Thursday, September 21, 2023
HomeSportMLBThese prospects could make an impact in the Majors down the stretch

These prospects could make an impact in the Majors down the stretch

These prospects could make an impact in the Majors down the stretch

The Trade Deadline is past us, but that doesn’t mean rosters are fully set as the baseball world makes the turn into August and September.

Late-season callups and debuts can still have big impacts on races down the final stretch of the season. So while there are some new faces in new places this week, the fun won’t stop there in the days and weeks ahead.

  • MLB Pipeline | Top 100 prospects | Prospect video

Here are prospects, including one for every organization, who we’re hopeful and excited to see in the Majors during the final sprint toward postseason baseball.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Orioles: Heston Kjerstad, OF (No. 4)
A number of young players have gotten the call and are with Baltimore now, like Colton Cowser and Jordan Westburg, while Joey Ortiz has been up before and Connor Norby and Coby Mayo are Top 100 players also in Triple-A. But while it’s not 100 percent clear where the opportunity would be, it’s hard not to root for Kjerstad, who has a .997 OPS in 40 games since he got moved up to Triple-A, to see how that bat will play in the big leagues.

Red Sox: Ceddane Rafaela, OF/SS (No. 2)
The Red Sox are still unsettled at both middle-infield spots and Rafaela could provide quality defense, plus speed and surprising pop for a 5-foot-9, 165-pounder at either shortstop or center field. He probably could handle second base too, but he has spent only one game there in the last two seasons. Signed for just $10,000 out of Curacao in 2017, he’s batting .305/.351/.508 with 14 homers and 33 steals in 87 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Yankees: Randy Vásquez, RHP (No. 12)
Vásquez has allowed two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings over three spot starts with the Yankees and is ready in Triple-A when needed again. He has become one of New York’s best pitching prospects since signing for $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, showing the ability to miss bats with a power high-spin curveball in the low 80s, a 93-95 mph four-seam fastball that touches 100 and a mid-80s slider.

Rays: Curtis Mead, 3B/2B (No. 3)
The 22-year-old missed two months with a wrist injury, but he’s been on fire since his return on June 30, hitting .356/.454/.533 with 12 extra-base hits and a 9/17 K/BB over 23 games for Triple-A Durham. That’s more like the Mead who has hit everywhere else in his promising Minor League career. The Rays have a backlog of promising infielders – Jonathan Aranda is awaiting his St. Petersburg return any day now – but Mead is too talented and productive to keep away for too long in the club’s pursuit of the AL East crown.

Blue Jays: Addison Barger, INF (No. 6)
Toronto suffered a scare Monday when Bo Bichette left a game with right knee inflammation. The club’s acquisition of Paul DeJong provides some additional cover on the infield, but should it need more, Barger is waiting for his opportunity at Triple-A Buffalo. After missing six weeks with an elbow injury, the 23-year-old has turned it on recently with a .391 OBP, .509 slugging percentage and 12/12 K/BB ratio in his last 14 games. His above-average pop could help Toronto at short, third or even right where he’s gotten recent time.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Guardians: Johnathan Rodriguez, OF (unranked on Guardians Top 30)
The Guardians rank last in the Majors in home runs and could try to tap into the power of Rodriguez, a 2017 third-rounder from a Puerto Rican academy who has slammed 18 homers in 88 Double-A games and two in his first five Triple-A contests. Once club official likened him to 2022 hero Oscar Gonzalez with better swing decisions.

White Sox: Korey Lee, C (No. 14)
Lee isn’t going to lead the White Sox to the playoffs but the club should start to find out if he’s ready to take over as their starter next year after acquiring him from the Astros for Kendall Graveman last week. Andrew Vaughn’s former California teammate and fellow 2019 first-round pick has well above-average raw power and arm strength, though he’s hitting just .283/.328/.406 with five omers in 68 Triple-A games.

Tigers: Colt Keith, 3B/2B (No. 1)
Detroit’s top prospect has been humbled a bit by Triple-A pitching (.264/.343/.396 in 24 games) since his promotion in late June, but that’s to be expected for a 21-year-old. He still stings the ball hard with a max exit velocity of 110.1 mph for Toledo. If he adjusts to the league as he’s done elsewhere, Keith could be looking at a late-season replacement, a la Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll last year, that would give him a taste of the Majors but still keep him eligible for AL Rookie of the Year in 2024. He continues to see time at second and third to keep his MLB options open.

Royals: Nick Loftin, UTIL (No. 3)
The Nicky Lopez trade to Atlanta opened up a lane on Kansas City’s Major League roster, one that will be taken by Samad Taylor for now. But as Anne Rogers noted in her piece on the deal, the Royals want to get looks at some of their prospects as a difficult season winds down, and Loftin, who is healthy again after dealing with an earlier right knee injury, should be one of the bunch. After getting many looks at third base earlier, the 24-year-old has made four straight starts at second for Triple-A Omaha, but his above-average speed and strong arm work at multiple spots.

Twins: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (No. 5)
While it’s true SWR wasn’t very good in his one big league outing this year and his Triple-A numbers (5.93 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, .279 BAA) don’t scream big league callup, he has been much better of late. His 2.96 ERA and .207 BAA in five July outings point to him finding potentially finding his footing again. It’s not wow stuff, but given the Twins didn’t acquire any pitching help at the Deadline, they’ll have to look within for assistance.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Astros: Spencer Arrighetti, RHP (No. 6)
The Astros continually turn unheralded pitching prospects into quality big leaguers, and a 2021 sixth-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette could be the next in line. Using a pair of plus pitches in a 92-97 mph fastball with late hop and a sweeping low-80s slider, Arrighetti has posted a 4.19 ERA, .217 opponent average and 107 strikeouts in 86 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Angels: Trey Cabbage, 1B/OF (No. 29)
While Cabbage didn’t provide that much production during his dozen games in the big leagues this year, other than his first Major League home run, he’s been extremely productive in Triple-A, with a 20-20 season. He just got sent back down to Salt Lake, and the acquisition of C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk make it a little crowded in the big leagues, but the left-handed pop is legit.

A’s: Lawrence Butler, OF/1B (No. 7)
The A’s have provided a lot of opportunities to prospects this year and three of their current top five are in big leagues as we speak. While Butler has slowed down production-wise a bit from his torrid start to the 2023 season, he’s still having a heckuva year, playing his way to Double- to Triple-A, showing off his power-speed combination with 13 homers and 20 steals over 83 games.

Mariners: Emerson Hancock, RHP (No. 4)
Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo have done it, going from Double-A to Seattle, so why can’t Hancock? He’s pitching some of his best ball of late, having given up just one run over his last three strarts (.116 BAA) and has a 2.73 ERA since the beginning of June. Why not give him an extended audition the rest of the way with an eye towards 2024.

Rangers: Owen White, RHP (No. 2)
White made the first two big league appearances of his career this summer but has spent most of the season in Double-A and Triple-A, compiling a 3.61 ERA, .204 opponent average and 57 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. Though the Rangers upgraded their pitching at the Trade Deadline, the 2018 second-rounder from a North Carolina high school features four solid or better offerings and gives them another quality option.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: AJ Smith-Shawver, RHP (No. 1)
Smith-Shawver just was back up for his second big league stint, then sent down after one start. It’s been a crazy year with a rapid ascent from High-A to Atlanta and he’s only amassed 144 total professional innings. He’s been starting mostly, but he looked pretty good in one relief outing in the big leagues, so seeing him contribute in that fashion down the stretch could make some sense.

Marlins: Xavier Edwards, 2B/OF (No. 10)
Acquired along with J.T. Chargois in a trade that sent a pair of pitching prospects to the Rays last November, Edwards is blocked in Miami by Luis Arraez and Jazz Chisholm but could at least play a useful role off the bench with his hitting ability and speed. He’s batting .347/.415/.442 with 28 steals in 71 Triple-A games and went 8-for-21 (.381) in a brief trial with the Marlins in May.

Mets: Mike Vasil, RHP (No. 12)
You may have heard the Mets cleared two rotation spots recently. As it happens, Vasil – who will be New York’s top pitching prospect when we rerank this month – is now at Triple-A. Early results have been rough in a small sample (6.59 ERA, 16 BB, 31 K in 27 1/3 innings), but the 6-foot-5 righty has needed some time to adjust to the hitter-friendly level and the ABS system. He’s still showing a full four-pitch mix, headlined by a 93-96 mph fastball and upper-80s slider, and it might be worth the Mets’ time to give Vasil some exposure to The Show headed into an important offseason.

Phillies: Griff McGarry, RHP (No. 4)
While an oblique injury delayed the start to his 2023 season, McGarry has been throwing well overall, holding hitters in the Double-A Eastern League to a .171 batting average while striking out better than 12 per nine. He’s also walking 5.4 per nine and while he has the arsenal to start with four at least above-average pitches, the command has not come along. Maybe it’s time to shorten him up, put him in the ‘pen, and let that premium stuff fly while helping the Phillies hold on to a Wild Card spot.

Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 11)
Added to the 40-man roster last offseason, Rutledge has reached Triple-A, and the Nationals are hopeful he can push for a debut before the season is out. He has a pair of fastballs (both in the mid-90s), an upper-80s change and two separate breaking balls, so there’s a deep enough arsenal here to get Nationals fans excited about the 6-foot-8 right-hander. He doesn’t get whiffs as you’d hope for someone with his depth of stuff, but Washington should want to get an assessment of his Major League starting capabilities before fall arrives.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Cubs: Ben Brown, RHP (No. 3)
Brown barely pitched in his first five years as a pro because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic, but he has developed rapidly over the last two seasons and came to Chicago from the Phillies in an August 2022 deal for David Robertson. He’s poised to help the resurgent Cubs with a mid-90s fastball and mid-80s downer curveball that have translated into a 3.81 ERA, .212 opponent average and 120 strikeouts in 85 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Reds: Connor Phillips, RHP (No. 5)
A recent addition to the Top 100, Phillips has been terrific in six Triple-A starts (1.95 ERA, .206 BAA, 10.4 K/9), albeit with spotty command, after missing a ton of bats in Double-A. The Reds didn’t make a trade to bring in a starter and while they’re hoping Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene can return and make an impact, Phillips’ stuff can get big league hitters out, too.

Brewers: Robert Gasser, LHP (No. 7)
Milwaukee famously needs lineup help, so there’s a temptation to put Tyler Black or even Jackson Chourio here. But the truth is, unlike those two, Gasser actually has Triple-A experience, and he actually leads the International League with 114 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings. The left-hander has been upping the usage on his upper-80s cutter as the season has gone on, while also showing a low-90s four-seam and sinker and 79-81 mph slider. You can never have too much pitching, and Milwaukee will likely be tempted to see how Gasser can help their NL Central chances.

Pirates: Jared Jones, RHP (No. 10)
There’s a spot open in the Pirates’ rotation with Rich Hill now a San Diego Padre and there’s been discussion about who might fill that hole. Yes, Luis Ortiz could get another chance and recently acquired Bailey Falter could get a shot, but Jones has vaulted himself into being on the cusp of an opportunity. He’s evolved from high school thrower in the 2020 Draft to a much more complete pitcher, now in Triple-A just days shy of his 22nd birthday. He’s taken some lumps since moving up to Indianapolis, but is coming off his best start and his stuff continues to be electric.

Cardinals: Masyn Winn, SS (No. 1)
Few Triple-A hitters have been as hot as Winn since July 1. Over 23 games since that date, the 21-year-old middle infielder has a .344/.413/.719 line with eight homers, two triples and eight doubles. His 69 total bases are third-most in Triple-A in that span, and he’s pushed his max exit velocity to 110.1 mph. For reference, Nolan Arenado has maxed out at 110.3 this season. With DeJong in Toronto, there is an open spot for a shortstop in St. Louis, where the Cards are playing for 2024 and beyond.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Slade Cecconi, RHP (No. 9)
This is cheating a little because Cecconi is making his Major League debut Wednesday night in San Francisco, but there is a real opportunity for the 24-year-old right-hander to take advantage of the opportunity granted to him by Tommy Henry’s trip to the IL. Cecconi has proven to be homer-prone in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but the stuff is still there with a mid-90s fastball, 82-84 mph slider and mid-70s curveball that can get whiffs.

Rockies: Aaron Schunk, 3B/2B (No. 29)
Schunk nearly played himself off the Rockies’ Top 30 with a rough first full season in 2021 and a so-so one in 2022, both marred by poor approaches at the plate. He’s now 26, and he’s earned a chance to show what he can do after posting a .309/.359/.518 line in Triple-A this year while showing the ability to play both third and second base.

Dodgers: Gavin Stone, RHP (No. 4)
Stone may have gotten tattooed for 18 runs in his first 12 big league innings but the Dodgers need more pitching reinforcements and he has the talent to help. At his best, the 2020 fifth-rounder from Central Arkansas has a double-plus changeup and a solid fastball and slider. He has had an inconsistent season in Triple-A but sports a 3.43 ERA, .215 opponent average and 21/5 K/BB ratio in his last 21 innings over four starts.

Padres: Jairo Iriarte, RHP (No. 10)
The 21-year-old right-hander was enjoying a breakout season with a 3.10 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 61 innings at High-A Fort Wayne when he was promoted to Double-A San Antonio in mid-July. He’s pitched in relief ever since, perhaps to ease a move to the Majors. San Diego has shown a willingness to jump pitchers from the Texas League to the Majors this season. Iriarte’s fastball can touch the upper-90s, and he has a slider and changeup that could transition well to the bigs in short stints.

Giants: Kyle Harrison, LHP (No. 1)
The game’s best left-handed pitching prospect is working his way back from a hamstring injury but soon should be ready to fill a hole in the Giants’ rotation, which has used 11 different starters this year and just lost Anthony DeSclafani to a flexor strain. A 2020 third-round pick from a California high school, Harrison overmatches hitters with a 92-97 mph fastball with carry, a sweeping low-80s slider and a lively mid-80s changeup. He has tallied a 4.79 ERA, .214 opponent average and 92 strikeouts in 56 1/3 Triple-A innings.

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