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) Luis Urias –
Shortstop – San Diego Padres (1)
It feels like we are constantly saying the same thing in terms of Urias, yet he still remains planted at Triple-A. It’s beginning to feel more and more like this has to do with suppressing service time, which is a bit of a surprise considering San Diego was willing to have Fernando Tatis Jr. on the Opening Day roster. That said Ian Kinsler continues to be a relative non-factor (he’s hitting .250 with 1 HR over the past seven days) while Urias is posting impressive numbers in the minors. Sooner or later a change has to come, and we’d want to believe that it’s coming quickly.
2) Keston Hiura –
Second Baseman – Milwaukee Brewers (NR)
In 7 games since returning to Triple-A Hirua is hitting .310 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R and 1 SB. Meanwhile, since returning from the DL Travis Shaw has hit .190 with 1 HR in six games (21 AB). Fantasy owners were already losing patience with Shaw and you would think that the Brewers soon will as well. It’s amazing to consider how bad it’s gotten, but just how long they can stick with him remains to be seen. That becomes especially true with Hiura producing both in the Majors (.281 with 5 HR and 1 SB over 64 AB) and minors (.329 with 13 HR and 5 SB over 158 AB at Triple-A). The Brewers have championship aspirations and it’s easy to argue that Hiura currently gives them a better opportunity to win ballgames today.
3) Jorge Mateo
– Second Baseman – Oakland A’s (NR)
As Jurickson Profar continues to struggle you have to wonder how long it will be until Mateo gets an opportunity in the Majors. His stock has fallen off a cliff in recent years, but he’s rediscovered his form hitting .333 with 10 HR and 14 SB over 279 AB. There has definitely been too much swing and miss (14.5% SwStr% leading to a 22.8% strikeout rate) and not enough walks (4.1%), but the power, speed and opportunity can’t be ignored. Not only has he hit 10 HR, but he’s added 15 doubles and 11 triples showing that the power is for real. He also clearly has speed, having stolen as many as 71 bases in a season (2015) and swiped 52 bases as recently as 2017. If he could find a way to keep the strikeouts in check he’d be a can’t miss option, but even as is there’s a lot of potential value when his opportunity comes.
4) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago
White Sox (3)
The White Sox continue to hold to their claim that they will not recall anyone that they don’t believe is ready. As the injuries and struggles mount you would think that Cease would already be up, but instead it was Odrisamer Despaigne who is the most recently recalled plug in (he allowed 3 ER over 6.0 IP in his first start). He joins Ivan Nova and Manny Banuelos to form an uninspiring back of the rotation (though does anyone believe in Reynaldo Lopez), while Cease remains pinned at Triple-A.
Of course Cease was horrific in his most recent outing (4 ER on 2 H and 3 BB over 0.2 IP) and he’s struggled with his control in general lately (11 BB over past 18.2 IP). That does give a little credence to keeping him pinned down, despite 59 K over 52.2 IP to go along with a 1.50 GO/AO. You would think that it wouldn’t be long until he arrives, but that’s hardly a given at this point.
5) Zac Gallen –
Starting Pitcher – Miami Marlins (4)
Don’t use the recent promotion of Jordan Yamamoto as a reason to knock Gallen down a peg, as the fact is that he wasn’t on turn to pitch and never could’ve filled that rotation spot on short notice. That said Gallen isn’t on the 40-man roster and that could impact his outlook as well, though his performance on the mound would justify a promotion. After having a rare stumble on May 19 (5 ER over 6.0 IP) he’s allowed 3 ER over 25.2 IP in his past four starts, with 15 H, 6 BB and 30 K. Overall he’s sporting a 1.57 ERA and 0.70 WHIP over 86.0 IP and it shouldn’t be long as he continues to dominate Triple-A.
Luzardo – Starting Pitcher – Oakland A’s (NR)
Luzardo has begun his rehab (he pitched 3.0 innings at High-A on June 11) and therefore he deserves a spot on these rankings. Prior to his injury there had been talk that he could open the season as part of Oakland’s rotation, and he was pitching like he deserved it this spring (0.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 15 K over 9.2 IP). Obviously he’s a few weeks away, but it may not be long before he helps boost a rotation that needs it.
Let’s not forget that Luzardo thrived across three levels last season, posting a 2.88 ERA and 1.03 WHIP between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, while showing the skills we look for (129 K, 30 BB, 1.09 GO/AO). He isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, which could delay his arrival, but if Oakland was ready to add him prior to the season that shouldn’t be an issue now. While his potential timing drags him down a few spots, don’t be surprised if he’s the top option within a week or two.
7) Bobby Bradley –
First Baseman – Cleveland Indians (9)
The Cleveland offense has been surprisingly inept this season, and while the outfield gets a lot of the attention (as well as Jose Ramirez) it’s hard to find too many bright spots. They currently have the third lowest AVG (.226) and fifth worst SLG (.384). Among the issues has been the production from their designated hitters, who outside of Carlos Santana have been a relative disaster.
Enter Bradley, who may not be a savior but maybe he can provide a spark? He’s clearly showing off his power potential, with 18 HR (as well as 17 doubles) over 227 AB at Triple-A this season. While he’s hitting .282 overall, 81 K (with an 18.1% SwStr%) is obviously a significant red flag and could cap his production at the highest level (especially since his 15.0% mark from last season wasn’t much better). Maybe he develops into a Joey Gallo type producer, though with a little bit less power? That’s a best case scenario, so this is more of the hope for a short-term production surge than anything.
8) Carter Kieboom –
Shortstop – Washington Nationals (7)
He’s been in a bit of a cold spell, including 13 K over his past 10 games (he’s hitting .188 over this stretch), though he at least has walked 10 times. The “problem” for Kieboom and his timing to return to the Majors is that the Nationals have actually started to make a little bit of noise in the NL East. Entering play on Thursday they had gone 7-3 in their past 10 games, moving to within 7.5 games of the division lead. Obviously they still have a long ways to go, they are 5 games under .500, but they are showing life and Brian Dozier has been a significant part of the surge (.333 with 2 HR over his past six games).
Overall it’s easy to be discouraged by Kieboom’s struggles in the Majors, but as we’ve said before there was a lot of poor luck at play (like a .143 BABIP). He’s hitting .295 with 8 HR at Triple-A and eventually he should get a second opportunity to thrive.
9) Ryan Mountcastle –
First Baseman – Baltimore Orioles (5)
Mountcastle remains at Triple-A for now, but the recent promotions of DJ Stewart and Chance Sisco makes you wonder how much longer he’ll have to wait. Of course a 16.4% SwStr% does loom large, but he offers more potential upside than Chris Davis as he’s proven to be a run producer (13 doubles, 1 triple and 12 HR leading to 42 RBI). We all know the Orioles are in the middle of a deep rebuild and it makes sense to give Mountcastle the call and see what he can do.
10) Kyle Tucker –
Outfielder – Houston Astros (6)
With Yordan Alvarez finally arriving all eyes move to Tucker and whether or not there’s room for him to also find a role on the Major League team. As the Astros get healthy that’s going to be tougher and tougher to envision and you have to start to wonder if a trade will ultimately be the best case scenario. It’s easy to argue that he deserves an opportunity, as he is showing both power (21 HR) and speed (14 SB). The question is going to be whether or not he can keep the strikeouts in check (12.2% SwStr% at Triple-A this season), but a 20/20 hitter (and maybe even a little more) can overcome that.
Also Keep An Eye On:
- 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
- Brendan McKay – Starting Pitcher – Tampa Bay Rays – He’d crack the Top 10 if the Rays didn’t have a history of being conservative with their pitching prospects. Don’t be surprised if he jumps on to this list before long, however.
Graduated to Majors:
- Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher – Pittsburgh Pirates (2)
- Yordan Alvarez – Outfielder – Houston Astros (8)
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Willi Castro – Shortstop – Detroit Tigers (10)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Forrest Whitley (HOU)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs