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) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (3)
Jumping back up to the top spot doesn’t mean that we no longer have concerns, because Moncada continues to struggle with strikeouts (15 K over 42 AB in his past ten games). He also continues to be more of a singles hitter, as opposed to generating extra base hits, with 2 doubles, 1 triple and 4 HR over his first 21 games. In his past 10 games he’s been even worse, with 1 double, 1 triple and 1 HR, though at least he’s been stealing bases (4 SB in the 10 games, 5 SB overall).
Despite those concerns, we all know the upside and the White Sox continue to roll a struggling Tyler Saladino out to man second base (Chicago’s second basemen are slashing a meager .182/.287/.261 this season). While they are rebuilding and have no reason to force the issue, it’s looking more and more likely Moncada joins the team sooner rather than later.
2) Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (NR)
He deserves to be on our radar, as he’s scorching hot at Triple-A (.355, 3 HR, 3 SB). While the team has ample young options and are going to give an opportunity for Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton to right the ship, are either a guarantee to produce? Throw in the injury concerns facing Ryan Braun, who seems like a lock to hit the DL at some point (and potentially in the near future), and there is going to be AB available.
While we’d like to see him drawing a few more walks (4), he has done a good job keeping his strikeouts under control (17 K over 62 AB, which is a 24.6% strikeout rate). It’s something that could hurt him in the Majors, but how is that any different than the two youngsters currently being utilized? The owner of 20/20 potential (15 HR and 17 SB over 406 AB in ’16), outside of a potentially poor average he should be able to make an impact across the board.
3) Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder (4)
The Indians have gotten the most out of their mish mosh of outfielders, but with Austin Jackson injured there could be an opportunity. There are questions about Zimmer’s strike zone command, with 25 K vs. 6 BB over 83 AB at Triple-A, an issue that’s been there as he’s worked his way up through the system. At the same time he continues to show power (7 doubles, 2 triples and 3 HR) and speed (5 SB), with the potential to be a 20/20 threat. His average may be putrid, but when he makes contact and gets on base he’s going to make an impact.
4) Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (6)
Tommy Joseph started May with a bang (1-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), but he also struck out twice and is the owner of a .183/.234/.296 slash. The long ball may have bought him a little bit of time, but the rope is shortening quickly.
For his part Hoskins continues to force the issue at Triple-A. He’s now hitting .338 with 6 HR and 12 RBI, and after strikeouts had been the biggest question facing him they haven’t been an issue thus far (15 K vs. 11 BB). Even more surprising may be his struggles against LHP (.182/.308/.318), something that he feasted on last season (.277/.390/.634) at Double-A. Maybe that’s what the Phillies are waiting to click back in or maybe they want to give Joseph a little more time, but a change appears to be getting close.
5) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (5)
Considering who Oakland is running out at shortstop right now, you’d have to think that Barreto is going to eventually become a candidate for AB. Hitting .357 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, 14 R and 2 SB, you’d have to think that he’s also forcing the issue. However his command of the strike zone is a significant concern, with 31 K vs. 7 BB (32.63% strikeout rate, 7.37% walk rate), and that could easily keep him planted in the minors. It’s not like he’s been better later (14 K over his past 38 AB) and the numbers could get even worse in the Majors. Depending on the news regarding Marcus Semien it’s still possible the A’s decide to give Barreto a look in the near future, but there’s also a lot of risk involved.
6) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (NR)
The Astros are currently utilizing a subpar mix in left field, led by Norichika Aoki. You would think that would mean a potential opportunity, and with Fisher having seen time at all three outfield spots this season his name has to be at the front of the pack. While strikeouts are a legitimate concern (25 K over 94 AB), he’s drawing walks (10), showing off his power (6 HR, as well as 6 doubles) and when have strikeout concerns ever scared off the Astros. He hasn’t been particularly efficient on the base paths (3-for-9 in SB attempts), but let’s not forget that he was 59-for-73 (80.8%) over the previous two seasons. The owner of power and speed, he easily can infuse an upgrade to the current LF mix and contribute immediately.
7) Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (HM)
Woodruff is coming off a strong outing, tossing 6.0 shutout innings while allowing 3 H and 1 BB. Overall he appears to be mastering the difficult Pacific Coast League, going 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over his first four starts. While his strikeout rate has fallen (17 K over 22.1 IP), he’s showing control (6 BB) and did show strikeout potential at Double-A last season (124 K over 113.2 IP). Throw in a career 1.24 GO/AO and there’s potential appeal. With Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson among the team’s starters who are struggling, looking towards another option isn’t an unreasonable though.
8) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (8)
He’s coming off arguably his best start of the season, allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 1 BB, striking out 6, over 6.0 IP. That keeps him above the struggling Lucas Giolito on the depth chart, the question comes down to when the team will decide it needs to make a change to its rotation. Obviously don’t ignore Giolito and his upside, but for now it’s Lopez at the head of the class.
9) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (2)
Maybe he had the opportunity to claim AB in the Majors after the suspension to Starling Marte, but his abysmal performance at Triple-A should have silenced that (.195 with 1 HR and 2 SB). He hasn’t shown a very good command of the strike zone (20 K vs. 5 BB) and the longer he struggles the more unlikely it becomes that he doesn’t make much of an impact this season. Given his upside and potential opportunity he needs to remain on our radar (and thus in the Top 10), but at the same time an impact is not imminent.
10) Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers – First Baseman
Mike Napoli is struggling, and that’s led to the Rangers giving Ryan Rua at bats at first base. How long can that last? Guzman may not be a .340 hitter, but he’s showing a strong strikeout rate at Triple-A (17.3%) and showed that he is a solid hitter last season at Double-A (.288 over 375 AB). The real question is going to be if he can develop his power (3 HR and only 6 total extra base hits at Triple-A thus far). That remains to be seen and will ultimately cap his appeal, but there’s going to be an opportunity.
Honorable Mention – Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (1)
The Mets are a team that could certainly use a spark (especially after the Noah Syndergaard news), though their reluctance to recall Rosario tells us that a promotion may not be imminent. Jose Reyes has been showing signs of life in recent days (plus the team hasn’t played Rosario at 3B for a second time, tapping the breaks on that hope) and Asdrubal Cabrera is locked into the shortstop spot. At some point Rosario is going to be up, but we may have to wait awhile for it to come. Despite his impressive numbers, he’s not yet on the horizon.
- Nick Pivetta – Philadelphia Phillies – Starting Pitcher (9)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Ryan O’Hearn – Kansas City Royals – First Baseman (7)
- Dinelson Lamet – 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: