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) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (5)
After a fast start Adam Rosales’ production has plummeted (.219 with 1 HR in 64 AB in May). There’s still no timetable for Marcus Semien’s return, and with the Super 2 deadline quickly approaching that should mean that Barreto’s arrival could be near.
He has “slowed down” in May, which isn’t a surprise, but he’s still hitting .281 with 2 HR and 2 SB over 89 AB for the month (.349 with 4 HR in April). The big concern is going to be his strikeout rate, which currently sits at 26.1% at Triple-A. It’s possible that the mark continues to rise, and without elite power or speed that could lead to some struggles. Keep that in mind, but also remember that strikeouts weren’t a major concern prior to ’17 (17.8% at Double-A in ’16) and he has been correcting the issue (19 K over 89 AB in May).
2) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (3)
Devers continues to hit at Double-A, and as we said last week considering the team’s track record (Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi) it wouldn’t be surprising if Boston ultimately decided to have him skip Triple-A. Considering that Boston third baseman have slashed .210/.260/.306 thus far and they are waiting for Pablo Sandoval to return, would you blame them? The team also just promoted Sam Travis from Triple-A (to share time with Mitch Moreland), showing that they are going to try to strengthen their squad any way possible
Devers won’t turn 21 until October, but he’s showing a strong command of the strike zone (18.1% strikeout rate, 10.4% walk rate) and has seen his power start to develop (18.9% HR/FB). He’s only going to get better, and while maybe a little bit more time would help him Devers could be the answer to Boston’s biggest question.
3) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (NR)
To an extent it’s a surprise that Meadows hasn’t been called up yet, but with the Super 2 deadline quickly approaching you would think that Pittsburgh would become more amenable to him joining the Major League team. While his overall numbers haven’t been tremendous, he is slashing .267/.337/.400 in May while scoring 20 runs in 19 games. He also has shown a significantly better command of the strike zone, with 9 K vs. 8 BB over 75 AB. He may not have extreme power or extreme speed, but the total package is one that can contribute across the board and make an impact.
4) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (NR)
The Mets’ brass are saying that they don’t feel that Rosario is ready for the Majors, but will they really risk letting the season slip away? You could argue that he is better than the majority of the lineup that the team is currently running out there, as Triple-A pitching simply doesn’t appear to be a match for him (.360, 4 HR, 8 SB). That said, once he does arrive there is reason to be at least slightly skeptical of his performance:
- Average – .399 BABIP, and while his 13.6% strikeout rate is promising he’s also not walking much (5.8%) and it’s easy to imagine MLB pitching taking advantage of the aggressiveness
- Power – 51.3% groundball rate shows his power is going to be limited
That’s not to say that he isn’t going to produce once reaching the Majors, but there is a reason why the Mets believe he may need more time. Unfortunately for them they may not be able to afford it to him.
5) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (7)
Houston’s left fielders have been anemic this season, led by Norichika Aoki (.225 with 1 HR and 2 SB over 80 AB). While Houston has been one of the best teams in baseball, that doesn’t mean they want to continue to have a blackhole in the lineup (especially when they have an internal option to step in and fill the void).
Fisher has been doing the job at Triple-A, hitting .315 with 10 HR (as well as 12 doubles) and 7 SB. After struggling with his stolen base efficiency in April (3-for-9), he’s gone 4-for-5 in May. He’s always shown power and speed, the question has been if he can make enough contact to produce. With a 22.9% strikeout rate (22.0% at Triple-A in ’16), he’s showing that it shouldn’t be viewed as a significant concern.
6) Carson Fulmer – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (2)
Just when we thought Fulmer was on the verge of returning to the Majors (how long can Dylan Covey and Mike Pelfrey really stick), he took one on the chin on May 17 (7 ER on 6 H and 5 BB over 4.2 IP). It was his first real stinker, though, and it shouldn’t have an impact on his outlook as long as he can rebound strong.
He’s surprisingly struggled to show strikeout stuff (7.11 K/9), but we know the upside and have seen pitchers step up that part of their game in the Majors. More importantly is that he’s generally showing strong control (3.45 BB/9, despite his recent struggle) and generating enough groundballs (47.0%). While others will point towards Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez, it’s clear Fulmer deserves the first opportunity.
7) Dinelson Lamet – San Diego Padres – Starting Pitcher (NR)
San Diego starting pitchers have been bad, with a 4.71 ERA, and Jered Weaver (the biggest culprit) has been placed on the DL (and that has opened a rotation spot for Lamet, who will be called up to start tomorrow). Lamet, for his part, has shown big-time strikeout stuff while at Triple-A this season with an 11.54 K/9. The question now is if that is his only skill, as he’s struggled with his control (4.62 BB/9) and is showing uncharacteristic groundball stuff (1.67 GO/AO, compared to a career 0.91 mark). The latter isn’t that big of an issue, because even if it regresses pitching half his games in Petco Park will help. It’s the control that needs to be a concern, especially since he didn’t have a stellar showing a year ago (61 BB over 150.0 IP). That could easily become an issue, but with his strikeout stuff there’s enough to like.
8) Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher
The Brewers are going to get Junior Guerra back, but there’s more than one spot that needs filling in Milwaukee’s rotation. Enter Woodruff (though Josh Hader also needed to be on radars), who owns a 3.02 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over eight starts at Triple-A this season. While he may not have the upside of some other pitching prospects, he has been checking off all of the boxes:
- Strikeouts – 8.46 K/9
- Walks – 1.81 BB/9
- Groundballs – 48.4%
Over his minor league career he owns a 2.5 BB/9 and 1.25 GO/AO (1.23 this season), showing those skills should translate. Pitching in Milwaukee that’s important and should allow him to produce. For a team surprisingly in the playoff race, though not quite ready to go all in, improving from within will be important. Woodruff could be the first piece (with Lewis Brinson also providing help, once the team has more than one hole in the outfield to fill).
9) Jacob Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (8)
For now Erasmo Ramirez will step into the role vacated by Blake Snell, and while the team could simply give Snell another opportunity in the Majors it is hard to overlook Faria and what he’s done. Over nine starts he’s posted a 3.40 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, with a 13.41 K/9 and 3.59 BB/9. With 22 Triple-A starts under his belt he’s spent the required time for the Rays and also is already on the 40-man roster.
There could be home run concerns (1.13 HR/9, 16.7% HR/FB at Triple-A) and maybe there is a regression in his strikeout rate. That said his performance isn’t luck related (.314 BABIP, 75.1% strand rate) and the upside and opportunity should be there.
10) Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (NR)
With Joc Pederson continuing to fail to live up to expectations, could Verdugo get an opportunity? While he hasn’t brought power (0 HR, only 6 extra base hits) or speed (2 SB) over 135 AB at Triple-A, he has shown an ability to hit (.319) and get on base (.403). With 20 BB vs. 19 K, he clearly has a strong command of the strike zone and could help Los Angeles’ lineup.
Five More To Watch:
- Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder
- Zack Burdi – Chicago White Sox – Relief Pitcher
- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman
- Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees – Shortstop
- Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (1) – Currently on DL
- Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers – First Baseman (4)
- Tyler O’Neill – Seattle Mariners – Outfielder (6)
- Lucas Sims – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher (9)
- Andrew Moore – Seattle Mariners – Starting Pitcher (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: