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) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (1)
With Wilmer Flores heating up and Yoenis Cespedes returning to the lineup the calls for Rosario’s promotion had quieted. That was until Asdrubal Cabrera hit the DL yesterday, and then the cries for his promotion reached new levels. He hasn’t joined the Mets yet (they instead recalled T.J. Rivera), but does anyone believe Jose Reyes can handle the position? If he struggles (or maybe we should say when he struggles), Rosario is going to arrive. There’s no questioning his offense (.337/.379/.494 at Triple-A), it’s perhaps his defense that has kept him pinned at Triple-A. Regardless, for a Mets team that can’t afford to give any game away any type of slump could trigger his promotion.
2) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (5)
The two big questions have been strikeouts and proficiency on the base paths, and he’s looking to be making those necessary adjustments. His overall 19.6% strikeout rate is reasonable as it is, but in June (40 AB) he’s been even more impressive with 7 K vs. 7 BB. He’s also gone 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts, putting him at 12-for-22 on the season. Put these things together:
- Improved Plate Discipline
- Power (18 doubles & 16 HR) and Speed combination
- Opportunity (Houston’s left fielders have slashed an uninspiring .237/.309/.371)
The Astros may not need the upgrade, but if you have a hole and a player ready to step in then why not? It may not be much longer until the 23-year old arrives (especially with Josh Reddick potentially hitting the DL), especially since the need for offense could grow given the state of the starting rotation.
3) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (2)
Boston’s third basemen continue to struggle (both offensively and defensively), and sooner or later the team is going to grow frustrated of using Josh Rutledge, Deven Marrero and Pablo Sandoval at the hot corner. I feel like a broken record, but considering the team’s track record of aggressive promotions it makes sense for Devers to be summoned directly from Double-A to try and fill the hole. It also would make sense for that move to come within the next few weeks, so they can determine if he can handle the role for the remainder of the season or if they need to ultimately look outside the organization.
He continues to rake at Double-A, hitting .307 with 10 HR (as well as 15 doubles and 1 triple). With a command of the strike zone (over 9 June games, 35 AB, he’s struck out just 5 times) and the power developing, there’s little left to prove.
4) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (3)
While he was hitting well early in the season, despite the strikeout issues, things have come to a screeching halt in June. Over 11 games (41 AB) he’s hitting .146 with 1 HR and 3 RBI, striking out 16 times in the process. While you would think he’d already be up in the Majors, given his upside and the team’s need at second base, he continues to struggle in two key areas overall:
- Strikeouts – 28.6%
- Extra Base Hits – 15 (6 doubles, 2 triples, 7 HR)
He needs to make an adjustment, or at least warm back up, before a promotion is considered. The talent level is high, but there’s no guarantee he produces given the questions.
5) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (6)
If the Pirates wanted Meadows up, he already would’ve been promoted as the Super 2 deadline has come and gone and the team has continued to battle injuries/suspensions. Instead he is pinned at Triple-A, as he’s failed to get going offensively (.253, 3 HR, 9 SB over 233 AB). It looked like he was waking up in May, and a promotion could be imminent, but things have turned the wrong way in June:
- April – .195/.247/.256
- May – .300/.358/.445
- June – .244/.319/.317
If he can turn things back around he should still get an opportunity before Starlin Marte returns from suspension, but time will tell.
6) Jae-Gyun Hwang – San Francisco Giants – Third Baseman (NR)
When the Giants signed Hwang in the offseason the expectation was that he’d get a chance to earn the third base job. That didn’t happen in the spring, but his performance at Triple-A (and the failure of Christian Arroyo in the Majors) should lead to another opportunity. In 230 AB he’s hitting .291 with 6 HR (as well as 17 doubles and 4 triples) and 5 SB. While he hasn’t drawn many walks (4.5%), he also hasn’t struck out much (20.8%) and the SwStr% supports the mark (9.6%). With command of the strike zone and extra base power, the potential is there to make an impact. Currently Eduardo Nunez is manning 3B, but he could shift to another spot (or be traded) to open up the opportunity.
7) Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees (4)
There’s a good chance he gets an opportunity to man third base this season, given the struggles of Chase Headley, but those expecting a quick promotion from Triple-A need to pump the brakes a bit. While he’s never struggled with strikeouts before, he has since arriving (30.3%). It’s not a major red flag, because we’d expect it to be corrected before long (he was at 15.1% at Double-A prior to his promotion). That’s especially true since it’s not like he isn’t drawing walks (14.5%), and there’s no questioning the talent. Just give him time to adjust and then he’ll get back on track.
8) Jason Leblebijian – Toronto Blue Jays – Second Baseman (NR)
Devon Travis is sidelined once again due to injury, and no timeframe for his return (he underwent surgery on his knee recently), the Blue Jays are once again piecing the position together with Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney. That’s not an ideal duo, and it’s possible the Blue Jays dip down to Triple-A for an alternative. Leblebijian has put up strong numbers thus far, hitting .310 with 8 HR and 2 SB over 197 AB. His strikeout rate is solid (21.3%), though it could rise upon reaching the Majors (and he had issues at Double-A last season, at 26.1%), and he’s shown plenty of extra base ability (11 doubles and 3 triples). There is some risk, but with 10/10 potential he could be a lightning bolt early before the rest of the league catches up to him.
9) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (8)
This continues to be a somewhat flexible spot, as you can make the case that Lucas Giolito or Carson Fulmer gets the first shot in the rotation. However Lopez has been pitching well, including a 3.58 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, and has followed that up with a solid first start in June. He has just as much upside as the other two candidates, and is definitely worth monitoring closely.
10) Erik Fedde – Washington Nationals – Relief Pitcher (NR)
It’s not often that a reliever makes the cut, but Fedde was once a top level starting pitcher prospect and the Nationals bullpen is a complete disaster. Over his past seven appearances (9.2 IP) he’s allowed 1 ER on 7 H and 2 BB, striking out 12. It’s earned him a ticket to Triple-A, which could prove to be a mere holdover before he arrives in the Majors. Once there, barring an outside acquisition, would it really be surprising if he finds himself working in the later innings (and ultimately as closer)? He has worked back-to-back days already, so that isn’t a stumbling block, and there clearly is an opportunity. While the Nationals could’ve used the starting pitching depth, this is the quickest path to the Majors and he should arrive quickly.
Five More To Watch:
- Zack Burdi – Chicago White Sox – Relief Pitcher
- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
- Tyler O’Neill – Seattle Mariners – Outfielder
- Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher
- Jacob Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (7)
- Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (5 To Watch)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (9)
- Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers – First Baseman (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: