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 (please note all stats are through Monday and the number in parenthesis is the ranking from last week):
1) Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder (4)
The Indians have gotten poor production out of their corner outfielders, so the fact that Zimmer has started getting some time in RF (Cleveland right fielders have posted a .277 SLG, fourth worst in the league) is telling. There’s obviously still work to do, but he’s taken a step in the right direction with a 23.9% strikeout rate (28.3% at Double-A in ’16). He’s hitting for extra bases (3 doubles, 2 triples and 1 home run) and stealing (4-for-4) as he’d add another dimension to Cleveland’s offense. There may be a few bumps along the way, especially with a potential spike in strikeouts, but it seems like only a matter of time before he takes over in RF at least as part of a platoon (he slashed .277/.379/.535 against RHP last season). Now would be a good time to stash him if you can.
2) Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers – First Baseman/Outfielder (NR)
Los Angeles left fielders have gotten off to an abysmal start, and with Bellinger having spent time in the outfield before (and getting his first time there in ’17) it would appear that the Dodgers are going to see if he can fill the hole. One of the best prospects in the game, there certainly isn’t a question about his ability to hit the baseball (he started off slashing .372/.438/.672 with 3 HR and 4 SB over 43 AB). It’s all about defense, since Adrian Gonzalez isn’t going anywhere. If Los Angeles is comfortable utilizing Bellinger in the outfield, he’s going to arrive quickly. Watch closely, because the more and more time he plays the closer he’s going to be.
3) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (NR)
The injury to Marcus Semien has left the A’s without a very good option to fill the gap (Adam Rosales and Chad Pinder). Barreto has struggled with strikeouts at Triple-A early on, but that hasn’t been an issue throughout his career and comes via a short sample size. One of the premier prospects in the game, don’t read into recent comments from Oakland’s General Manager stating that now isn’t the right time for a promotion. A lot of that has to do with finances, and as soon as the Super 2 cutoff has come and gone there’s a good chance Barreto will be in Oakland.
4) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (NR)
The suspension to Starling Marte will likely accelerate Meadows’ arrival to the Majors. Considering it’s Pittsburgh they likely will still wait until the Super 2 deadline has come and gone, though need defensively could force them to bring him up sooner (he’s clearly the team’s best option).
Of course there would be more of a chance of a promotion if he had been producing at Triple-A, as he’s off to a .162/.220/.270 slash. He’s also seen his strikeout rate rise (24.4% in ’17, after a 23.4% mark at Triple-A last season) and isn’t drawing a significant number of walks (7.3%). After hitting .214 in 126 AB at Triple-A last season, the Pirates have a reason to let him figure it out before summoning him to the Majors to fill the gaping hole. His time will come, but for now we’d expect the Pirates to keep him down in the minors to get his bat on track.
5) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (1)
When you look at his .317 average it would seem that there’s a lot to like. However there are a few issues bubbling under the surface:
- Lack of extra base hits (1 double and 2 home runs)
- Strikeouts (29.8%)
The first should work itself out, but the second is something that has always been prevalent and is going to limit his overall appeal. Arguably the best prospect in the game, he’s giving the White Sox a reason to keep him at Triple-A in order to improve. His time will come, and when it does he should make a significant impact, the question is when.
6) Dan Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners – First Baseman (3)
Danny Valencia continues to be a disaster this season, hitting .163 with 0 HR and 3 RBI. In other words Vogelbach doesn’t need to be setting the world on fire to earn himself an opportunity at playing time. He hasn’t hit a home run yet, and has just 2 doubles, but we know the power potential and he is hitting .297 on the season. It’s only a matter of time before the Mariners look to make a change, and that’s going to mean Vogelbach getting the opportunity everyone expected prior to the season.
7) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (2)
While he is coming off a strong start (1 ER over 6.0 IP), he continues to struggle with his control (11 BB over 14.0 IP) and hasn’t been generating many groundballs (0.50 GO/AO, after a 0.87 mark in ’16). Walks + Home Run issues? That’s a recipe for disaster in Milwaukee, to say the least. If he isn’t walking the ballpark a return to his ’16 GO/AO would be enough, though considering his 4.70 BB/9 in 69.0 IP at Triple-A last season he’s going to need time to get there. There is no questioning the strikeout potential and he should arrive at some point in ’17, but there are corrections and adjustments that need to be made before he does.
8) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (7)
At this point we are guessing that he’ll be the first call when the White Sox need an additional starter, though that doesn’t mean we’d be overly excited. Over his first three starts he owns a 5.02 ERA, thanks to 4 HR allowed (at least 1 in each start). Considering his home ballpark that could continue to plague him, and his control hasn’t been very good (9 BB over 14.1 IP). We would assume the issues to work themselves out, given his upside, but for now he’s going to have to work through them.
9) Chase De Jong – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Acquired from the Dodgers in the offseason to provide rotation depth, he’s done a good job over his first two starts at Triple-A (1.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10 K over 10.1 IP). His control hasn’t been great (5 BB), though it’s never been an issue before (2.2 BB/9 over his minor league career) and comes in an extremely short sample size. The Mariners have several starters struggling early on (Yovani Gallardo and Hisashi Iwakuma) and De Jong should get an opportunity before long.
10) Tyler Beede – San Francisco Giants – Starting Pitcher (5)
Beede struggled in his last outing, but Matt Cain is still the Giants’ fifth starter. It’s fair to think that it’s only a matter of time before the team decides to make a change and one of their top pitching prospect certainly makes sense to fill the hole.
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Jeff Hoffman – Colorado Rockies – Starting Pitcher (6)
- Lucas Giolito – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (8)
- Roman Quinn – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder (9)
- Walker Lockett – San Diego Padres – Starting Pitcher (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: