MLB Prospect Power Rankings: Top 10 On The Cusp Of Reaching The Majors (July 5, 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) Bo Bichette – Shortstop – Toronto Blue Jays (2)
It’s a matter of when, not if, Bichette joins Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio as part of the future of Toronto’s infield.  Granted, the performance of Freddy Galvis (.270 with 14 HR, 42 RBI and 39 R) could help to slow his ascent, but Bichette is doing everything possible to force their hand.  Bichette is hitting .302 with 3 HR and 11 SB over 129 AB at Triple-A, including a current four-game hitting streak (8-17, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB).  His 11.2% SwStr% at Triple-A this season does represent a little bit of a red flag, after a 10.0% mark at Double-A in ’18, but it’s not enough.  The upside is there to be a 15/25 type option, and he could hit the ground running.

Maybe designated hitter becomes the path to playing time?  Rowdy Tellez has struggled overall, meaning Justin Smoak could simply be thrust in as the every day first baseman giving more of an opening to the spot.  Maybe it’s Galvis as the DH (instead of Eric Sogard, who has been used there recently), with Bichette getting his time at SS.  Regardless of how the team decides to deploy it’s assets, his time is coming.

2) Carter Kieboom – Shortstop – Washington Nationals (6)
Does anyone really believe that the combination of Brian Dozier and Howie Kendrick are going to keep Kieboom down?  The Nationals have suddenly found themselves back in the playoff mix and they can’t afford to keep their best players pinned at Triple-A.  Kieboom continues to hit at Triple-A, at .318 with 14 HR (as well as 17 doubles and 3 triples), 60 RBI and 56 R.  The strikeouts have been piling up lately (15 K over his past 37 AB), though that hasn’t generally been an issue (9.7% SwStr% at Triple-A).  While his struggles during his first stint in the Majors will loom large for some, let’s not forget that he was plagued by poor luck (.143 BABIP despite a 43.5% Hard%) and showed a solid approach (9.3% SwStr%, 24.2% O-Swing%).  The upside is there and his time could come quickly as Washington continues to push for the playoffs.

3) Luis Urias – Shortstop – San Diego Padres (4)
It feels like this is getting silly, doesn’t it?  We feel like a broken record, giving the same explanation week in and week out though nothing changes.  Ian Kinsler continues to be the primary second baseman for the Padres, though he continues to post lackluster results (.167 with 0 HR over the past seven days).  Granted the power has slowed for Urias, but he’s now on a six game hitting streak (9-27, 4 RBI, 5 R) and he’s tattooed Triple-A pitching overall (.325 with 17 HR and 7 SB).  It simply doesn’t make much sense that Urias continues to struggle to get an opportunity and sooner or later you would think that the Padres will realize that.  Unfortunately until they do he will remain a primary fixture near the top of this list.

4) Kyle Wright – Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (NR)
He’s pitched to a 7.07 ERA in three starts in the Majors, but is there any doubt that he’s going to get another opportunity in the Majors?  Over his past two starts at Triple-A (13.2 IP) he’s allowed 1 ER on 8 H and 1 BB, striking out 16.  While the results at Triple-A aren’t great (4.92 ERA), he’s shown strikeouts (8.72 K/9), control (2.53 BB/9) and groundballs (52.2%).  That’s a skill set that should thrive at the highest level, but control issues (6.43 BB/9) and home runs (2.57 HR/9) plagued him.  Things should be better the next time around, and with the fifth spot in the rotation in flux it’s only a matter of time before that shot comes.

5) Isan Diaz – Second Baseman – Miami Marlins (NR)
Starlin Castro is hitting .231 with 5 HR and 1 SB over 333 AB this season, including .185 with 1 RBI and 1 R over his past seven games (.217 over his past 15 games).  We know the Marlins would love to get some type of value out of him, potentially leading to a deadline trade, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe that it comes to fruition.  Ultimately Diaz is doing what he can to force their hand, as the seemingly forgotten prospect is thriving at Triple-A (.296 with 20 HR, 54 RBI and 68 R).  He’s also shown a willingness to take a walk (11.4% walk rate), and while there is a little bit too much swing and miss (11.1% SwStr%, 21.3% strikeout rate) the other numbers overshadow it.  With upside and opportunity, he belongs on everyone’s radar.

6) Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (8)
Keller continues to thrive at Triple-A, allowing 2 ER on 12 H and 2 BB over 12.1 IP since his most recent demotion.  Overall he has a 2.82 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 70.1 IP showing all three skills we look for (82 K, 27 BB, 1.25 GO/AO).  The question is going to be how long he stays back there, given the repeated struggles in the Majors?  Considering Pittsburgh’s overall 4.86 ERA, does it make sense for the team to give him another opportunity to thrive?  It will come, and hopefully this time he’ll deliver and make the most of it.  It’s just a matter of when the Pirates decide to turn the page and give him his shot.

7) Jake Fraley – Outfielder – Seattle Mariners (NR)
We took an in-depth look at Fraley yesterday, which you can read by clicking here. There are going to be questions about how the Mariners fit all of their outfielders into the lineup, but with Haniger on the IL and a potential need at DH there should be ample opportunity to make it work.  Fraley has thrived over his first 11 games at Triple-A (.313, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 12 R, 3 SB) and has the potential to be a five category performer at the highest level.  He’s not going to bring the potential to steal 40+ bases like an Oscar Mercado does, but he could be a 10/25 type player.  Given the state of stolen bases around the game, that’s a highly valuable commodity to consider.

8) Kyle Tucker – Outfielder – Houston Astros (5)
The injury to Yordan Alvarez proved to be minor, dampening the outlook for Tucker in the short-term (especially with the Astros getting healthy).  While his game isn’t perfect (80 K over 299 AB) he brings a rare blend of power and speed (24 HR/19 SB at Triple-A this season) that fantasy owners thirst for.  If he were playing for another organization he’d find himself much higher on this list, and there likely is a good chance that happens before the month is over.  Would it be surprising if Tucker is the featured part of a deal to acquire a starting pitcher?  If that happens you would think it would bring a quick opportunity, but time will tell.  For now we have to keep his name suppressed on this list, as his arrival is not imminent.

9) Will Smith – Catcher – Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
The Dodgers’ catchers have continued to underperform, with Russell Martin (.262/.377/.346) and Austin Barnes (.213/.306/.363) both struggling.  It’s also not like either have done a great job stopping the running game (combined opposing base stealers are 26-for-32), so you would think that an opportunity could soon present itself.  Smith looked good previously in the Majors (.269/.345/.654), and he’s been even better at Triple-A hitting .291 with 14 HR and 39 RBI.  Throw in 31 BB and there’s reason for optimism.  It’s no guarantee that he gets the opportunity, but it makes sense for the Dodgers to give him a shot.

10) Jorge Mateo – Second Baseman – Oakland A’s (7)
Obviously the promotion of Franklin Barreto is going to quash some of the potential hope we had surrounding Mateo, but what makes us think Barreto is going to be able to thrive this time around?  In 157 AB in the Majors he’s hit just .204, and while he was producing at Triple-A (.296 with 12 HR and 13 SB) if he gets off to a slow start the A’s could be quick to pull the plug on him given his history.

Enter Mateo, who is hitting .308 with 13 HR (as well as 19 doubles and 13 triples) and 18 SB at Triple-A this season.  He had been slumping, which could be part of the reason Barreto got the first opportunity, but he’s shown signs recently (3-9, 1 HR, 1 SB in his past two games).  Overall we’d like to see far less swing and miss (13.9% SwStr%), but the other skills could help to overcome it.

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 getting ready to return where he fits remains a question
  • 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 needs to be on radars, but 74 K vs. 17 BB split between High-A and Double-A and never playing at Triple-A could cause the White Sox to keep him in the minors for a bit longer

Graduated to Majors:

  • Brendan McKay – Starting Pitcher – Tampa Bay Rays (1)
  • Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago White Sox (9)

Dropped off the Rankings:

  • Jesus Luzardo – Starting Pitcher – Oakland A’s (3) – A strained lat has Luzardo sidelined indefinitely
  • Ryan Mountcastle – First Baseman – Baltimore Orioles (10)

Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Forrest Whitley (HOU)

3 COMMENTS

  1. Prof,
    I hear you on Keller and Kyle Wright. I have Keller stashed, so hopefully he’ll get another shot soon. Here’s a question about a few so-so SPs who’ve been up and back down: Smeltzer, Alzolay, Civale, Urquidy. All have done reasonably well. (In fact, Smeltzer gets another look behind opener Gibson tomorrow, as does Urquidy, as I’m sure you know.) Barring injuries, do you think any of these four have a shot to slot into their respective team’s rotation at any point this year? What are your impressions of them?
    T

    • I could see some of them getting a shot, but I don’t think any of them are difference makers. More streaming options when the matchup calls for it, but not someone I’m going to trust every time out

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