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 (the number in parenthesis is their ranking from last week and all statistics are through Monday unless otherwise notes):
1) Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher
Snell has gotten a taste of the Majors and with the Rays seemingly intent on keeping Erasmo Ramirez in the bullpen it’s a matter of when, not if, Snell returns. Among the premier pitching prospects in the game, he certainly presented himself well in his first taste of the Majors (1 ER on 2 H and 1 BB, striking out 6, over 5.0 IP). That’s not to say that there aren’t concerns:
- Pitching in the AL East
The second is the more noteworthy one, with a minor league career 4.5 BB/9. He had improved the mark last season (3.6), though a 4.6 in 19.2 IP this season indicates that he hasn’t necessarily solved the issue. It doesn’t knock him down the rankings, but it’s something to watch.
2) A.J. Reed – Houston Astros – First Baseman
The Astros’ season quickly appears to be falling apart and you have to wonder if that will expedite their desire to bring up some additional talent. While Tyler White got off to a scorching hot start, entering play on Tuesday he was hitting .235 with 23 K over 81 AB.
Reed, meanwhile, has been rebounding after a slow start to the season including hitting .278 over his previous 10 games and seeing an 8-game hitting streak end on Monday. No one is going to question his power and the team could certainly use the potential boost in production.
3) Tyler Glasnow – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher
Glasnow is arguably one of the top two pitching prospects in baseball, the question is simply when the Pirates will opt to bring him to the Majors. Pittsburgh starters owned a 4.11 ERA, which was middle of the pack, though it’s a number being dragged down by Jeff Locke (4.73) and Jonathan Niese (5.08). Either one is replaceable and the 22-year old Glasnow has little left to prove (2.07 ERA, 1.06 WHIP over 409.1 IP in the minors).
4) Trea Turner – Washington Nationals – Shortstop
Just how long will the Nationals stay patient with Danny Espinosa? Washington’s shortstops own the third lowest average (.185) and the second worst SLG (.272), while also stealing just one base. Turner, meanwhile, is hitting .333 with 2 HR (as well as 5 doubles and a triple) and 9 SB (without being caught) at Triple-A. The Nationals are a contender, so you would have to think that they aren’t going to have as much patience as a non-contender may. With MLB experience and a clear need, his return should be imminent.
5) Orlando Arcia – Milwaukee Brewers – Shortstop
Milwaukee’s second basemen are hitting .244 (ninth worst in the league) and their third baseman are hitting .222 (also ninth worst in the league). While Jonathan Villar has proven his value at shortstop, it’s easy to imagine the team bringing Arcia to the Majors and shifting Villar to one of the other infield spots. Arcia is making a strong case for that at Triple-A, hitting .313 with 3 HR, 16 RBI, 12 R and 4 SB over his first 83 AB. Even better is his 10.0% strikeout rate, which is an improvement on his strong 13.2% mark at Double-A in ’15. While he may not be a major source of power, he did have 37 doubles a year ago and has also stolen 20+ bases in three straight seasons. There’s a definite path to playing time, it’s just a matter of how quickly the Brewers opt to push it.
6) Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher
All you have to do is look at our write-up for Tyler Glasnow to see that there is the potential for Pittsburgh to fit two pieces into their rotation. Taillon may not quite be the same type of prospect as Glasnow, but he’s been the better pitcher at Triple-A this season (1.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 23 K, 2 BB, 1.47 GO/AO over 23.1 IP). Imagine how they are going to look as a 1-2 punch behind Gerrit Cole in the near future?
7) Joe Musgrove – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher
We talked about Musgrove in detail earlier this week, so make sure to check that out by clicking here. With a 5.08 ERA from their starters, with Chris Devenski being the only pitcher who owns an ERA as a starter below 4.50 (and that is in just one start), there’s obviously a need. Considering the numbers Musgrove has posted (0.39 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 26 K, 3 BB, 1.65 GO/AO) and the Astros past willingness to promote a player directly from Double-A, we need to have him on our radars.
8) Robert Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
The Reds’ rotation continues to battle injuries and setbacks, so it would appear that the team will soon give Stephenson another opportunity in the Majors. He’s gone 2-0 in a pair of starts in the Majors this season, though he has just 4 K vs. 4 BB over that span. There’s certainly more upside in the strikeout department (9.8 K/9 in the minors), but control has been a consistent issue (4.0 BB/9 in the minors, including a 4.2 at Triple-A). Throw in potential home run issues (0.9 HR/9 in the minors), and there is reason for concern. He has an impressive arm, but he’s going to need to make some adjustments if he’s going to consistently produce in the Majors.
9) Trey Mancini – Baltimore Orioles – First Baseman
Recently promoted to Triple-A, there are two ways that the Orioles could clear playing time:
- Replacing Pedro Alvarez
- Utilizing Manny Machado at SS with J.J. Hardy on the DL (with Chris Davis shifting to 3B)
Either is believable, with Machado drawing the start at SS the past two days, and is something that’s worth watching. He’s gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A (.214 in 28 AB), but he raked at Double-A (.302 with 7 HR over 63 AB) and once he adjusts he could see his opportunity come.
10) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher
The rebuilding Brewers need all the help they can get, as their starters own a league worst 6.18 ERA. While Hader is currently at Double-A it is going to be increasingly hard to ignore the production:
23.0 IP, 0.78 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 32 K, 9 BB
He’s always shown strikeouts (10.0 K/9), though the control (3.8 BB/9) is not great and there’s also the potential for there to be home run issues (0.84 GO/AO this season). It’s impossible to ignore the numbers and potential opportunity, but keep expectations in check.
Just Missed – Lucas Giolito – Washington Nationals – Starting Pitcher
He’s arguably the top prospect in baseball so it’s hard to leave him off this list. While Washington’s starters have fared well overall this season Tanner Roark just isn’t going to block him if things are going well. That said, Giolito has walked 14 batters over 18.2 IP this season (including yesterday’s start) and needs to do a better job than that in order to force a promotion. He’s going to arrive eventually, but he’s not there right now.
Others to Watch:
- Willson Contreras – Chicago Cubs – Catcher
- J.P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies – Shortstop
- Jose Peraza – Cincinnati Reds – Second Baseman
- Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher
- Julio Urias – Los Angeles Dodgers – Starting Pitcher
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our Team Top 10 Prospect Lists: