MLB Prospect Power Rankings: Top 10 On The Cusp Of Reaching The Majors (August 16, 2019)

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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 Wednesday):

1) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder – Houston Astros (2)
He continues to hit, now at .267 with 32 HR (and he’s hitting .350 with 5 HR in his past 10 games).  What’s been most impressive, though, is that he’s seemed to make an adjustment and has started to cut down on his strikeouts.  In 44 AB in August he has 5 K vs. 4 BB and in 99 AB since the All-Star Break he has 21 K vs. 15 BB.  That’s a significant step forward (though his overall 14.4% SwStr% is a red flag), and if he can maintain this type of production he’s going to quickly force the issue.

There remains to be the question as to where he’ll play in the Majors, though the team has started to deploy him at 1B (he’s made 8 appearances) and Josh Reddick continues to struggle (.136 with 0 HR in his past 7 games, .190 with 0 HR in his past 30 games).  At the very least Tucker could step into that role, but the potential is there for him to find nearly every day AB.

2) Ty France – Second Baseman/Third Baseman – San Diego Padres (3)The injury to Fernando Tatis Jr. has opened the door for France to reportedly return to the Majors, and there’s a good chance that he takes advantage of the opportunity.  If he hits well would it be a surprise to see him supplant Luis Urias at 2B?  He has shown just how good he can swing the bat at Triple-A this season, as he’s hitting .399 with 27 HR and 89 RBI over 296 AB.  Obviously his .410 BABIP  and 30.7% HR/FB are unsustainable, but he’s also shown a good approach (9.9% SwStr%, 14.7% strikeout rate) and that should translate to at least solid production.  Maybe he’s more of a .270ish hitter with some pop?  That’s more than enough to make an impact with regular AB. 

Obviously France’s upside isn’t that of many others on this list, but with reports that he’s coming up today he’s going to slide towards the top spot.

3) Jesus Luzardo – Starting Pitcher – Oakland A’s (8)
After a few impressive performances Luzardo stumbled yesterday, allowing 4 ER on 6 H and 1 BB, striking out 1, over 3.1 IP at Triple-A.  It does seem to ensure that he gets at least one more start since being summoned to the Majors, but that’s more of a slight delay than something that is a concern.  There also have been rumblings that Luzardo may have a tough time breaking into the rotation, but does anyone really believe that?  Considering the names they are throwing out there it shouldn’t be an impediment, as he could easily prove to be the best starter from Day 1.  We’ve been waiting since Opening Day for him to get healthy and contribute at the highest level, and his time finally appears to be getting close.

4) Justus Sheffield – Starting Pitcher – Seattle Mariners (4)
It sounds a little bit odd to be hyping Sheffield off of thriving after a demotion to Double-A, but he’s clearly figured something out since the move was made:

  • Triple-A (55.0 IP) – 6.87 ERA, 1.82 WHIP
  • Double-A (72.0 IP) – 1.75 ERA, 1.01 WHIP

Like many pitchers at Triple-A this season he struggled with home runs while there (1.96 HR/9), but that hasn’t been an issue since being moved down (0.13 HR/9).  With that in mind and given the way the ball has been flying out of ballparks in the Majors, can we expect him to replicate his Double-A success at the highest level?  It makes it a much tougher sell, but he’s also discovered his control (2.00 BB/9) and should generate enough groundballs to make you think that there can be success.

5) Gavin Lux – Shortstop – Los Angeles Dodgers (7)
He continues to hit, but the question is whether or not the Dodgers will promote him to the Majors and be able to find regular AB for him.  They have shown a willingness to make moves, even while thriving, like plugging Will Smith in as the starting catcher over Austin Barnes/Russell Martin.  Currently there could be a clear path to playing time, with Max Muncy shifting to 1B and Cody Bellinger manning the outfield along with A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson.  Of course the return of Chris Taylor and/or Enrique Hernandez could close that path, but for now it’s an open opportunity and it’s possible he gets a chance to take advantage of it.  That makes him impossible to overlook.

6) Carter Kieboom – Shortstop – Washington Nationals (6)
At least we know he should provide depth come September, though it’s a little disappointing that he hasn’t gotten another opportunity before that.  Had it not been for the addition of Asdrubal Cabrera he likely would’ve supplanted Brian Dozier already, but for now we’ll just have to bide our time.

Over his past 10 games he’s hitting .316 with 1 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R and 2 SB and he’s hitting .311 with 16 HR overall.  It’s easy to be down on him based on his struggles in the Majors during his first stint, but as we’ve said numerous times a lot of that was due to poor luck as opposed to actual upside.  It’s still easy to argue that he offers the most upside for anyone the team will have on the roster for the position, and considering Cabrera is a good bet to regress would it be surprising to see Kieboom get regular AB down the stretch?  They are in a dogfight for a Wild Card spot and they need to put their best lineup on the field every day.

7) Nathaniel Lowe – First Baseman – Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
Lowe continues to produce at Triple-A, hitting .292 with 14 HR overall (.314 with 2 HR and 8 RBI in his past 10 games), while demonstrating an impressive approach (20.4% strikeout rate, 16.6% walk rate, 7.4% SwStr%).  Even in the Majors he produced well (.294 with 5 HR over 102 AB), so at the very least you know he’ll return once rosters expand in September.  Even then you have to wonder if he’ll be able to find regular AB, especially with Jesus Aguilar (.412 with 3 RBI) and Ji-Man Choi (.333 with 1 HR and 3 RBI) looking like they are creating a strong option at 1B over the past 7 days, with Travis d’Arnaud also getting time at the position. 

8) Ryan Mountcastle – First Baseman – Baltimore Orioles (9)
A 109 K vs. 18 BB ratio is a significant red flag that can’t be overlooked, but he has 6 K vs. 4 BB over his past 10 games (30 K over 123 AB since the All-Star Break).  If he can continue to show improvements in that regard his arrival in the Majors should come quickly, especially with Chris Davis’ struggles (including his recent altercation with his manager).  Mountcastle is hardly a guarantee to thrive as MLB pitchers could once again expose him, but the power will play (he has 21 HR and 51 total extra base hits in 452 AB) and there’s an opportunity to make an impact quickly.

9) Lewis Thorpe – Starting Pitcher – Minnesota Twins (NR)
It appeared unthinkable at one point, and while Martin Perez pitched well his last time out it’s easy to envision him pitching his way out of the rotation (5.45 ERA over his past 6 starts) with home runs becoming a significant issue.  With the Twins and Indians now entrenched in a battle for the AL Central the team may quickly run out of patience, and that could lead to a return of Thorpe (he’s already pitched 11.1 IP in the Majors this season).

There are plenty of innings left in the tank (he’s thrown 104.2 IP this season, after 129.2 IP last season), so we aren’t looking at a potential shutdown.  He’s also shown ample upside in both his strikeouts (10.90 K/9, courtesy of a 14.3% SwStr%) and control (2.41 BB/9) while pitching at Triple-A this season.  There could be questions about his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (1.16 HR/9 at Triple-A, with a 40.4% groundball rate), and that may limit his upside.  At the same time he could make an instant impact and thrive over a handful of starts.  Don’t be surprised if he’s taking the ball in September.

10) Mauricio Dubon – Shortstop – San Francisco Giants (NR)
The initial thought had been that Dubon was acquired to fill in at 2B for the Giants, though the acquisition of Scooter Gennett changed that quickly.  While he still could get an opportunity there, what about seeing time at shortstop?  It’s not like Brandon Crawford has been producing, hitting .170 with 0 HR over his past 15 games, and that’s the spot where Dubon has seen the bulk of his action this season (93 appearances).  That seems like where the fit could be, and with the Giants still thrust into the Wild Card race it’s not impossible to think that he could get an opportunity before long.  While he could make an impact with his legs, he’s gone just 9-for-16 on stolen base attempts this season after only playing in 27 games in ’18.  There’s some upside, but he may not be a true difference maker.

Also Keep An Eye On:

  • Jo Adell – Outfielder – Los Angeles Angels – He’s been promoted to Triple-A, but is there an opportunity for him to play in the Majors?  Barring an injury he’d be better served to continue learning at Triple-A.
  • Matt Manning – Starting Pitcher – Detroit Tigers – Casey Mize gets all of the publicity, but Manning has significant upside and could easily be the first to arrive
  • Luis Robert Outfielder – Chicago White Sox – He’s been promoted to Triple-A, but that doesn’t mean that he’s on the precipice of arriving.  The White Sox have a slew of outfielders already on the 40-man roster who can step in, including Luis Alexander Basabe, Adam Engel and Daniel Palka, and at 21-years old it makes sense to not force the issue.

Graduated to Majors:

  • Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (1)
  • Kolby Allard – Starting Pitcher – Texas Rangers (5)

Dropped off the Rankings:

  • Kyle Wright – Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (10)

Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Professor.

    1) Someone dropped McKay yesterday. Luzardo or McKay ROS?

    Here is my staff. Verlander, Cole, Flaherty, Wheeler, Gallen, Heaney, Aaron Sanchez, Canning, Pineda, Houser. I’m dropping Narvaez today to grab either Luzardo or McKay while I wait to see how Canning does at home today against the CHW and then reclaim a catcher tomorrow.

    2) What SP is the drop?

    Thanks again for your feedback

    • 1) I’d lean McKay, because I have to wonder how limited Luzardo will be (plus there have been rumblings that he’ll arrive in the bullpen, though not sure I believe that)

      2) First drop would be Heaney for me, though could argue Canning or Sanchez

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