MLB Contenders with the Most MLB-Ready Prospect Depth
Several rookies have already made a big impact on contending teams, including Evan Gattis (Atlanta Braves), Shelby Miller (St. Louis Cardinals), Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays), Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Julio Teheran (Braves). With approximately seven weeks to go in the regular season, though, there aren't too many more on the way.
As for those on contending teams, there's just not much to get excited about outside of a few teams with some potential stars that could help in the near future.
Here are three contenders with at least three prospects who could have an impact on the playoff race over the remainder of the season.
When a 21-year-old, considered to be one the best pitching prospects in baseball, surpasses the 130-inning mark, it's probably time to be cautious and plan on shutting him down in the near future. But when that prospect is Archie Bradley (pictured), a 6'4", 225-pound workhorse out of Oklahoma, it's not out of the question to see him pitching late into the major league season.
Bradley might not make any starts for the D'backs until 2014, but that doesn't mean he can't help the team as it fights for a playoff spot this season. With two plus offerings—a mid-90s fastball and knuckle-curve—the right-hander could be a force coming out of the bullpen, which has been a sore spot for the D'backs all season long.
In 22 starts (five in High-A, 17 in Double-A) on the season, Bradley has a 1.91 ERA with 54 walks and 143 strikeouts in 131.2 innings pitched. After struggling with his command in Low-A ball in 2012 (84 BB in 136 IP), it's safe to say he's figured things out and is just about ready to pitch at the highest level.
In addition to Bradley, Triple-A shortstop Chris Owings could also get a shot to replace the struggling Didi Gregorius, who has a .483 OPS over his past 29 games after a hot start. The 22-year-old Owings, who is hitting .330 with 12 homers and 16 stolen bases, is considered to be one of the top infield prospects in the game with strong skills at the plate, as well as on defense.
The biggest concern with Owings is a lack of plate discipline (20 BB, 94 K), although he could succeed in a short one-month stint before teams are able to get a good read on how to attack his weaknesses.
Fellow prospect Matt Davidson, who was called up on Sunday to replace the injured Eric Chavez, could also get a long look at third base if Martin Prado plays more outfield with Cody Ross (dislocated hip) likely out for the season.
Another Double-A pitcher to keep an eye on is lefty starter David Holmberg, who has a 2.76 ERA in 23 starts. A 22-year-old back-of-the-rotation prospect, Holmberg could be in line for a start or two if the rotation thins out anymore.
Teammate Jake Barrett, a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, has a 1.43 ERA and 24 saves between High-A and Double-A. He could get a look in the pen, especially now that David Hernandez has been sent to the minors.
Boston Red Sox
After the Boston Red Sox traded away Jose Iglesias in the Jake Peavy deal, the biggest question quickly surrounding the team became "Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts" as the third baseman for the remainder of the season.
The answer was "neither," at least not right away, as they went with a Brock Holt/Brandon Snyder platoon. As of Saturday, however, it was Middlebrooks who got the call. He's responded with three hits and two runs batted in during his first two games since an early season demotion.
It's the 20-year-old Bogaerts, though, who is under the spotlight since it became clear earlier in the season that he was a special prospect who wouldn't need much more time in the minor leagues. Not only did the trade of Iglesias give him an opportunity later this season, it paves the way for him to become the Opening Day starter at shortstop in 2014.
Questions had surrounded his ability to stay at the position long term, and with Middlebrooks struggling early in the season, a move to third base became a strong possibility. He's even played the position seven times this season. But his value is certainly much higher as a shortstop, and his defense has improved enough to the point where he could stay there long term.
Even if Middlebrooks gets back on track, there's a good chance Bogaerts is up in September with a chance to make some starts at third base and shortstop.
Joining him no later than early September will be Jackie Bradley Jr. (pictured), who has struggled during a few big league stints this season (.568 OPS in 23 games) but remains one of the top outfield prospects in the game. In fact, his presence may be the reason the Sox allow Jacoby Ellsbury to walk as a free agent after the season. The 23-year-old has an .872 OPS with nine homers in 61 Triple-A games.
While the Red Sox rotation is stacked with the addition of Peavy and the eventual return of Clay Buchholz, the bullpen could see the arrival of a few hard-throwing pitching prospects who have already seen time in the majors.
Drake Britton, Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman are already there. Allen Webster and possibly even Anthony Ranaudo, who is having a breakout season (2.98 ERA in 19 Double-A starts and two Triple-A starts), could join them.
St. Louis Cardinals
Things have been quiet on the Oscar Taveras (pictured) front in 2013, mostly due to an ankle injury that has limited him to 46 games in Triple-A. But he could return soon, just in time to build some momentum and earn a pre-September call-up that would allow him to remain eligible for the playoff roster.
While he didn't make a lot of noise when he was playing, the fact that he still had an .803 OPS gives you an idea of what he can do. Or just read the scouting reports on this guy. He's a potential star who is probably ready to produce in the majors, and he's only 21 years of age.
Aside from Yadier Molina, the Cards are at full health, so at-bats wouldn't come easy for Taveras, especially with rookie Matt Adams earning a few starts per week, which pushes Allen Craig to the outfield. But if Taveras is as talented as the experts say he is, it will be tough to leave him off the lineup card very often.
Joining him for a September call-up could be Kolten Wong, the team's second baseman of the future. He'll be stuck behind Matt Carpenter, but he'll likely be an injury away from regular at-bats. Because of Carpenter's versatility, it doesn't have to be an injury to him that opens the door for Wong. Carpenter could play anywhere but catcher, shortstop or center field.
In addition to the rookie Adams playing an integral role in St. Louis' success, the Cardinals have had several rookie pitchers logging innings at the major league level, including Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.