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 (1)
While Adam Rosales produced initially, as expected he’s fallen off a cliff and the team should be looking for an upgrade. With Marcus Semien’s return date unknown, Barreto could soon find himself in the mix. His plate discipline is a concern (27.8% strikeout rate, 5.3% walk rate) and he’s also benefited from a .408 BABIP, but you could argue that he has little left to prove. Over 192 AB at Triple-A this season he’s hitting .307 with 6 HR (as well as 9 doubles and 4 triples) and 3 SB. He has more speed than that (30 SB in ’16, 29 in ’14) and there’s reason to believe that he can fix the strikeout issues (17.8% at Double-A in ’16). The upside is immense, it’s just a matter of Oakland deciding to make the call.
2) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (4)
The Mets continue to toy with the idea of Rosario playing third base (3 games played), and that could be his best opportunity to reach the Majors (Jose Reyes continues to struggle, hitting .207 on the season). While the team seems reluctant to promote Rosario, what does he have left to prove? Pacific Coast League or not, he’s hitting .351 with 4 HR and 10 SB. There’s still some power to develop, with 13 doubles and 3 triples, and he’s also proven capable of making consistent contact (15.1% strikeout rate). Sure there’s a bit of luck in the numbers, as he’s posted a .399 BABIP, but even a regression there would equate to a .290+ average with the potential to go 10/25 (or better).
Watch closely, as the more he plays third base the more likely his arrival will be. There’s reason to believe that it could come in the next few weeks, as soon as the Super 2 deadline has come and gone, despite what the Mets are currently saying.
3) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (NR)
Moncada missed about 10 days with an injury, but he’s back from the DL and that puts him right back on the precipice of fantasy relevance. Of course he’s struck out 6 times in 10 AB over his first three games back, putting him at 49 K over 149 AB on the season (28.8% strikeout rate) and creating a significant concern over his potential.
His upside in both the power and speed departments helps, but this continues to give the White Sox a justifiable reason to keep him at Triple-A. Yolmer Sanchez has produced (.304 with 2 HR and 3 SB), further justifying the decision. Moncada needs to improve his strikeout rate while also potentially showing a little bit more power (5 doubles, 1 triple and 6 home runs, and his last home run came on May 7).
4) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (2)
He’s hit a rough patch of late, going 4-33 with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 1 R over his past eight games. It gives the Red Sox a reason to keep him down, as does the fact that the team is playing well and just got Pablo Sandoval back, but there’s little question that he offers a significant upgrade over what they currently have. As we’ve said before the team has a history of making bold promotions (i.e. Andrew Benintendi last season), so there’s reason to believe that they can do so again. Even as Devers has struggled he’s managed to limit the swings and misses (8 K), and his overall 19.0% strikeout rate shows that he hasn’t been overmatched.
5) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (3)
If the Pirates were going to expedite Meadows’ arrival they would’ve done it while Gregory Polanco was on the DL recently (though we’ll have to see if plans change with another potential DL stint looming). While that didn’t happen, his recent production could start to force their hand. He has six multi-hit games in his past eight, going 14-30 with 1 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R and 3 SB. While the hot streak has only raised his average to .262, he has shown an ability to make contact (15.5% strikeout rate) and also steal a few bases (8-for-9 in stolen base attempts). He’s a player where the sum of the parts is going to be more valuable than any one skill, as he can at least contribute a little bit in all five categories (as opposed to one significant carrying tool).
6) Ben Lively – Philadelphia Phillies – Starting Pitcher (NR)
There is talk that Lively is going to be joining the Phillies’ rotation later this week, and he certainly deserves the opportunity. In nine starts at Triple-A this season he owns a 2.40 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 7.19 K/9 and 1.12 BB/9. Those ratios echo what he did in 19 starts at the level last season:
- Strikeouts – 6.88 K/9
- Walks – 2.07 BB/9
He had shown more strikeout potential working his way up through the minors and there’s some risk in terms of home runs allowed (groundball rates of 39.5% and 33.7% at Triple-A). Keep that in mind, but the upside is there.
7) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (5)
Houston left fielders have combined to slash .225/.294/.360, so while the team proves that it’s a real World Series contender it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a hole to fill. Fisher is a potential internal option, hitting .326 with 11 HR (as well as 14 doubles) and 9 stolen bases over 193 AB at Triple-A. He has improved his efficiency on the basepaths, at least a little bit, going 6-for-10 in May (9-for-19 overall) and that’s something that obviously we’d like to see further improved upon. That’s the biggest red flag, though, albeit with a little bit of luck (.380 BABIP), though he’s making routine contact (21.5% strikeout rate) and hitting the ball hard (22.8% line drive rate). It’s all a matter of when the team grows tired of the poor production from the position, something that could come sooner rather than later.
8) Brandon Woodruff – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (8)
The return of Junior Guerra could help to slow the ascent of Woodruff, though there is still potential opportunity at the back of the rotation (Zach Davies owns a 5.33 ERA over his 10 starts). While Woodruff’s strikeout rate hasn’t been spectacular, it’s more than enough considering the other skills:
- Strikeouts – 7.99 K/9 (and there’s more upside, with a 9.82 K/9 at Double-A in ’16)
- Walks – 2.08 BB/9
- Groundballs – 49.4%
The big key for any Brewers’ starter is keeping the ball in the ballpark, especially at home, and Woodruff’s skills should lead to that.
9) Jacob Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (9)
He deserves an opportunity, and with 23 Triple-A starts over the past two years he’s spent the requisite time at the level to get it. Over 119.1 IP he’s racked up 142 K vs. 52 BB, and has been even better this season (13.59 K/9, 3.48 BB/9). There is the chance for home run issues, especially considering his 1.22 HR/9 at Triple-A (thanks to a 39.5% groundball rate), but the strikeout stuff makes him more than worthy of our attention.
10) Nick Williams – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder (NR)
Why should the Phillies continue to run Michael Saunders out there, especially when they have potential solutions sitting at Triple-A? While Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens have gotten a lot of the attention, Williams may be the hottest player on the team right now and could ultimately be the first to arrive to the Majors.
Williams is now hitting .281 with 10 HR and 31 RBI overall, with 8 HR and 24 RBI coming in May (7 HR in his past eight games). Of course there are fair questions about his plate discipline, with 53 K vs. 6 BB on the season, and with 30 K over 95 AB in May it’s something that continues to hang over him. That could make it nearly impossible for him to produce in the Majors, though time will tell if he gets an opportunity to show his stuff or not.
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
- Dinelson Lamet – San Diego Padres – Starting Pitcher (7)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Carson Fulmer – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (6)
- Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: