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) Cedric Mullins – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder (3)
The Orioles have begun moving their veterans, with Manny Machado and Zach Britton unsurprisingly being the first to go. There are rumors that Adam Jones could be on the chopping block as well, and if he’s moved it would obviously clear a spot for Mullins to arrive. Even if he’s not traded, should Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia hold back a youngster on a team that’s clearly looking towards the future?
Mullins has split time between Double and Triple-A this season, hitting .296 with 10 HR and 17 SB over 399 AB. He’s added 27 doubles and 8 triples, showing the power potential, and only 57 K is impressive and has been consistent despite the promotion:
- Double-A – 28 K over 201 AB
- Triple-A – 29 K over 198 AB
He’s looking like a classic leadoff hitter, and something that the Orioles need. While a few more walks would be nice (33 BB), the upside and opportunity are both there.
2) Danny Jansen – Toronto Blue Jays – Catcher (5)
We spoke about Jansen in detail earlier in the week (click here for the article), so make sure to check that out. The bottom line is that the Blue Jays have gotten next to nothing from their catchers (.205/.320/.327) and Jansen has evolved into one of the elite catching prospects in the game. He makes consistent contact and is growing into his power, making him a tremendous asset. For a team clearly playing it out in ’18, getting him acclimated to the Majors with an eye towards starting in 2019 makes too much sense.
3) Peter Alonso – New York Mets – First Baseman (6)
After a slow start at Triple-A Alonso has come to life recently, with hits in five of his past six games (8-21 with 3 HR, 9 RBI and 7 R). Obviously a .203 average isn’t going to impress you, but he was hitting .165 just a few days ago and suddenly has 9 HR and 32 RBI over 118 AB. He needs to get back on track with his strikeouts (41 K, though a still solid 10.3% SwStr% gives a sense of hope), but he’s drawing walks (18) and has a much better track record. With the Mets calling up Jeff McNeil, it seems inevitable that Alonso joins him in the Majors (despite their claims that he won’t be recalled this season).
4) Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder (NR)
He is in a similar situation to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but Jimenez is older (21-years old, will turn 22 in November) and is already playing at Triple-A. Still, do the White Sox have a reason to bring him to the Majors? Probably not, though they could get him comfortable and ready to open 2019 as a starter.
Jimenez hasn’t looked overmatched at Triple-A, hitting .351 with 5 HR over his first 20 games. Even better is his 7 K vs. 5 BB, though an 11.1% SwStr% (after a 12.4% at Double-A) shows that he could be exposed in terms of strikeouts. That’ll be something worth watching, though the power and potential are obvious.
5) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays – Third Baseman (NR)
Let’s welcome Guerrero to the list! One of the elite prospects in the game, Guerrero is off the DL and should be promoted to Triple-A at any moment. How long he stays there remains to be seen, and at 19-years old Toronto has no reason to force the issue. At the same time he is going to make it impossible for the team to keep him pinned down in the minors as he’s slashing .403/.449/.655 with 12 HR and 58 RBI over 226 AB at Double-A. He’s also already proven capable of making consistent contact (26 K, though an 11.5% SwStr% does tell us there’s a little bit of risk for regression).
The only reason the Blue Jays have to keep him down is due to service time (and a 40-man roster spot), but it seems hard to imagine him not getting a shot at some point. The fact that he’s going to spend time at Triple-A keeps him off the top of these rankings (because others should arrive first), but he has the upside to make the biggest impact if given the opportunity.
6) Austin Riley – Atlanta Braves – Third Baseman (2)
Atlanta’s offense has struggled in July, scoring 74 runs (tied for 26th). The team could decide to acquire an option from outside the organization to give them a boost (there have been rumors that they are in the mix for Mike Moustakas), but they also could instead focus on solidifying their pitching and instead bringing Riley up in an effort to spark the offense.
Riley has struggled with strikeouts this season (50 K over 153 AB at Triple-A, courtesy of a 15.1% SwStr%) and hasn’t seen his power translate since being promoted, with 7 doubles and 4 HR over 153 AB. Those are obviously big concerns, though he is hitting .359 over the past 10 games giving a sense of hope. He could get an opportunity, though it’s not a given and he could possibly be overmatched if he is promoted. That’s going to keep him suppressed on the rankings, though there still is some potential.
7) Daniel Poncedeleon – St. Louis Cardinals – Pitcher (NR)
Last week we had Dakota Hudson on these rankings, but despite bringing up a pair of starters he remained in the minors. One of the two recalled was Poncedeleon, and words can’t truly describe the success that he had in his MLB debut as he tossed 7.0 no-hit innings allowing 3 BB with 3 K. He’s been a tremendous story this season, including a 2.15 ERA at Triple-A, but that doesn’t mean that he’s a lock to produce once he’s brought back to the Majors (and with the Cardinals likely falling out of contention, it’s a no-brainer for them to give him an opportunity).
We talked about our concerns regarding Poncedeleon recently, so make sure to check that out by clicking here.
8) Kolby Allard – Atlanta Braves – Pitcher (9)
Atlanta’s pitchers have a 4.86 ERA in July, showing that they have a need to be addressed. It’s possible they go outside of the organization, though reports are that the cost to acquire starting pitching is high (as you’d expect). That should lead to opportunities for multiple youngsters, with Allard likely being among the next wave of recalls. He clearly can get the job done, though you have to wonder how his “skills” will translate to the Majors:
- Strikeouts – 7.16 K/9 (courtesy of a 10.5% SwStr%)
- Control – 2.72 BB/9
- Groundballs – 38.8%
We know home runs can be an issue in Atlanta, and without swing and miss stuff that could plague Allard. There’s upside and potential, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit hard initially.
9) Enyel De Los Santos – Philadelphia Phillies – Pitcher (NR)
De Los Santos has made a pair of starts in the Majors, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that they didn’t go as well as his time at Triple-A (1.99 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 99.1 IP). His biggest asset has been his control, though a 2.99 BB/9 isn’t going to blow anyone away. Of course the same can be said for his strikeouts (8.24 K/9) and groundball rate (41.9%), and his 11.9% SwStr% gives a little bit of hope (but not much). Still, despite the “questionable” skills, he’s going to get another opportunity at some point (Ranger Suarez was recalled to start yesterday) and with the numbers at Triple-A he at least has to be on our radar.
10) Christin Stewart – Detroit Tigers – Outfielder (7)
We’ve been waiting… And waiting… And waiting… The Tigers have remained patient, and injuries have helped slow down his ascent. He still seems likely to arrive before long, though he needs to start hitting again to get there (.167 over his past 10 games, 0 HR in his past 9 games). Overall he’s hitting .249, though there’s no questioning his power potential and the impact he could make upon being recalled.
Graduated/Dropped Off The Rankings:
- Willie Calhoun – Texas Rangers – Outfielder (1)
- Jeff McNeil – New York Mets – Second Baseman (4)
- Dakota Hudson – St. Louis Cardinals – Pitcher (8)
- Jalen Beeks – Tampa Bay Rays – Pitcher (10)
Others We’re Watching:
- Griffin Canning – Los Angeles Angels – Pitcher
- Michael Kopech – Chicago White Sox – Pitcher
- Francisco Mejia – San Diego Padres – Catcher
- Ryan Mountcastle – Baltimore Orioles – Shortstop
- Kevin Newman – Pittsburgh Pirates – Shortstop
- Justus Sheffield – New York Yankees – Pitcher
- Jose Suarez – Los Angeles Angels – Pitcher
- Luis Urias – San Diego Padres – Second Baseman
- Ryan Cordell – Chicago White Sox – Outfielder
- Rookie Davis – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
- Jon Duplantier – Arizona Diamondbacks – Starting Pitcher
- Austin Hays – Baltimore Orioles – Outfielder
- Victor Robles – Washington Nationals – Outfielder
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com, MLB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Midseason Rankings: