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 Tuesday unless otherwise noted):
1) Tyler Glasnow – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (3)
There had been talk that Jameson Taillon could be the first Pittsburgh starter to arrive, but Glasnow has silenced that talk with his past three starts (18.0 IP, 0 ER, 8 H, 7 BB, 29 K). Among the premier pitching prospects in the league, he has little left to prove at Triple-A having now thrown 74.0 innings at the level with 96 K and 35 BB. Throw in an improved groundball rate this season (1.09 GO/AO) and the total package appears to be there.
It’s not like the Pirates don’t have a need in the rotation, with Jeff Locke (4.68 ERA) and Jonathan Niese (5.63 ERA) struggling and Juan Nicasio (4.02 ERA) not putting up very impressive numbers. Obviously trying to catch the Cubs is going to be difficult (already 8.5 games back), but they are among the favorites for a Wild Card and that’s not something the team wants to miss out on. They can’t give away games and it makes sense to bolster their rotation from within.
2) Trea Turner – Washington Nationals – Shortstop (4)
When the Nationals were winning it made sense that there wasn’t an urgency to get Turner into the Majors. Yes they are still 20-13, but they’ve gone 4-6 in their past 10 games and have fallen behind the Mets in the NL East. With Danny Espinosa continuing to struggle offensively (.206, 2 HR, 1 SB), the time is likely growing near for a change. That becomes especially more likely as Turner thrives at Triple-A, hitting .308 with 2 HR and 12 SB over 120 AB. He’s already spent time in the Majors and can give the lineup a spark, something that they certainly can use. With little left to prove at Triple-A (.312, 5 HR, 26 SB over 308 AB), the time has come for a change.
3) Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (1)
The performance of Matt Andriese in his recent start has likely delayed the full-time arrival of Snell, who has struggled at times with his control at Triple-A (16 BB over 30.0 IP). We all know the upside, but if the Rays can afford to give him time to work out the issue it makes sense for them to do so. We’ve seen young starters get hit hard this season (i.e. Sean Manaea and Michael Fulmer), and that’s not a fate that the Rays want to see with Snell. He’s going to be up in the not too distant future, and 1 BB over 5.1 IP in his last start is promising. He’s not there yet, though, and it makes sense for the team to proceed with caution.
4) Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (6)
Could he actually beat Glasnow to the Majors? That was the prevailing thought at one time, though it’s no longer the case. That said he shouldn’t be too far behind, with the team having two potential holes in the rotation and Taillon also thriving at Triple-A (1.69 ERA, 0.78 WHIP). With an impressive 32 K vs. 4 BB over 37.1 IP there’s certainly a lot to like. After missing the past two seasons due to injury it does make sense for the team to be at least a little conservative and it’s a bit of an unknown how many innings they will let him throw. Still, once one of the premier pitching prospects in the game he has the potential to hit the ground running.
5) A.J. Reed – Houston Astros – First Baseman (2)
After a strong start Tyler White continues to struggle (.208 with 0 HR in 24 AB in May), and with the Astros looking for any type of spark they can get it would make sense for the team to summon Reed from Triple-A. Of course a promotion would be more likely if Reed himself hadn’t been struggling (.167 with 1 HR over his past 10 games, .229 with 26 K over 105 AB on the season). We all know the upside and it could take just one hot streak to get his bat to the Majors. However, at this point fantasy owners will have to wait patiently for him to figure it out and get on track.
(Note – Reed was placed on the DL yesterday, further delaying his potential arrival)
6) Trey Mancini – Baltimore Orioles – First Baseman (9)
It took some time but Mancini is starting to find his footing at Triple-A, now hitting .267 with 2 HR (as well as 4 doubles and a triple) over 60 AB at the level. Both of his home runs have come in the past week and he’s kept his strikeout rate similar to what it was at Double-A prior to his promotion:
- Double-A – 17 K in 63 AB
- Triple-A – 15 K in 60 AB
With Manny Machado shifting to shortstop and Pedro Alvarez continuing to struggle (.209 with 2 HR), it appears to be only a matter of time before the Orioles give Mancini an opportunity. He’s not one of the more popular names when it comes to prospects, but he could make an under-the-radar impact once given an opportunity.
7) Orlando Arcia – Milwaukee Brewers – Shortstop (5)
The Brewers aren’t feeling the pressure to get Arcia to the Majors, considering they are a non-contender this season, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t going to arrive before long. He’s hitting .309 with 3 HR and 4 SB over his first 110 AB at Triple-A, continuing to show an ability to make consistent contact (15 K) though he could do a better job of drawing a walk (6 BB). That could limit him to hitting lower in the order, which obviously would limit his potential impact, though the opportunity is going to be there. Brewers’ third basemen are hitting .215 (sixth worst in the league), so shifting Jonathan Villar over to make room for Arcia makes sense. It’s not an imminent move, however, and his spot in the batting order helps to limit his overall appeal.
8) Tommy Joseph – Philadelphia Phillies – First Baseman (NR)
As a team the Phillies are hitting .214 against southpaws (tied for second worst in the league) and their first baseman are hitting a league worst .174. Sure Ryan Howard has shown a little bit of power, but Darin Ruf has failed to produce in a platoon role (.190/.250/.238).
It makes sense that there is talk Joseph could be recalled to replace him, as he’s been raking at Triple-A (.368, 6 HR, 17 RBI). Obviously we aren’t going to buy into the average (.361 BABIP), but he’s making a lot of contact (10.9% strikeout rate) and has added 7 doubles. The converted catcher has battled injuries but he showed power before (22 HR in ’11) and being healthy and out from behind the plate could help him maintain a higher average. While he could open in a platoon, would it be surprising to see him ultimately overtake Howard?
9) Robert Refsnyder – New York Yankees – Third Baseman (NR)
Why are we listing him as a third baseman? He’s actually played more games there (13) than at second base (8) at Triple-A this season and has even seen time in the outfield (3). With Chase Headley struggling both offensively (.176/.268/.176) and defensively (3 errors), there’s reason to think that the struggling Yankees could make a change.
Refsnyder didn’t get an opportunity last year at second base, when the team appeared to have a need, but they also don’t want to watch their season slip away in May. He’s hitting .375 with just 4 K over 40 AB in his past 10 games and is in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak overall. He brings 10/10 potential with versatility, which is going to put him on the map.
10) Joe Musgrove – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher (7)
Talk is that Musgrove is going to get a stint at Triple-A before reaching the Majors, which is going to suppress his spot on these rankings for now. That said it’s hard to overlook his line at Double-A, with a 0.34 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 30 K, 3 BB and a 1.38 GO/AO over 26.1 IP. His time will come before long, but for now it appears like the Astros will be conservative with him.
Dropped off rankings – Robert Stephenson (CIN), Josh Hader (MIL)
Others to Watch:
- Aaron Judge – New York Yankees – Outfielder
- Willson Contreras – Chicago Cubs – Catcher
- J.P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies – Shortstop
- Lucas Giolito – Washington Nationals – Starting Pitcher
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher
- Peter O’Brien – Arizona Diamondbacks – Outfielder
- Jose Peraza – Cincinnati Reds – Second Baseman
- Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher
- Robert Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher (8)
- 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: