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) A.J. Reed – Houston Astros – First Baseman (3)
With Tyler White jettisoned to Triple-A it would seem like just a matter of time before Reed is summoned to fill the gap. Do we really think that they are going to continue leaning on the rather mediocre Marwin Gonzalez (.255, 5 HR over 201 PA) to hold down the fort? He’s much better suited for a utility role so it’s just a matter of when the move is made.
Reed has done his part of late, hitting .310 with 2 HR over his past 10 games (.256 with 9 HR over 207 AB in the Pacific Coast League). The strikeouts are going to continue to be something to watch, with 56 K overall, though we know that’s something that Houston is generally able to overlook. He continues to show an ability to take a walk (28 BB) and also has ample power (18 doubles and 1 triple, to go along with the home runs). He’s not the next Jonathan Singleton and expect him to make an impact upon getting the call.
2) Lucas Giolito – Washington Nationals – Starting Pitcher (7)
Could the struggles of Gio Gonzalez be slowly opening the door for Giolito to get an opportunity? It’s not unfathomable, especially as one of the premier pitching prospects in the game continues to find his control. While he owns a 4.07 BB/9 overall, over his past three starts he has 27 K vs. 3 BB over 18.0 IP. If he can continue to pitch like this, the Nationals aren’t going to have a choice and bring him to the Majors. Will they want to see him make a handful of starts at Triple-A before that happens? It’s possible, but it may not be a prerequisite. His time could be coming quickly.
3) Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (2)
He didn’t have the best outing in his last start (2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 K over 4.1 IP), but he continues to show strikeout stuff (45 K over 26.0 IP). It’s the second time in his past three starts where he’s failed to complete at least 5.0 innings, and that’s something he’s going to have to prove capable of before he gets the call to the Majors. That doesn’t mention that he also doesn’t have a clear path to playing time quite yet, though Jaime Garcia has seen his performance slide of late (5.63 ERA in three June starts) and is consistently an injury risk. If Reyes can string together a few strong starts he could get the call right around the All-Star Break.
4) Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates – First Baseman (NR)
We took an in-depth look at Bell last week, so make sure to check that out by clicking here. He continues to hit and prove that he’s turned the corner, hitting .319 with 10 HR overall (.472 with 3 HR over this past 10 games). No longer does he look like a James Loney-type, as he clearly has the ability to hit for a strong average and is finally tapping into his power (think 20-25 HR annually). John Jaso is hitting .200 in the month of June and has managed just 3 HR on the season. While he’s been operating as the team’s leadoff hitter, though someone like Josh Harrison could step into the role if needed.
5) Alex Bregman – Houston Astros – Shortstop (NR)
While we have him listed as a shortstop, his path to the Majors lies at third base. The Astros’ third basemen have combined to hit .211 (third worst in the league) with just 9 HR and 3 SB, so it’s obvious that the team can use a boost at the spot. Bregman is hitting .304 with 14 HR over 214 AB at Double-A, but the most impressive thing he’s shown is in his plate discipline:
- Walks – 34
- Strikeouts – 21
In fact, over his past 10 games he’s struck out just 2 times in 40 AB (walking 7 times in the process). It’s possible that the team gives him a little exposure at Triple-A, but that hasn’t necessarily been the formula in the past.
6) Nick Williams – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder (5)
The team is currently utilizing Jimmy Paredes and Cody Asche as their corner outfielders. Does anyone truly believe that they are the answers? With Philadelphia already proving that they are willing to take a look at their youth (Tommy Joseph replacing Ryan Howard), there’s every reason to believe that a move will soon be made in the outfield as well.
Williams has shown power and speed and is hitting .295 with 7 HR, 32 RBI, 40 R and 5 SB at Triple-A this season. The question is going to be if he can improve his strikeout rate, currently at 24.7% for the season. He does have just 4 K over his past five games (19 AB), so it does appear like he’s starting to settle in and show the improvements he did a year ago.
7) Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher (4)
Milwaukee starters have been less than impressive this season, owning a 4.84 ERA (sixth worst in the league). The question is really for the fifth spot (at least until a trade), as the return of Matt Garza has helped to give the team four starters who have posted an ERA below 4.00. Wily Peralta has already been demoted and the team could easily look to replace Chase Anderson, with the recently promoted Hader likely operating as the team’s top prospect at this point.
In two starts at Triple-A (12.0 IP) he has a 3.00 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, with 15 K vs. 7 BB. He has at least 3 BB in each of these starts, which is something to watch (though he did have a 3.00 BB/9 at Double-A), and home runs could ultimately become an issue in Milwaukee (0.72 GO/AO in ’16). Obviously there are concerns, though the upside remains.
8) Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – Starting Pitcher (NR)
We all know that he’s better than he showed in his brief stay in Minnesota, though we have to wonder if it had a negative impact on him (he’s allowed 5+ ER in two of his past four starts at Triple-A). That said he owns a 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 9.73 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 while at Triple-A and the Twins own a league worst 5.61 ERA from their starting rotation. The best ERA belongs to Ervin Santana, at a gaudy 4.83, and it snowballs from there. The team needs Berrios to figure it out and become an anchor for the Major League rotation, and sooner or later he’s going to get that opportunity.
9) Tyler Glasnow – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (8)
The Pirates have a need in their rotation and Glasnow has been nearly unhittable as of late (5 H over 21.0 IP in his past four starts). That should be the recipe for a promotion, shouldn’t it? Of course he’s walked 4+ batters in three of these starts, including 11 BB over his past two. Since last season he’s now pitched 118.0 IP at Triple-A, walking 64 batters in the process (4.83 BB/9 in ’15, 4.91 in ’16). Granted he can generate a significant number of strikeouts, but until he finds his control he could be firmly pinned at Triple-A.
10) Alex Dickerson – San Diego Padres – Outfielder (9)
Already on the 40-man roster, it’s likely that Dickerson gets the first shot at an OF spot for the Padres (over superior prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe). Of course Dickerson has continued to hit as well, at .393 with 10 HR, 47 RBI and 46 R at Triple-A (191 AB). Considering that the left-handed hitter owns a slash of .456/.486/.794 against southpaws, it’s easy to see why he deserves an opportunity. The upside may not be there that others have, but he deserves a look.
Dropped Off Rankings – Trea Turner (SS, WAS)
Graduated – Jameson Taillon (SP, PIT), Willson Contreras (C, CHC)
Others to Watch:
- Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Shortstop
- Orlando Arcia – Milwaukee Brewers – Shortstop
- Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – Starting Pitcher
- P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies – Shortstop
- Jose De Leon – Los Angeles Dodgers – Starting Pitcher
- Aaron Judge – New York Yankees – Outfielder
- Manuel Margot – San Diego Padres – Outfielder
- Joe Musgrove – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher
- Hunter Renfroe – San Diego Padres – Outfielder
- Robert Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher
- Jake Thompson – Philadelphia Phillies – Starting Pitcher
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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