MLB Prospect Power Rankings: Top 10 On The Cusp Of Reaching The Majors (July 5, 2016)

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) Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – Starting Pitcher (2)
He’s coming off an impressive four start stretch, with one lights out performance after another.  In total he’s threw 30.0 IP allowing 2 ER on 10 H and 7 BB, striking out 29.  He was bad during his first opportunity in the Majors and also struggled upon returning to Triple-A, but he has elite stuff and certainly can provide a boost to a miserable rotation.

The Twins starters owns a league worst 5.51 ERA (the Reds are the closest, at 5.23), with Ervin Santana’s 4.50 being a team best.  Sure Tyler Duffey has shown some signs, but is there anyone who really should be considered safe?  Minnesota may not be going anywhere in 2016, but why not get Berrios experience in the Majors so he’s ready to hit the ground running in ’17.  Struggles or not he can’t be any worse than what they are putting out there, and the upside is significantly higher.

2) Alex Bregman – Houston Astros – Shortstop (5)
Bregman has played four games at Triple-A and has shown no signs of slowing down, hitting .471 with 2 HR (as well as 2 doubles), 8 RBI and 7 R.  He has struck out 6 times in his 17 AB, but after posting a 9.1% strikeout rate vs. a 14.7% walk rate while at Double-A it’s of little concern.  All told last year’s second overall selection is hitting .308 with 16 HR on the season and, with the Astros back in the playoff race, should be considered on the precipice of making an impact in the Majors.

That’s what happens when Houston third baseman are hitting .223 with a .397 SLG (10 HR).  No one really thinks Luis Valbuena (.254 with 9 HR) is the answer, do they?  While A.J. Reed has gotten off to a slow start, Bregman could be the prospect who gives the team a boost moving forward.

3) Josh Bell – Pittsburgh Pirates – First Baseman (1)
Bell continues to show that he has little left to prove at Triple-A, hitting .368 over his past 10 games (.324 overall).  Sure the power has slowed down as of late (1 HR in past 10), but he’s also gone five straight games without a strikeout and has a .537 SLG overall.  Is that not an improvement over the combination of John Jaso and David Freese?  Sure Freese has some pop in his bat, but he’s also developing into a pure platoon option:

  • LHP – .333/.403/.567
  • RHP – .273/.352/.419

Those aren’t “bad” numbers against righties, but they are pedestrian.  Bell owns a slash of .328/406/.542 against them at Triple-A and there’s reason to believe that he’s soon going to get an opportunity.

4) Trea Turner – Washington Nationals – Shortstop (3)
Turner appears to be taking to the transition to centerfield, but the Nationals are playing well of late and Ben Revere has warmed up (.391 with 3 SB over his past 7 games).  We all know that the team has continually shown that they are in no rush to get Turner to the Majors, and with Danny Espinosa tearing the cover off the ball (as well as the defensive advantage) that’s not a path he’s going to be able to follow.  You know the Nationals are going to give him time to develop and learn the position, especially with Revere going well, so he may still be a few weeks away.

5) Manuel Margot – San Diego Padres – Outfielder (7)
With Jon Jay hurt, if the Padres are able to move Melvin Upton Jr. at the deadline it will clear a spot for Margot.  Acquired as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade, he’s shown off his skills at Triple-A this season by hitting .301 with 4 HR, 33 RBI, 62 R and 23 SB.  He’s also shown an ability to make consistent contact, with just 35 K over 329 AB.  Obviously we’d like to see a few more walks (24), but there’s more than enough here to be excited about.  He could quickly become a spark plug atop the team’s lineup and with speed hard to find in the Majors, he’s impossible to ignore.

6) Tyler Glasnow – Pittsburgh Pirates – Starting Pitcher (6)
Control…  Control…  Control…  If he was consistently throwing strikes he’d likely already be a part of the rotation, but he just can’t seem to find his footing.  Yes he’s had nearly no-hit stuff of late, but he also had 20 BB over 23.2 IP over a recent four start stretch.  He did issue 1 BB over 6.0 IP in his most recent outing, but that one start doesn’t help to overshadow a 4.88 BB/9 on the season (4.83 while at Triple-A last season).  He’s one of the elite strikeout pitchers in the minors and has a 1.78 ERA, but until he shows some type of consistency in his control he is likely going to be planted in the minors.

7) Alex Reyes – St. Louis Cardinals – Starting Pitcher (8)
Reyes is another starting prospect with an elite arm, but he’s shown terrible control in the minors and until he harnesses it he could have a hard time making an impact.  That said, while the Cardinals rotation is full at the moment if an injury were to open things up (Jaime Garcia, for instance) Reyes likely is the team’s best alternative (unlike Glasnow, where the Pirates had Jameson Taillon waiting in the wings).  Reyes has struggled lately (9 ER over 8.2 IP in his past two starts), but the strikeout stuff is elite (52 K over 34.2 IP) and there shouldn’t be issues with an innings limit thanks to his late start to the season.

8) Aaron Judge – New York Yankees – Outfielder (4)
Carlos Beltran’s injury does not appear to be enough to send him to the DL, which is keeping Judge pinned at Triple-A for the time being.  If the team opts to sell at the deadline, which appears to be the path they should take, it will mean an opportunity for Judge to get exposure to the Majors and prepare him for a prime role in 2017.  No one has ever questioned his power, and he showed it with 9 HR in June.  He does need to improve his strikeouts, though he has taken a step in that direction (23.6% vs. 28.5% at Triple-A last season).  If he can keep that in check (even if it’s in the 27-28% range), with his power in Yankee Stadium the numbers could be monstrous.

9) Robert Stephenson – Cincinnati Reds – Starting Pitcher (NR)
Cody Reed is the most recent youngster getting an opportunity in the Majors, but he’s allowed 4+ ER in each of his three outings.  How much longer are they really going to stick with John Lamb and his 5.43 ERA?  That’s two spots in the rotation, which should soon mean a shot for Stephenson.

The question for Stephenson is always going to be his control, and he owns a concerning 4.63 BB/9 at Triple-A this season (4.1 over his minor league career).  There is no arguing the pure stuff, as long as he can control it.  At this point, though, the team has little reason not to give him an opportunity to see if he can figure it out.

10) Jake Thompson – Philadelphia Phillies– Starting Pitcher (NR)
Aaron Nola continues to struggle and Zach Efflin isn’t the answer to the back of Philadelphia’s rotation.  That could lead to an opportunity for Thompson, who owns a 2.76 ERA and 1.17 WHIP at Triple-A.  The upside isn’t as high as pitchers like Jose De Leon (Dodgers) or Josh Hader (Brewers), thanks to limited strikeout stuff (6.36 K/9 at Triple-A), but he has solid control (2.67 BB/9) and the opportunity should soon be there.

Dropped Off Rankings – Jose De Leon (LAD, SP), Josh Hader (MIL, SP)
Graduated – None

Others to Watch:

  • Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – Shortstop
  • Orlando Arcia – Milwaukee Brewers – Shortstop
  • P. Crawford – Philadelphia Phillies – Shortstop
  • Jose De Leon – Los Angeles Angels – Starting Pitcher
  • Josh Hader – Milwaukee Brewers – Starting Pitcher
  • Joe Musgrove – Houston Astros – Starting Pitcher
  • Hunter Renfroe – San Diego Padres – Outfielder
  • Nick Williams – Philadelphia Phillies – Outfielder
  • Jesse Winker – Cincinnati Reds – Outfielder

Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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