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) Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (2)
Milwaukee finally grew frustrated enough with Keon Broxton to send him down to Triple-A to work out the issues. While Brett Phillips is currently getting a chance to fill the void, it shouldn’t be long until Brinson’s time comes. The Brewers are freefalling, and while Brinson hasn’t been hitting for power he is hitting .364 over his past 10 games and more importantly has just 7 K vs. 5 BB over this stretch (44 AB).
The power is there and developing (22 doubles, 4 triples and 10 HR), and he also has the ability to steal some bases (11-for-16 on the season). There’s a void to fill and Brinson has the potential to contribute across the board and give the team a little bit of a shot in the arm (as opposed to going out and making a trade). His time should be near.
Update: News broke late last night that Brinson would be recalled and join the Brewers today
2) Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (1)
After missing a week Rosario returned to the lineup on Monday and promptly delivered 2 RBI. There’s nothing left for him to prove at Triple-A, as he’s hitting .329 with 7 HR and 17 SB over 368 AB, and the rumors are he could arrive right around August 1. Could he draw a few more walks (5.3% entering Monday)? Absolutely, but it’s not like he’s a strikeout machine (14.7%) and his 10.3% SwStr% shows more than enough plate discipline. He also isn’t going to swing for the fences (51.8%), instead utilizing his speed. His average will regress, due to a drop in BABIP (.372) and a rise in strikeouts, but he should be able to hit .275ish with a little power and some speed.
3) Erick Fedde – Washington Nationals – Starting Pitcher (NR)
After being transitioned to the bullpen earlier in the season the Nationals have begun the process to reconvert him into a starter in the wake of Joe Ross’ season ending injury (and the subsequent injury to Stephen Strasburg). There’s obviously a need (does anyone believe that Edwin Jackson is a realistic solution), so it shouldn’t be long before Fedde is given an opportunity to fill it.
It’s tough to draw conclusions off this season’s numbers, split between Double and Triple-A, thanks to the time spent in the bullpen. That said he’s showing all of the skills we look for, with a 2.06 GO/AO (1.53 over his minor league career), 8.0 K/9 (it’s been down at Triple-A, with a 6.43 mark) and 2.4 BB/9 (2.3 over his minor league career). Pitching in the NL East would only improve his stock and given the time spent in the bullpen an innings limit shouldn’t be an issue (it’ll be in the 150-160 inning range). There’s still a chance the Nationals import an option, but look for Fedde to arrive in short order.
4) Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (8)
We’ve been waiting for the Phillies to turn the page from Tommy Joseph, the move just hasn’t come yet. However with Nick Williams tearing it up and settling into the #3 spot in the batting order, maybe that will help to motivate them to make a move. While Hoskins is hitting .231 over his past 10 games, he’s continued to hit for power (3 HR in his past four games, giving him 23 on the season) and has shown a greatly improved command of the strike zone overall:
- Strikeout Rate – 16.0%
- Walk Rate – 12.6%
That’s a dangerous combination, and the Phillies’ .421 SLG from its first baseman ranks fifth worst in the league. With Joseph struggling again (.216 with 3 HR over the past 30 days), the time for Hoskins’ arrival is near.
5) Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (NR)
There have been some rumblings that the Cardinals could move a starter ahead of the trade deadline (most notably Lance Lynn), and the injury to Adam Wainwright has all but cemented Weaver’s rise. He’s 9-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 66.0 IP at Triple-A and in the process has shown strikeouts (9.41 K/9), elite control (1.91 BB/9) and more than enough groundballs (47.3%). As long as he can maintain the groundball rate, the upside is there to put last season’s miserable time in the Majors behind him (similar to what Jose Berrios has done in Minnesota this season).
6) Dominic Smith – New York Mets – First Baseman (8)
Rumors are starting to grow that the Mets will send Lucas Duda packing in advance of the trade deadline, and that will likely mean the arrival of Smith to fill the void. For his part Smith is trying to prove that he is no match for Triple-A pitching, hitting .337 while growing into his power (albeit in the Pacific Coast League) and becoming an extra base machine (29 doubles, 1 triple and 15 HR). He homered on both Sunday and Monday (5-9, 2 HR), just to try and further force the issue. Throw in a 15.8% strikeout rate, courtesy of a 9.4% SwStr%, and what exactly is there not to like? He’s extremely similar to the Pirates’ Josh Bell, who drew questions about his power potential prior to promotion, and we’ve all seen what he’s developed into.
7) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (4)
Lopez has clearly separated himself from the pack and should be the first pitcher summoned when the team decides to dip into the minor leagues for desperately needed help. He’s now allowed 2 ER or fewer in five straight starts (31.2 IP), lowering his ERA from 4.48 to 3.65, to go along with 39 K vs. 6 BB. There is a chance that home runs are an issue in the Major Leagues (37.7% groundball rate, leading to a 1.02 HR/9 at Triple-A), but that’s been a common theme throughout the league in ’17. He brings strikeouts and control, and while he may not be an elite starter he could easily be a productive one.
8) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (9)
He struggled during his first stint in the Majors (.190 in 42 AB, though he did add 2 HR and 2 SB) and he’s been struggling again lately (.195 over his past 10 games at Triple-A). That said it’s easy to imagine the A’s sliding him into 2B and getting a good look at their future double play combination (now that Marcus Semien is healthy). Maybe it’s a trade that opens up the playing time, or maybe they just decide to take a look regardless, but either wat his time should come. The question is going to be if he can get his strikeout rate under control, because he hasn’t at any level this season:
- Triple-A – 29.9%
- Majors – 39.1%
There is some power and speed, but he won’t hit above .240 if he can’t cut down the strikeouts.
9) Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Second Baseman (10)
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Brandon Phillips’ name has come up in trade talk, and if he is moved Albies could arrive to fill the void (though Sean Rodriguez returning from the DL could slow his ascent). For his part Albies has started growing into some power, with 9 HR (to go along with 18 doubles and 8 triples), and there is no questioning his speed (21-for-23 in SB attempts). His strikeout rate has risen this season, at 20.0%, and his 11.2% SwStr% could indicate that MLB pitchers may further exploit him. With his best asset being his speed, and the fact that he’ll likely hit towards the bottom of the order initially, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him struggle upon reaching the Majors (think Orlando Arcia).
10) Lucas Sims – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The Braves have officially traded Jaime Garcia and moved on from Bartolo Colon, plus rumors are running rampant that Julio Teheran could be moved as well. That all means opportunities for a few of the high upside pitching prospects the team has acquired as part of its rebuild. Sean Newcomb was the first to arrive in ’17, but it looks like Sims and others will soon join him.
Over 110.1 innings at Triple-A in ’17 Sims has shown both strikeouts (10.11 K/9) and control (2.69 BB), the latter having been an issue over the past few seasons. Of course over 160.1 IP at Triple-A the past two seasons he’s allowed a whopping 31 HR (over his minor league career he owns a 0.82 GO/AO). That’s a significant red flag, and while he could make a splash he’ll be tough to trust.
Others Worth Watching:
- Ronald Guzman – Texas Rangers – First Baseman
- Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher
- Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies – Third Baseman
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
- Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder
- Rafael Devers – Boston Red Sox – Third Baseman (3)
- Derek Fisher – Houston Astros – Outfielder (5)
- Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (6)
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Chance Adams – New York Yankees – Starting Pitcher (7)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!