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) Dominic Smith – New York Mets – First Baseman (6)
The assumption was that once Lucas Duda was up dealt (he ultimately landed in Tampa Bay) Smith would instantly be recalled to fill the void at first base. If we’ve learned anything from the Mets’ handling of Amed Rosario it is that the team will keep to their timelines as opposed to feeling pressure to bring a prospect up sooner than desired.
That said, Smith could be recalled at any time and he certainly will be up by mid-August. The biggest question has always been his ability to tap into his power, and playing in a hitter friendly environment he’s racked up 33 doubles, 2 triples and 16 HR to go along with a .340 average and a solid 16.3% strikeout rate. There’s clearly power, and in time he’ll get there, but for now expect him to post more like 5-7 HR upon his arrival (at best) given the home ballpark. That doesn’t mean there won’t be value, as he certainly can handle the bat, but he may not be your prototypical 1B quite yet.
2) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (7)
He continues to turn his season around, now having allowed 2 ER or fewer in seven straight starts. He owns a solid 3.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, to go along with 122 K vs. 45 BB over 116.0 IP. He’s separated himself from the deep pack of White Sox’ pitching prospects and should get the call at any time. As it is White Sox’ starters own the third worst ERA (5.13 ERA) and have the second fewest strikeouts (432), ahead of only the Minnesota Twins (421). Why would they keep running out guys like James Shields (6.19 ERA), Derek Holland (5.42 ERA) or Mike Pelfrey (4.81 ERA) when they don’t have to?
3) Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays – Pitcher (NR)
The Rays are generally cautious with their pitching prospects, but Honeywell has now made 18 starts at Triple-A and could be deemed ready to help the big club as they try to surprisingly make the playoffs. While his 4.06 ERA isn’t going to impress you, he has 121 K vs. 27 BB and should have plenty of innings left in the tank (he’s thrown 108.1 innings in ’17, and should be able to get into the 160-165 range). It’s easy to argue that he’s a better option than Austin Pruitt and Blake Snell continues to struggle to find himself in the Majors, so the opportunities are there. Given the unfamiliarity and the uniqueness of his repertoire, there could be some instant success.
4) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (8)
His first taste of the Majors was bad, but he’s started picking things back up at Triple-A (.341 over his past 10 games) and has seen time at 2B. That’s where he’ll fit in, joining Marcus Semien in the middle infield. The A’s have clearly turned the page to the next chapter, with the trade of Sonny Gray, and now is the time to let the fans get a glimpse of it. Barreto’s strikeouts are the biggest concern, though he appears to be getting those under control as well (4 K over his past 8 games). If he can keep that up (he had a 12.3% SwStr% and 38.9% O-Swing% in the Majors), he could hit .260+ to go along with an intriguing mix of power and speed.
5) Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (4)
We’ve often compared him to Dominic Smith, but the difference is Philadelphia kept Tommy Joseph at the deadline and that does complicate things slightly. You could argue that it shouldn’t, because Joseph is a one-trick pony with poor plate discipline and isn’t the future at the position. Hoskins, on the other hand, has taken a huge step forward showing off his power (24 HR) and much improved plate discipline (70 K vs. 59 BB over 370 AB at Triple-A). It’s possible he doesn’t arrive until September, especially with Joseph putting up a strong July (.281 with 3 HR and 15 RBI), but the team needs to know if Hoskins is capable of doing the job in ’18 and should take a look at him at some point.
6) Chris Shaw – Outfielder – San Francisco Giants (NR)
He’s generally been seen as a first baseman (the presence of Brandon Belt takes that out of the equation), but he’s played 68 games in left field this season and that’s a position of obvious need (Giants’ left fielders have combined to hit .239 with 7 HR and 8 SB on the season). Shaw, splitting time between Double and Triple-A, would certainly bring an upgrade to the spot as he’s hitting .291 with 17 HR and 60 RBI. Strikeouts are going to be a concern, with 71 K over 225 AB at Triple-A, but he also could provide an answer for ’18 and beyond. If the team is comfortable with him defensively, look for Shaw to be up at some point and give the fans something to cheer for over the final few weeks.
7) Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies – Third Baseman (NR)
If there was a clear route to playing time McMahon would likely already be in the Majors. He’s certainly looked deserving with his bat, hitting .362 with 17 HR and 77 RBI (as well as 36 doubles and 3 triples) between Double and Triple-A. There’s been some luck behind it, but his strikeout rate has dropped upon reaching Triple-A (19.0% to 15.9%) and that’s always a good sign. The question is, where will he play? He’s seen time at three different positions this season, and all appear occupied in the Majors:
- First Base – Mark Reynolds
- Second Base – D.J. LeMahieu
- Third Base – Nolan Arenado
Injuries could change things, but 1B appears to be his best shot. That said, it all depends on the timing of Ian Desmond’s return and what the team’s plans are. They have ample outfield options (including Gerardo Parra and Raimel Tapia), and that would push Desmond to 1B (which was the plan upon signing him). Keep the name in the back of your mind, but a promotion doesn’t appear imminent.
8) Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (NR)
We’ve talked about how his arrival is a bit of a long shot, given the position he plays and the fact that he’s still at Double-A. That said the Indians hold a mere 2.0 game lead over the surging Kansas City Royals and have literally gotten no production out of their catching duo (.210/.304/.330). Mejia is already on the 40-man roster and would the Indians let the season slip away when they could potentially upgrade their roster without making a trade? After missing about a week due to injury, Mejia has returned and picked right back up where he left off (3-10, 2 RBI, 2 R). One of the best hitters in the minors, regardless of position, if the team is comfortable with him behind the plate Mejia should be up in an effort to help spark the team towards another deep October run.
9) Wily Adames – Tampa Bay Rays – Shortstop (NR)
Tampa Bay’s move to send Tim Beckham to Baltimore flew generally under-the-radar, but it ultimately could clear a spot for the team’s top hitting prospect to come up and make an impact. Generally a shortstop, Adames has seen time at 2B (6 games) and with Brad Miller struggling to match last year’s production the team could look to make a change. Adames isn’t going to blow you away in any one category, but he has 10/10 potential (7 HR and 8 SB this season) and could contribute across the board.
10) Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (NR)
There were a lot of rumors heading into the Trade Deadline, but the Dodgers kept to their word and Verdugo is still part of the organization. Chris Taylor has been a great story, but is there any guarantee that he keeps up this type of production? At the very least Verdugo could form an intriguing platoon partner, having raked against right-handed pitching this season at Triple-A (.337/.399/.447). Of course Verdugo doesn’t bring much power (4 HR) or speed (8 SB) at this point, but with more walks (42) than strikeouts (38) he has the makings of a tremendous AVG/OBP option and a complimentary piece to the lineup.
- Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (1)
- Amed Rosario – New York Mets – Shortstop (2)
- Erick Fedde – Washington Nationals – Starting Pitcher (3)
- Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (5)
- Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Second Baseman (9)
- Lucas Sims – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher (10)
Fell Off The Rankings:
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!