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) Bo Bichette – Shortstop – Toronto Blue Jays (1)
He continues to tear it up at Triple-A, including a current 8-game hitting streak (17-38, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R, 2 SB). Overall he’s hitting .335 with 5 HR and 13 RBI over 161 AB, and while the power hasn’t fully been there he has added 15 doubles and 1 triple. The next piece of Toronto’s future infield is coming quick, and the presence of Freddy Galvis and/or Eric Sogard shouldn’t be seen as an impediment to that.
The performance of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Home Run Derby has brought a spotlight to the rebuild. Adding Bichette to Guerrero, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. makes sense as the Blue Jays prepare for their next phase.
2) Carter Kieboom – Shortstop – Washington Nationals (2)
While his struggles in the Majors are well documented (though as we’ve noted numerous times, a lot of that was due to poor luck as he carried a .143 BABIP despite a 43.5% Hard%, and he also showed a solid approach with a 9.3% SwStr% and 24.2% O-Swing%), the Nationals have found themselves back in the mix for a playoff spot. It simply makes sense for them to have their best players in the Majors. Does the combination of Brian Dozier and Howie Kendrick really instill much confidence? Meanwhile Kieboom has thrived at Triple-A, including hitting .322 with 4 HR (as well as 6 doubles and 1 triple), 21 RBI and 22 R in June. He really hasn’t slowed down in a handful of AB since the calendar turned to July (.294 with 1 HR) and it’s only a matter of time.
3) Kyle Wright – Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (4)
The Braves will open the second half with Bryse Wilson (6.14 ERA) and Max Fried (4.29 ERA) as part of their rotation, so there is little reason to believe that they won’t be giving other options a look. While Wright has had his own issues both at Triple-A (4.92 ERA over 64.0 IP) and in the Majors (7.07 ERA over 14.0 IP), he’s found his footing of late. He’s allowed 1 ER or fewer with at least 8 K in three of his past four starts, lowering his ERA from the 7.22 it was on June 9. As a groundball pitcher (52.2%) with enough strikeouts (8.72 K/9) and control (2.53 BB/9), it’s easy to envision him making an impact upon his return.
4) Luis Urias – Shortstop – San Diego Padres (3)
Another week has gone by and Urias continues to be pinned at Triple-A. He’s currently on a nine-game hitting streak that has seen him go 12-40 with 0 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R and 0 SB. Those aren’t overwhelming numbers, but he’s hitting .320 with 17 HR and 7 SB over 284 AB overall. Throw in 19 doubles and 4 triples, as well as 60 K vs. 36 BB, and it’s hard to see why the Padres continue to keep him out of the Majors. It’s not like his 10.7% SwStr% is a red flag nor has he been swinging for the fences with his 35.9% fly ball rate. With Ian Kinsler all that’s seemingly standing in his way, a promotion has to come soon… Doesn’t it?
5) Isan Diaz – Second Baseman – Miami Marlins (5)
The focus for the Marlins seems to have been the rotation of young pitchers who have gotten a chance (and generally proven they can hold fantasy appeal). That coupled with his previous struggles has caused Diaz to seemingly fall off radars. That needs to change, as Starlin Castro continues to struggle (and is also a trade candidate) opening the door for an opportunity.
While Castro hasn’t produced (.245, 6 HR, 34 RBI over 351 AB), Diaz has thrived at Triple-A hitting .289 with 20 HR, 54 RBI and 69 R. An 11.3% SwStr%, helping lead to a 22.2% strikeout rate (which has the potential to regress), is a little bit of a red flag and there’s the risk that he could become too home run-centric (only 17 doubles and 2 triples). That’s not enough, however, and with the team looking towards the future it’s a matter of time.
6) Jorge Mateo – Second Baseman – Oakland A’s (10)
Franklin Barreto got the first opportunity to fill the hole at second base, but he’s once again struggled at the highest level. Over his first 23 AB he’s hitting .087 with 1 HR and 1 SB, with 10 K vs. 0 BB. How much rope will the team give him this time around, which would open the door for Mateo’s opportunity to come? There are going to be strikeout concerns, with a 15.3% SwStr% leading to a 24.1% strikeout rate and 4.3% walk rate, but he’s showing both power (20 doubles, 13 triples and 13 HR) and speed (18 SB). He could stumble upon reaching the Majors, as his approach is exposed by Major League pitching, but there’s more than enough upside to overlook that.
7) Enyel De Los Santos – Starting Pitcher – Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
Jake Arrieta is trying to pitch through an elbow issue, though that’s not the only question the team has in it’s rotation. Lucky for the Phillies they have a few alternatives already on the 40-man roster, with Cole Irvin (who struggled in his most recent outing) and Adonis Medina (who hasn’t pitched above Double-A) as alternatives. De Los Santos is the most likely to get the opportunity, as he’s already spent time in the Majors (though working mainly as a reliever) and has produced a 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 10 starts at Triple-A this season. He’s done that with strikeouts (9.96 K/9 courtesy of a 13.0% SwStr%) and control (3.26 BB/9), though a lack of groundballs (35.5% groundball rate) could bring home run issues. That’s not enough of a reason to go running, given the opportunity, just keep your expectations in check.
8) Jake Fraley – Outfielder – Seattle Mariners (7)
As we’ve mentioned before the outfield doesn’t appear to be the ideal place for a Mariners’ prospect to break through, but there are AB open at designated hitter and that opens the door. Fraley hasn’t stopped raking since arriving at Triple-A (.305, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 14 R and 3 SB over 59 AB), and while he’s not currently on the 40-man roster the Mariners don’t have many healthy options available in the outfield at this time. He’s also already 24-years old, so keeping him down also may not make much sense. Fraley has shown power (18 doubles, 5 triples and 15 HR) and speed (19 SB) in the minors, as well as an ability to make consistent contact (9.8% SwStr%). That’s more than enough to put him on our radars as a potential impact option in the second half.
9) Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (6)
Keller’s return to Triple-A seemed to be going well, making him ready to force a return to the Majors. However his last start was poor (6 R on 9 H and 1 BB over 5.2 IP) and even the one before that wasn’t great (1 R on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 2, over 5.0 IP). There’s little reason to think that Keller won’t get another opportunity, but he needs to do better than this considering his struggles in the Majors (10.50 ERA over 3 starts, lasting 12.0 IP). It’s not to say that he isn’t one of the best pitching prospects in the game and there’s no question that the Pirates have a need at the back of their rotation. Once he gets things on track, and perhaps the All-Star Break was well timed, he’ll rise back up these rankings.
10) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder – Houston Astros (8)
Nothing has changed for Tucker, as he needs a trade in order to get a real opportunity in the Majors once again. He brings an intriguing blend of power and speed, with 24 HR and 19 SB over 309 AB, though his ability to consistently make contact has always brought questions. He currently owns a 15.4% SwStr% at Triple-A, and with the potential to take another step backwards in the Majors it’s a significant warning sign.
Without a trade it’s fair to wonder exactly where he fits. The team is currently using Michael Brantley, George Springer and Josh Reddick in the outfield, with Jake Marisnick, Myles Straw and Tony Kemp also in the mix. Throw in Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel for 1B/DH and there simply is no opening. Without a trade, which seems likely, his spot on this list is going to be suppressed.
Also Keep An Eye On:
- Jo Adell – Outfielder – Los Angeles Angels – He’s playing at Double-A so it’s hard to call his arrival imminent, but the Angels could be aggressive if they are in position for a playoff spot
- Gavin Lux – Shortstop – Los Angeles Dodgers – He’s doing his best to force the issue, but with Corey Seager set to return there is no obvious opening for Lux to break through at the highest level.
- 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:
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Will Smith – Catcher – Los Angeles Dodgers (9) – He’s currently injured, which obviously will delay his return to the Majors
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Forrest Whitley (HOU), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs