It's been a busy week on the border between Major League Baseball and the wild land beyond where top prospects roam free, waiting for their chance to break through.
Now that they're (back in Profar's case) in The Show, we have to ask: Who's next?
That's always a tough one with prospects, as the dominoes have to fall just right and you just never know with the timing. The best you can do is take educated guesses.
Shoot, I'm game. Here are some predictions for five top prospects who will be coming soon to a major league ballpark near you.
Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
I feel obligated to include one of my preseason Rookie of the Year picks in this discussion, and that means either Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers or Pittsburgh Pirates righty Gerrit Cole.
Between the two, I like Cole's chances more.
The issue with Myers is that the Rays outfield isn't quite hopeless, as it ranks about in the middle of the pack in OPS (see FanGraphs). Desmond Jennings has had issues, but Myers isn't the sort of true center fielder who could take his spot.
Beyond that, Myers has hit the skids a bit in May. He's only a .154/.255/.256 hitter over his last 10 games, bringing his OPS for the season down to .712. Bill Chastain of MLB.com opined in late April that Myers isn't going to get the call until the Rays are sure he's major league-ready, and that's a bit of a question mark for now.
As for Cole, the Pirates had an excuse to call him up when James McDonald went on the DL, but decided to go with Jeanmar Gomez instead. McDonald will soon be back, and then the Pirates will have a solid starting five with him A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano.
So...Where will Cole fit in?
The best answer I can give now is "somewhere," and that it will be happening "soon." Even once the usual suspects are back together again, the Pirates aren't going to have an airtight rotation. There will be a chance for Cole to step in thanks to an injury, ineffectiveness or both.
Yeah, I'm reaching a bit, but what it comes down to is that Cole is a guy the Pirates can't keep down forever.
Cole is arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball in terms of pure talent, and he's running out of things to prove in the minors. His control is still iffy—he has a 4.3 BB/9 in nine starts—but his stuff is marvelous and he was cruising to the tune of a 2.55 ERA until he got lit up in his most recent start at Pawtucket.
The Pirates' early success this season has been built much more on pitching than hitting. Adding Cole to the mix is one way they could make a strength even stronger, and I'd expect it to happen no later than mid-June.
Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Seattle Mariners are having trouble hitting again.
It hasn't helped that guys who were supposed to hit haven't hit. That's your cue to look in the general direction of Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, though he may not be there when you look now that he's been optioned to Triple-A.
You can also look in the general direction of Seattle's shortstops. Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino are responsible for a .170/.245/.204 batting line, the rough translation for which in baseball-ese is "Yuck."
Meanwhile, there's Nick Franklin at Triple-A Tacoma with a .318/.441/.481 batting line. He's played second base more than shortstop this season, but that's a switch from the last couple years. Franklin isn't regarded as a great shortstop, but he's certainly not out of his element at the position.
The Mariners don't necessarily have to view Franklin as an answer for only their shortstop quandary. They should also be thinking long and hard about what's to be done with Ackley, as he's following up a bad April with an even worse May. In 16 games, Ackley's hitting just .161/.266/.232.
Between Seattle's light-hitting shortstops and light-hitting second baseman, the wall between Franklin and the majors is only about ankle-high. The only thing keeping him on the outside looking in is the Mariners' sense of the proper timing to call him up, as the last thing they want is to potentially ruin another hitter by asking Franklin to do more than he's ready to do.
But Franklin's production says his bat is ready, and the (non-)production the Mariners have gotten from the middle of their infield says that a change is needed. Two and two together should make a promotion.
Franklin's not going to be able to make a huge difference at the major league level when he does get the call, as he can only solve a small part of a larger problem. But he'll bring some much-needed energy to the lineup if he hits, and giving him some OTJ training this year could pay off later.
Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers' immediate future probably involves spontaneous combustion.
Seems that way given how this season is unfolding, but there's a good chance slugging outfield prospect Yasiel Puig is going to get the call to the majors before it hits.
According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, calling up Puig has at least been discussed:
#Dodgers have discussed calling up Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, according to Don Mattingly.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) May 22, 2013
Whether Don Mattingly is still going to be there to manage Puig when he arrives is anybody's guess, but the timing of this discussion certainly fits. Andre Ethier was put on the bench and in Mattingly's doghouse this week, and Dave Cameron of FanGraphs is right in thinking that Ethier can probably be had if anybody out there wants him.
The Dodgers don't necessarily need to wait for Ethier to be gone to call up Puig, though, as he could always come up and platoon with Ethier or just take over the starting job for himself.
Whatever it takes to get some offense, really. The Dodgers only have a .692 OPS as a team, and only the Miami Marlins have a worse ISO (see FanGraphs). More than anything, the Dodgers need power.
Puig has that in spades. He hit the cover off the ball in spring training, at which point Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote that Puig might have more raw power than anyone outside of Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton. In 32 games with Double-A Chattanooga, Puig is slugging .579 with six homers.
The kind of offensive boost Puig can provide could make a difference for the Dodgers. As disappointing as their season has been, they're only six games out of first in the NL West. They have enough pitching to hang in there now that Zack Greinke is back. They just need some offense.
Expect them to try and conjure some by promoting Puig any day now.
Zack Wheeler, SP, New York Mets
And we now come to my boldest prediction.
...Or whatever the exact opposite of "boldest" is.
I was going to throw Zack Wheeler in here either way, but news came out from Mike Puma of the New York Post while I was in the process of writing that the countdown is officially on. Word is that Wheeler is going to make two or three more starts for Triple-A Las Vegas before joining the New York Mets.
Makes sense. Wheeler is the No. 7 prospect in baseball according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, he's accumulated plenty of experience in the minors and the Mets could use some help in their rotation.
It's not much outside of Matt Harvey. Among the starters the Mets have used this season, Harvey is the only one with an ERA south of 4.80. Per ESPN.com, the Mets rank 20th in MLB in quality starts despite Harvey's contributions.
Wheeler's going to be able to add to that total. He's similar to Harvey in that he can get his fastball in the high-90s, and he also throws a curve, a slider and a changeup. Command has been an issue for him in the past, but he hasn't walked any more than two in his last four starts.
Sort of like with Franklin and the Mariners, Wheeler's not going to arrive on the scene and catalyze a magical run to the pennant. The Mets are a bad team. Wheeler's only going to serve to make them less bad.
But the OTJ training will come in handy for Wheeler, as it did for Harvey last year. Having the two of them in the rotation will also make for more stability, which will be nice.
And yes, having Harvey and Wheeler in the rotation will excite the Mets' fanbase, who will be watching hope for the future personified in two golden-armed righties.
Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins
The list of reasons to be interested in the Miami Marlins doesn't have much on it, but another item is going to be added when Christian Yelich gets the call to the majors.
Hey, why not? The Marlins already have one of their best youngsters on the major league roster in right-hander Jose Fernandez, and they could use some more talent in their outfield. Marlins outfielders have a mere .656 OPS, and Giancarlo Stanton will only be able to do so much to bring that number up when he returns from his hamstring injury.
Yelich has played 28 games for Double-A Jacksonville and is hitting at .308/.376/.624 with six home runs. The power he's shown off is particularly encouraging, as Yelich is already halfway to his home run total from 2012.
Yelich could come up and play either center field or left, and there's not much standing in the way of him finding a home at either spot. Center field is where he's played most often this season, however, and that's where he could supplant the struggling Justin Ruggiano.
As for when Yelich will be getting the call, I wouldn't expect it to be a second before the Super Two cutoff seeing as how these are the Marlins we're talking about. That means June 15-ish (I haven't seen an exact date anywhere out there).
The Marlins would need about 20 Christian Yeliches and a few more Giancarlo Stantons on the side in order to have any hope of emerging as a contender down the stretch, but promoting Yelich could help the organization put butts in seats at Marlins Park. That may have been their goal when they promoted Fernandez, but he obviously can't play every day like Yelich can.
Once he gets the call, Yelich will get some OTJ training this year, develop into a star over the next couple years, and then be traded just when he's about to get expensive.
It's the Marlins way.
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