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) Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Outfielder (4)
While his power remains down, Calhoun just keeps on hitting. Overall he’s hitting .296 with 7 HR, 34 RBI and 51 R over 345 AB and after hitting .229 in April he put up a .303 in May, .306 in June and through Tuesday was hitting .438 in July (32 AB). He’s currently on a 15-game hitting streak and, even better, hasn’t shown a platoon split:
- RHP – .297/.347/.421
- LHP – .292/.320/.458
In regards to the power, he has added 25 doubles (21 since May 1) so there’s hope. He also continues to show an ability to make consistent contact, with 39 K (though he’s drawn just 19 BB). The Rangers are clearly getting ready to turn the page, and while they’ve kept Calhoun down in the minors thus far it’s going to be near impossible for much longer. Don’t be surprised if he arrives after the All-Star Break.
2) Cedric Mullins – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder (5)
Let everyone else clamor for Austin Hays or Ryan Mountcastle, but as the Orioles get ready to head towards a rebuild its Mullins that belongs on your radar. He’s currently on an 11-game hitting streak (19-47, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 12 R, 2 SB), raising his Triple-A line up to .282 with 4 HR, 15 RBI, 28 R and 6 SB.
Known best for his speed (he’s 15-for-16 on SB between Double and Triple-A), he’s chipped in 41 extra base hits (24 doubles, 7 triples and 10 HR) so he’s not a non-factor there. He’s also shown an ability to avoid striking out (50 K over 343 AB), including a 6.8% SwStr% at Triple-A. Sure we’d like to see a few more walks (29 BB overall), but he profiles as a potential difference making top of the order bat (think 10/25, if not better). There’s a need without any trades, but with the Orioles likely to be active at the deadline there will soon be a clear path to playing time.
3) Danny Jansen – Toronto Blue Jays – Catcher (10)
He’s scuffling a bit lately (.167 over his past ten games), but it’s easy to get excited as he’s hitting .288 with 7 HR and 44 RBI over 215 AB. Generally he’s viewed as not having the power we look for from a catcher, but over the past two seasons (282 AB) he’s hitting .298 with 10 HR, 54 RBI and 42 R (while adding 21 doubles and 2 triples). What’s not to like from a catcher who would be on pace to hit 20 HR over a full season? When you couple it with his 13.3% strikeout rate, 12.9% walk rate and 4.4% SwStr% this season the answer is nothing. It gets even better when you factor in that Toronto is heading towards a rebuild, and it makes sense to bring Jansen up to get him acclimated and put him in position to open 2019 as the starter (especially with Russell Martin and Luke Maile currently underwhelming in the spot).
4) Peter Alonso – New York Mets – First Baseman (7)
He’s gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A (.171 with 4 HR over 76 AB, though 3 HR came in one game), though we can’t ignore his Double-A line (.314 with 15 HR) and we have to give him time to adjust. He hasn’t gone swing and miss heavy (10.7% SwStr%), so his 30.9% strikeout rate is going to improve. Throw in his still inflated walk rate (14.9%) and terrible luck (.209 BABIP) and it’s easy to be optimistic about him moving forward.
The Mets may want to say that they are going to keep him pinned at Triple-A, but it’s clear that they don’t believe Dominic Smith is their 1B of the future (since he’s already finding it difficult to find playing time). With their eye towards 2019, Alonso is going to be up. It’s just a matter of when.
5) Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians – Catcher (3)
After torrid June (.455 with 4 HR, as well as 14 doubles), the speculation was growing that Mejia could soon arrive back in the Majors. Unfortunately since the calendar flipped to July his production has suddenly disappeared once again, hitting .185 with 0 HR over 27 AB. It’s a small sample but considering his .187 and .192 over the first two months it’s concerning. The Indians have a need at catcher, on paper, but they seem comfortable with their current duo and aren’t going to be quick to pull the trigger on a promotion. Mejia will be up at some point, but for now his return isn’t imminent.
6) Kolby Allard – Atlanta Braves – Pitcher (NR)
The Braves have a bevy of pitching prospects and they all appear to be getting an opportunity this season. Allard may not have the best pure stuff of the group, but he’s thrived at Triple-A with a 2.96 ERA over 97.1 IP at Triple-A. His best asset has been his control (2.68 BB/9), as he hasn’t generated many strikeouts (7.30 K/9) or groundballs (39.6%). Home runs could be an issue, but there appears to be upside in the strikeout rate (11.1% SwStr%) and he’s also left-handed (which is always going to help). There’s enough upside to put him on radars when his opportunity does come.
7) Luis Urias – San Diego Padres – Second Baseman (NR)
San Diego second baseman are currently slashing a pathetic .225/.290/.306 with the SLG being the worst in the league (far behind the Dodgers, who are at .326). Maybe if they were providing stolen bases, but they have just 3. It’s clear that they need a new face, and Urias should ultimately prove to be the long-term answer.
Of course he doesn’t yet bring much power (6 HR, though he’s added 18 doubles and 3 triples) or speed (1-for-2 on SB), so you can argue what the appeal is. The answer is his approach, with 54 BB (representing a 14.3% walk rate). He doesn’t profile as a middle of the order bat or an ideal leadoff hitter, but he could ultimately factor as the #2 hitter. With Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer hitting behind him, that could prove to be a valuable spot in short order.
8) Dakota Hudson – St. Louis Cardinals – Pitcher (6)
While Luke Weaver got off to a strong start in July (2 ER over 8.0 IP), Jack Flaherty has stumbled (6.48 ERA over two July starts) and John Gant is currently being used in the rotation. In other words there’s an opportunity, and Hudson should ultimately get a chance. He doesn’t bring gaudy strikeout totals (79 K over 104.1 IP), nor has he shown tremendous control during his time at Triple-A in ’18 (3.11 BB/9). The key to his success has been groundballs (57.6%), though a 10.4% SwStr% shows a little bit more upside. There’s potential value, but don’t envision him as being a potential ace.
9) Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers – Outfielder (NR)
With Yaisel Puig on the DL the Dodgers opted to recall Andrew Toles as opposed to Verdugo, at least for now, but it’s easy to envision Verdugo returning to the Majors before long (or being traded in a deadline deal). He deserves the promotion, hitting .350 with 7 HR, 34 RBI and 31 R over 226 AB. He’s not striking out much (32 K courtesy of a 7.3% SwStr%), though he’s benefited from a .383 BABIP and doesn’t bring much power or speed (so from a fantasy perspective, you can argue the upside value is limited). He’s going to force the issue and get another opportunity, though don’t get overly excited when he arrives.
10) Kevin Newman – Pittsburgh Pirates – Shortstop (NR)
The Pirates’ shortstops have been bad this season, led by Jordy Mercer (.242 with 5 HR and 1 SB over 281 AB). With the Pirates falling out of contention for a 2018 playoff spot, could they start to look towards their future and seeing if they have pieces in place? Newman isn’t a name that’s going to blow you away, but he’s hitting .307 with 21 SB on the season, with 19 SB coming since May 3. He’s also shown an ability to make consistent contact (4.5% SwStr%) and hit the ball hard (24.3% line drive rate). He can’t do any worse then what the team is currently throwing out there, and they also could open up a spot if they opt to trade Josh Harrison ahead of the deadline (if they don’t want to simply replace Mercer).
Graduated/Dropped Off The Rankings:
- Kyle Tucker – Houston Astros – Outfielder (1) – Graduated
- Jonathan Loaisiga – New York Yankees – Pitcher (2) – Injured
- Enyel De Los Santos – Philadelphia Phillies – Pitcher (8) – Graduated
- Jalen Beeks – Boston Red Sox – Pitcher (9) – Graduated
Others We’re Watching:
- Garrett Hampson – Colorado Rockies – Second Baseman
- Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox – Pitcher
- Jose Suarez – Los Angeles Angels – Pitcher
- 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
- Christin Stewart – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder
- Victor Robles – Washington Nationals – Outfielder
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com