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 (1)
Tyler Saladino continues to underwhelm, helping White Sox second baseman to own the fourth lowest SLG in the league (.300) and be tied for the second fewest RBI (5). The team is starting to utilize Yolmer Sanchez at the spot, which really should be all you need to know.
That’s not to say that Moncada doesn’t bring his own concerns and is a guarantee to produce, as he’s struggled with strikeouts (26.6%) over his 124 PA. He has been improving in that regard, however, with 4 K over his past 7 game stretch (April 30 – May 7). With 5 BB over that span it is highly promising, though we’d also like to see him producing a few more extra base hits overall (3 doubles, 1 triple and 7 home runs). That’s splitting hairs, as we know the power and speed are there. If he has taken a step forward in his plate discipline he has the potential to make a significant impact immediately. Considering the production they’ve gotten at the position, it’s only a matter of time.
2) Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder (3)
Entering play on Monday the Cleveland Indians had actually scored the fewest runs in May. While many of their players are hitting under .250 over the first week, the outfielders have been particularly poor:
- Brandon Guyer – .200/.250/.333
- Michael Brantley – .190/.261/.190
- Lonnie Chisenhall – .100/.100/.300
- Abraham Almonte – .000/.063/.000
While Michael Brantley is safe, Guyer is nothing more than a platoon player and the other two could easily cede AB (the Indians have promoted Yandy Diaz to help boost the production). Zimmer could definitely help to provide a spark, though he does face strikeout issues (29.5% at Triple-A). Still he’s producing extra base hits (14 total) and stealing bases (6-for-9), showing just what he’s capable of.
3) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (9)
Pirates’ centerfielders are hitting just .222 on the season, and while the team has held out promoting Meadows it soon may not have much of a choice. Of course that would be easier if he was actually producing at the plate himself, as he’s hitting .192 with 1 HR and 3 SB on the season. It’s easy to imagine him picking up the pace, considering the underlying numbers:
- Strikeout Rate – 19.4%
- Line Drive Rate – 22.8%
- BABIP – .231
So he’s not striking out a ton and is suffering from poor luck… Considering the need and Meadows’ defensive ability, it isn’t going to take much for him to earn a promotion. With a hot streak likely coming, be prepared.
4) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (6)
You can easily argue that Norichika Aoki doesn’t belong in the outfield mix, as he’s seen his numbers steadily regress since a good start. While Fisher does have strikeout concerns, he’s showing that he can produce regardless. Entering play on Monday he was the owner of a 12-game hitting streak, going 23-56 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R and 1 SB. Obviously he’s not quite that good, considering his .402 BABIP, his 24.1% strikeout rate is actually reasonable. He also now has 251 PA at Triple-A over the past two season, hitting .310 with 11 HR (as well as 17 doubles) and 8 SB. There’s no questioning his potential and there also appears to be an opportunity. It’s just a matter of when the Astros decide to make a change, which should come before long.
5) Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (7)
Only two Brewers’ starters have an ERA below 3.00, and considering one of those pitchers is Matt Garza there obviously are opportunities. Woodruff has done his part at Triple-A, going 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over his first six starts (34.1 IP). He hasn’t shown much strikeout stuff, with a 7.86 K/9, but it’s been there before and he has 18 K over 18.0 IP in his past three starts. Couple that with pinpoint control (1.83 BB/9) and enough groundballs (47.9%) and there’s a lot to like. While home runs could be an issue, like with many Brewers’ starters, there’s enough upside that he could stick in the rotation for the remainder of the season once his opportunity comes.
6) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (5)
Adam Rosales has been filling in at shortstop, but we all know he’s not a long-term solution. Maybe the A’s are waiting for the Super 2 deadline or maybe they are waiting to get a more definitive timetable for Marcus Semien, regardless you have to think it’s only a matter of time before Barreto forces his way into the Majors. Despite an elevated strikeout rate (29.6%) he’s hitting .360 with 4 HR and 3 SB over 111 AB. It’s possible that he gets completely exposed in the Majors, which will require a return trip to Triple-A, but it will give him much needed experience. Look for at least a brief opportunity to come, but don’t necessarily expect a monster performance.
7) Jacob Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (NR)
When you just look at the ERA it wouldn’t appear like the Rays’ are in need of help in the rotation. However Blake Snell has struggled with his control and Alex Cobb simply isn’t the same pitcher, so it would seem like an opportunity would be there before long. We covered Faria in depth earlier this week (click here to view http://rotoprofessor.com/prospects/?p=1608), but the fact is that he’s gained his Triple-A experience and continues to show strikeouts and groundballs. Obviously pitching in the AL East is never easy, but he has the potential to hit the ground running.
8) Carson Fulmer – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Most of the attention has gone to Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, but it’s easy to argue that Fulmer has been the best of the trio. He’s allowed 1 ER in each of his past four starts, helping him to a 2.88 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, while generating groundballs (1.35 GO/AO) and avoiding walks (11 BB over 34.1 IP). The big surprise has been his lack of strikeouts, with a 6.55 K/9. That could limit his upside upon reaching the Majors, but there’s more upside then that so hopefully he can figure it out before arriving.
9) Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (2)
With Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana surging, as well as Ryan Braun expected to return to the lineup, Brinson is going to have to sit and wait a little while longer for his opportunity. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering his 23 K over his first 20 games at Triple-A this season. That’s clearly something that he needs to improve upon, though it’s not something that will stop the Brewers from promoting him. If/when Braun requires a DL stint, or when one of the other youngsters slumps, his opportunity will be there.
10) Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers – First Baseman (10)
He continues to show a lack of power (3 HR) and without speed that’s going to limit his appeal upon arriving in the Majors (even if he could maintain his .347 average, which obviously is unlikely). With Mike Napoli continuing to struggle (.169/.228/.339) it may only be a matter of time before Guzman’s opportunity comes.
Honorable Mention – Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (4)
It no longer appears that Hoskins’ arrival is imminent, with Tommy Joseph finally starting to produce. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still belong on our radars, though, because does anyone believe Joseph is going to be able to keep on producing? Hoskins continues to show power and a great command of the strike zone (15.3% strikeout rate, 12.6% walk rate), so when he does arrive he is going to make an impact.
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (8)
- Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (HM)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: