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) Christin Stewart – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (4)
Stewart has emerged as one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues, with 6 HR and 11 RBI over his past 10 games. Overall at Triple-A he’s hitting .304 with 11 HR and 27 RBI, as he’s checking off all the boxes and answering the questions that had been facing him:
- Strikeouts – 16.8% strikeout rate and 10.2% SwStr% in ’18 (compared to 24.9% and 12.2% at Double-A in ’17)
- Defense – Jeff Seidel of The Detroit Free Press (click here for the article) recently published the following quote, “His defense is fine,” Mientkiewicz said. “He’s made plays. His arm is accurate. He has thrown guys out. He works on it every day.”
The outfield appears full and will get more crowded when Leonys Martin returns from the DL, though Mikie Mahtook and Jacoby Jones are no guarantee to produce. There’s also the potential the team moves on from the struggling Victor Martinez, which would open the DH spot and give a boost to a lineup that desperately needs it. He’s going to be up, and it should be soon, and you can argue that his upside is greater than the recently recalled Franmil Reyes of San Diego.
2) Ryan McMahon – Colorado Rockies – First Baseman (9)
The Rockies’ usage of McMahon was curious during his time in the Majors, but a clear path to playing time could quickly present itself. With D.J. LeMahieu hitting the DL once again, maybe it’s coincidence that McMahon started at 2B both Sunday and Monday. Could the team be getting him reacclimated to the position to bring him up and plug him into the lineup? It would make sense, though so would taking over for the struggling Ian Desmond (.150 with 2 HR in May). Either way, there are two clear paths to playing time and McMahon is producing at the plate (five multi-hit games in his past nine). Maybe the team will wait for the extra base hits to start presenting themselves (3 doubles in 50 AB at Triple-A), but it shouldn’t be long before he returns to the Majors with regular AB in hand.
3) Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros – Outfielder (7)
Houston left fielders continue to struggle, slashing .206/.288/.362. We continue to wait for Marwin Gonzalez and Derek Fisher to warm up, though it just hasn’t happened (Gonzalez is currently hitting .209 with 1 HR in May, for instance). With the Angels prepared to battle them all season long (they were tied atop the AL West after Monday), how much longer will Houston keep a potentially better option pinned down at Triple-A?
Maybe they utilize a “bridge” option in the short-term, but Tucker is currently hitting .292 with 3 HR and 4 SB overall and represents a potentially significant upgrade at the spot. The key is going to be making consistent contact (20.2% strikeout rate at Triple-A currently, though an 11.2% SwStr% indicates a bit of risk), because there is ample power/speed potential (25 HR/21 SB last season).
4) Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Outfielder (10)
He hasn’t been hitting for power (3 HR in the Pacific Coast League), though that has never been a question and we’d expect it to ultimately present itself again. He is hitting .350 over his past 10 games (.340 with 4 K over 50 AB in May), so it’s clear that he’s finally starting to figure things out. With Adrian Beltre potentially DL bound once again, could the Rangers this time opt to shift Joey Gallo back to the hot corner and summon Calhoun to man LF? They’ve resisted thus far, citing Calhoun’s defense, but the fact that he’s finally starting to hit could help to expedite the process.
5) Tyler O’Neill – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder (NR)
His first taste of the Majors in ’18 didn’t go well (0-7), but it shouldn’t be long before he returns. He’s certainly making his case, with home runs in three straight games (4 HR over this streak) and hitting .333 with 13 HR overall. You can point to a few red flags, like only 3 doubles (though his power isn’t a question) and 2 walks (as compared to 25 strikeouts). Those are fair points and they could haunt him at the highest level. That said how much longer will they opt to run Dexter Fowler out there (.146), and after giving him a few days off to clear his head if he doesn’t start hitting soon the plug could be pulled. That should mean a return for O’Neill, and with the way he’s slugging at the moment the potential is there to make an instant impact.
6) Kolby Allard – Atlanta Braves – Pitcher (NR)
The Atlanta Braves are already deploying Sean Newcomb and Michael Soroka as part of their rotation, but could another prized prospect soon join them? Or maybe replace them? Luiz Gohara is currently working out of the bullpen and maybe he gets the first shot at replacing Brandon McCarthy, but with the way Allard is going right now his time may not be far off. Over his first seven starts he owns a 1.71 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, though the underlying numbers does bring question:
- Strikeouts – 6.86 K/9
- Control – 2.79 BB/9
- Groundballs – 44.5%
There is significantly more upside in the strikeout rate, considering his 10.8% SwStr%. His control has been consistent as he’s advanced (2.70 BB/9 at Double-A in ’17) and his groundball rate has been improving. According to Baseball America a lot of his success this season has come due to the development of his changeup, giving him another weapon. The Braves could give him more time to develop, but surprisingly in contention it is also likely to be all hands on deck.
7) Willy Adames – Tampa Bay Rays – Shortstop (NR)
Joey Wendle and Daniel Roberts appeared to form a solid platoon in April, but since the calendar has turned to May both of their production has plummeted:
- Wendle – .194 (6-31), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB
- Robertson – .083 (2-24), 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 0 SB
Brad Miller is also an option, but he’s hitting .229 overall (he’s at .229 with 2 HR in May) and can’t be seen as a significant roadblock. Adames is currently on a nine-game hitting streak (14-38, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB), though that helps show both the positives and negatives. He can hit, but what else does he bring to the table? At Triple-A in ’17 he had 10 HR and 11 SB, and while he’s just 22-years old we are talking about a 10/10 ceiling currently (3 HR, 2 SB in ’18). There’s value, but that doesn’t make him a difference maker either.
8) Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox – Starting Pitcher (2)
It had seemed inevitable that Kopech would be recalled, but he’s struggled mightily over his past two starts with his control going south (8 BB over 6.1 IP). That’s not a typo, as he hasn’t gone past 3.1 IP in each of his past two starts, including allowing 8 ER on 5 H and 4 BB over 3.1 IP in his most recent outing. That’s ugly, and he now owns a 4.59 BB/9 over 33.1 IP, and when you couple that with the lack of an elite groundball rate (42.1%) there’s suddenly a lot of risk. Sure the strikeouts are there, but he clearly needs more development time and the White Sox have no reason not to afford him that. He only has 48.1 innings at Triple-A, and he should be given plenty of more time before being summoned at this point.
9) Jalen Beeks – Boston Red Sox – Starting Pitcher (3)
With David Price seemingly avoiding the DL the arrival of Beeks doesn’t appear to be imminent, but he also continues to get the job done and soon could force Boston’s hand. He allowed 2 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 6.0 IP in his most recent outing, giving him 59 K vs. 10 BB over 37.1 IP at Triple-A this season. Many question whether his strikeout total will translate to the Majors and there’s no question that there could be a risk of home runs (0.83 GO/AO), but he’ll have Boston’s offense behind him and that can’t go overlooked. He’s not quite this good (1.93 ERA, 0.96 WHIP), but he has the potential to make an impact when the time comes.
10) Luis Urias – San Diego Padres – Second Baseman (NR)
The Padres continue to cycle through second base options, with Jose Pirela currently getting the opportunity to run with the role (given the logjam that’s been created in the outfield). Can he continue to hold down the spot? Will the Padres grow frustrated with Freddy Galvis? Or will Urias ultimately force their hand and get an opportunity at either spot? You can argue that Urias’ skillset isn’t all that impressive (.276 with 3 HR and 1 SB at Triple-A), but he does bring an elite approach, however, with 27 K vs. 26 BB, and could become an ideal #2 hitter and help to deepen the lineup once everyone is healthy.
Graduated/Dropped Off The Rankings:
- Dustin Fowler – Oakland A’s – Outfielder (1) – Recalled
- Corbin Burnes – Milwaukee Brewers – Right-Handed Pitcher (5)
- Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds – Third Baseman (6) – Injured
- Austin Hays – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder(8) – Struggles
- Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (HM) – Recalled
Others We’re Watching:
- Sandy Alcantara – Miami Marlins – Pitcher
- Peter Alonso – New York Mets – First Baseman
- Jake Bauers – Tampa Bay Rays – First Baseman/Outfielder
- Enyel De Los Santos – Philadelphia Phillies – Pitcher
- 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: