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) Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (7)
There’s talk that he’s getting ready to return to the Majors, though the timing seems slightly odd as he’s struggled in his past two starts at Triple-A (9 ER over 10.2 IP). Of course he struck out 12 over 6.0 IP in his most recent outing and overall has a 3.56 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 103.2 IP while displaying the overall skill set we look for:
- Strikeouts – 10.68 K/9
- Control – 3.04 BB/9
- Groundballs – 44.7%
He has stumbled in his first tastes of the Majors, but he also has little left to prove in the minors. At this point the Pirates would be best served to let Keller figure it out at the highest level, so he can be ready to thrive from Opening Day ’20 moving forward.
2) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder – Houston Astros (3)
The Trade Deadline has come and gone with Tucker remaining part of the Astros’ organization. It’s a bit of a surprise, but holding onto him didn’t prevent them from obtaining an impact starter (Zack Greinke) and allowed them to maintain their depth. The question now is if Tucker will get an opportunity to play a role. Josh Reddick (.208 with 0 HR over 72 AB) and Jake Marisnick (.238 with 1 HR over 42 AB) have struggled since the All-Star Break, so there is a potential opportunity if the team decides to make a change.
Tucker has caught fire at the right time, going 10-27 with 3 HR and 10 RBI over a current 7-game hitting streak. He’s also been showing an improved approach, with 3 K vs. 4 BB over this stretch, though we all know strikeouts are going to be a part of his game. It’s not that Houston needs an upgrade in their offense, but if they have it at their disposal why not? Tucker could seamlessly step into the role of Reddick, putting him squarely on radars despite remaining in Houston.
3) Ty France – Second Baseman/Third Baseman – San Diego Padres (NR)
We recently noted him as a potential waiver wire target (click here for the article) and he’s been seeing more and more time at 2B recently. It appears that the Padres are preparing him for a promotion and an opportunity to fill the spot in the Majors, and if he can handle it defensively there’s no questioning the bat. He’s been scorching hot of late, hitting .500 with 2 HR and 13 RBI over his past 10 games, and he has 26 HR and a .775 SLG overall this season. He may not have the upside long-term as some of the others, but at least in the short-term he could be a bit of a difference maker.
4) Justus Sheffield – Starting Pitcher – Seattle Mariners (NR)
The Mariners haven’t needed a fifth starter recently, but would it be surprising if Sheffield gets the call from Double-A to fill the role? It’s not like he hasn’t pitched in the Majors before (4 appearances in ’18), so making the jump isn’t hard to believe. He’s allowed 2 ER or less in 10 straight starts, going at least 6.0 innings in each of the past nine. The hot streak corresponds with being moved down to Double-A, but there’s been a lot of talk of a juiced ball at Triple-A this season and his 1.49 ERA and 0.99 WHIP can’t be dismissed. He’s clearly figured something out, with 71 K vs. 14 BB over 66.1 IP, though home runs could become an issue (0.83 GO/AO). That risk is going to keep him suppressed a little bit, but the upside and opportunity should be there. With the strikeout stuff, he represents more opportunity than some others (like Kolby Allard).
5) Kolby Allard – Starting Pitcher – Texas Rangers (NR)
Buried in the depth of the Atlanta system, Allard is set to get an immediate opportunity now that he’s part of the Rangers (a team that consistently seems to be on the lookout for pitching help). Set to debut for his new organization today it’s easy to have him near the top of these rankings, though don’t forget that he does have his limitations (and that’s going to keep him suppressed). We’ve talked about Allard several times, including as part of a recent Waiver Wired column, which you can read by clicking here.
6) Carter Kieboom – Shortstop – Washington Nationals (4)
Kieboom continues to show that he has little left to prove at Triple-A, hitting .312 with 16 HR and 73 RBI over 346 AB, and heating back up recently (6-14, 1 HR, 5 RBI over his past three games). His struggles in the Majors earlier this year continue to cloud the issue, but don’t forget that he had poor luck (.143 BABIP) and wasn’t overmatched (9.3% SwStr%, 24.2% O-Swing%). The latter is extremely believable, considering his 8.9% SwStr% and 13.1% walk rate at Triple-A . The team did bring in Asdrubal Cabrera, who offers them another option over Brian Dozier, and that could help to keep Kieboom buried in the minors. At the same time the Nationals are hardly locked into a playoff spot and they need to have their most talented players on the field. Kieboom offers an upgrade and if he keeps hitting he’s going to force their hand.
7) Gavin Lux – Shortstop – Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
The question with Lux isn’t his potential, it’s whether or not the team will summon him to the Majors without a clear path to playing time. Of course it’s starting to look like an opportunity to get into the lineup regularly could be opening. With Alex Verdugo hitting the IL the team could deploy an outfield of Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock and Joc Pederson, with Max Muncy shifting to first base. That leaves an opening at 2B, though that’s also contingent with Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor and their returns from the IL. With both players getting close to a rehab assignment, potentially to be less than two weeks from returning, will the team force the issue?
Obviously you can argue that Lux offers more offensive upside than the other two, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to arrive. At least there appears to be a chance, which puts him on our radar, though we’ll keep his ranking somewhat suppressed due to the uncertainty.
8) Jesus Luzardo – Starting Pitcher – Oakland A’s (NR)
He was supposed to break Spring Training as part of the Oakland rotation, but a series of injuries have continued to set him back. He’s again working his way towards a return, pitching 2.0 innings on August 5, and there’s a good chance that Oakland can get him stretched out enough to enter into their rotation by the beginning of September where he could provide a significant boost. Let’s not forget that they’ve been forced to import Homer Bailey and Tanner Roark to help fill out the back of the rotation, while Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson and Chris Bassitt aren’t necessarily going to scare anyone. Luzardo could arguably become their best starter immediately, which means he needs to be on radars (though he’s a few weeks away from making an impact, which does keep his spot suppressed a bit on these rankings).
9) Ryan Mountcastle –
First Baseman – Baltimore Orioles (10)
We know strikeouts are going to be an issue, though he may have turned a bit of a corner recently with 8 K in his past 10 games (1 K in his past four). If he can continue making contact there’s no questioning the power potential, with 27 doubles, 1 triple and 19 HR at Triple-A this season. With the issues hovering over Chris Davis, whether it’s his performance or recent altercation with his manager, there also is clearly a potential opportunity. Of course Major League pitching could expose his swing and miss potential, but with the recent improvement he belongs on radars.
10) Kyle Wright – Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (NR)
If it wasn’t for the return of Mike Foltynewicz it is likely that Wright would’ve gotten the opportunity to replace Kevin Gausman in the Atlanta rotation. Obviously it’s easy to question the upside, considering his struggles in the Majors (9.72 ERA, 2.10 WHIP over 16.2 IP), and his 4.33 ERA over 89.1 IP at Triple-A isn’t going to impress you. At the same time he seems to be finding himself, allowing 2 ER on 9 H and 2 BB, striking out 14, over 13.0 IP in his past two starts. With Kolby Allard now in Texas it’s easy to argue that Wright will be the first man up if/when there’s a need.
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:
- Brendan McKay – Starting Pitcher – Tampa Bay Rays (1)
- Will Smith – Catcher – Los Angeles Dodgers (2)
- Bo Bichette – Shortstop – Toronto Blue Jays (5)
- Isan Diaz – Second Baseman – Miami Marlins (6)
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Jake Fraley – Outfielder – Seattle Mariners (8)
- Jon Duplantier – Starting Pitcher – Arizona Diamondbacks (9)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs