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)
After showing improvements in his strikeout rate things have taken a turn in the wrong direction, with 6 K over 14 AB in his past three games (10 K over 31 AB in his past seven games). That continues to hang over him and his 27.4% strikeout rate is a significant red flag. He also continues to struggle to generate extra base hits, with just 11 overall (4 doubles, 1 triple, 6 home runs) and only three in his past 12 games (two of which came in one contest).
It’s not to say that he doesn’t have massive potential and he clearly represents a significant upgrade over what they are currently utilizing. That said they have little reason to rush his ascent, and the team needs to get this ironed out so when he is recalled he can produce immediately.
2) Carson Fulmer – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (8)
At this point the attention should no longer be on Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez. Fulmer is clearly the man who is first up once a need arises, as he’s continues to dominate at Triple-A en route to a 2.72 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. We all know the strikeout upside, and while it hasn’t been elite he’s checking off the boxes we look for overall:
- Strikeouts – 7.49 K/9
- Walks – 2.72 BB/9
- Groundballs – 49.1%
While there has been a little bit of luck (83.3% strand rate), an increase in his strikeout rate will overcome that. It’s just a matter of when he arrives, not if, and it may not be long.
3) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (NR)
The Red Sox have a significant void at third base, one that has been there for years. Boston’s third basemen have slashed .221/.267/.331, the SLG representing the fourth lowest in the league. While a promotion for Devers from Double-A appears unlikely, we have to remember that the team was aggressive with Andrew Benintendi a year ago (63 games and 237 AB at the level). To date Devers has played 29 games (105 AB) at Double-A, and he’s dominated every step of the way. Why wouldn’t we wonder if a similar promotion could be in the cards?
Thus far he’s hitting .324 with 7 HR and 20 RBI while showing solid plate discipline (18.8% strikeout rate, 10.3% walk rate). Sure you can argue a little bit of luck (.355 BABIP, 20.5% line drive rate), but is that really a red flag? He’s growing into his power (he’s added 7 doubles), after posting 51 extra base hits a year ago, and given the need and the team’s overall struggles he could soon force the issue.
4) Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers – First Baseman (10)
With Carlos Gomez on the DL Ryan Rua, who had been an option at 1B, will likely be pressed into action in the outfield (though he also could continue to see some AB at first base). That could create an opportunity, as the Rangers are going to grow frustrated with Mike Napoli’s performance sooner or later (while he has hit 4 HR in May, it has come with a .200 AVG). While his power surge may have delayed his removal, Guzman is making a strong case for an opportunity.
The big question facing Guzman is if he’s going to hit for enough power, though a recent 2 HR game helps to ease that concern. Of course it doesn’t eliminate it, as he has 5 doubles, 2 triples and 5 HR over his first 141 AB, though the expectations should be that he won’t fulfill his power potential in ’17. It will come, and when it does it will pair impressively with his genral ability to hit (.340 courtesy of just 27 K over 141 AB). While he may not be your prototypical power hitting first baseman initially, he has the makeup to produce and help provide production at a position the team has not been getting it from.
5) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (6)
Adam Rosales has held his own as he’s been asked to fill-in for Marcus Semien at shortstop, but we all know he’s more of a utility player and eventually his performance will dissipate. Barreto is an elite prospect and will sooner or a later get his opportunity in the Majors. He needs to start hitting again to force the team’s hand (.209 over his past 10 games), though we all know he’s not going to arrive before the Super 2 deadline has come and gone. That gives him a few more weeks to heat back up, and with the strikeouts down (9 K over his past 10 games, including only one multi-strikeout game) it isn’t going to take much to earn an opportunity.
6) Tyler O’Neill – Seattle Mariners – Outfielder (NR)
Left field has been a bit of a blackhole for the Mariners this season, as they’ve slashed .238/.313/.333 with 2 HR and 3 SB on the year. O’Neill has always been expected to make an impact this season, though a slow start at Triple-A helped to temper those expectations. He’s turned it around since the calendar turned to May, hitting .273, and that should renew hope that he can soon help the lineup. While he hasn’t hit many home runs yet, he has hit 7 doubles and 2 triples to go along with his 3 HR and we know the potential. The bigger concern is his strikeout rate (27.5%), and that could ultimately limit him. Still, there’s a need and potential so keep him on radars.
7) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (4)
The Astros have been one of the best teams in baseball, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their flaws or weaknesses. Left field is the obvious issue, as they own the fifth worst average (.213) to go along with a .368 SLG. Fisher has his flaws of his own, most notably his strikeout rate, though he has shown some improvements in that regard of late.
Overall he owns a 24.68% strikeout rate, but the potential to regress against Major League pitchers is an obvious concern. With his power (10 doubles, 8 home runs) and speed (despite going 5-for-12 in SB attempts), it’s easier to overlook. What we can’t look past is his groundball rate (2.21 GO/AO) and luck (.404 BABIP), both of which cast doubt on his home run production and average upside (.333 currently). It just means we need to temper expectations, though the upside remains.
8) Jacob Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (7)
Blake Snell was recently sent back to Triple-A, and while Erasmo Ramirez has been tabbed as the replacement initially you have to think Faria’s opportunity isn’t far despite his recent struggles (7 ER on 15 H and 4 BB over 9.2 IP in his past two starts). Overall he has racked up 62 K and 17 BB over 41.1 IP, while also generating enough groundballs (1.10 GO/AO). We all know that the Rays tend to be conservative with their pitchers, looking for them to work enough Triple-A innings before summoning them to the Majors. With 109.0 IP at the level over the past two seasons, his time is growing near.
9) Lucas Sims – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher (NR)
You could argue that Sean Newcomb is as deserving (if not more deserving) of a promotion, but he’s not currently on the 40-man roster and Sims is. Either way, it’s clear that the Braves need to make a change before long. Their veteran pitching staff has been atrocious in May, compiling the second worst team ERA (5.89). While the elder statesmen may be safe, the same can’t be said for Mike Foltynewicz (7.20 ERA in his two May starts).
Sims, meanwhile, has taken a significant step forward in his control. Over 41.2 IP at Triple-A the 23-year old has posted a 9.07 K/9 and 1.94 BB/9, helping him to a 2.16 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Luck has been on his side (.216 BABIP, 81.8% strand rate), and there are going to be home run concerns (0.60 GO/AO in ’17), both of which have to help temper our expectations.
10) Andrew Moore – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The Mariners rotation is in shambles, and while James Paxton is close to a return that’s one piece to a puzzle that needs many. Moore has split time between Double and Triple-A this season, compiling a 2.23 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 46.1 IP. There are legitimate concerns over home runs (6 HR, 0.64 GO/AO), and his numbers have regressed in his two starts at Triple-A (7.71 K/9, 3.09 BB/9). Obviously it’s an extremely small sample size, but it’s still worth monitoring. That said, given the significant holes in the rotation it should just be a matter of time before the opportunity arises.
Five More To Watch:
- Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder
- Zack Burdi – Chicago White Sox – Relief Pitcher
- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman
- Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder
- Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop
- Bradley Zimmer – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (3)
- Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (5)
- Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (9)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: