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 Sunday and the number in parenthesis is the ranking from last week):
1) Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (6)
After missing a few days with a minor injury Devers is back in the lineup and raking (9-17, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R over five games, before going 2-5 with 1 HR and 4 RBI on Monday). He has little left to prove at Double-A, so the question is whether he will indeed get pushed to Triple-A or instead right to the Majors to see if he can fill the team’s obvious hole. Boston has two veterans at 3B biding their time, but does anyone believe that they are the answer? Just look at their slashes for the Red Sox’ Triple-A team:
- Jhonny Peralta – .222/.211/.444
- Pablo Sandoval – .220/.264/.340
It’s obvious that they aren’t the solution, and ultimately it will either be Devers or spending additional future assets to acquire someone. The fact is that they should take a look at Devers, and relatively soon, before looking outside the organization.
2) Yoan Moncada – Chicago White Sox – Second Baseman (2)
We looked at Moncada on Monday, as part of our review of our preseason 2B rankings. Instead of saying the same thing, here’s our blurb at the time:
There’s a lot of talent and a lot to like, but there’s a reason Moncada has been pinned at Triple-A all season despite an obvious need in the Majors. Yes he’s up to 10 HR and 15 SB, but he hasn’t had many extra base hits in general (9 doubles and 3 triples) and has struggled with strikeouts (12.5% SwStr%). He’s also shown little growth in the strikeout department as the season has progressed:
- April – 30 K in 86 AB
- May – 20 K in 71 AB
- June – 35 K in 103 AB
He does draw walks, but until he is able to cut down on the strikeouts there will be the risk of him being exposed (like he was in his first taste of the Majors). That risk also drops his ranking slightly, but we all know it can rebound quickly.
He hasn’t struck out in his past three games (through Sunday), but we are going to need to see more of that before fully buying in.
3) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (1)
Despite the obvious need for the Mets, Rosario continues to bide his time at Triple-A. While he “struggled” in June, slashing .237/.285/.360, it didn’t last long as he’s now on a five-game hitting streak (9-23, 3 RBI, 6 R, 1 SB). While he may not offer elite power or elite speed, he does have 15/25 type potential and has continued to make consistent contact despite moving up in levels (16.2% strikeout rate). There’s an awful lot to like, it’s just a matter of the Mets making the move to give him his opportunity. It should come over the next few weeks, as the team tires of running Jose Reyes out there, but for now we’ll have to continue to wait.
4) Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (3)
He’s hit a rough patch since returning to Triple-A, including hitting .146 over his past 10 games. It’s just a small bump in what has been an otherwise impressive Triple-A campaign (.308 with 18 HR and 13 SB). Strikeouts have generally been the biggest concern hanging over him, though his 10.0% SwStr% and 20.1% strikeout rate are both reasonable and hardly an impediment to success. We all know there’s an intriguing blend of power and speed, and with Nori Aoki continuing to underwhelm and Marwin Gonzalez hardly an ideal full-time option in LF there should eventually be an opportunity. It’s just a matter of when the team decides to give it to him.
5) Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Second Baseman (7)
It appears that he’s starting to grow into some power at Triple-A, already piling up 29 extra base hits (15 doubles, 7 triples and 7 home runs). With 33 doubles and 10 triples last season, and still just 20-years old, it’s not a significant surprise. While we wouldn’t expect him to suddenly mature into a 20+ HR hitter, if he can hit 10-12 in the Majors it would be more than enough to go with his speed (20-for-22 in SB attempts). While a 10.2% SwStr% would generally be a concern for a player of his skillset, considering his age and the level he’s playing it’s impressive (20.2% strikeout rate). He still has Brandon Phillips standing in his way, though it’s not like he’s been an All-Star producer (.289/.333/.436) and the rebuilding franchise could opt to give the youngster an opportunity instead (or it’s possible that an injury or trade takes place, opening the spot).
6) Miguel Andujar – New York Yankees – Third Baseman (8)
After his rousing debut (3-4 with 4 RBI) you would’ve thought that Andujar was going to get a real look in the Majors. However the team’s desire to have him regularly penciled in at 3B (and apparently the lack of willingness to shift Chase Headley across the diamond) has led to Andujar returning to Triple-A for the time being.
How long he’s stuck there remains to be seen, but the jump to Triple-A hasn’t slowed him down (.333 with 1 HR over 33 AB). Overall in the minors he’s hitting .315 while showing power potential (26 doubles, 1 triple and 8 HR) and an ability to make consistent contact (43 K over 286 AB). He is aggressive and hasn’t drawn many walks (15), which is something MLB pitchers may be able to capitalize on, but that’s hardly a knock against him.
7) Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (9)
While Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova have done the job, the rest of the rotation is a bit of a mess. Obviously Gerrit Cole is safe, barring a trade (despite his ups and downs), but that still leaves two spots that the team can look to make a move on. While it’s easy to overlook Brault, after he struggled in his opportunity in ’16, he continues to show his skills at Triple-A:
- Strikeouts – 8.46 K/9
- Walks – 3.06 BB/9
- Groundballs – 52.1%
He owns a minor league career 1.24 GO/AO (1.33 this season), 8.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, so it’s easy to see the potential upside in the southpaw. He may not have the stuff to be a top of the rotation ace, but a mid-rotation option is extremely believable. It shouldn’t be much longer before he gets a second opportunity.
8) Scott Kingery – Philadelphia Phillies – Second Baseman (NR)
Cesar Hernandez and Howie Kendrick are both on the DL, and the latter is also a trade candidate if he’s able to get healthy ahead of the trade deadline. That would seem to open an opportunity for Kingery, who could be the next young Phillie to get an opportunity. He’s certainly deserving, as he’s raked at both Double and Triple-A this season:
- Double-A – .313/.379/.608
- Triple-A – .286/.267/.714
Never known for his power, he’s exploded for 22 HR to go along with 21 SB (in just 306 AB). We’ll have to watch his strikeout rate, with 9 K vs. 0 BB in 30 PA (7 games) at Triple-A thus far, but it’s a small sample size and hard to get concerned about. With power and speed, the potential is there to make an impact and the opportunity should soon present itself.
9) Chance Adams – New York Yankees – Starting Pitcher (NR)
When CC Sabathia hit the DL there were calls for Adams’ promotion, but it wasn’t to be at that time. As the team has seen a parade of young hitters arrive in the Majors it’s just a matter of time before they give Adams a chance in the rotation. Splitting time between Double-A (35.0 IP) and Triple-A (52.2 IP) he’s combined for a 1.85 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 90 K and 34 BB. There is going to be the risk of home runs allowed, as he’s not a big-time groundball pitcher (40.0% and 43.7%) and will be calling Yankee Stadium home, there’s an awful lot to like in the other numbers. There could be some bumps but his blend of strikeouts and control should put him on the map.
10) Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (NR)
He recently had his 20-game hitting streak snapped, though he started a new one the next day (1-5). He hasn’t shown much power (3 HR, 21 total extra base hits) or speed (8-for-9 in SB attempts), with his best asset thus far being his ability to make consistent contact (31 K vs. 33 BB over 279 AB). That is important, and shows that his .344 batting average is not a complete fluke (though his .375 BABIP is a bit inflated). While that part is impressive, the problem is that the impact will likely be negligible, despite there potentially being an opportunity, given the carousel of right fielders the team has used, without a true carrying tool.
Others Worth Watching:
- 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
- Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies – Third Baseman
- Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (4)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Tyler Mahle – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher (5)
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (10)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: