MLB Top Prospects: ROTOscouting Risers (April/May)
30 games into the MILB season and a handful of MLB top prospects are knocking at the door of a Major League opportunity. It’s still early May, but team weaknesses at the MLB level are negatively affecting playoff hopes like the messy outfield situation in Los Angeles. The super-two cut off can’t come fast enough for some teams as they’re forced to decide between starting an MLB top prospects time clock or piss off the fan base. Once it passes, a handful of players will be promoted as saviors. Here’s a look at a few “guys” expected to be pushed into the spotlight by September.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox
In interviewing Betts last season (left on the cutting room floor after leaving FanGraphs), the second baseman joked about his first professional home run and if I had seen it (like it would be a long time before he hit another one). At the time, the top Red Sox prospect had no idea he’d hit 20 more in a calendar year. Today, Betts is one of the best all-around hitters in the minor leagues from a numbers standpoint. As MLB top prospects go, few are generating as much buzz.
Back in the summer of 2012, a two-game look at Betts in the New York-Penn League was intriguing. As a teenager, few players combined the athleticism and baseball IQ of the right-handed hitters, resulting in an aggressive rank as one of the best second baseman scouted that season. As Betts’ reputation has grown, so has the speculation of his being able to play shortstop at the MLB level. When speaking with the second baseman, he mentioned a general dislike for shortstop and how he has “brain farts” at the position. Fortunately for Betts, his bat plays at second base, or in the outfield where all three outfield slots have an OPS of .685 or lower. Surely, Betts and his .466 wOBA in Double-A would be an upgrade. If promoted today, Betts has the athleticism and work ethic to learn left field quickly.
Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
An elite stolen base threat, Johnson was a tough scout in the South Atlantic League. Over multiple games, Johnson should glimpses of hitting ability, but little in the way of defensive chops. In Chicago, the infield is full of so-so talents with moderate upside if things break right. Marcus Semien is the best of the bunch and deserves consistent at bats somewhere. However, injuries in the outfield have taken an interesting group and turned it into a mess. Knowing this, it would make sense to have Johnson play the outfield in Triple-A and promote the left-handed hitter once he’s fully acclimated. At present, his .161 wOBA is outstanding and the White Sox center field and left field positions have posted an OPS of .627 and .591. It’s hard to envision Johnson being any worse.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
This week, Ben Flajole broke down the Dodgers outfield situation and the fact Los Angeles is leaving wins on the table by not opting for a strict platoon of Joc Pederson and Scott Van Slyke. Prospect followers scream bloody murder whenever platooning MLB top prospects is mentioned, but the Dodgers HAVE to win, Unlike lesser teams like the Astros who can play George Springer and his .272 wOBA. Admittedly Springer’s situation is better for player development as prospects in major markets are often leveraged to fill need. But let’s face it, Pederson has a .439/.558/.817 triple slash line versus right-handed pitchers and would be an upgrade over Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Meanwhile, Van Slyke has a career wOBA of .369 against left-handed pitchers including an embarrassing 57 plate appearances in 2012. Ignore those and he’s been a lefty killer. Platoon the two the position will produce 2-3 wins between now and the end of the season. Pederson was a favorite amongst MLB top prospects in 2013 and will have a productive Major League career — even if he splits time early.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Right field in Pittsburgh is a black hole. With a .623 OPS it’s a key reason for the Pirates’ struggles. The worst kept secret in baseball is Gregory Polanco and his .471 wOBA. He’s ready for a shot, but the team is already 7.5 games out in baseball’s best division. Plus, Pittsburgh finds themselves behind nine teams for the National League Wild Card. While the narrative around baseball is, “what happened to the Pirates?” The internal discussion is if the season isn’t already too far gone. Projection systems didn’t like them to begin with and that’s come to fruition on the field. It’s likely the organization knew where it stood entering the season. At this point, it’s probably better to play the long game with Polanco — at least until May 20th, or the conclusion of the Indianapolis series in Gwinnett.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
A 2010 scouting report on Singleton compared him to a mini-David Ortiz. High praise given the prodigious career of the Red Sox slugger. Last season was one to forget for the Astros first base prospect given his PED suspension and struggles upon return. His stock dropped, allowing team ROTOscouting to scoop him in the third round of the Baseball Prospect prospect draft this spring. With 11 home runs in 148 plate appearances, the pick is looking good, as is the future of the Astros’ first base position. Given the Astros has a combined OPS of .532 at the position, his time is coming… quickly. The great thing about MLB top prospects with poor teams is the leash will be extraordinarily long.
Who Are The MLB Top Prospects On The Pitching Side?
With injuries to Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker, as well as the recent promotion of Marcus Stroman, who are the pitchers readers are monitoring closely? Is it Andrew Heaney, scouted recently by our own Chris Blessing? What about Rockies 2013 1st round pick Jonathan Gray? Use the comments section to wax poetical about the best pitching prospects in baseball, or help identify other MLB top prospects on the offensive side primed to break through soon.
9 May 2014 / Mike Newman / 2
Categories: MLB Analysis
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