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/Wednesday):
1) Yordan Alvarez – Outfielder – Houston Astros (3)
You wondered where he may fit in the lineup, given the strong outfield play the team has gotten, but seeing Alvarez play first base in two of three games from April 26-28 is somewhat telling. He’s now appeared in 35 games at the position over the course of his minor league career, and with Tyler White (.261 with 0 HR) particularly struggling (though Yuli Gurriel is hitting just .240 with 1 HR) there would appear to be an opportunity for the taking.
Alvarez is doing his part to force the issue, hitting .347 with 11 HR and 29 RBI over 75 AB at Triple-A (including 5 HR and 17 RBI over his past 10 games). Not only has he hit for power, he’s shown an ability to get on base (13.6% walk rate) and make consistent contact (9.2% SwStr%). Obviously he won’t maintain a 50.0% HR/FB, so the home run total is a little bit skewed, but there’s power, a strong approach and a clear path to playing time. In other words, it’s the perfect storm for potential success.
2) Brendan Rodgers – Shortstop – Colorado Rockies (NR)
There were high hopes for both Ryan McMahon (.229, 2 HR, 10 RBI) and Garrett Hampson (.182, 1 HR, 4 RBI), but neither have taken advantage and seized the second base job. Enter Rodgers, who has long been viewed as the 2B of the future and could be primed to assume the role in short order. Playing at Triple-A he’s hitting .323 with 6 HR and 13 RBI, showing that there’s even more power in his bat having added 9 doubles and 1 triple in 96 AB. He also has kept the strikeouts in check (18 K vs. 12 BB), though there could be a regression there (11.0% SwStr%, after an 11.7% mark in ’18). That’s obviously not enough of a red flag to ignore him, especially after he showed a little bit of speed last season (12-for-15 in SB attempts).
T he Rockies have failed to find a steady option at the position, but the leash should be running short for McMahon and Hampson. Rodgers should be next in line, and could get his opportunity in short order.
3) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago White Sox (2)
Overall Chicago starters have struggled. We’ve already seen them cut bait on Ervin Santana, and you have to wonder if Ivan Nova is far behind? If they want to stick with him, could the team look to move one of their other youngsters into the bullpen or maybe back to Triple-A (if there are options remaining)? How who will step in for the injured Carlos Rodon? Considering Manny Banuelos is the only pitcher to make starts and have an ERA under 4.94 (Banuelos has a 1.86 ERA over 9.2 IP in two starts) it’s hard to call it a stretch.
Enter Cease, who rebounded from a pair of mediocre starts to arguably put up his best start of 2019. In his most recent outing he threw 6.0 innings allowing 2 ER on 5 H and 1 BB, striking out 11. Overall this season he has 30 K vs. 7 BB, as well as a 1.79 GO/AO, over 24.1 IP at Triple-A. While he often doesn’t get put in the mix, he’s among the best pitching prospects in the game and shouldn’t be far from making an impact.
4) Cavan Biggio –
Second Baseman – Toronto Blue Jays (4)
Vladimir Guerrero is up and it’s only a matter of time before Biggio joins him in a rebuilt infield (though the recent production of Brandon Drury could stall his ascent a little bit). The second baseman has gotten off to a quick start, hitting .361 with 5 HR, 15 RBI, 15 R and 3 SB over 72 AB. While he has slowed down in terms of his average recently (.258 in his past 10 games), he’s continued to show a strong approach (8 K vs. 11 BB) and has 3 HR and 10 RBI over this stretch.
Last season he posted an 9.9% SwStr% and he’s been even better with an 8.0% mark to open ’19. That’s going to be key, especially as it comes with some power and speed (he went 23/20 last season). The fact that he’s not only maintained the strong numbers, but improved upon them having risen to Triple-A is a great sign. He has the potential to contribute in all five categories and emerge as a Top 10-15 option at his position once he arrives.
5) Oscar Mercado – Outfielder – Cleveland
Through Tuesday the Indians owned the third worst average (.215) and second worst slugging percentage (.340), and the outfield in particular hasn’t been very good. Just look at the numbers:
- Carlos Gonzalez – .261/.333/.391
- Tyler Naquin – .257/.288/.371
- Jake Bauers – .241/.323/.379
- Jordan Luplow – .222/.333/.222
- Leonys Martin – .221/.319/.404
- Greg Allen – .105/.167/.158
Who on that list are you willing to hang your hat on? Enter Mercado, who in 22 games is hitting .302 with 2 HR and 10 SB. While he may not be a slugger, he’s added 9 doubles and 1 triple showing that he’s not going to be a void in that category while his strongest skill remains his speed (he had 8 HR/37 SB over 485 AB last season). We’d like to see him cut his strikeouts (23 K over 86 AB), and after a slow start he’s done just that (7 K over 38 AB in his past 10 games). Considering his 15.9% strikeout rate a year ago, the recent surge seems far more believable. His time is coming, so now may be the time to stash him given the opportunity and upside.
6) Forrest Whitley – Starting Pitcher – Houston Astros (6)
Whitley continued his inconsistency at Triple-A recently, allowing 4 ER over 3.0 IP,leaving him with a 7.71 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over 14.0 IP (four appearances). The fact that he hasn’t worked deep into games isn’t a concern, as the team could simply be looking to limit his innings to keep some bullets for later in the year. The performance, on the other hand, does raise some questions. We all know he’s the elite pitching prospect in the game and that his time is going to come in ’19, but he needs to improve his performance if he wants to force Houston’s hand.
7) Luis Urias –
Shortstop – San Diego Padres (NR)
With only 72 AB of Major League experience Urias is still eligible to be included on this list. While the upside offensively would appear to be somewhat limited, slugging 5 HR over two games is going to grab our attention. In 12 games since his demotion he’s hitting .364 with 7 HR and 13 RBI.
At the same time it’s hard to ignore that he hit a total of 10 HR last season and is anyone really buying a 35.0% HR/FB? That’s not the only red flag, as he’s benefiting from a .371 BABIP and is also putting the ball in the air far too much for player with his skillset (48.8%). It’s hard to argue with the results, but we also can’t overlook that he isn’t likely to make anything close to this type of impact. He’s going to get a shot, and likely soon, and therefore he belongs on this list. At the same time it doesn’t mean he needs to be extremely high up on it.
8) Zac Gallen –
Starting Pitcher – Miami Marlins (NR)
Miami has only used five starters to date, but entering play on Wednesday four of them had ERAs of 4.64 or higher: Trevor Richards (4.64), Pablo Lopez (4.78), Sandy Alcantara (4.86) and Jose Urena (5.08). Sooner or later at least one of them is going to need to be replaced, and the 23-year old Gallen is trying to force the change to come sooner rather than later.
Obviously it’s easy to argue that he’s not as good as he’s looked thus far, but he’s shown all of the skills we look for from a pitcher while pitching at Triple-A:
- Strikeouts – 10.26 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.3% SwStr%)
- Control – 1.35 BB/9
- Groundballs – 52.1%
Whether or not he’s this good remains to be seen, but couple the opportunity, what he’s done and a favorable future home ballpark and he needs to be on radars.
9) Monte Harrison – Outfielder – Miami Marlins (8)
The Marlins are a rebuilding franchise, and it makes sense for them to want to look at as many of their young players as they can to see if they are part of the future. One of the places they have a clear weakness is in the outfield, where no one is hitting above .227. It’s not to say that Harrison is a lock to produce, considering his 27 K over 73 AB, but he’s also hitting .274 with 4 HR and 3 SB. There has never been a question about his potential upside, assuming he can make contact, and given the struggles the team has had it should be just a matter of time before he arrives.
10) Jon Duplantier –
Starting Pitcher – Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
With Zack Godley being jettisoned to the bullpen there’s an opening in Arizona’s rotation. Duplantier was recently sent back to Triple-A after a lengthy bullpen appearance (and the team’s desire for a fresh arm), but you also have to think that the appearance (0 R over 4.0 IP against the Cubs) has earned him a shot at the rotation opening.
That’s not to say that Duplantier is going to thrive in the role, though the righty showed solid skills at Double-A last season (9.13 K/9, 3.76 BB/9 and 53.3% groundball rate over 67.0 IP). Obviously we’d like to see better control, and he’s been even worse this season (11 BB over 16.2 IP between Triple-A and the Majors). That’s a significant red flag, and one that could cost him from making much of an impact.
Graduated to Majors:
- Nick Senzel – Outfielder – Cincinnati Reds (1)
- Nate Lowe – First Baseman – Tampa Bay Rays (5)
- Griffin Canning – Starting Pitcher – Los Angeles Angels (7)
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Kyle Wright – Starting Pitcher – Atlanta Braves (9)
- Daz Cameron – Outfielder – Detroit Tigers (10)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Jesus Luzardo (OAK)