Each MLB Team's Prospect That Could Help Right Away

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2017

Each MLB Team's Prospect That Could Help Right Away

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    We spend a lot of time talking about a team's top prospects, but what about the next prospect?

    Sometimes those two are one in the same, as highly regarded youngsters like Yoan Moncada and Cody Bellinger are knocking on the door for a big league promotion.

    Other times, it's a largely unheralded middle reliever or a second-tier position player on the rise who winds up providing necessary in-house support.

    Ahead we've taken a closer look at the one prospect from each team who is ready to help out in the majors right now.

    Players were chosen based on a combination of their own individual development and production as well as their path to playing time at the MLB level based on current or expected team needs.

Arizona Diamondbacks: RP Jimmie Sherfy

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    You can count the Arizona Diamondbacks among the teams that could use some early reinforcement in the bullpen.

    The veteran trio of Fernando Rodney (7 G, 8.53 ERA), Randall Delgado (5 G, 8.22 ERA) and Tom Wilhelmsen (6 G, 7.20 ERA) has been shaky, and while others have picked up the slack, it might not be long before the team is searching for some in-house help.

    Right-hander Jimmie Sherfy could be among the first arms called upon.

    The 25-year-old posted a 2.77 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 12.8 strikeouts per innings in 52 appearances over three minor league levels last season and he's off to a strong start in Triple-A.

    With a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and a wipeout slider, he has late-inning stuff and closer potential.

Atlanta Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies

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    The Atlanta Braves have done their best not to rush Ozzie Albies to the majors.

    They may not be able to hold the precocious infielder back for much longer, though, as he's off to a strong start once again at the Triple-A level.

    He played all of last season at the age of 19 and hit .292/.358/.420 with 49 extra-base hits and 30 stolen bases in 618 plate appearances in the upper levels of the minors.

    Veteran Brandon Phillips was acquired during the offseason to bridge the gap at second base and he's off to a strong start with an .837 OPS, three doubles and one home run.

    However, it's clear he's not part of the rebuilding club's future, and Phillips could eventually be asked to slide over to the hot corner or moved to a part-time role once Albies finally gets the call.

Baltimore Orioles: LHP Jayson Aquino

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    Jayson Aquino turned more than a few heads in Baltimore Orioles camp this spring.

    Over 15 innings of work, the left-hander pitched to a 1.20 ERA and 0.80 WHIP with 14 strikeouts and just two walks.

    "We're going to run him out there every fifth day, somewhere out there. We'll see where it takes us. He's a potential depth piece for us," manager Buck Showalter told Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun during spring training.

    With Chris Tillman still nursing a sore shoulder and Ubaldo Jimenez struggling mightily, it might not take long for the O's to start looking for alternatives in the rotation.

    Mike Wright, Logan Verrett, Gabriel Ynoa and Chris Lee are also 40-man roster options currently starting at the Triple-A level, but Aquino might be the most intriguing arm on that staff.

Boston Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson

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    Brian Johnson earned a spot start for the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night in place of Eduardo Rodriguez, who was on paternity leave.

    The left-hander allowed seven hits and four earned runs over five innings, walking three and striking out six to earn his first MLB win.

    It wasn't a dominant outing by any means, but after a 35-pitch first inning, he settled in nicely and gave the team some innings when the bullpen could ill afford another long night.

    At this point, it's clear the 26-year-old is never going to emerge as a front-line starter.

    However, he's proved he's a viable option if a need arises in the bullpen and he'll be waiting in the wings in Triple-A as valuable depth.

Chicago Cubs: RHP Pierce Johnson

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    Pierce Johnson was once considered one of the top starting pitching prospects in the Chicago Cubs system.

    However, ongoing issues with his command finally necessitated a move to the bullpen last July, and he finished the season on a high note with a 3.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 14.1 K/9 in 11 relief appearances.

    MLB.com wrote: "He has the stuff and mentality to thrive in the bullpen, though he'll have to locate his pitches better before he can help the Cubs."

    The 25-year-old can focus on his mid-90s fastball and plus curveball in his new role, ditching what was a middling cutter-changeup combination that he used as a starter.

    He's now closing games for Triple-A Iowa and could be the next Cubs prospect to make his MLB debut.

Chicago White Sox: 2B Yoan Moncada

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    Yoan Moncada has a chance to be a true superstar for the rebuilding Chicago White Sox.

    "He's a game-changer. He's exciting to watch," Triple-A manager Mark Grudzielanek told Kyle Glaser of Baseball America. "He definitely has all the tools. Switch-hitter, he can run, he's just got to grow a little bit. He's just got to get a little more experience, get a few more reps, but again, what a find and what a great player."

    It's only a matter of time before he's manning the right side of the infield alongside fellow countryman Jose Abreu.

    So far this season, White Sox second basemen are hitting a combined .196/.327/.261 with three extra-base hits, and big picture-wise, Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez are nothing more than placeholders.

    Once the Super Two deadline passes, expect to see Moncada called up in short order.

    He's hitting .318/.412/.545 with three home runs in 11 games for Triple-A Charlotte.

Cincinnati Reds: RHP Luis Castillo

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    The Cincinnati Reds have already used three different rookies in the starting rotation this season.

    With Brandon Finnegan recently joining a crowded disabled list with a shoulder injury, they could turn to another inexperienced arm when his spot in the rotation comes up again on Saturday.

    Chances are it will either be Cody Reed or Robert Stephenson who take the ball for that game as they're working out of the big league bullpen, but it's worth keeping an eye on prospect Luis Castillo.

    The right-hander was acquired from the Miami Marlins during the offseason as part of the Dan Straily trade and he should be ready first his first taste of MLB action at some point this season.

    The 24-year-old has pitched to a 1.96 ERA and 0.76 WHIP with 17 strikeouts in 18.1 innings for Double-A Pensacola, and the former reliever could potentially jump over Triple-A if needed.

    MLB.com wrote: "Castillo has proven to be durable and a better strike-thrower than anticipated since moving into a starting role. If he can continue to refine his secondary stuff, he has top-of-the-rotation potential."

Cleveland Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger

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    We're cheating a bit here.

    Mike Clevinger is technically no longer considered a prospect after he tallied 53 innings of work at the big league level last season, surpassing the 50-inning limit to maintain rookie eligibility.

    However, he's the obvious answer as far as which young, not yet established player is most likely to make an impact for the Cleveland Indians in the near future.

    The 26-year-old has been dominant through three starts with Triple-A Columbus, posting a 0.47 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and a 25-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 innings.

    Meanwhile, Josh Tomlin (3 GS, 1-2, 11.68 ERA) and Trevor Bauer (2 GS, 0-2, 8.44 ERA) are both off to rocky startsthough Tomlin did turn in a quality start on Tuesdayso the team might need to consider giving Clevinger a look if that continues.

    Otherwise, he's clearly the next man up if someone goes down with an injury.

Colorado Rockies: RHP German Marquez

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    The Colorado Rockies are off to a 10-5 start and they've done it with a pair of rookie rounding out the starting rotation.

    Now, with Jon Gray landing on the disabled list with a toe injury and Tyler Anderson struggling to an 8.59 ERA over his first three starts, they could be ready to turn to another rookie in the near future.

    Jeff Hoffman might seem like the obvious answer here as the team's top pitching prospect and one who saw some big league action a year ago.

    However, he still has some things to work on in the minorsnamely his overall command of a four-pitch repertoire—and a 4.80 ERA over his first three starts in Triple-A is a good indication he's not quite there yet.

    Instead, look for German Marquez to be the next rookie to get the call to Colorado.

    The 22-year-old shot up prospect rankings last season when he went 11-6 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 155 strikeouts in 166.2 innings of work.

    He's allowed just one run with nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings so far this season and he appears ready to make an impact in some capacity at the MLB level.

Detroit Tigers: RHP Joe Jimenez

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    Joe Jimenez made his MLB debut last week, striking out one in a perfect inning of work against the Minnesota Twins before being optioned back to Triple-A in favor of a long reliever after a blowout loss.

    Considering the Detroit Tigers bullpen ranks last in the majors with a 6.75 ERA, it won't be long before he returns.

    The 22-year-old has been nothing short of dominant to this point in his pro career while climbing the organizational ladder.

    He's pitched to a 1.55 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 13.1 K/9 against just 2.6 walks per nine innings in 130 career appearances and he hasn't missed a beat in the upper levels of the minors.

    With an upper-90s fastball and a wipeout slider, he has the look of a future closer, but for now he'd be a welcome help in middle relief.

Houston Astros: 1B A.J. Reed

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    We're cheating again here a little bit.

    While A.J. Reed has not yet surpassed the 130 at-bat limit to maintain rookie eligibility, he has spent 45 days on the active roster prior to roster expansion, so technically he's no longer considered a prospect.

    But he's worthy of attention as a player who could make a significant impact in his post-hype arrival.

    So far this season, a first base platoon of Marwin Gonzalez and Yulieski Gurriel has posted a respectable .264/.291/.472 line with three home runs and six RBI.

    However, Reed turned heads this spring when he posted a 1.008 OPS with a team-high four home runs and 11 RBI before being optioned to Triple-A.

    Through 11 games, he has an .837 OPS with three doubles and two home runs, and at some point this season, the Astros will want to see if he can live up to his former top prospect billing.

Kansas City Royals: LHP Matt Strahm

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    Matt Strahm was lights-out in the Kansas City Royals bullpen last season.

    The left-hander posted a 1.23 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in 22 innings over 21 appearances and he was expected to be a vital part of the team's relief corps once again this year.

    Instead, he was shelled to the tune of seven earned runs in 1.1 innings over his first three appearances and promptly optioned to the minors.

    He's worked five scoreless innings with Triple-A Omaha since being demoted, allowing two hits and zero walks while striking out seven, and it might not be long before he's back in the majors.

    "He's not far off," pitching coach Dave Eiland told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. "He's just got to get back to the mindset of trusting his stuff, believing in it and just stay back over the rubber a little bit longer. That's an easy correction."

    With a 6.05 ERA that ranks 27th in the majors, the Royals bullpen can use all the help it can get.

Los Angeles Angels: RHP Alex Meyer

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    Alex Meyer still carries rookie eligibility, but his prospect clock is ticking in his age-27 season.

    Command has been the ongoing issue for the imposing 6'9" right-hander with the big fastball, and he was briefly moved to the bullpen during his time in the Minnesota Twins organization as a result.

    The Los Angeles Angels acquired him last summer, and he made five starts with the big league club down the stretch, posting a 4.57 ERA and 1.39 WHIP with a 24-to-13 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings.

    Whether he eventually works his way into the rotation once again or is asked to contribute out of the bullpen, where he has the power fastball-slider combination to succeed, he'll get the chance to prove he belongs at the MLB level at some point this season.

    Otherwise, there's not much help coming for the Angels from a relatively barren farm system.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 1B/OF Cody Bellinger

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    Elite prospects have a way of forcing a team's hand, even if there's not a clear path to playing time.

    That's exactly what Cody Bellinger is doing right now as he's off to a red-hot start with Triple-A Oklahoma City and setting the Los Angeles Dodgers up with a tough decision to make regarding the touted slugger.

    Bellinger has perhaps the most playable power of any prospect in the game and he's hitting .348/.423/.630 with four doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI in 12 games.

    All signs point to him being the Dodgers' first baseman of the future at the MLB level, but with Adrian Gonzalez signed through the 2018 season, he'll likely break into the league as a corner outfielder.

    A hot start from Yasiel Puig makes left field his most likely destination.

    All due respect to Andrew Toles, but the speedy slap-hitter won't stand in the way of Bellinger once the team is ready to make that call.

Miami Marlins: RHP Drew Steckenrider

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    Drew Steckenrider put himself on the prospect map last season when he made the full-time move to the bullpen and saw his stuff play up in a big way.

    The 26-year-old posted a 2.08 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 71 strikeouts in 52 innings over three minor league levels, picking up 14 saves and also lowering his walk rate to a passable 3.3 BB/9.

    MLB.com offered up the following on his stuff: "A tall and physical right-hander, Steckenrider's fastball sits between 95-98 mph with a high spin rate that nets him whiffs within the strike zone. He can also miss bats with his slider, a hard downer thrown in the mid-80s and mixes in the occasional changeup."

    After a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, he's picked up right where he left off here in 2017 and he's quickly running out of things to prove at the minor league level.

Milwaukee Brewers: CF Lewis Brinson

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    Keon Broxton earned the first crack at the starting center field job with the Milwaukee Brewers this season after a strong finish to the 2016 season.

    However, he's hit just .132/.214/.237 with two extra-base hits in 42 plate appearances so far, and fourth outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been even worse at 1-for-22 with 14 strikeouts.

    That should all help expedite the start of the Lewis Brinson era.

    A true five-tool talent with the potential to be a prime Carlos Gomez-type contributor offensively, Brinson is hitting .357/.379/.679 with three doubles and two home runs in Triple-A and could be called up in short order after the Super Two deadline passes.

    If the need arises for a starting pitcher, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader could both be in line for a promotion of their own.

Minnesota Twins: 1B/OF Daniel Palka

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    Daniel Palka will go as far as his bat carries him.

    The 25-year-old has slugged 85 home runs over the past three seasons, including a career-high 34 in 568 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

    MLB.com offered up the following: "As a power-only guy, Palka could profile well on the long end of a platoon at first, right field and DH. If he can elevate his hit skills with better on-base ability, he could become a power-first everyday player. He'll need to find more consistency in his at-bats to succeed in Minnesota, but he's on the verge of getting the chance."

    With Eddie Rosario (.217 BA, .504 OPS) and Byron Buxton (.085 BA, .268 OPS) both struggling mightily, the team could do some shifting in the outfield to give Palka a shot.

    He's off to a hot start in Triple-A with a .310/.370/.619 line that includes four home runs and 11 RBI in 11 games.

New York Mets: IF Gavin Cecchini

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    Gavin Cecchini has little left to prove in the minors after hitting .325/.390/.448 with 37 extra-base hits in 499 plate appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas a year ago.

    However, he's also unlikely to ever settle in as the everyday shortstop with top prospect Amed Rosario's arrival rapidly approaching.

    That makes a super-utility role the more likely landing spot for Cecchini, and he could be asked to add third base to his repertoire this season as the Mets have a clear hole to fill at the hot corner.

    Anything the team gets from David Wright will be a pleasant surprise, and in his absence, the combination of Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera have hit a dismal .085/.143/.119 with zero extra-base hits.

    Regardless of where he's deployed defensively, Cecchini is ready for a chance to prove himself in the majors.

New York Yankees: RHP Chad Green

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Chad Green pitched well enough to win a spot in the New York Yankees rotation this spring.

    The 25-year-old posted a 1.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 12 innings of work but eventually lost out to Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery for the final two spots on the staff.

    While some expected him to land a job in the bullpen if he didn't crack the rotation, he was instead sent to Triple-A, where he'll stay stretched out should the need arise for another starter.

    He was terrific his last time out, allowing just one earned run and striking out seven in seven innings of work, and there's no question he has the stuff to succeed at the next level.

    MLB.com wrote: "He projects as No. 4 starter or a possible late-inning reliever whose stuff would gain more power in shorter stints."

Oakland Athletics: IF Franklin Barreto

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    With incumbent shortstop Marcus Semien headed for a lengthy disabled list stint after fracturing his wrist, it might only be a matter of time before the Oakland Athletics call on top prospect Franklin Barreto.

    Don't expect that call to come quite yet, though.

    "Let's be fair to the kid and let him get the development he needs at Triple-A. When the right time comes, we'll consider it. But that time's not now," general manager David Frost told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Veteran utility man Adam Rosales and fellow prospect Chad Pinder will man shortstop for the time being.

    However, if Barreto continues his strong start—he's hitting .283/.340/.478 with four extra-base hits—the A's might quickly change their tune.

Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Ricardo Pinto

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    With J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams both off to slow starts in Triple-A and catcher Jorge Alfaro still working on the defensive side of his game, the next Philadelphia Phillies prospect to make an impact might not be someone you'd expect.

    Instead, let's focus on right-hander Ricardo Pinto.

    The 23-year-old has been a steady performer as a starter while climbing the minor league ranks, but he could be put on the fast track with a move to the bullpen.

    MLB.com wrote: "The combination of the lack of a trusted breaking ball and the fact the Phillies have some starting pitching depth could push Pinto to the bullpen, where his fastball and changeup would play up."

    That changeup is one of the best of any prospect in baseball and it's enough for him to succeed in short stints without the luxury of a breaking pitch.

    He has a 0.73 ERA in 12.1 innings of work so far this season in Triple-A and could give the MLB pen a boost in the near future.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 1B/OF Jose Osuna

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    The 80-game suspension handed down to star outfielder Starling Marte on Tuesday is a huge blow for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    While his absence may eventually open the door for top prospect Austin Meadows to slide into an everyday role, he's hitting .146 with a 28.3 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A, so he's not quite ready to make the jump just yet.

    Instead, it was Jose Osuna who was recalled from the minors.

    The 24-year-old was one of the stars of spring training for the Pirates, hitting .407/.492/.759 with four doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI.

    Adam Frazier will likely get the first shot at an expanded role and the team could also consider moving rookie Josh Bell back to a corner outfield spot for the time being, but Osuna will get his chance.

    His defense in the outfield is a work in progress, but he has the offensive tools to carve out a regular role.

San Diego Padres: RHP Dinelson Lamet

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    The San Diego Padres broke camp with their two most big league-ready prospects—outfielders Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe—penciled into starting spots in the outfield.

    That leaves the team without any prospects banging down the door for an MLB promotion, but Triple-A starter Dinelson Lamet might not be far off.

    The development of a third pitch to complement his plus fastball-slider combination will ultimately determine his role going forward, and the team has no reason to rush him in the early days of a full-scale rebuild.

    That being said, he has potential closer upside if he does wind up in the bullpen, and if the team decide to make that move this year, it will put him on the fast track.

    Think of Edwin Diaz with the Seattle Mariners last season.

    Lamet has worked 7.2 scoreless innings this year, allowing five hits and four walks while striking out six.

San Francisco Giants: 3B Christian Arroyo

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    What are the San Francisco Giants going to do about left field?

    Jarrett Parker, Chris Marrero, Gorkys Hernandez and Aaron Hill have all seen time at the position this season and hit a combined .132/.190/.226 with two extra-base hits.

    Now Parker is set to miss significant time with a broken clavicle, and the team is left scrambling to fill a premium offensive position.

    Michael Morse, Drew Stubbs, Justin Ruggiano and Melvin Upton Jr. are all members of the team's Triple-A affiliate, but expecting any of them to be the answer is wishful thinking.

    Instead, promoting top prospect Christian Arroyo to be the everyday third baseman and moving Eduardo Nunez out to left field might be the best option.

    Arroyo is off to a red-hot start with a .442/.478/.651 line in Triple-A that includes three doubles and two home runs.

Seattle Mariners: 1B Dan Vogelbach

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    Dan Vogelbach was expected to open the season as the Seattle Mariners starting first baseman, but a .228 average and 29.7 percent strikeout rate this spring was reason enough for the team to send him to Triple-A.

    That meant veteran Danny Valencia starting the season as the everyday first baseman.

    Three weeks in, Valencia is hitting .154/.211/.231 with three extra-base hits, while Vogelbach has put together a solid .293/.375/.341 line with a pair of doubles in 12 games in the minors.

    The time is fast approaching for a change to be made.

    Expect to see Vogelbach recalled and installed as the everyday first baseman before the end of the month, while Valencia will return to more of a utility role in which he's thrived in the past.

St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Rowan Wick

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    The St. Louis Cardinals need bullpen help and it could come in the form of converted slugger Rowan Wick.

    A former outfield prospect who posted a .990 OPS with 20 home runs in 298 plate appearances during the 2014 season, Wick followed that up with a .559 OPS and a dizzying 37.6 percent strikeout rate the following year.

    That got the ball rolling on his transition to the mound, and he took to his new role quickly, posting a 2.44 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 57 strikeouts in 44.1 innings between High-A and Double-A last season.

    The 24-year-old is off to a strong start in Triple-A and has a place on the 40-man roster, so he could be among the first relievers called upon if the Cardinals decide to shake things up in struggling pen.

Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Brent Honeywell

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    Few teams are better at developing pitching talent than the Tampa Bay Rays, and they've got another good one on the way in Brent Honeywell.

    The 22-year-old earned a promotion to Triple-A Durham after just two starts this season, which should give you a good indication that he factors into the team's 2017 plans in some capacity.

    Armed with a five-pitch repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball and a plus-plus screwball that hitters simply don't see all that often, he does a great job keeping guys off balance.

    After going 7-3 with a 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 117 strikeouts in 115.1 innings last season, Honeywell is widely regarded as one of the game's top pitching prospects and he could be a staple in the big league rotation by midseason.

Texas Rangers: 1B Ronald Guzman

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    The triumphant return of Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers has not gone smoothly so far.

    The veteran is hitting just .148/.233/.296 and he's one of a number of hitters off to a slow start for a team that ranks 26th in the majors in batting average (.217) and 20th in OPS (.687).

    At some point, the team has to consider making a change, and it could come with the promotion of slugger Ronald Guzman.

    Whether he's slotted as the starting DH with Shin-Soo Choo returning to a corner outfield spot or if he splits time with Napoli at first base, it looks like he's ready to make an impact.

    The 22-year-old is hitting .373/.418/.529 with two home runs for Triple-A Round Rock.

Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Danny Barnes

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    Most of the Toronto Blue Jays top-tier prospects are still at least a year away, and some—like Vladimir Guerrero Jr.—are still several years from reaching the majors.

    However, a mid-level prospect like Danny Barnes is still capable of making an impact.

    The 27-year-old logged a stellar 77-to-6 K/BB ratio last season over 61.1 innings of work while compiling a 0.73 ERA and 0.47 WHIP.

    He was recalled from the minors prior to Tuesday night's game and worked 1.1 scoreless innings in his first MLB action of the season.

    While he may not profile as a future closer, he's capable of carving out a steady middle relief role here in 2017.

Washington Nationals: RHP Austin Adams

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    The Washington Nationals have already promoted their top relief pitching prospect in Koda Glover, and another young arm in Austin Adams could be ready to provide some further support.

    The 25-year-old spent last season in Double-A where he posted a 3.05 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 61 strikeouts in 41.1 innings of work.

    However, he also walked batters at a 5.2 BB/9 clip and that's been an issue throughout his career.

    He's allowed just one hit and one unearned run while striking out 12 in 7.2 innings with Triple-A Syracuse this season, but he's continued to offer up too many free passes with six walks.

    If shows any signs of reining in his command, he could quickly find himself in the big league bullpen.

     

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.