While baseball nerds have always geeked out over prospect lists, rankings and debuts, prospect mania really hit the baseball mainstream during the 2015 season. In that year, once prospects, now MLB studs like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant made huge impacts as rookie call-ups. Six rookies that season totaled extrapolated wins above replacement (based on a 150 game season) over 5.0, while 11 earned a figure over 4.0. From star-studded premiers from hyped guys like Corey Seager and Michael Conforto, to lesser known but equally effective debuts from Devon Travis and Jung Ho Kang, the rookies turned out a historic performance.
Ever since, the thrill surrounding the rumored promotion of the next big prospect is palpable. That buzz is reaching a fever pitch now that calendars have turned to June, because it marks the conclusion of Super Two eligibility. What is Super Two eligibility? Basically, if a prospect is called up prior to the Super Two deadline, which is ambiguously scheduled sometime in the first of week of June, it starts their service clock a year early, which means said players are eligible for arbitration and eventually free agency one year earlier. Teams want to avoid this, as they would have to pay players more money sooner, so they often wait until after the Super Two deadline to call players up even if they’re deserving of an earlier promotion.
Now that the Super Two deadline is here, expect a lot more commotion surrounding the prospect hot stove, and in the coming weeks some actual promotions. The first in a two part series, the following post will break down five of the hottest MLB prospects right now and prognosticate when they will be called up.
Yoan Moncada (2B / Chicago (AL) / AAA / 22)
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 1st
MLB ETA: June 30th
Moncada, universally regarded as the best prospect in the game and consumer of up to 85 Twinkies per week, is due to for a promotion imminently. Despite being one of the youngest players in the AAA International League, Moncada is 6th in OPS at .885 and 5th in wRC+ at 149 (remember, that means he’s hitting 49% better than the average AAA hitter). Moncada was sidelined for about 10 days due to a thumb injury in mid-May, so expect Chicago to give him another week or two to shake off the rust prior to calling him up. The one rub on Moncada’s game has always been his strikeout proclivity, evidenced by a 31% strikeout rate in 207 AA plate appearances in 2016, but he has improved that part of his game, with a still high but not astronomical 27.5% rate in 2017.
Gleyber Torres (SS / New York (AL) / AAA / 20)
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 2nd
MLB ETA: September 1st
The Yankees pulled off some seriously good asset management when they dealt a bunch of average prospects to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman in December 2015 and then flipped Chapman to the Cubs for stud prospect Gleyber Torres at the 2016 trade deadline (only to re-sign Chapman as a free agent in the 2016 offseason). Torres’ stock has only vaulted up since then, with a sterling performance in AA to start 2017. Torres ranked 10th in the Eastern League in OPS and wRC+ prior to the Yankees promoting him to AAA on May 22nd. Torres has had a bit of a slow start with the AAA Scranton RailRiders, but he is displaying good plate discipline and is the youngest player in all of AAA. Assuming that Torres improves his performance in AAA, the Yankees will look to call him up when MLB rosters expand in September. There is no starting role available for Torres on the Yankees as of now, with SS Didi Gregorius and 2B Starlin Castro owning the middle of the infield and Chase Headley at third. However, Torres has been playing all over the infield this year, so expect him to occupy a Javier Baez-like utility role for the Yankees as they make their push to the playoffs.
Amed Rosario (SS / New York (NL) / AAA / 21)
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 3rd
MLB ETA: June 30th
Amed Rosario, a 2012 international signing hailing from the Dominican Republic, has tantalized scouts for the last five years with his rare blend of athleticism, speed, batting speed and untapped power potential. Rosario initially struggled to hit professional pitching in 2014-15, but has since cemented his status as one of baseball’s top prospects. His 2017 performance with the AAA Las Vegas 51s has garnered even more attention, with Rosario putting up a .914 OPS (13th best in the AAA Pacific Coast League) and 139 wRC+ (12th). He, along with Oakland prospect Franklin Barreto, is one of the youngest players in the entire league at 21. The Mets currently have Asdrubal Cabrera at short, who, despite wielding a solid bat, provides below average and sometimes awful defense. While Cabrera is a solid major league player, it’s only a matter of time before the Mets youth movement continues with a Rosario call-up. Expect it before the end of June.
Rafael Devers (3B / Boston / AA / 20)
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 13th
MLB ETA: June 30th
Devers, ranked as the 13th best prospect in the MLB at the beginning of the season, would be approaching the top five if rankings were re-done today. He’s had a torrid start with the AA Pawtucket Red Sox, and is currently 9th in the Eastern League in home runs
and 12th in OPS, all while being the second youngest player in the league next to Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres. The Red Sox have received the second worst offensive production from the third base position in the majors, although they just activated Pablo Sandoval from the DL yesterday. If Sandoval continues to hit like he did prior to injury, expect the Sox to make a change at third base. There are rumors swirling about the team’s interest in acquiring a third baseman like Todd Frazier, but given their deteriorating farm system, and the likelihood that Devers would be just as good as someone like Frazier, promotion from within makes more sense for Boston. GM Dave Dombrowski hasn’t been shy about promoting prospects to the MLB directly from AA before, so don’t be surprised to see Devers in Boston in the coming weeks.
Franklin Barreto (SS / Oakland / AAA / 21)
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 46th
MLB ETA: August 1st
Barreto, the stud prospect acquired from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, has managed to hit at every level of the minors. 2017 has been no different, with Barreto
sporting a .300 average and solid but not great .823 OPS for the Nashville Sounds, Oakland’s AAA squad. The opportune time for a Barreto promotion occurred in mid-April, when the Athletics’ incumbent shortstop Marcus Semien went down with a broken wrist. Oakland held firm and kept Barreto in the minors, with Adam Rosales taking over full-time shortstop duties. Second baseman Jed Lowrie and utility infielder Chad Pinder are also crushing the ball for Oakland, leaving little room on the big league roster for Barreto right now. With Oakland waffling at 23-29, last in the AL West, don’t be surprised to see the team enter “sell” mode early and deal pieces like Lowrie and Semien to contending teams, at which point a Barreto promotion will be a bit more feasible.