Minor Leagues

Minor Leaguers Who Could Shape the Playoff Race

The purpose is to identify the players that are currently waiting in the minors that have the potential to impact a playoff race this season. If your team is out of contention, your favorite prospect will not be on this list. Also, if the player is still on Top 100 list, but have already received ample playing time in the big leagues (i.e. Gleybar Torres, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr, Walker Buehler), you will not qualify for this list either. Those players are already contributing to teams in contention, in many ways the purpose is to identify which players turn into those aforementioned rookies who are already enjoying success at the big leave level.

Corbin Burnes (RHP) – Milwaukee Brewers
Current Team: (AAA, Colorado Springs)

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If Corbin Burnes can regain his 2017 form he could become a fixture in the Milwaukee rotation down the stretch.

If you evaluating Burnes ability solely based off this year’s performance, you are doing him an enormous disservice. While there is no denying that he has struggled in his first 13 starts, we should defer to the eye-popping numbers he posted in his first two professional seasons rather than overreact based on a tough 13 start sample size. While his K% has decreased and his GB% has gone up at each level, scouts don’t seem concerned and would rather focus on his “lightning quick arm speed” that produces a 92-95 mph cutting fastball that he couples with a high spin rate curveball.

Burnes also shows an advanced feel for a slider and changeup, which gives him four pitches that grade as 55s to go along with 60-grade command.

The Brewers current rotation is comprised of Brett Suter, Jhoulys Chacin, Junior Guerra, Chase Anderson, and a revolving door that involves Freddy Peralta. The Brew Crew will get Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson back at some point, but if one of their current starters falters in the meantime, don’t be surprised to see Burnes pitching at Miller Park sooner rather than later.

The Brewers will be in the market for a starting pitcher at the deadline, but perhaps they have someone who can slot into their rotation every fifth day waiting in Colorado Springs.


Justis Sheffield (LHP) – New York Yankees

Current Team: (AAA, Scranton / Wilkes-Barre)

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With the injuries piling up in the Yankees rotation, look for the Yanks top pitching prospect to get the call soon.

The Yankees will not be shy about their pursuit of a starting pitcher at this year’s deadline. With Jordan Montgomery out for the year, Masahiro Tanaka on the DL, and Sonny Gray continuing to be inconsistent, the Yankees rotation behind Luis Severino and the surprising C.C. Sabathia have an average ERA- of 116.

The fine writers at Fangraphs have recently opined as to why Domingo German may be better than we think and the early returns on recent call-up Johnathon Loasiga were all positive, I doubt the Yankees want to be reliant on two inexperienced starters down the stretch.

While it’s a near guarantee that the Yankees acquire a starting pitcher before July 31st, they also have left-hander Justus Sheffield available as an insurance plan.

Sheffield has two 60 grade pitches in his fastball and slider and can miss bats with his changeup as well. His command needs some improvement, but if German and Loasiga fail to prove themselves and Tanaka’s injury lingers, it will be Sheffield with the next opportunity to earn his pinstripes.

Kyle Tucker (RF) – Houston Astros
Current Team: (AAA, Fresno)

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Tucker has posted a .306 / .375 / .506 slash line this season while swiping 12 bags in just 14 attempts.

Despite getting remarkable production from speedster Tony Kemp since joining the Astros on June 7th, the organization does not view him as a long-term solution in either of the corner outfield spots. While Kemp has overperformed thus far, Derek Fisher has done just the opposite, posting a 70 wRC+ so far this season while rating slightly below average defensively.

Last, and well, least for the Astros core of potential outfield options is Jake Marisnick. If it weren’t for the historically bad starts of Chris Davis and Cole Kalhoun, more attention might be paid to the complete collapse of Marisnick. With a wRC+ of just 41 and a strikeout rate 42% higher than his walk rate, the steady outfield defender is simply not playable right now.

The final option for the Astros in the outfield is Marwin Gonzalez, who was serviceable in left field during Houston’s 2017 World Series run. The super utility man has also been on fire at the plate lately so he deserves at-bats. The problem with penciling him in as every day left fielder is that is versatility is more or less wasted,

When we include permanent lineup fixtures George Springer and Josh Reddick, it may appear as if the Astros have plenty of depth after all, but such a conclusion would be downplaying the enormous offensive potential that Tucker would bring to the lineup.

With a .886 OPS in Triple-A and the Super Two Deadline likely having passed, it is in the Astros best interest to at least give Tucker a chance to take over the everyday role. If he doesn’t hit, you send him back down. But if he shows the offensive potential that scouts have been gushing over, he could provide both an added spark and some stability to the Astros outfield situation.

Ideally, the Astros would like to have Tucker, Springer, and Reddick in the outfield, with Marwin operating as a super utilityman and either Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick, or Derek Fisher serving in the pinch-runner / defensive replacement role.

 

Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS) – Colorado Rockies
Current Team (AAA, Albuquerque):

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Since the Rockies have the benefit of playing in what has been the worst division in the National League, they remain very much in contention for their first ever division title despite an exactly .500 record.

With top prospect Brendan Rodgers tearing up every level of the Rockies minor league system since being drafted third overall in 2015, it seems like there is nothing else the organizations top prospect has to prove in order to be promoted. In fact, if he was a member of most organizations, he would have likely already gotten the call. Unfortunately for the Rockies, the club has perhaps the best third baseman in baseball, the NL RBI leader at SS, and a former batting champion and Gold Glover at 2B. With these roadblocks in front of him, there is currently no path to regular at-bats at the MLB level.

If we are to see Rodgers in the MLB this season, it is likely because one of the Rockies infielders went down with an injury or the team got creative by shifting players around to different positions to make room.

Rodgers has perennial All-Star written all over him, but his days at Coors Field may have to wait.


Francisco Mejia (C / OF) – Cleveland Indians

Current Team (AAA, Colombus)

Mejia set a MiLB record with a 62 game hitting streak in 2016.

In this high-strikeout, high-home run era, a player like Mejia is a rarity. While Mejia will likely never eclipse the 20 home run mark in the MLB, his bat-to-ball skills are impressive enough to give him a very high ceiling.

While Mejia’s offensive profile may not be anything to get too excited about, his unique defensive versatility and ability to hit from both sides of the plate make him one of the more intriguing prospects in the game.

So far this season, Mejia has played 35 of his 66 games at catcher, while splitting the rest of his time between the two corner outfield positions. In 2017, Mejia also played ten games at third base. It is clear that the Indians are so eager to get Mejia’s bat into their everyday lineup that they are willing to put him anywhere in the field in order to do so.

While the Indians are experimenting with Mejia as a corner infielder/outfielder, they recognize that he is still the top catching prospect in the game.

Rostering a backup catcher that can also hold his own at either corner outfield spot provides Terry Francona with extraordinary roster flexibility. Add in the fact that Mejia is an above average hitter from both sides of the plate and the Indians have all the makings of the perfect utilityman for the stretch run.

 

 

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About Traven Tapson

I am a recent graduate from Claremont McKenna College pursuing a career in baseball operations for an MLB team. I am fascinated by the analytical side of baseball and use this blog as a platform to share my insights and knowledge with those who share my curiosities.
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