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 Tuesday):
1) Yordan Alvarez –
Outfielder – Houston Astros (1)
The promotions have been fast and furious of late, though Alvarez continues on at Triple-A despite hitting .403 with 15 HR and 47 RBI over 129 AB. He’s shown no signs of slowing down, hitting .421 with 3 HR over his past 10 games. Obviously the average is going to regress (.440 BABIP), but there’s power and a strong approach (19.7% strikeout rate, 14.5% walk rate, 9.8% SwStr%) so what’s not to like?
You can argue that they don’t need to push the envelope (or they could give Kyle Tucker the first opportunity), as they are 29-15 and already have a 7.5 game lead in the AL West. That said Tyler White continues to be a non-factor (.230 with 0 HR over 74 AB) and Alvarez could slide into his spot and be used as the DH (and in the outfield allowing some of the other outfielders a half day off). The Astros will eventually start looking toward October and they will want to have their best lineup on the field. That should include Alvarez, meaning his time could come soon.
2) Luis Urias –
Shortstop – San Diego Padres (10)
After slowing down a bit at Triple-A Urias has suddenly exploded once again, going 8-18 with 4 HR and 7 RBI over his past five games. We continue to question whether or not the power surge is for real (he has 7 doubles, 3 triples and 11 HR over 100 AB in the Pacific Coast League), but the fact is that he’s hitting and the Padres are getting next to nothing from Ian Kinsler (though yesterday’s home run may give him a little bit more leash) and Ty France. That alone should tell you that Urias is going to be rejoining the Padres before long. Just know that he’s not this good, considering he’s benefited from a 31.4% HR/FB and .364 BABIP, but he’s better than what they’ve be running out there and should be viewed as part of the future.
3) Cavan Biggio –
Second Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (2)
Biggio has struggled a bit of late, hitting .250 with 0 HR over his past 10 games (.244 with 1 HR in 41 AB in May). Of course even as he’s “struggled” he’s shown an impressive approach as he’s walked (8) more than he’s struck out (7). Overall he’s still hitting .319 with 6 HR and 24 RBI over 113 AB, while Eric Sogard (.231/.286/.231) and Brandon Drury (.167/.286/.167) have completely lacked production as of late. With the team clearly in a rebuild it’s just a matter of time before Biggio joins Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as part of the future.
4) Zac Gallen –
Starting Pitcher – Miami Marlins (7)
The numbers he’s put up at Triple-A this season are unbelievable, with a 1.16 ERA and 0.55 WHIP over 54.1 IP. He’s done it with strikeouts (64 K), control (9 BB) and enough groundballs (1.26 GO/AO). The most impressive stat, though? How about the fact that in 8 starts he’s given up more than 3 H just once (he allowed 7 H over 6.2 IP on April 22). Obviously he can’t continue to be THIS good at the next level (.152 BABIP, 86.6% strand rate), but the skills scream of a productive starter.
There’s a clear path to an opportunity, with four of the Marlins’ five starters owning an ERA of 4.44 or higher. Gallen would need to be added to the 40-man roster, but that shouldn’t hold back a 23-year old pitcher at Triple-A.
5) Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher –
Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
If Keller had shown some consistency at Triple-A you can argue that he’d already be up in the Majors, though the Pirates have generally been slow and deliberate with their promotions. That said Keller has now made 18 starts at Triple-A over the past two seasons, so you can argue that at 23-years old he has the experience level necessary.
Then it comes down to the results, and in 40.0 IP this season he owns an underwhelming 3.83 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. His issues have been his control (4.28 BB/9) and some poor luck (.367 BABIP), both of which should correct themselves before long (he had a 3.48 BB/9 over 142.1 IP last season). He continues to show swing and miss stuff (10.8% SwStr%) and enough groundballs (1.21 GO/AO), showing just how high the upside is. All it may take is a few strong starts and he should be deemed ready to join the Pirates rotation.
6) Cal Quantrill – Starting Pitcher – San Diego
You can argue Logan Allen for this spot, as he’s turned things around since a disastrous start to his season (11 ER over 5.0 IP), but he’s not on the 40-man roster currently and continues to have some control issues at Triple-A (4.32 BB/9 over 58.1 IP since ’18). That leaves Quantrill, who had a successful two start run in the Majors already (3.60 ERA over 10.0 IP) and has shown all of the skills we look for at Triple-A over the past two seasons with 51 K, 14 BB and a 1.63 GO/AO over 61.0 IP.
We know the Padres are going to have a need in the rotation, with Chris Paddack facing an innings limit and questions facing the likes of Eric Lauer and Nick Margevicius. Quantrill’s time will come and he’s already shown that he can make an impact when it does.
7) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago
White Sox (6)
The loss of Carlos Rondon further puts question on the White Sox rotation, but they have gone on record saying they won’t promote a pitcher due to an injury if they don’t believe he’s ready. That brings the question, is Cease ready to roll at the highest level or does he need more time at Triple-A? He’s made 6 starts (28.0 IP) posting a 3.54 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, with strikeouts (33 K) and groundballs (1.71 GO/AO). We’d like to see slightly more control (3.21 BB/9), though that’s an improvement over what he did last year at both High-A (3.52) and Double-A (3.78) so it’s hard not to be intrigued. He’s among the best pitching prospects in the game and his time is coming, so stay patient. Even if he’s not days away from an arrival, it should only be a matter of weeks before he gets the call.
8) Nathaniel Lowe –
First Baseman – Tampa Bay Rays (4)
His debut in the Majors didn’t last as long as any would’ve liked, but there’s little doubt that he’s going to return to the Majors at some point. Unfortunately exactly when that happens remains in question as he’s struggled in the six games since being sent back to Triple-A (.125, 0 HR, 2 RBI with 8 K vs. 4 BB over 24 AB). It’s possible that part of this is due to the disappointment, or maybe this is just a slump that he needs to work his way through. Regardless he needs to show a little bit more than this before he’s summoned back to help Tampa Bay compete with the Yankees and Red Sox.
9) Carter Kieboom –
Shortstop – Washington Nationals (8)
He was miserable in his first run in the Majors (.128 with 2 HR in 39 AB), though as we’ve said before a lot of that was due to poor luck. Unfortunately the struggles have continued since returning to Triple-A (.188 with 1 HR over 16 AB) and Trea Turner is set to return shortly, leaving Kieboom’s chances to return diminished. At the same time his future lies at second base, where there are continued questions, and it’s just a matter of time before Kieboom likely forces the issue once again. The fact that they’ve proven willing to promote him once tells us that they should have no problem doing so again, once he turns things around and starts producing (Wilmer Difo and Brian Dozier shouldn’t stop his ascent).
10) Keegan Akin –
Starting Pitcher – Baltimore Orioles (NR)
Is there any question that the Orioles need help in their rotation? While Akin offers some significant risks, especially pitching in Baltimore with an inability to generate groundballs (0.53 GO/AO this season), he’s showing signs of putting things together while at Triple-A. Over his past two starts he’s allowed 1 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 15, over 12.2 IP and overall has 45 K vs. 16 BB over 40.0 IP at Triple-A this season (8 starts). This comes after he pitched fairly well at Double-A last season (3.27 ERA over 137.2 IP) and with the team having few other options at Triple-A and seemingly ready to step in and contribute Akin should get an opportunity. He may not be a difference maker, but he at least belongs on radars.
Also Keep An Eye On:
- Monte Harrison – Outfielder – Miami Marlins
- Kyle Tucker – Outfielder – Houston Astros
- Forrest Whitley – Starting Pitcher – Houston Astros
Graduated to Majors:
- Oscar Mercado – Outfielder – Cleveland Indians (3)
- Brendan Rodgers – Shortstop – Colorado Rockies (5)
- Nicky Lopez – Shortstop – Kansas City Royals (9)
Dropped off the Rankings:
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs