by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
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:
1) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman
We all know he’s among the top prospects in the game and he’s off to a scorching start. The White Sox will likely play the Super 2 game, which is part of the reason he’s still in the minors, but he also has continued to struggle with strikeouts (10 K over 27 AB, including four multi-strikeout games over his first six). That’s something that he needs to work on and does give the team an excuse to keep him down in the minors. Sooner or later he will likely force their hands, however, it’s just a matter of how quickly.
2) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher
With Junior Guerra injured the Brewers have turned to Tommy Milone to fill the vacant rotation spot. Does anyone really expect that to last? It doesn’t mean that Hader is a shoe-in to produce immediately, as we discussed at the time of the injury (click here to view), but there is upside. He needs to do a better job with his command and could struggle with home runs, especially pitching in Milwaukee, so there’s a good chance he’ll ultimately return to Triple-A once summoned. That said, the strikeout potential alone puts him on fantasy maps.
3) Dan Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners – First Baseman
It was a surprise when Vogelbach was demoted, leaving Danny Valencia to take full-time AB at first base. With the veteran off to a slow start, as is the Mariners offense in general, it is just a matter of time before Vogelbach is recalled and gets the opportunity the we all assumed he’d get from Opening Day. It’s likely that he’ll platoon with Valencia, though Vogelbach will be on the favorable side of things and could make an immediate impact.
4) Ben Lively – Philadelphia Phillies – Starting Pitcher
With Clay Buchholz seemingly primed for an extended absence the Phillies will have to dip into their Triple-A depth for a replacement. It is possible that Nick Pivetta gets the first opportunity, as both players are already on the 40-man roster, but Lively has more Triple-A experience and will likely have a little bit of an advantage. While his strikeouts were down at Triple-A last season (6.88 K/9), he at least showed good control (2.07 BB/9) and does have the upside of a 7.5+ K/9 type pitcher. Home runs could be an issue (0.94 GO/AO in ’16), so keep that in mind.
5) Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder
The Cleveland outfield should not be difficult to break into, with names like Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte, Austin Jackson and Brandon Guyer routinely getting starts. It’s easy to argue that Zimmer’s upside is greater than all of them, and after a slow start at Triple-A a year ago he’s hit the ground running at the level in ’17. His biggest asset is his speed, though he does chip in a little bit of power (25 doubles, 6 triples and 15 HR over 468 AB in ’16). The biggest question is whether or not he can keep his strikeouts in check, with a 28.3% strikeout rate at Double-A in ’16 (and 37.3% after his promotion to Triple-A). In the early going he’s been alright, and if he can continue to make contact once the Super 2 deadline comes and goes he will likely find himself roaming the outfield in Cleveland.
6) Tyler Beede – San Francisco Giants – Starting Pitcher
He’s made one start above Double-A, so it’s possible the team opts to give him more time to develop in the minors. That said he was highly impressive at Double-A last season (2.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP over 147.1 IP), looked good in his Triple-A debut, is the team’s best pitching prospect and is simply waiting for the Giants to opt to move on from Matt Cain (or an injury). That’s a lot working in his favor, especially in a favorable home ballpark, and it’s a matter of when the team decides the time is right to make the move.
7) Jeff Hoffman – Colorado Rockies – Starting Pitcher
The Rockies’ rotation is flush with young starters, so it is fair to assume that one will need to be replaced. We would’ve thought Hoffman would’ve had the edge entering Spring Training, but after failing to secure a spot he struggled in his first appearance of the year at Triple-A as well. That could delay his return to the Majors (31.1 IP there in ’16), but it’s only a matter of time.
8) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher
You can argue whether it’ll be Lopez or Lucas Giolito who gets the first opportunity to join the White Sox rotation. Both have gotten off to slow starts, with Lopez walking 7 batters over his first 8.1 innings of work. He has missed bats, with 15 K, though he’s also given up 3 HR. He has the upside and you can argue that he’ll be the first of the starting pitchers who were acquired over the offseason to arrive. That said he needs to show us a little bit more before we assume he’s the first one up.
9) Lucas Giolito – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher
It was a rough first start for a player widely regarded as one of, if not the best, pitching prospects in the game (4 ER over 4.1 IP). He did generate a lot of groundballs (1.67 GO/AO) and he had the strikeout pitch working (4 K), but his control wasn’t there as he walked 2 and hit three batters. That’s something he needs to get in order before he’s going to arrive in the Majors once again.
10) Roman Quinn – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder
The biggest knock on Quinn has always been his ability to stay healthy, not his talent on the field. He’s gotten off to a good start and is healthy, and after showing he can perform in the Majors late in ’16 the question is when an opportunity will open up. With Michael Saunders getting off to a slow start, which isn’t a surprise, could Quinn soon get an opportunity? He shouldn’t be far away, though the Phillies will likely give Aaron Altherr the first shot at playing time. Once he fails (yet again), it will be time for Quinn’s arrival.
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference