed to committing to a specific one. That said Wright may be the best pitching prospect the team has and it’s a matter of when, not if, he gets an opportunity to fill a spot in the rotation (despite his struggles in the Majors last season, with a 6.30 ERA over 20.0 IP).
A poor debut is going to skew the numbers, but he bounced back strong in his second start (1 ER over 5.0 IP). When he gets his opportunity he may be able to lock down the spot for the foreseeable future.
10) Daz Cameron – Outfielder – Detroit Tigers
If Cameron had been playing better he’d already be in the Majors, considering the questions that Detroit has in their outfield. That said it may not take much for him to get his opportunity, and the key is going to be cutting down on the strikeouts (21 K over 68 AB). Let’s not forget that he hit .264 with 8 HR and 24 SB across three levels last season, though he has struggled to adjust to Triple-A starters over the past two years:
.224 (28-125), 2 HR, 13 RBI, 19 R, 4 SB, 36 K
The upside and opportunity is there, so he belongs on our radar. If it wasn’t for the chance that he gets the call out of need, however, he likely would fall short of these rankings (and could easily get bumped next week).
Graduated to Majors:
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Third Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (1)
- Carter Kieboom – Shortstop – Washington Nationals (2)
- Michael Chavis – Third Baseman – Boston Red Sox (4)
- Enyel De Los Santos – Starting Pitcher – Philadelphia Phillies (8)
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Adrian Houser – Starting Pitcher – Milwaukee Brewers (7)
- Ke’Bryan Hayes – Third Baseman – Pittsburgh Pirates (10)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)