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) Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Second Baseman (NR)
Acquired as part of the Yu Darvish trade, the biggest news is that since arriving in Texas Calhoun has been utilized almost exclusively in left field. With Rougned Odor entrenched at second base and Texas left fielders holding the third worst SLG in baseball (.354), to go along with equally miserable .230 AVG and .323 OBP, it makes sense that the Rangers hope to create an alternative.
Calhoun has looked the part since the trade, hitting .282 with 4 HR in 10 games. Overall he’s shown a very good approach, with 53 K vs. 37 BB over 412 AB, and no one is going to question his power (27 HR, as well as 24 doubles and 6 triples). At this point it’s only a matter of time before the Rangers give him an opportunity, especially if they want to see if he can be part of the solution for 2018.
2) Lewis Brinson – Milwaukee Brewers – Outfielder (4)
Brinson continues to struggle in the Majors, hitting .106 with 17 K over 47 AB (and displaying awful plate discipline in the process, with a 17.4% SwStr% and 40.2% walk rate). It has been a much different story during his time at Triple-A, where he’s hit .334 and posted a solid 18.4% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate. What he may simply need is time to play and adjust to how MLB pitchers are attacking him, and that’s not something he’s truly been given. The Brewers are clearly going for it, so you have to wonder if he will be afforded it this season. He brings both power and speed and will certainly be up when rosters expand, if not sooner, though at this point the expected impact for this season is decreasing rapidly.
Note – Brinson recently left a Triple-A game with an apparent injury
3) Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (5)
You could argue that Verdugo would already been in the Majors, though an ill-timed extended cold spell has likely kept him stuck at Triple-A. Just look at the numbers of late:
- July – .244/.323/.372
- August – .188/.278/.344
Currently without extreme power or speed, he needs to be posting a strong average in order to get an opportunity. Of course Joc Pederson hasn’t blown anyone away himself (.216 with 11 HR), which could eventually lead to an opportunity for the rookie.
4) Mitch Garver – Minnesota Twins – Catcher (NR)
Minnesota catchers are hitting an anemic .217/.322/.348, and if that wasn’t enough they also are among the league leaders in passed balls (12) and opposing base runners have been successful on 54 of 73 attempts on the bases. That could easily lead to the team taking a look at Garver, who is hitting .286 with 17 HR (as well as 27 doubles) at Triple-A this season. He’s also shown a solid enough approach, though strikeouts could be an issue (23.2% strikeout rate). With the team somewhat falling out of contention and Garver already having a spot on the 40 man roster, at the very least he should get an opportunity once rosters expand (though it could come even sooner than that).
5) Willy Adames – Tampa Bay Rays – Shortstop (9)
He’s on the 40-man roster and Brad Miller continues to struggle, which could open the door for Adames to make an impact once rosters expand (if not sooner). Of course that doesn’t mean that Adames is a lock to produce, hitting .267 with 7 HR and 9 SB over 420 AB at Triple-A. He has shown an ability to draw a walk (12.3% walk rate this season) and there is a little bit more power for him to tap into (25 doubles and 5 triples), so there’s a chance he arrives and catches fire. He’s not at his ceiling yet, but opportunity and upside could easily equal success.
6) Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (10)
It remains unlikely that the Indians call Mejia up to play a significant role… Or is it? He’s on the 40-man roster, so they could summon him for September and ease him into things (assuming they believe he’s ready defensively). There’s no questioning the abilities at the plate or the need for an upgrade (.207 with 8 HR), and we saw last season that Cleveland would be open to making a catching change late in the season (based on the nixed Jonathan Lucroy trade). While Mejia’s promotion seems unlikely, it may not be as crazy as it seems.
7) Steven Brault – Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitcher (8)
It’s quite likely that Brault isn’t the first in line if/when a starter is needed, as that role should be filled by Tyler Glasnow. Still it’s hard not to be impressed by Brault, who owns a 1.94 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over 120.1 IP at Triple-A. He’s done it with enough strikeouts (109), solid control (44) and some groundballs (1.29 GO/AO). There are certainly questions throughout Pittsburgh’s rotation, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he at least got a few spot starts down the stretch.
8) Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s – Shortstop (7)
He brings an intriguing mix of power and speed (13 HR/10 SB over 412 AB), but you have to make consistent contact in order to tap into those skills. With 126 K over 412 AB at Triple-A, equating to a 28.2% strikeout rate, there’s an obvious red flag that is hanging over him (especially since the number further ballooned upon reaching the Majors, all the way to 39.1%). The A’s could bring him up, regardless of the concerns, and let him and Marcus Semien work together as a double play combination (as is expected to be the case in 2018).
9) Brent Honeywell – Tampa Bay Rays – Pitcher (6)
We recently spoke about Honeywell and why there’s a better chance that he doesn’t arrive in ’17, as opposed to why he would (click here to read the article). The fact is that the Rays are always cautious with their pitching prospects, they could limit his innings and he’s not currently on the 40-man roster. They’ve had their opportunities to get him into the rotation and they’ve opted not to, so it’s hard to believe they will suddenly change course now. Maybe he gets a shot at a reliever, but at the same time if that were to happen his impact would be minimal as well.
10) Chance Adams – New York Yankees – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The injuries to CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, coupled with the way Adams has pitched at Triple-A (2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 88 K, 35 BB over 93.1 IP), gets him a spot on this list. That said there are a few things working against him:
- Innings Limit – He’s already thrown more innings (128.1) than he did last season (127.1)
- 40-Man Roster – He’s not currently on it, and in a deep system they may not want to use a spot if they don’t have to
- Need – Thus far the team has chosen to use the likes of Luis Cessa, plus Tanaka is not expected to be sidelined for long
- Dominic Smith – New York Mets – First Baseman (1)
- Rhys Hoskins – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (2)
- Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (3)
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!