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) Dustin Fowler – Oakland A’s – Outfielder (3)
Mark Canha was filling the role, but as expected his production has taken a step back and he’s hitting .222 with 1 HR over his past seven games (through Monday). There simply is no longer an excuse to keep Fowler down at Triple-A, as he’s hitting .303 with 2 HR (11 total extra base hits) and 8 SB over 122 AB. Even with 6 K over his past two games, he has just 20 K on the season.
If you want to find one negative it’s his 5 BB, which would seemingly remove him as an option atop the batting order, and that’s been a consistent question throughout his development (4.8% walk rate at Triple-A last year). He’s clearly fully recovered from last year’s knee injury, is showing the power/speed potential we’ve heard about and has proven capable of hitting southpaws (10-29 this season, though all 10 hits are singles). The A’s talked about Fowler as an option this spring, and at this point they have little reason not to give him an opportunity.
2) Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (2)
You have to wonder if the White Sox are going to continue to have Kopech groom in the minor leagues, as they aren’t competing for anything today. That said the 22-year old has made 9 starts (45.0 IP) at Triple-A after making 22 starts (119.1 IP) at Double-A. He likely will get a few more starts in the minors, but after he gets to 15 or 20? They are going to run out of reasons, partly because how inept the bulk of their rotation has looked (league worst 5.61 ERA):
- Carson Fulmer – 4.94
- James Shields – 5.01
- Lucas Giolito – 7.03
If the White Sox were actually competitive Kopech would already be up, but as of today they don’t need to force the issue.
3) Jalen Beeks – Boston Red Sox – Starting Pitcher (9)
With David Price being scratched from his Wednesday start, speculation of a Beeks recall is going to grow. It makes sense with the way he’s throwing the baseball, with at least 8 K in each of his five starts (46 K over 26.1 IP). That alone would grab your attention, but the fact that he’s paired it with an impressive 2.39 BB/9 (46 K vs. 7 BB) while not benefitting from any luck (.327 BABIP, 74.2% strand rate) makes it more impressive. There is going to be some risk of home run issues (39.6% groundball rate), especially in the AL East, but there’s more than enough to like. It appears that he’s even closer to arriving, with a recall potentially coming any day. While you may want to be cautious initially (especially if he draws the Yankees), in most starts he’ll be well using.
4) Christin Stewart – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (5)
He continues to hit, at .351 over his past 10 games and currently riding a 12-game hitting streak (20-46, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 9 R). The big key has been an improvement in his strikeout rate, despite making the jump to Triple-A, as he currently has a 17.8% mark against a 10.2% walk rate. Always a source of power, that type of number should allow him to at least hit .270, making him a highly intriguing option once he’s summoned.
You have to wonder what more he needs to do for his time to come, with Detroit left fielders continue to struggle (.185/.230/.308) and Leonys Martin now hitting the DL. The Tigers have chosen to bring Mikie Mahtook back to help man CF, and there are questions around Stewart’s defensive ability. Still, it seems like a recall could come at any moment, so he needs to be squarely on all radars.
5) Corbin Burnes – Milwaukee Brewers – Right-Handed Pitcher (NR)
The Brewers lost Wade Miley to the DL and while they have alternatives (like Brandon Woodruff), Burnes has to be considered an option (assuming they can find a spot for him on the 40-man roster). His surface numbers don’t inspire much hope (4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP), but he continues to show strikeouts (9.66 K/9), control (2.84 BB/9) and groundballs (53.5%). That skillset will play and his biggest problem has been luck and little else (.341 BABIP, 67.8% strand rate). With a potential need and championship aspirations the Brewers will want to give themselves the best chance possible to get a W. Burnes represents that, it’s just a matter of them clearing the way.
6) Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds – Third Baseman (1)
We continue to wait for Senzel, widely considered one of the top prospects in the game, to arrive but the question of where he fits looms large. The Reds didn’t force the issue when Eugenio Suarez landed on the DL and while Scooter Gennett recently had his own injury scare he’s back on the field and contributed home runs both Monday and Tuesday. There’s no question that Senzel’s future lies at 2B as of today, and he’ll have to continue to work at the position (13 games played there) and wait for an opportunity. Maybe it’s a trade or an injury, but for now Senzel will bide his time and ply his craft at Triple-A.
7) Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros – Outfielder (4)
He continues to hit, currently at .299 with 2 HR and 4 SB over 117 AB. Sure we’d like to see more power, but he does have 10 doubles and has shown a good approach (20.9% strikeout rate, 10.4% walk rate). There is some risk in his strikeout rate (12.0% SwStr%), but he brings both power and speed and Houston has been looking for an answer in left field. It’s possible they go to a “bridge” solution, continuing to give Tucker an opportunity to learn and mature at Triple-A before thrusting him into the spotlight later in the year. The fact that he hasn’t been forced into the Majors makes that a potential reality, but he has as much upside as anyone and belongs.
8) Austin Hays – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder (NR)
He’s finally shown signs of life, and while his seven-game hitting streak (9-30, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R) was snapped at least it’s a step in the right direction. Considering the issues Baltimore is having overall, you know they are heading towards tearing it down and looking towards the future. That means getting Hays more exposure at the highest level, to get him acclimated and ready to thrive. The only thing that had kept him off the rankings was how badly he had been struggling, but with things turning his time should grow near.
9) Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies – First Baseman (NR)
The Rockies’ usage of McMahon, or lack thereof, during his stay in the Majors was curious. It always made sense for him to be at Triple-A getting regular work if they weren’t going to use him, and after shaking off a bit of rust he’s turned things up over his past three games (5-13, 5 RBI, 3 R). There is no question that his bat is ready, it’s just a matter of the Rockies clearing the playing time for him. It should happen at some point soon, whether it’s an injury or another reason, so while it was a disappointing start he should get another chance and be able to deliver.
10) Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Outfielder (8)
The fact that, despite the slew of injuries, Calhoun remained planted at Triple-A tells us the Rangers are going to stay the course and give him the time they feel is necessary. They cited work on his defense as the reason for keeping him down, and that could be the case, though his offensive struggles can’t be helping things (.252 with 3 HR). He’s shown some signs of turning things around (7-21 over a current five-game hitting streak), though he’s also gone 14 straight games without a home run. Maybe it comes in bunches and he’ll force the Rangers hand, but if he’s not hitting he’s going to continue to work things out at Triple-A as opposed to in the Majors.
Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (7)
Flaherty finds himself back at Triple-A, waiting for his next opportunity to crack the MLB roster. With Adam Wainwright nearing a return it looks like it’s going to take another injury for that to happen, though given his age and recent history would another trip to the DL for Wainwright be a real surprise? It’s easy to argue that Flaherty has little left to prove at Triple-A, with a 2.61 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 113 K and 31 BB over 110.1 IP (19 starts). That said he’ll continue to bide his time and await the call to come again.
Graduated/Dropped Off The Rankings:
- Wily Adames – Tampa Bay Rays – Shortstop (6)
- Luiz Gohara – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher (10)
Others We’re Watching:
- Sandy Alcantara – Miami Marlins – Pitcher
- Peter Alonso – New York Mets – First Baseman
- Jake Bauers – Tampa Bay Rays – First Baseman/Outfielder
- Hunter Dozier – Kansas City Royals – Third Baseman
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays – Third Baseman
- Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder
- Austin Meadows – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder
- Austin Riley – Atlanta Braves – Third Baseman
- Ryan Cordell – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder
- Rookie Davis – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
- 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: