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) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (NR)
Among the best prospects in the game, Rosario made his first start at third base on April 21. That shows the concern the Mets have for both their slow start and the production (or lack thereof) from Jose Reyes. The team is banged up and in desperate need of a spark, something Rosario could provide. While the Mets don’t want to rush him and risk stunting his growth, they also can’t afford to see their season end in April.
For his part Rosario is tearing up the Pacific Coast League, hitting .414 with 8 RBI, 8 R and 5 SB. He’s not going to be a source of power, at least not yet, but with 8 K over 70 AB he knows how to handle the bat and can help to set the table/score runs hitting ahead of Yoenis Cespedes and company. Watch where he plays closely, as it could indicate how close he is to arriving.
2) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (4)
While he’s hitting .200 on the season, it hasn’t been strikeout issues (15 K over 60 AB, with just 6 K over his past 39 AB) and that’s a promising sign that things should turn around. Meadows doesn’t bring one specific skill to the table, but the sum of the parts will certainly hold value as he profiles as a 10/15 player with a solid average (he’s a minor league career .295 hitter). With Starling Marte lost to suspension and Adam Frazier now on the DL, the Pirates may no longer be able to remain patient and wait for the Super 2 deadline. How long can they really lean on Jose Osuna and John Jaso in LF? Something has to give, and that could quickly prove to be Meadows.
3) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (5)
With Tyler Saladino struggling to get going the White Sox have reason to consider promoting Moncada sooner than expected. Of course Moncada has had his issues while playing at Triple-A:
- Strikeouts – 30.9%
- Extra Base Hits – 1 Double, 4 Home Runs
The home runs are nice, but where are all the extra base hits? Can he ever get the strikeouts under control (13 K in past 37 AB)? When you look and see him hitting .300 it’s easy to think that he’s ready, but there are questions to be answered.
4) Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder (1)
Lonnie Chisenhall and Austin Jackson have been performing, giving the Indians some short-term relief to their struggling outfield. Neither of them are likely long-term solutions, but they will give Zimmer time to work out his obvious flaws (16 K over his past 34 AB). He brings an intriguing blend of power and speed and there is no question that he is going to arrive and should make an impact. Just know that with the good will come the bad (a poor average thanks to the significant swing and miss to his game).
5) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (3)
As soon as Marcus Semien got injured the thought was that the A’s could push Barreto to fill the void. That hasn’t been the case, at least not yet, and while there are financial reasons to keep him down there also are performance based ones. As we noted on Monday (click here for the article) he’s struggled with strikeouts, lacks elite power and there are questions about how his speed will translate. Don’t get us wrong as there is significant upside/value, but he’s also not a can’t miss option upon his arrival (and the team has reasons to be conservative).
6) Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (NR)
Tommy Joseph was one of the reasons the team was willing to move on from Ryan Howard (though he didn’t help his own cause). At the same time Joseph, who was a popular “breakout” candidate heading into the season, has fallen completely flat (.200/.250/.291 slash). Could the Phillies look to make a change before long?
Hoskins is doing what he can to force the issue, hitting .321 with 4 HR over 53 AB at Triple-A. Perhaps more impressive is his 11 K vs. 9 BB, as that is answering the biggest question that had been facing him (21.2% strikeout rate at Double-A last season). The ’17 success is in a short sample, but he’s showing the power was for real (38 HR in ’16) and if he can continue making consistent contact it won’t be long before he arrives. (Note: You could argue the team is in a similar position with Cameron Rupp/Jorge Alfaro, but considering the defensive importance we’d expect Rupp to have a little bit more rope. That’s another situation to monitor, though.)
7) Ryan O’Hearn – Kansas City Royals – First Baseman (NR)
Kansas City spent to import Brandon Moss this offseason and over the first few weeks he’s been a complete flop (.146 with 2 HR). That’s the most likely opening for O’Hearn, even though Eric Hosmer has also struggled (.192 with 1 HR). The team has shown it’s willingness to change things up, recently demoting Raul Mondesi, and O’Hearn is stating his case for a promotion with six multi-hit games in his past seven (overall he’s hitting .333 with 5 HR). Even more impressive is that he has just 2 K over this stretch, which was always the biggest question facing him. It’s a small sample and likely will prove to be an aberration, but with the way he’s hitting he may not be long for the Majors.
8) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (8)
Whether it will be Reynaldo Lopez or Lucas Giolito who first gets an opportunity when a need arises in Chicago’s rotation can be much debated. The fact is it will likely come down to whose turn fits into the rotation best, as neither are impressing early on at Triple-A. They both have significant upside, but they need to start showing it. Once they do they will fly up the rankings, but for now we are going to have to wait for their arrival. While Lopez remains the name listed here, consider it a shared spot.
9) Nick Pivetta – Philadelphia Phillies – Starting Pitcher (NR)
He’s already primed to take the spot of Aaron Nola, who was recently placed on the DL, but yesterday’s rain out keeps him down in the minors for another few days (and therefore keeps him eligible for this list). In his three starts at Triple-A Pivetta has been tremendous, with 24 K vs. 2 BB over 19.0 IP. That’s a significant step forward for a player who owns a minor league career 7.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. It’s fair to wonder if the inflated numbers are nothing more than a small sample aberration. Throw in his career 1.00 GO/AO, which indicates potential home run issues, and there are significant risks. Still, small sample or not, his start to the year makes him an intriguing potential option.
10) Dinelson Lamet – San Diego Padres – Starting Pitcher (NR)
He has opened eyes over his past two starts, racking up 22 K over 12.1 IP at Triple-A. Of course he also a 9.5 K/9 across three levels in ’16, with a 3.7 BB/9 and 0.88 GO/AO being the biggest questions. His control is still a question (9 BB over 20.0 IP), though it’s not a terrible number and he’s generating an extreme amount of groundballs (1.67 GO/AO). You put that package in San Diego, and you get an intriguing pitching prospect who could arrive in short order given the questions in San Diego’s rotation.
Honorable Mention – Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Woodruff isn’t the Brewers’ best pitching prospect (those honors go to Josh Hader), but it’s easy to envision Woodruff being the first callup. He’s only allowed runs in one of his four starts at Triple-A, posting a 1.61 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 22.1 IP. He hasn’t shown significant strikeout stuff (17), but he has strong control (6 BB). He has shown more strikeout upside in the past (9.82 K/9 over 113.2 IP at Double-A in ’16) and also more groundball stuff (1.09 GO/AO this season, 1.19 in ’16). We obviously need to have some reservations, with the strikeouts struggling thus far, but the upside and opportunity (Milwaukee starters own the fourth worst ERA in the league) are there.
- Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers – First Baseman/Outfielder (2)
- Dan Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners – First Baseman (6)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (7)
- Chase De Jong – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (9)
- Tyler Beede – San Francisco Giants – Starting Pitcher (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: