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 Monday):
1) Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds – Third Baseman (4)
He gave us an injury scare recently, but it clearly wasn’t a significant issue as he’s back on the field and producing (he delivered a HR on Monday). With Scooter Gennett banged up, if he’s forced to land on the DL you have to wonder if it will finally be Senzel-time. They opted not to bring him up when Eugenio Suarez was sidelined, partly due to chatter of them not wanting to shift him back to 3B, and while they did give him time there (7 games) he’s primarily been a second baseman this season (12 games). Without that excuse and with him warming up at the plate (.306 over his past 10 games, with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 1 SB in his past three) they won’t have that excuse this time around. Monitor the news, but it appears his time is near.
2) Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (3)
The biggest question has always been his control, but that hasn’t been the case to date (29 K vs. 7 BB over 21.0 IP at Triple-A). No one is about to question Kopech’s stuff, and it’s also obvious that they have a need (Lucas Giolito owns a 7.71 ERA, Miguel Gonzalez owns a 12.41). They can try to piece it together with the Dylan Covey’s or Chris Volstad’s of the world, but we all know that they aren’t solutions.
We’ve watched numerous high-end starters getting the call of late, and you would think it is only a matter of time before Kopech gets his shot. He has the potential to stick once the time comes, and that makes him well worth the immediate stash.
3) Dustin Fowler – Oakland A’s – Outfielder (10)
You would’ve thought that Fowler already would have been given an opportunity, considering the preseason chatter and the lack of production the team has received in centerfield (.214/.274/.439). If they had been waiting for him to prove that he was all the way back from his significant knee injury, you have to start wondering what he has left to do. He’s hitting .341 over his past 10 games, including 3+ hits in three of his past five. He’s now slashing .309/.333/.464 with 9 extra base hits (5 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HR) and 6 SB (he’s been caught once). Even better is his 12 K over 97 AB, entering Monday with a solid 9.7% SwStr%. He’s not necessarily as good as some of the others on this list (i.e. Kyle Tucker), but he should arrive in short order and that’s why he’s positioned where he is.
4) Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros – Outfielder (2)
Houston left fielders continue to scuffle, slashing .200/.291/.337, though Derek Fisher has finally shown some signs of turning things around (.294 with 2 HR over his past seven games). That’s what Houston has been waiting for, and even if they opt to dip into the minors for another alternative it’s possible they look towards a “bridge” solution as opposed to immediately tabbing Tucker as the option.
Regardless, after a slow start at Triple-A Tucker is starting to find his footing as well. With hits in eight of his past nine games (15-41, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 11 R) he’s raised his average from .235 to .293 and he’s continuing to show power potential (9 doubles and 2 HR). Strikeouts are something we will have to monitor closely (he entered Monday with an 11.7% SwStr%), but he’s shown improvement from last season (13.2% SwStr%) and that’s the real key. Developing into a potential five-category producer, he should arrive right around the All-Star Break (if not sooner).
5) Christin Stewart – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (NR)
Last week he appeared on the debut of our “Prospect Deep Diving” (click here for the article), but he’s forcing the issue and should no longer just be viewed as a deep league option. He’s currently on a five-game hitting streak (12-19, 2 HR, 8 RBI) and considering his 13 K vs. 11 BB it would appear like he’s cleaned up his strikeout issues (and his 9.8% SwStr% backs it up).
No one has ever questioned Stewart’s power, and he’s currently carrying a .568 SLG (5 doubles, 1 triple, 4 HR). With Detroit left fielders posting a .182/.241/.293 slash line and Jacoby Jones failing to grab hold of his opportunity, Stewart’s time should be coming quickly.
6) Wily Adames – Tampa Bay Rays – Shortstop (NR)
Adames has only played SS thus far at Triple-A in ’18, but you have to wonder if the team will want to move on from Adeiny Hechavarria or if they value his defense there (he’s also hitting .284, but he is a trade candidate). That said 2B (Joey Wendle has produced, but he’s not the long-term answer) and 3B (though Matt Duffy just recently returned from the DL) could be different situations. Either way, with Adames producing (.315/.411/.507) he could force the issue. One of the team’s top prospects, they certainly could use a boost to what has overall been a fairly anemic offense.
7) Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Flaherty has been on the Triple-A to the Majors shuttle this season, stepping in when a rotation spot is available and quickly being sent back down afterwards. He struggled with his control in his most recent MLB outing (5.0 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 4 BB, 2 K), and that’s been a consistent issue when he has gotten the call (4.31 BB/9 over 31.1 IP in the Majors). It hasn’t been a problem at Triple-A (2.53 and 1.35 BB/9 over the past two years). While he has shown strikeout stuff, he also owns a minor league 0.92 GO/AO so you have to wonder if home runs will be an issue as well (1.69 HR/9 over 21.1 IP in the Majors last season). That’s not a good combination, and until he proves he can throw strikes at the highest level the upside on him has got to be considered limited.
8) Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Outfielder (9)
The claim has been that Calhoun has been kept down to work on his defense, though it’s not like he’s been lighting it up offensively either. That helps to justify Texas’ decision to keep him pinned at Triple-A, but sooner rather than later their hands will ultimately be forced. Maybe it’s Calhoun starting to hit… Maybe it’s the MLB struggles getting too big… One way or the other, you would think his time will come.
9) Jalen Beeks – Boston Red Sox – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Beeks may not be the most well-known pitching prospect, but he’s going to start garnering a lot of attention with 37 K (at least 8 K per start) vs. 6 BB over 19.2 IP top open the year at Triple-A. The owner of an impressive 17.0% SwStr%, we have to wonder if this is maintainable or if it is just a hot start. Last season he did own an 11.3% SwStr%, including a 10.4% over 17 starts at Triple-A. With 21 starts at the highest level of the minors it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox needing to see much more from the former 12th round draft pick. His ceiling may not be that of other prospects, and he’s going to call a tough division home, but when an opening arises he should get the opportunity to show what he can do.
10) Luiz Gohara – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Gohara was expected to open the year as part of the rotation before an injury struck. He’s gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A as he’s worked himself back (6 BB over 11.1 IP across three starts), and that has put him behind Mike Soroka in the short-term. Once he is healthy and ready to go there’s a good chance that Gohara joins him in the MLB rotation, having made 5 starts in the Majors last season, but time will tell.
Graduated/Dropped Off The Rankings:
- Ronald Acuna – Atlanta Braves – Outfielder (1)
- Austin Hays – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder (5)
- Michael Soroka – Atlanta Braves – Pitcher (6)
- Sandy Alcantara – Miami Marlins – Pitcher (7)
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (8)
Others We’re Watching:
- Peter Alonso – New York Mets – First Baseman
- Jake Bauers – Tampa Bay Rays – First Baseman/Outfielder
- Hunter Dozier – Kansas City Royals – Third Baseman
- Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder
- Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder
- Ryan Cordell – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder
- Rookie Davis – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
- Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher
- Victor Robles – Washington Nationals – Outfielder
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here. Also don’t miss all of our 2018 Preseason Positional Prospect Lists: