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 (2)
At this point you have to start wondering what is taking the Padres so long to bring Urias back up to the Majors? Through Wednesday he’s currently on a 10 game hitting streak, hitting .457 (16-35) with 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R and 3 SB. Even more impressive is his 4 K vs. 9 BB over this stretch, and overall at Triple-A he has 30 K vs. 23 BB over 143 AB at the level. His 9.4% SwStr% shows his potential, especially when coupled with a 9.3% over his MLB career, and while it’s hard to envision him maintaining his power surge it also can’t be ignored (9 doubles, 3 triples and 13 HR).
While Urias has been thriving, the Padres continue to get little from their second baseman, mainly Ian Kinsler (.143 with 1 HR over the past 7 days). This one seems easy to project, the Padres just need to pull the trigger already.
2) Dylan Cease – Starting Pitcher – Chicago
White Sox (6)
The White Sox have gone on record saying that they won’t rush anyone to the Majors due to a need, but for how much longer can they deem Cease not ready? A need plus a ready player equals a perfect opportunity.
On Wednesday Cease allowed 2 ER on 6 H and 2 BB, striking out 6, over 7.0 IP to improve to a 3.26 ERA over 47.0 IP at Triple-A this season. His 1.34 WHIP isn’t ideal, though it’s easy to argue that a lot of the issues have been poor luck and nothing more (.355 BABIP). He owns a 10.34 K/9 (courtesy of a 13.7% SwStr%), 3.26 BB/9 and 56.6% groundball rate, showing all of the skills necessary for a pitcher to thrive. Meanwhile White Sox pitchers own the fifth worst staff ERA (5.07) so how much longer can they lean on Rodrigo Lopez (6.20) or Ivan Nova (6.52)?
3) Mitch Keller – Starting Pitcher –
Pittsburgh Pirates (1)
Keller’s first start in the Majors didn’t go as planned, as he was pummeled for 6 ER in the first inning. He settled down after that, tossing 3.0 shutout innings, but it wasn’t enough to give him a second start in the Majors… At least not this time around, because at this point we all know it’s just a matter of time before he returns. Hopefully his second opportunity will go better than the first, and there certainly is a lot more upside.
Keller has struggled a bit with his control at Triple-A, with 42 BB over 99.1 IP over the past two seasons. That said he’s always shown significantly more than that, to go along with strikeout stuff and an ability to generate groundballs (1.26 GO/AO). It’s easy to chalk up this first taste as nothing more than nerves, and to assume that he’s going to adjust and make a significant impact upon his return.
4) Zac Gallen –
Starting Pitcher – Miami Marlins (5)
He just keeps on rolling along, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 8, over 6.2 IP on Wednesday night. He now owns a 1.70 ERA and 0.68 WHIP over 74.0 IP at Triple-A this season, along with 88 K vs. 13 BB. Exactly what else does he have left to prove? Of course you can argue that he’s not quite this good, considering his .190 BABIP and 85.0% strand rate, but at this point he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The skills appear to be there and he’ll pitch in a favorable home ballpark (which will limit the impact of a “lack” of groundballs, currently at 43.7%). He may not be able to pile up the wins, thanks to pitching for the Marlins, but at this point it’s hard to argue that there isn’t potential upside. It’s just a matter of when the Marlins finally call on another starting pitcher (they are a unique team that has only used five thus far).
5) Carter Kieboom –
Shortstop – Washington Nationals (4)
Brian Dozier continues to be a relative non-factor, including slashing .250/.296/.375 over the past seven days. Kieboom has slowed a bit at Triple-A himself, hitting .250 over his past 10 games, but overall he’s hitting .279 with 5 HR and 14 RBI over 61 AB while also showing an ability to get on base (12 K vs. 8 BB). It’s easy to point towards his struggles in his first taste of the Majors as cause for concern, but a .143 BABIP (despite a 43.5% Hard%) and 37.2% strikeout rate (despite a 9.3% SwStr% and 24.2% O-Swing%) tell us that there’s significantly more upside than we saw. He’ll get another shot at some point, it’s just a matter of how quickly it comes (and it really shouldn’t be too far off).
6) Yordan Alvarez –
Outfielder – Houston Astros (3)
The drop in the rankings has nothing to do with Alvarez’ performance, though he has slowed a bit lately (.195 over his past ten games). Of course he almost had nowhere to go, as he’s still hitting .367 with 20 HR and 64 RBI. The problem here is that you have to wonder what it’s going to take for the Astros to bring him to the Majors. They’ve suffered a slew of injuries, including George Springer, and Tyler White continues to struggle, yet Alvarez remains pinned at Triple-A while Derek Fisher was the first man up to fill the void. Sooner or later they have to give Alvarez an opportunity, don’t they? You would think so, but until we get a stronger sign that his time is coming he has to fall a few spots with others seemingly on the cusp of an opportunity.
7) Kyle Tucker –
Outfielder – Houston Astros (7)
If Yordan Alvarez has been downgraded, due to lack of opportunity, what does that mean for Tucker? You could actually argue that Tucker is closer to arriving, since he’s already on the 40-man roster and is mashing the ball at Triple-A (.341 with 5 HR, 10 RBI, 13 R and 4 SB over his past 10 games). He’s shown 20/20 potential in the minors consistently and is again on that type of pace this season (he already has 16 HR and 10 SB). You can argue that he doesn’t quite have Alvarez’ upside, but that’s not necessarily a knock against him. In fact, with the potential for him to be the first one recalled it’s easy to argue him ahead on the rankings.
8) Logan Allen – Starting
Pitcher – San Diego Padres (9)
The Padres starters have generally been good, at least at the top of the rotation, but after their Top 3 there are questions. How long of a leash does Eric Lauer have? Who is actually the fifth man currently? That should open the door for Allen, who started slowly but has quickly figured things out. Before Thursday’s start he had allowed 2 ER or fewer in eight straight starts, and overall he had a 10.55 K/9, 4.01 BB/9 and 44.6% groundball rate. The groundballs shouldn’t burn him, especially pitching in San Diego, and he’s generally shown significantly better control. He may not be an ace in the making, but he should be a solid option and if given the opportunity become a mainstay in the rotation.
9) Ryan Mountcastle – First Baseman – Baltimore Orioles (8)
The Orioles are a rebuilding team and Mountcastle may be the next to get an opportunity. He’s currently hitting .326 with 7 HR (as well as 13 doubles and 1 triple) at Triple-A, though there are a lot of questions as to how his approach will translate to the Majors. Will an ugly 15.9% SwStr% take another jump? Will opposing pitchers take advantage of an aggressive approach, considering a miniscule 3.7% walk rate? Those are things we can’t answer today, but certainly could cap his appeal when the time comes (and it should come shortly).
10) Isan Diaz –
Second Baseman – Miami Marlins (NR)
Starlin Castro has shown some signs of life recently, but he’s not a long-term answer for Miami and has generally struggled. Enter Diaz, who lost a little bit of his luster last season but has rebounded well this season hitting .272 with 10 HR, 30 RBI and 41 R over 184 AB. He’s coupled that with a solid, though not elite, approach as he’s made enough contact (10.7% SwStr%) and proven capable of drawing a walk (11.3%). He’s always shown a little bit of power and speed, and at the highest level could be a .260ish hitter with 15 HR and 10 SB. Obviously that’s not elite, but it’s usable all the same.
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:
Dropped off the Rankings:
- Monte Harrison – Outfielder – Miami Marlins (10)
Currently Injured – Austin Hays (BAL), Jesus Luzardo (OAK), Forrest Whitley (HOU)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs