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 (4)
The wait continues for Rosario’s arrival, and with Asdrubal Cabrera requesting a trade maybe the time is growing closer (if the Mets are able to find an acceptable return for him). Of course Rosario has picked an inopportune to finally start slumping (.195 over his past 10 games, .231 overall in June), but the team’s reasoning for not recalling him (at least publicly) is that when he arrives they want him to be primed to stay. If Cabrera is no longer in the mix, that should be the case.
The same thing can be said when it comes to fellow prospect Dominic Smith, who has Lucas Duda standing in his way. Smith could quickly become deserving of a spot here, if it looks like Duda will be jettisoned, but for now we’ll have to wait and see.
2) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (1)
Strikeouts… Strikeouts… Strikeouts… They continue to plague him, as does a lack of overall extra base hits, and is likely the reason Moncada remains pinned at Triple-A for the rebuilding franchise. Sooner or later something is going to give, and over his past 10 games he’s at least showing signs of improvement with 10 K vs. 10 BB over 42 AB. It’s a clear step, and a favorable one as he’s hit .357 with 2 HR and 2 SB over this span. There’s no questioning the potential, and when he arrives he’s going to make an impact, though he also could struggle initially (as he did a year ago) if he can’t keep the strikeouts in check.
3) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (3)
Fisher has struggled since returning to Double-A (1-13 over four games), but to an extent you have to give him a pass. You could argue that he deserved to stay in the Majors, after hitting .278 with 2 HR over his five game stay, and there is no doubt that he’s going to get another opportunity once the team opts to replace Norichika Aoki. It’s not to say that there aren’t areas to improve (he had 5 K over his 18 AB in the Majors), but you can argue that it was more of an adjustment period than anything. The owner of power and speed, Fisher has posted a solid 9.7% SwStr% at Triple-A this season and has now proven he can produce. It’s just a matter of when Houston opts to give him another shot.
4) Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (5)
After missing time due to injury Weaver took the mound recently, allowing 1 H and 2 BB over 3.2 IP. While it was a limited start, his 2.16 ERA and 0.98 WHIP show how productive he’s been. He’s also checked off all the boxes we look for from a pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 9.72 K/9
- Walks – 1.98 BB/9
- Groundballs – 48.0%
With the Cardinals’ rotation seemingly in shambles, as Lance Lynn (5.96 ERA), Michael Wacha (6.87 ERA prior to Monday’s strong start) and Adam Wainwright (8.10 ERA) have stumbled through June, the time has come for a shakeup. Why not give Weaver a shot and see if he can spark some life into the team before the dream of challenging for the playoffs completely slips away?
Jack Flaherty could also be an option here, though we’ll give Weaver the edge.
5) Tyler Mahle – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The Reds’ continue to cycle through their starting pitchers, and with Brandon Finnegan set to hit the DL it appears that a rotation spot is about to become available. Mahle has spent the bulk of 2017 at Double-A, just recently making his Triple-A debut, but as we saw with the promotion of Luis Castillo that’s not a hindrance. For his part Mahle’s production would justify the move:
- Double-A – 1.59 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 9.21 K/9, 1.80 BB/9 (85.0 IP)
- Triple-A – 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 13.50 K/9, 1.50 BB/9 (6.0 IP)
Obviously we aren’t going to put much stock in the Triple-A marks, and you can argue that there was some luck at Double-A (88.4% strand rate, .245 BABIP). The metrics, though, bring hope with an 11.2% SwStr%, 19.2% line drive rate and 18.6% IFFB. There’s going to be a lot to like when the opportunity comes.
6) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (2)
Speculation is running wild as to what Boston will do at the hot corner. One thing is obvious, with Michael Chavis now at Double-A Devers isn’t long for the level. The question is if he will be pushed to Triple-A (where Jhonny Peralta, who was recently signed, and the rehabbing Pablo Sandoval are manning the position) or if he will be brought directly to the Majors. There also is the potential for a trade prior to the deadline, but to an extent that helps support a quicker promotion. Why spend future assets when you already have the answer waiting? The problem is you won’t know if he can handle the position unless you give him enough time, and that’s why a promotion sooner rather than later makes sense. (However reports are that he’s currently nursing a knee injury, so that will slow his ascent.)
For his part Devers has tried to force the issue, hitting .291 with 14 HR and 45 RBI over 251 AB. With a reasonable strikeout rate (52 K) and a lot of extra base hits (17 doubles and 3 triples), no one is questioning the upside of the 20-year old.
7) Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Second Baseman (NR)
While he’s currently blocked by Brandon Phillips, that shouldn’t be a significant issue for the rebuilding Braves. With Sean Newcomb being the first youngster to get an opportunity in the Majors, there will be more promotions on the horizon. Albies has done a good job of raising his batting average with each passing month, and there’s no questioning his ability:
- April – .255
- May – .275
- June – .290
Considering he’s playing at Triple-A at 20-years old his overall 10.0% strikeout rate is impressive, and his 11 K over 69 AB in June shows the strides he’s taken. Throw in the speed (18-for-20 in SB attempts) and the value is obvious.
8) Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees – Third Baseman (6)
The promotion to Triple-A hasn’t slowed Andujar’s production, as he’s hitting .364 with 1 HR over his first six games (after hitting .312 with 7 HR in 253 AB at Double-A). Even more impressive than the surface numbers? He has not struck out yet since arriving at Triple-A (after posting a 14.0% strikeout rate at Double-A). It’s not to say that there aren’t concerns, as he doesn’t draw many walks (4.4% at Double-A) and doesn’t bring extreme power.
That said, the Yankees have a need at both corner infield spots and the loss of Gleyber Torres opens up an opportunity. Instead of going outside the organization could the team take a look at Andujar, pushing Headley across the diamond (or out of the lineup)? If he continues to hit like he is, and the Yankees continue to stumble, the calls for his arrival will grow louder.
9) Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (8)
Pittsburgh’s starters haven’t been terrible in June, though it’s easy to imagine Trevor Williams (5.09 ERA overall before yesterday’s start) being replaced. While Brault struggled in his first taste of the Majors in ’16 it’s easy to argue that he deserves another opportunity. The southpaw has proven adept at generating strikeouts (8.29 K/9) and groundballs (51.4%) over 80.1 IP at Triple-A this season and the control is enough as well (3.36 BB/9). He may not be quite this good (he owns a 2.24 ERA and 1.18 WHIP), but there’s an opportunity and he deserves to get it (as opposed to going back to Tyler Glasnow).
10) Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (NR)
Putting Mejia on this list is a bit of a longshot, but Cleveland showed that they were willing to make a change at catcher last season (and that almost came at the expense of Mejia). Cleveland catchers have been abysmal this season, slashing .205/.285/.315, so it’s possible that they again look for an upgrade (especially since the combination of Yan Gomes & Rafael Perez aren’t necessarily the best defensive duo in the league). Mejia is one of the best hitting prospects, regardless of position, though his 7 passed balls shows that he does need some work defensively. However with Cleveland 0.5 game back of first place, and only 2.0 games ahead of the Royals entering play on Monday, they may look to get any improvement they can. After trading significant assets for that purpose a year ago, they may simply look within this time around.
Others Worth Watching:
- Chance Adams – New York Yankees – Starting Pitcher
- Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder
- Zack Burdi – Chicago White Sox – Relief Pitcher
- Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher
- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman
- Jae-Gyun Hwang – San Francisco Giants – Third Baseman (7)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder (9)
- Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: