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) Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros – Outfielder (1)
What more does Tucker need to do in order to get the call to Houston? After starting the season off slowly he’s now hitting .318 with 11 HR (as well as 23 doubles and 1 triple) and 13 SB over 286 AB. Through Monday he was on a 14-game hitting streak, going 30-59 (.508) with 3 HR, 12 RBI, 15 R and 6 SB (he’s extended the streak to 16 games, going 2-9 with 1 HR and 2 RBI over his past two games). He has posted six multi-hit games in his past seven and has just 10 K over the course of the streak (he’s up to 12 K, with 1 K in each of the past two games).
One of the top prospects in baseball, there’s also a clear path to playing time with Tony Kemp currently sharing time in LF with Marwin Gonzalez. It all comes together for the perfect opportunity, and it shouldn’t be much longer before he arrives (think right around the All-Star Break).
2) Nick Kingham – Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitcher (3)
He hasn’t missed a beat since being demoted to Triple-A, allowing 5 ER on 11 H and 3 BB, striking out 21, over 19.2 IP across three starts. As it is you can argue that he didn’t deserve to be demoted, with a 3.82 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.92 K/9 and 1.78 BB/9 over 6 starts in the Majors. Considering his 11.7% SwStr% it was an impressive showing, and with Chad Kuhl leaving his start against the Mets on Tuesday due to injury it appears that his return is imminent (though he could force the issue regardless with the way he is pitching).
3) Jalen Beeks – Boston Red Sox – Pitcher (NR)
Steven Wright has again hit the DL with a knee issue, meaning Boston is going to need a replacement in the rotation. While Beeks struggled in his first taste of the Majors (6 ER over 4.0 IP), he continues to pitch well at Triple-A with a 2.40 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 75.0 IP. He’s generating swings and misses (12.8% SwStr%) leading to plenty of strikeouts (12.12 K/9) and he’s also avoiding walks (2.40 BB/9). The control has improved as he’s moved up the ladder, including a 3.10 BB/9 over 95.2 IP at Triple-A last season, and while home runs could be an issue (groundball rates of 44.6% and 41.9% at Triple-A over the past two seasons), he has ample upside.
4) Matt Thaiss – Los Angeles Angels – First Baseman (4)
The Angels are quickly falling out of contention, entering play on Wednesday 11.5 games behind Houston for the AL West and 8.0 games out of the Wild Card. They need a spark, tied for the 21st most runs scored in June (92), and it’s possible Thaiss can provide that.
Since being promoted to Triple-A (29 games) he’s hitting .310 with 6 HR, and overall he has 21 doubles, 3 triples and 12 HR on the year. He’s also proven capable of making consistent contact (9.3% SwStr% leading to a 17.6% strikeout rate), giving him an impressive combination of skills. With Shohei Ohtani sidelined the Angels could shift Albert Pujols back to DH, opening up first base for Thaiss. Considering where the team is headed, and the expectations they had entering the year, this move could come at any time.
5) Peter Alonso – New York Mets – First Baseman (7)
The Mets are in an obvious tailspin, and while they have said that their intention isn’t to bring Alonso to the Majors that should quickly change as they raise the white flag and turn their attention to 2019 and beyond. The fact that they are using Dominic Smith in the outfield only supports the theory, because it would clear 1B for Alonso.
Alonso erupted on Saturday for a 3 HR game, and between Double and Triple-A he’s shown plenty of power (18 HR) as well as an impressive approach:
- Strikeouts – 64
- Walks – 49
- SwStr% – 8.7%
That combination of contact and power is not common, and while some will point towards his defense as a reason to keep him down at this point the Mets have nothing to lose.
6) Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder (NR)
He’s been promoted to Triple-A, putting him on the precipice of an MLB promotion, and through his first six games he’s hit .286 with 1 HR and 2 RBI. That said, while everyone is going to assume that he’s going to arrive quickly, don’t be so quick. That’s not to say that he can’t get pushed up again in short order, but the White Sox don’t have to force the issue and rush him. As we’ve discussed (click here for the article), there is a benefit to keeping Jimenez down at Triple-A, where he can learn and make adjustments away from the spotlight.
That said, he’s one of the premier prospects in the game, plays a position the White Sox need help at and could be up within the next few weeks. In other words, the time to stash him is now.
7) Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Outfielder (2)
He’s still not up, and with the Rangers having to get creative to find AB for Jurickson Profar, including giving him time in the OF (as well as having Shin-Soo Choo in the OF so Adrian Beltre and others can get AB as the DH), the path to playing time isn’t as clear as it once was. That’s not to say that he can’t force the issue, but he’s fallen into a bit of a slump once again (.244 over his past 10 games) and has gone 12 games without a home run (only 5 doubles over this stretch).
The fact that he wasn’t given a chance, with Ronald Guzman needing a stint on the DL, speaks volumes (it was Ryan Rua who was recalled). Calhoun should get an opportunity, and he has the potential to hit the ground running, but it’s clear that the Rangers feel he needs to show a little bit more in the minors first.
8) Cedric Mullins – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder (NR)
While the surface numbers at Triple-A haven’t been impressive, Mullins is there and the Orioles have a need in the outfield (they are currently using Colby Rasmus & Danny Valencia). There also is hope that he can improve:
- Double-A (201 AB) – .313, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 36 R, 9 SB
- Triple-A (95 AB) – .221, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 16 R, 4 SB
He’s not a power hitter, though having added 20 doubles and 5 triples it’s clear he can contribute. Overall he’s posted a 12.9% strikeout rate, courtesy of a 6.8% SwStr% (which is at 7.1% while at Triple-A). His Triple-A struggles is due to a .241 BABIP, something he should easily improve upon. With a good approach and the ability to steal bases and chip in some power, he has to be on all radars.
9) Enyel De Los Santos – Philadelphia Phillies – Pitcher (5)
Phillies pitchers own a 5.22 ERA in June, ahead of only the Colorado Rockies (6.83 ERA). Nick Pivetta (5.81), Vincent Velasquez (5.90) and Jake Arrieta (6.66) have all been bad, and while it seems unlikely that any of them are removed for a team that’s trying to compete they may ultimately not have a choice (Velasquez may be the most likely).
In 14 starts at Triple-A De Los Santos owns a 1.73 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, showing plenty of swing and miss (12.5% SwStr%) with enough control (3.02 BB/9) and groundballs (41.4%). He has benefited from a lot of luck (93.0% strand rate, .255 BABIP), and those numbers tell us that he can’t maintain this current pace. That’s not to say that he can’t be productive, and with the numbers he’s posting an opportunity shouldn’t be far away.
10) Danny Jansen – Toronto Blue Jays – Catcher (10)
As we keep saying the Blue Jays are heading towards a rebuild and one spot that they could certainly go young is catching. Both Russell Martin and Luke Maille have underwhelmed, and Jansen is sitting at Triple-A and could potentially be the catcher of the future. He’s hitting .299 with 5 HR and 39 RBI, but the most impressive numbers are:
- Doubles – 17 (in 194 AB)
- Strikeouts – 30
- Walks – 29
He may not be your prototypical slugging catcher, but there’s value and upside.
Graduated/Dropped Off The Rankings:
- Jose Suarez – Los Angeles Angels – Pitcher(6)
- Nick Senzel – Cincinnati Reds – Second Baseman (8) – He’s suffered a season ending injury
- Christin Stewart – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (9)
Others We’re Watching:
- Kolby Allard – Atlanta Braves – Pitcher
- Corbin Burnes – Milwaukee Brewers – Right-Handed Pitcher
- Garrett Hampson – Colorado Rockies – Second Baseman
- Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox – Pitcher
- Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
- Tyler O’Neill – St. Louis Cardinals – Outfielder
- Luis Urias – San Diego Padres – Second Baseman
- Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder
- Ryan Cordell – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder
- Rookie Davis – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
- Jon Duplantier – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays – Third Baseman
- Austin Hays – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder
- Austin Riley – Atlanta Braves – Third Baseman
- Victor Robles – Washington Nationals – Outfielder
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com