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) Brendan McKay –
Starting Pitcher – Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
McKay takes home the top spot by default, since you can argue that he doesn’t deserve to be back down at Triple-A. He’s made three starts in the Majors, posting a 1.69 ERA and 0.69 WHIP over 16.0 IP. The most impressive is his 13 K vs. 1 BB, though you can argue that he’s been a little bit lucky with his .209 BABIP and 83.3% strand rate. That said he’s clearly been fooling batters (13.2% SwStr%, 41.8% O-Swing%), and while it’s in an incredibly small sample size the results can’t be ignored. It’s just a matter of how quickly it is that he returns the Majors, potentially to stay, and the rumors have been that it could come as soon as this weekend.
2) Bo Bichette – Shortstop – Toronto Blue Jays (1)
If fantasy owners are disappointed that Bichette remains pinned at Triple-A, they aren’t alone. Bichette was recently quoted by David Singh of SportsNet (click here for the article) as saying:
“Yeah, I’ve done everything they asked me to do,” Bichette said in an interview with Sportsnet. “I’ve performed, I’ve put up numbers. I’ve gotten better offensively, defensively, base-running, as an athlete, as a teammate. Everything they’ve asked me to do, I’ve done for the past three years.
“So, if I’m not ready in their mind, there’s something new that they need to tell me I need to get better at.”
He’s continued to thrive at Triple-A, hitting .309 with 7 HR and 14 SB over 181 AB. He had a 2 HR game on Wednesday, stretching his hitting streak to five games (including three straight two hit games). He’s also shown a consistent ability to make contact, with an 18.0% strikeout rate (though a 10.2% SwStr% shows that there could be a small regression). With his power and speed it seems like he belongs, joining Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio to form an impressive young infield. Time will tell, but you’d think his time is coming soon.
3) Will Smith –
Catcher – Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
He hasn’t been great in July overall, though he’s delivered a pair of 2 HR games (he’s 5-28 with 4 HR and 12 RBI for the month). At Triple-A he’s hitting .275 with 18 HR over 207 AB, which would far exceed the poor production Los Angeles has gotten from Austin Barnes (.201 with 5 HR over 194 AB) and Russell Martin (.225 with 2 HR over 129 AB). Just how long will the Dodgers tolerate the production? The fact that they are winning helps, but Smith’s already seem time in the Majors so that impediment is no longer there. It’s also not like the veteran duo has done a great job of stopping base stealers (76.6% stolen base percentage) and they are tied for ninth with 9 passed balls. Everything points to an opportunity coming for Smith, it’s just a matter of when.
4) Luis Urias –
Shortstop – San Diego Padres (4)
New week, same narrative… We continue to wait for the Padres to decide it’s time to replace Ian Kinsler at second base, but they continue to resist for whatever reason. While he has slowed down recently, he’s still gone 38-139 with 5 HR, 20 RBI, 39 R and 3 SB since June 1. Considering the production that they’ve been getting at the spot (Kinsler is hitting .186 over the past 30 days), is that really a line anyone would complain about? The Padres have made the tough decision with Wil Myers, virtually turning him into a bench player, yet with Kinsler instead of turning to Urias they have given Greg Garcia an opportunity. Really? His time should be coming, and soon… At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.
5) Isan Diaz – Second Baseman – Miami Marlins
Diaz’ stock is back up, as he’s hitting .305 with 22 HR, 61 RBI, 74 R and 5 SB over 325 AB at Triple-A. In fact he’s been raking ever since the calendar turned to May as evidenced by these slash lines:
- April – .226/.301/.344
- May – .323/.427/.616
- June – .337/.433/.730
- July – .364/.440/.659
Could you imagine what the overall numbers would look like if he didn’t start so slowly? Strikeouts have been the one consistent issue this season, with a 21.8% strikeout rate courtesy of an 11.0% SwStr%. That’s not a mark that’s going to completely handcuff him, especially given the 11.6% walk rate, and a .348 BABIP isn’t too bloated. In other words he could hit the ground running, and with Starlin Castro an obvious trade candidate it shouldn’t be long before he arrives.6
6) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder – Houston Astros (10)
Tucker certainly has the potential to make an impact upon his arrival, and as the trade deadline approaches the chance of him finding an opportunity increases. We know Houston will have a hard time fitting him into the lineup, but is it hard to envision him being traded for pitching help and finding a clear path? Time will tell how things play out, but as we get closer and closer to July 31 his potential value is going to only increase.
7) Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (9)
He appears to have rediscovered himself after a bump on July 4, allowing 3 ER on 6 H and 5 BB, striking out 13, over 11.0 IP over his past two starts. While he has consistently stumbled in the Majors, the upside is still there as one of the elite pitching prospects in the game. Over 87.0 innings at Triple-A he has 101 K, 33 BB and a 1.22 GO/AO, showing that he has little left to prove at the level. The Pirates have a need in the rotation, so it’s just a matter of when, not if, he gets another opportunity in the Majors.
8) Carter Kieboom – Shortstop – Washington Nationals (2)
When it looked like the Nationals’ season was slipping away it made sense to think that they would give Kieboom another opportunity in the Majors. Things have changed dramatically however, with Washington suddenly leading in the Wild Card chase. Whether or not that means they want to give Brian Dozier significant rope in the Majors remains to be seen, but they don’t have a pressing need to rock the boat. That said he’s doing the best he can to force the issue, having hit .322 with 4 HR in 90 AB in June and continuing to produce fairly well in July (.271 with 1 HR). His MLB struggles still hang over him, but as we’ve said before there was a lot of poor luck that cost him.
9) Tony Gonsolin – Starting Pitcher – Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles always seems to be cycling through starting pitchers, so while there isn’t an obvious need right now what happens if Ross Stripling struggles? What about if another injury hits? Gonsolin made a start in the Majors earlier this season and just returned from the IL himself, putting him in prime position to be the next up should a need arise. He’s stumbled in July, but maybe the injury has helped to cause that, but he had a 2.77 ERA as of June 20. The potential is there should the opportunity arise once again.
10) Enyel De Los
Santos – Starting Pitcher – Philadelphia Phillies (7)
After a poor start on July 11 De Los Santos rebounded on Tuesday allowing 2 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 6.0 IP. In 12 starts at Triple-A he owns a 3.95 ERA and 1.25 WHIP thanks to a solid strikeout rate (9.79 K/9) and enough control (3.00 BB/9). Of course a 37.9% groundball rate is a huge red flag, as home runs are going to be a significant issue in the Majors (though can it get much worse than his current 2.05 HR/9). The real key could be opportunity, as Jake Arrieta continues to try and pitch through an elbow issue. De Los Santos doesn’t have the upside of some others on this list, but an opportunity keeps him relevant.
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 back 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:
- Kyle Wright – Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (3)
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Jorge Mateo – Second Baseman – Oakland A’s (6)
- Jake Fraley – Outfielder – Seattle Mariners (8)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Forrest Whitley (HOU), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs