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 (4)
He hasn’t really answered the questions that have been suppressing his potential value all season long:
- Strikeouts – 24 K in 66 AB in June (28.0% overall)
- Extra Base Hits – 2 doubles and 2 home runs in June (17 total XBH)
We want to believe in the talent and the upside, and they are obvious, but he needs to fix these issues in order to thrive in the Majors. The team continues to have a need, though they also have yet to pull the trigger on his promotion. That should tell you something, and while he should get an opportunity before long he still needs to prove himself before being summoned from Triple-A.
2) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (3)
(Note: This was written prior to Devers going 2-6 with 1 HR and 2 RBI on Monday night.) The talk right now is that Devers is more likely to head to Triple-A as opposed to directly to the Majors, though that could be more of a smoke screen. With Boston’s third baseman seemingly getting worse, slashing .198/.252/.312, yet the team in the thick of a battle for the division title, it only makes sense to get their best players in the Majors and contributing. Both the current general manager and the team have a history of aggressive promotions, and it’s easy to argue that Devers is deserving having already set a career high in home runs (13 HR) while also making consistent contact (19.0%). Don’t be surprised if he arrives in the next few weeks, even if it comes after a layover at Triple-A.
3) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (2)
It comes as somewhat of a surprise that Fisher was sent back to the minors in order to free up a spot for the returning Josh Reddick. It was a brief first taste, though he didn’t appear to be overmatched at the plate hitting .278 with 2 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB over 5 games. He did strikeout 5 times, which was the biggest concern, but don’t be surprised if he returns to the Majors before long. He simply has more upside than Norichika Aoki, so once the team is prepared to make that move Fisher will return to assume regular AB once again. While there’s no pressure to do so, given the team’s spot in the standings, it makes sense.
4) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (1)
The Mets resisted the opportunity to recall Rosario, when both Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker were placed on the DL. Now with Cabrera set to return soon it appears that Rosario will continue to be pinned at Triple-A. Whether it’s because of his defense or his bat, the latter of which is hard to believe, the Mets seem convinced that he needs more seasoning. Of course at this point it makes sense to wait until they are primed to waive the white flag, otherwise the pressures and cries of him being the “savior” could hurt him.
There are questions about his overall power potential (25.8% fly ball rate) and there’s definitely been some luck in his .327 average (.373 BABIP). However his ability to make contact (16.1% strikeout rate) and speed (12 SB) help to overcome those “negatives”.
5) Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (NR)
St. Louis starting pitchers have been atrocious in June, with Mike Leake (6.62), Michael Wacha (7.53) and Adam Wainwright (11.02) all contributing to the problems. While Weaver hasn’t cracked this list, thanks to the seemingly lack of opportunity, these struggles have changed that. Weaver is certainly deserving of our attention, as he’s shown the trio of skills we look for from any pitcher over his 46.1 IP:
- Strikeouts – 9.91 K/9
- Walks – 1.75 BB/9
- Groundballs – 48.3%
As soon as St. Louis decides it needs a change in the rotation, which could conceivably come at any time, look for Weaver to potentially hit the ground running. While he posted a 5.70 ERA in the Majors last season, which will deter some, his 11.15 K/9 and 2.97 BB/9 showed a much better upside than that.
6) Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees – Third Baseman (NR)
The question will be if the Yankees loss hope in Chase Headley, or should we say how much extra rope he’s earned given the season ending injury to Gleyber Torres. As we discussed yesterday, Andujar is already on the 40-man roster and was recently promoted to Triple-A so the intrigue and potential to make an impact is there. He has the potential to develop into a 25 HR hitter and has shown the ability to make consistent contact at Double-A over the past two seasons:
- 2016 (319 PA) – 13.2%
- 2017 (272 PA) – 14.0%
Improving power + plate discipline = an intriguing prospect for a team in need at the position. An underrated prospect, look for him to start garnering significantly more attention in the coming days.
7) Jae-Gyun Hwang – San Francisco Giants – Third Baseman (6)
This is quickly becoming a lost season for San Francisco, and it makes sense for the team to finally see what they have in Hwang (who they signed in the offseason with the thought of him potentially being the everyday 3B). He’s been solid this season, hitting .280 with plenty of extra base power (17 doubles, 4 triples and 6 HR). He also has been showing improved discipline at the plate, with 15 K vs. 9 BB over 52 AB in June (he had 5 BB over his first 186 AB, including 0 BB in the month of May). It’s a promising development, and there also is a potential opportunity.
Eduardo Nunez has been the team’s only good option at 3B this season, though he’s currently banged up. Even when healthy the team could opt to deploy him as more of a super-utility type (or trade him), seeing AB all around the diamond (he has experience at 2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF).
8) Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Brault made 8 appearances for the Pirates in ’16, though the results were inauspicious (4.86 ERA, 1.86 WHIP). Would he be the first pitcher that struggled initially, only to rebound in their second opportunity (see Jose Berrios, for example)? He was struggling to generate groundballs (45.1%), was walking too many batters (4.59 BB/9) and also had some poor luck (66.7% strand rate, .354 BABIP). He’s corrected those things at Triple-A this season, including a 51.8% groundball rate and 3.27 BB/9, helping him to a 2.18 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. While he may not have the pure stuff of some others, the potential is there to make an impact in the very near future.
9) Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (5)
After a big May (.300/.358/.445), the wheels have fallen off again in June. Through 56 AB he’s hitting .214, right in line with April’s .195 mark. Strikeouts have not been a problem (12 K vs. 8 BB), nor have they been all season long (47 K over 248 AB), but at this point Meadows’ time is running short to force a promotion. With each passing day Starling Marte gets closer to returning from his suspension and the need for Meadows’ arrival grows smaller. Maybe the team will make a trade at the deadline, freeing up playing time (like finally sending Andrew McCutchen packing), but we’ll have to wait and see. For now don’t anticipate his arrival for another few weeks (if at all).
10) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (9)
We continue to keep Lopez as the name on these rankings, but you can argue any of the White Sox’ four top pitching prospects (including Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer and Michael Kopech). The problem is that none of them are forcing Chicago’s hand at the moment, so we continue to wait and see who steps up for a team that desperately needs rotation help.
Others Worth Watching:
- Chance Adams – New York Yankees – Starting Pitcher
- Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop
- Zack Burdi – Chicago White Sox – Relief Pitcher
- Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher
- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
- Tyler O’Neill – Seattle Mariners – Outfielder
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Gleyber Torres – New York Yankees (7)
- Jason Leblebijian – Toronto Blue Jays – Second Baseman (8)
- Erik Fedde – Washington Nationals – Relief Pitcher (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: