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 (1)
Smith isn’t up yet, but it’s just a matter of time before he arrives. Maybe the Mets are hoping to clear a roster spot with an August trade, and they have plenty of candidates, but one way or another Smith will be brought up to the Majors within the next few weeks.
The question remains whether or not he will be able to produce enough power or if he will ultimately profile as more of a James Loney-esque option. He’s currently hitting .331 with 16 HR and 74 RBI, though his 1.76 GO/AO (45.1% groundball rate) is the number that is going to hang over him. He hits the ball hard (28.4% line drive rate) and should be able to be a doubles machine, as he has been at Triple-A with 33, but that doesn’t change the potential limitations.
2) Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (5)
We can argue that Tommy Joseph should not be an impediment to the promotion of Hoskins, but it appears that the Phillies are unwilling to sit down their current first baseman. That said, now that Aaron Altherr has hit the DL the team appears to be exploring other avenues to get Hoskins to the Majors. On Monday he started in left field, and if he proves competent enough at the position he could quickly rise to the Majors. His bat deserves the promotion, entering Monday hitting .280 with 27 HR and 84 RBI. He already has 65 HR over the past two seasons, with a few more to come, and he’s notably dropped his strikeout rate (21.2% to 15.9%) while also maintaining a great walk rate (13.9%).
3) Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (2)
The rumors are that his recall is imminent, which isn’t a surprise considering the struggles of the current rotation. Of course Lopez is also coming off is worst start in over a month, having allowed 4 ER on 4 H and 4 BB over 5.0 innings on Sunday. It’s not a significant concern, though the fact that he coughed up 3 HR highlights the potential issue facing him in the Majors. The owner of 131 K vs. 49 BB over 121.0 IP, he also has a 1.19 HR/9 as he’s struggled to generate many groundballs (36.3%). Pitching in the American League, and in a hitter friendly ballpark, that’s a red flag that we can’t ignore. There is upside, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see him struggle once again.
Note: It’s now official that Lopez will be recalled to make his White Sox debut later this week
4) Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (NR)
Brinson was sent back down to Triple-A, though you could argue that he deserved more of an opportunity. At the same time he continues to struggle with strikeouts in the Majors (30.9% strikeout rate), and that justifies the team’s the decision. He has been better at Triple-A (19.0%), and he may just need time at the level to learn and adjust to what they are trying to do against him. He’s not going to get that at Triple-A, but sooner or later his time will come again. When it does he brings both power and speed to the table, even if he doesn’t improve his strikeout rate (but that should come in time).
5) Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (10)
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team in baseball, so you really have to dig deep if you are going to find a “hole”. That said Joc Pederson has not had a hit since July 28 and continues to struggle at the plate (.229 with 11 HR over 227 AB). Luckily for LA their best prospect can help fill that void, as Verdugo can play all three outfield spots. He’s not a big source of power or speed, though in this lineup he wouldn’t need to be. Instead he just needs to be himself, showing strong plate discipline (9.5% strikeout rate vs. 10.2% walk rate at Triple-A) and help keep the offense moving.
6) Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays – Pitcher (3)
The Rays’ are notoriously slow in promoting their pitching prospects, though Honeywell has now made 19 starts at Triple-A and you could easily argue has little left to prove. Sure he owns a 3.95 ERA, but that’s fueled by poor luck (.380 BABIP) as he’s continued to show strikeouts (11.57 K/9) and control (2.42 BB/9). There was talk of Honeywell assuming the rotation spot vacated by Blake Snell (who was demoted to Triple-A), though that’s not in the cards quite yet. At the same time, with 4 ER over his past 5 starts (27.0 IP), how much longer could it be?
7) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (4)
His first stint in the Majors didn’t go quite as planned, and the team failed to move Jed Lowrie at the deadline to free up playing time. Sooner or later, though, he could force the team’s hand. He just had a six-game multi-hit streak snapped on Sunday, which included home runs in each of its final two games. There are still concerns about his strikeout rate (27.7% at Triple-A), but he brings an intriguing mix of power and speed to the table and should be able to produce at some point.
8) Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitcher (NR)
After struggling out of the bullpen in the Majors, Brault is back at Triple-A and pitching well (on Monday night he tossed 7.0 shutout innings). When a need arises in the Majors it will likely be Tyler Glasnow who gets the first shot to fill it, but could Pittsburgh give two youngsters an opportunity down the stretch? There could easily be questions at the back of the rotation, with Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams filling the final three spots (and Ivan Nova struggling).
Brault is a southpaw who has shown enough strikeouts (8.28 K/9), solid control (3.26 BB/9) and a good groundball rate (1.31 GO/AO). Those are the skills we look for from a starting pitcher, and if he gets his shot he at least could carry streaming appeal.
9) Wily Adames – Tampa Bay Rays – Shortstop (9)
Brad Miller continues to struggle, going 3-18 with 0 HR and 1 RBI over the past seven games (.181 with 2 HR over the past 30 games). With Tim Beckham sent to Baltimore at the deadline and Adames already being on the 40-man roster, it all appears to be lining up for an opportunity. Primarily a shortstop, Adames has played a few games at 2B this season so it’s clear that they are at least considering the option (and with a playoff spot in reach, they need to pull out all of the stops). Adames isn’t going to blow you away in any one category, hitting .268 with 7 HR and 9 SB over 400 AB at Triple-A this season. That said he should contribute a little bit across the board, and makes him well worth watching.
10) Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (8)
As we’ve said it would be an unorthodox move to summon a rookie catcher from Double-A and thrust him into a pennant race, but that shows you just how bad the Cleveland catchers have been this season (.206/.300/.324). If this is in the cards you would think it would come soon, so Mejia has the time to acclimate himself and be prepared and comfortable ahead of the Indians’ march through October. There’s certainly no questioning Mejia’s ability at the plate, as he’s hitting .316 while striking out just 38 times in 272 AB. There are questions about his power, though he’s started to tap into it (12 HR) and could be a difference maker if given the opportunity.
Fell Off The Rankings:
- Chris Shaw – Outfielder – San Francisco Giants (6)
- Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies – Third Baseman (7)
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!