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 Sunday unless otherwise noted):
1) Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (1)
He continues to marinate at Triple-A, waiting for an opportunity to present itself. After the “concerns” were building, having allowed 3 ER in back-to-back starts, Taillon quieted them down in his last outing (6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 8 K). In 49.1 IP this season he now owns a 9.30 K/9, 0.91 BB/9 and 1.18 GO/AO (leading to a 1.82 ERA and 0.81 WHIP). The once premier prospect has missed the past two seasons due to injury so an innings limit could be an issue, but for now it’s impossible to imagine him not making an impact soon.
We really just have to wonder when the Pirates will grow frustrated enough with the back of their rotation to make a change (or for an injury to create an opportunity). Outside of Gerrit Cole, no Pirates’ starter (making at least 5 starts) owns an ERA better than a 4.46 and Juan Nicasio, Jon Niese and Jeff Locke are all replaceable.
2) Trea Turner – Washington Nationals – Shortstop (2)
Turner continues to produce, as he’s now on an 11-game hitting streak and owns a season mark of .317 with 3 HR, 17 RBI, 35 R and 15 SB. Sure the Nationals are playing well, but Danny Espinosa hasn’t been a reason why (.206 with 3 HR and 1 SB). Of course the Nationals can point towards defense (Turner has 7 errors) as a reason to stay the course and it would be hard to argue.
That said, the Washington Post’s James Wagner recently wrote (click here for the article), “So to ensure he doesn’t accrue a full year of service time this year, he needs to spend 57 days in the minors. That would mean he could come up on May 30, stay on the roster the rest of the season and only have 171 days accrued. As a result, the Nationals would have a so-called seventh year of control over Turner, through the 2022 season.” In other words, he’s still at least a week away and it’s possible that it’s a few weeks longer.
3) Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays – Starting Pitcher (4)
He’s suddenly discovered his control over his past three starts (4 BB over 16.1 IP), which has always been the biggest question hanging over him. He continues to show strikeouts (12.29 K/9) and generate groundballs (1.44 GO/AO), so if he has consistently found the strike zone the results could be scary. We all know his time is going to come, it’s just a matter of when the Rays grow frustrated with Matt Moore (5.09 ERA) or an injury presents itself (despite the struggles of Chris Archer does anyone really believe that he’ll be bumped).
4) Julio Urias – Los Angeles Dodgers – Starting Pitcher (3)
He continues to dominate the Pacific Coast League, with a 1.10 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over 41.0 IP. The last time he allowed an earned run was on April 22 as the 19-year old owns a video game like 44-to-8 strikeout to walk ratio. The Dodgers could obviously point towards his age as a reason to keep him down in the minors, but with the team struggling and looking for a spark it’s hard to imagine that argument holding much water. The fact is that Urias is doing everything he can to force the issue and, sooner or later, he’s going to. As it is Ross Stripling has struggled this season (4.85 ERA) and has now been demoted, plus while Scott Kazmir is a veteran it’s easy to imagine the team finding a “phantom” injury for him (5.23 ERA) in an effort to get him right.
5) Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (NR)
The only reason Reyes hasn’t been on these rankings thus far was due to being suspended for 50 games. Now that he’s back and active, one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball could arrive quickly. He certainly looked good in his first start of the season (8 K over 4.0 IP), the question will be if he can consistently find the strike zone (3 BB and a hit batter). That’s a common problem for young pitchers, but as we discussed yesterday the potential is there for him to find it quickly. While the strikeout upside is enough to still make him an above average pitcher, if the control is there he’s going to be among the elite. At this point the biggest question is how long it’s going to take him to get up to speed.
6) A.J. Reed – Houston Astros – First Baseman (NR)
Freshly off the DL, the “Reed Watch” is ready to resume for the Astros. While Tyler White had gotten off to a fast start he has slowed down considerably (.220 with 2 HR over his past 15 games, .230 overall). The Astros have gotten off to a horrific start, though they have a young team and we’ve seen big runs in the past. After taking a significant step forward in recent seasons it’s impossible to think that they are simply going to throw in the towel and watch 2016 pass them by. They are going to look for a spark, and if Reed is hitting he could be the perfect player to provide it (though the same can be said for Joe Musgrove or Alex Bregman as well).
7) Joe Musgrove – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher (10)
He’s made two starts at Triple-A and nothing has changed, with 12 K, 2 BB and a 2.67 GO/AO over 11.0 IP (overall he now has 42 K, 5 BB and a 1.67 GO/AO over 37.1 IP). In other words, at this point it’s hard to imagine the Astros not getting him to the Majors before long considering their starters own a ghastly 4.99 ERA (with no one having an ERA better than Doug Fister’s 4.22). As the loses continue to pile up the Astros are falling further and further out of the race, which will lessen the pressure to promote Musgrove. At the same time the team has an offense that can compete and make up their 8.5 game deficit when it’s right.
8) Tim Anderson – Chicago White Sox – Shortstop (8)
Over his past 10 games Anderson has hit .429 with 3 HR and 4 SB, putting him at .305 with 3 HR and 10 SB on the season. With Jimmy Rollins slashing .239/.297/.368 you have to start to wonder if the White Sox will soon be prepared to make a move. Of course Anderson continues to fail to show a command of the strike zone (22.9% strikeout rate vs. 3.4% walk rate), something Major League pitchers could easily expose.
9) Tyler Glasnow – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (5)
He at least appears to have rediscovered his footing at Triple-A, allowing 3 ER with 4 BB and 14 K over his past two starts (12.0 innings of work). Of course he also has likely fallen behind Taillon in the short-term and may have to wait for the team to decide it needs two additions to the rotation. His upside is higher than that of Taillon, and while Glasnow has been tremendous overall (2.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) he may have to wait his turn in order to be promoted to the Majors. That’s going to suppress his ranking here, but that doesn’t mean he should be overlooked.
10) Nick Williams – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder (NR)
This final spot was highly debated, with Orlando Arcia being the prime alternative. However, while the Brewers have nothing to play for the Phillies are actually surprisingly in a race despite poor play at both corner outfield spots:
- Right Field – .211/.252/.279
- Left Field – .203/.265/.311
The team is showing a willingness to make a change with the promotion of Tommy Joseph, so why wouldn’t we think that they could take a similar stance in the outfield? Williams has continued to show a better command of the strike zone than he has previously (22.4% strikeout rate at Triple-A), though that’s a number we’ll have to continue to monitor. If he can make contact he brings power and speed to the table and could make an immediate impact.
Dropped Off Rankings – Austin Voth (SP, Was), Trey Mancini (1B, Bal), Orlando Arcia (SS, Mil)
Others to Watch:
- Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Shortstop
- Alex Bregman – Houston Astros – Shortstop
- Willson Contreras – Chicago Cubs – Catcher
- P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies – Shortstop
- Lucas Giolito – Washington Nationals – Starting Pitcher
- Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher
- Jeff Hoffman – Colorado Rockies – Starting Pitcher
- Aaron Judge – New York Yankees – Outfielder
- Peter O’Brien – Arizona Diamondbacks – Outfielder
- Jose Peraza – Cincinnati Reds – Second Baseman
- Robert Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our Team Top 10 Prospect Lists: