Why Wait? 1 Top Prospect Each MLB Team Must Call Up Now

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2017

Why Wait? 1 Top Prospect Each MLB Team Must Call Up Now

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    With the non-waiver trade deadline passed and August waiver trade activity always unpredictable, the next surefire MLB shake-up will come when rosters expand in September.

    That's when we'll get a chance to see some of the game's top prospects make their big league debuts, whether it's a contender looking for a spark or a rebuilding team assessing their in-house talent while looking ahead to next year.

    But why wait until September to promote a guy who's ready now?

    The obvious answer is that teams don't want to start a player's service time clock any sooner than they need to, especially in the case of those aforementioned rebuilding teams.

    However, we've decided to throw caution to the wind and highlight one prospect that each MLB team should promote immediately.

          

    To be eligible for inclusion, a player must not have passed rookie-eligibility limits (130 AB, 50 IP, 45 days on roster).

AL East

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    Brent Honeywell
    Brent HoneywellLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles: RP Stefan Crichton

    Stefan Crichton has the prototypical stuff to succeed in the late innings with a fastball that tops out at 97 mph and a plus slider, and that's played well in the upper minors this year.

    The 25-year-old has pitched to a 2.18 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while striking out 41 batters in 41.1 innings and limiting opposing hitters to a .194 batting average. If the Orioles decide to move Zach Britton and/or Brad Brach this offseason, he could step into a prominent role next year alongside Mychal Givens.

          

    Boston Red Sox: OF Bryce Brentz

    A first-round pick in 2010, Bryce Brentz has always shown intriguing power at the minor league level dating back to a 30-homer performance in his first full pro season.

    However, he's never gotten much of a chance at the MLB level, hitting .287 with a .690 OPS and one home runs in 90 plate appearances.

    The 28-year-old is hitting .278/.347/.544 with 17 doubles and 25 home runs for Triple-A Pawtucket this season and could get a chance to audition to replace Chris Young as the team's fourth outfielder.

          

    New York Yankees: 3B Miguel Andujar

    After showing flashes in past seasons, everything has finally clicked for Miguel Andujar this year as he's hitting .318/.350/.514 with 33 doubles, 14 home runs and 71 RBI at Double-A and Triple-A.

    The 22-year-old went 3-for-4 with a double and four RBI in his MLB debut on June 28 before being quickly returned to the minors, and that only adds to his intrigue as a potential late-season roster addition.

    With Matt Holliday struggling mightily since the All-Star break with a .136 average and .362 OPS, Andujar could provide a spark at DH while also occasionally spelling Todd Frazier at the hot corner.

          

    Tampa Bay Rays: SP Brent Honeywell

    There might not be a more MLB-ready pitching prospect in the minors right now than Brent Honeywell.

    The 22-year-old is 12-8 with a 3.55 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 155 strikeouts in 119 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. With smooth, repeatable mechanics and a polished five-pitch repertoire, he has little left to prove in the minors.

    The Rays are still very much in the running for a wild-card spot and Honeywell could be the answer to shoring up the No. 5 starter spot, which has been a revolving door due in large part to the struggles of Blake Snell.

          

    Toronto Blue Jays: OF Anthony Alford

    Anthony Alford was slowed by a knee injury and a concussion last season and his progress was derailed once again this year by a broken hamate bone, but his future remains incredibly bright.

    A former standout on the gridiron, he's shown a more polished game than expected since turning his full attention to the diamond, and he has a real chance to be a perennial 20/20 threat atop the lineup and a standout defender in the outfield.

    The 23-year-old made his MLB debut earlier this year before suffering that hand injury, and with a .308/.400/.436 line in Double-A, he's ready for another look in the majors to see if he's ready for a significant role next season.

AL Central

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    Yandy Diaz
    Yandy DiazRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: SP Reynaldo Lopez

    Since finally going all-in on a long-overdue rebuild, the White Sox have quickly amassed one of baseball's elite farm systems and that should mean a steady stream of high-end young talent arriving on the scene in the years to come.

    After Yoan Moncada got the call last month, it looks like right-hander Reynaldo Lopez will be next notable prospect to arrive on the scene as he's scheduled to start in place of Mike Pelfrey Friday. But will he be up for the rest of the season?

    Lopez, 23, has pitched to a 3.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 121 innings for Triple-A Charlotte. With a big fastball that can touch triple digits, a power curve and a changeup that has developed into a viable third offering, he should be able to stick as a starter.

          

    Cleveland Indians: 3B/OF Yandy Diaz

    Yandy Diaz was an under-the-radar signing for $300,000 as a Cuban defector in 2012 and he's displayed an advanced approach from the get-go en route to a .314 average and .413 on-base percentage over four minor league seasons.

    The 26-year-old actually broke camp with the big league club in place of the injured Jason Kipnis, but he hit just .203 with a .486 OPS over 71 plate appearances before returning to the minors.

    With the defensive versatility to play second base, third base and both corner outfield spots, he's a useful bench piece and capable of providing a professional at-bat if his minor league track record is any indication.

         

    Detroit Tigers: RP Jairo Labourt

    The Tigers acquired lefty Jairo Labourt from the Toronto Blue Jays as part of the David Price trade, and he's taken off since making the full-time move to the bullpen this season.

    MLB.com wrote: "He's moving in the right direction and has the look of a future short reliever in the back end of a bullpen if he can keep finding the strike zone."

    The 23-year-old touches 96 mph with his fastball and backs it with a swing-and-miss slider, helping him to post a 1.99 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 38 appearances over three minor league levels.

          

    Kansas City Royals: 1B/OF Ryan O'Hearn

    The Royals have one of the thinnest farm systems in baseballranked No. 29 in our latest update—and a lot of their better prospects are still in the lower levels of the minors.

    However, slugger Ryan O'Hearn tallied 32 doubles and 22 home runs between High-A and Double-A last season and he's continued to make noise this year in Triple-A with a .256/.328/.451 line that includes 25 doubles and 17 home runs.

    Assuming Eric Hosmer walks in free agency, O'Hearn could be first in line to step into the starting first base job next season. Giving the 24-year-old a taste of the big leagues now would allow for further evaluation of his long-term potential.

          

    Minnesota Twins: RP John Curtiss

    John Curtiss is one of the fastest-rising relief pitching prospects in the league and appears ready to make the leap to the big league bullpen.

    The 24-year-old has racked up 19 saves this season between Double-A and Triple-A, pitching to a 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 12.4 K/9 and a .136 opponents' batting average.

    Could he wind up being the replacement for departed veteran Brandon Kintzler in the closer's role?

    MLB.com thinks so: "With an intense and serious personality on the mound, it wouldn't surprise anyone if the success he's had closing games in Double-A in 2017 translates to the same role in the big leagues."

AL West

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    Thyago Vieira
    Thyago VieiraLynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: SP Rogelio Armenteros

    With Francis Martes exhausting his prospect eligibility and David Paulino serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, the Astros' current top-tier pitching prospects—guys like Franklin Perez, Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskasare still a few years away.

    However, righty Rogelio Armenteros is one under-the-radar arm who could get the call soon.

    The 23-year-old signed for a modest $40,000 bonus in 2014 after defecting from Cuba and has followed up a strong 2016 season with a smooth transition to the upper minors, posting a 2.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 115 strikeouts in 98.2 innings. While his stuff isn't overpowering, he could contribute to the stretch run in a multi-inning, middle-relief role.

           

    Los Angeles Angels: OF Cesar Puello

    Cesar Puello was Baseball America's No. 77 prospect prior to the 2011 season when he was still just 20 years old and playing in the New York Mets organization.

    Now 26, he's no longer considered a traditional prospect, but he still carries rookie eligibility and has been absolutely raking since opting out of a minor league deal with the Rangers and joining the Angels in June.

    In over 200 plate appearances for Triple-A Salt Lake, he's hitting .397/.440/.620 with 26 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases.

    That's obviously not a huge sample size, but it's enough to provide some hope the Angels might have hit on a late bloomer.

           

    Oakland Athletics: 2B Franklin Barreto

    Veteran Jed Lowrie is quietly having a nice season for the Athletics, but with the club finally committing to a full rebuild, it's a surprise it hasn't already moved him to a contender.

    Whether he's eventually dealt this month, traded during the offseason or simply has his $6 million option for 2018 declined this winter, all signs point to Franklin Barreto getting a crack at the everyday second base job next season.

    The 21-year-old joined the A's as the prize of the Josh Donaldson deal, and with a .280/.328/.445 line and 34 extra-base hits in 426 plate appearances for Triple-A Nashville, he's ready for a long look on the MLB stage.

          

    Seattle Mariners: RP Thyago Vieira

    The Mariners plucked one flame thrower from the minor league ranks last season when Edwin Diaz jumped from Double-A to closing for the big league club.

    Thyago Vieira could follow a similar path.

    The 24-year-old possesses a legitimate 80-grade fastball that touches 102 mph, and both his curveball and his overall command have improved over the years.

    The right-hander has posted a 3.50 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 46.1 innings this season, and after receiving a promotion to Triple-A on July 20, it might not be long before the native of Brazil is tossing in the majors.

           

    Texas Rangers: 1B Ronald Guzman

    Newcomer Willie Calhoun—who was the prize of the Yu Darvish deal—could get a look this September, but a more immediate call-up for the Rangers could be first baseman Ronald Guzman.

    Signed for a $3.45 million bonus as part of the same international class as Nomar Mazara, Guzman looks ready for the next level with a .317/.387/.473 line that includes 19 doubles, 12 home runs and 57 RBI for Triple-A Round Rock.

    With the Rangers rapidly slipping out of the postseason hunt, there's a chance veteran Mike Napoli could be on the move before the month is over. If he's dealt, all signs point to Guzman as the future at first base and that future could start soon.

NL East

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    Rhys Hoskins
    Rhys HoskinsMatt Rourke/Associated Press

    Atlanta Braves: RP Akeel Morris

    Akeel Morris spent most of July pitching out of the big league bullpen, compiling a 1.23 ERA with nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings spanning eight appearances.

    The 24-year-old has the mid-90s fastball that most relievers these days possess, but he's a bit atypical in that he relies on a plus changeup as his best secondary offering, with a below-average slider to round out his repertoire.

    Morris has setup man potential, and with Jim Johnson looking like a potential waiver trade candidate, he could step into a prominent role in the Atlanta bullpen down the stretch.

          

    Miami Marlins: 3B Brian Anderson

    The Marlins signed veteran Martin Prado to a three-year, $40 million extension late last season, but he's played just 37 games this season while nursing a knee injury.

    Assuming he's back to full strength next season, prospect Brian Anderson would appear to be blocked at the hot corner. However, don't rule out a trade of either Prado or second baseman Dee Gordon this offseason, which would potentially open up a spot for the 24-year-old.

    After a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League last year, Anderson sports an .826 OPS with 19 home runs and 71 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He's the best position-player prospect in the system and should be given every chance to seize an MLB job once he's deemed ready.

          

    New York Mets: 1B Dominic Smith

    With first baseman Lucas Duda traded to the Tampa Bay Rays and fellow top prospect Amed Rosario already promoted, it seems like only a matter of time before Dominic Smith makes his way to the big leagues.

    The No. 11 pick in the 2013 draft has moved swiftly through the minors, reaching Triple-A this season, where he's hitting .329/.385/.519 with 34 doubles, 16 home runs and 75 RBI.

    The 22-year-old has always shown good gap power, but with an uptick in his over-the-fence production, he's looking more and more like a future middle-of-the-order anchor. Throw in his plus glove and advanced approach, and it should be a relatively smooth transition to the next level.

           

    Philadelphia Phillies: 1B Rhys Hoskins

    It's important to take the stats posted at hitter-friendly Double-A Reading with a grain of salt, which is why a 38-homer performance from Rhys Hoskins a year ago didn't exactly send him soaring up prospect rankings.

    However, the 24-year-old has managed to keep things rolling at the Triple-A level this season, hitting .280/.383/.571 with 28 home runs and nearly as many walks (64) as strikeouts (75).

    With controllable slugger Tommy Joseph manning first base in the majors, the Phillies have recently moved Hoskins to left field in an effort to expedite his arrival in the majors. That's probably a pretty good indication his debut isn't far off.

          

    Washington Nationals: RP Austin Adams

    The Nationals are admittedly thin on MLB-ready minor league talent now that Erick Fedde has joined the starting rotation, but keep an eye on reliever Austin Adams.

    The 26-year-old was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason in the Danny Espinosa trade, and he's posted an eye-popping 74 strikeouts in 49.2 innings for Triple-A Syracuse.

    However, he's also walked 6.3 batters per nine innings, which is the reason he's still in the minors. That's dropped to a slightly more palatable 4.3 BB/9 since the start of July, and at this point, he's at least worth a look as a low-leverage middle reliever.

NL Central

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    Jimmy Herget
    Jimmy HergetMatt York/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs: RP Dillon Maples

    The Cubs signed Dillon Maples to a $2.5 million bonus as a 14th-round pick in 2011—still the largest bonus ever given to a player selected after the third round.

    Control problems and some minor arm issues kept him from advancing beyond the High-A level in his first five pro seasons, but he's taken off this year and could be a legitimate X-factor down the stretch.

    Still just 25, he's posted a 2.57 ERA and .198 opponents' batting average with 91 strikeouts in 56 innings while reaching Triple-A. He's still walking batters at a 4.8 BB/9 clip, but his stuff is electric with a fastball that touches triple digits, a wipeout slider and a nasty power curve.

    MLB.com wrote: "If he can acquire even average control, he could become a closer. While that may be too much to ask, he has the pure stuff to help the Cubs in the near future."

           

    Cincinnati Reds: RP Jimmy Herget

    Jimmy Herget was a Futures Game participant this season, and it might not be long before he's suiting up in an MLB park once again.

    The 23-year-old has drawn comparisons to Steve Cishek for his mix of stuff and deception, and the results have been impressive this season as he's racked up 22 saves with a 2.72 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 10.9 K/9.

    He might not have closer stuff at the next level, but he looks like a relatively safe bet to settle into a setup role and an August trade of Drew Storen could quickly open up a spot in the Cincinnati bullpen.

          

    Milwaukee Brewers: CF Lewis Brinson

    The Brewers have given Keon Broxton every opportunity to seize the center field job, but he's hitting just .223/.301/.433 and has been a 0.2 WAR player on the year.

    It's time to give Lewis Brinson another shot.

    The top prospect in the Milwaukee system and the prize of last summer's Jonathan Lucroy trade has made a pair of quick trips to the majors this year, hitting a dismal .106 with 17 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances.

    However, that's done nothing to dampen his 30/30 upside and he has little left to prove in Triple-A, where he's batting .333/.403/.544 with 36 extra-base hits in 325 plate appearances.

           

    Pittsburgh Pirates: C Elias Diaz

    The Pirates have a $1.5 million option for next season on backup catcher Chris Stewart, who is hitting .170 with a .451 OPS in 95 plate appearances for a minus-0.2 WAR. He's an asset defensively, but it's hard to overlook an OPS+ of 20.

    If the front office doesn't intend on exercising that option, it might as well cut ties with the veteran now and turn backup duties over to Elias Diaz the rest of the way.

    The 26-year-old was once considered the catcher of the future in Pittsburgh. While he looks more like a career backup at this point, he does have some decent gap power and he's thrown out 44 percent of base stealers in Triple-A.

           

    St. Louis Cardinals: SP Jack Flaherty

    With a crowded outfield situation, there's no guarantee Magneuris Sierra, Harrison Bader or Tyler O'Neill will receive a promotion anytime soon for the Cardinals.

    That leaves right-hander Jack Flaherty as perhaps the most likely to receive a call-up among the team's top prospects, though it might take an injury to one of the team's starters to provide such an opportunity.

    The 21-year-old is enjoying a breakout season and he's shot up the prospect rankings. Splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, he's gone 11-3 with a 2.11 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 123.2 innings, so there's little left to prove in the minors.

NL West

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    Ryan McMahon
    Ryan McMahonChris Carlson/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: RP Jimmie Sherfy

    Honestly, it's a bit of a head-scratcher that Jimmie Sherfy hasn't already been called up to join the Diamondbacks bullpen.

    The 25-year-old has been lights-out in Triple-A, posting a 2.25 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with a 55-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings. Armed with a live 70-grade fastball and a plus slider, he's the prototypical late-inning reliever.

    MLB.com wrote: "He's just about ready to impact the big league bullpen, with the ceiling to close games at the highest level if he can continue to throw enough strikes."

           

    Colorado Rockies: IF Ryan McMahon

    Ryan McMahon saw his prospect star fade a bit last season, when he hit .242 in Double-A and saw his OPS drop from .892 to .724.

    It turns out that was just a bump in the road, as he's reclaimed his top prospect status this year with a monster performance in the upper levels of the minors.

    The 22-year-old is hitting .351/.399/.587 with 37 doubles, 19 home runs and 81 RBI, and he could be a legitimate X-factor in a super-utility role for the contending Rockies. He's capable of playing first, second and third base and could push Mark Reynolds for the starting first base job if the veteran's bat goes cold.

          

    Los Angeles Dodgers: RP Walker Buehler

    It looks like the Dodgers are prepping Walker Buehler for a late-season role in the bullpen as he's begun transitioning to relief work since being promoted to Triple-A.

    A candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2015 draft, he instead slipped to the Dodgers at No. 24 when it was revealed that he would need Tommy John surgery.

    As a result, the 23-year-old entered the season with just five professional innings under his belt, but he's returned strong and skyrocketed through the system as a result.

    Buehler has legitimate ace upside and there's little question that his future is in the rotation. That won't stop the Dodgers from taking advantage of his potential as a reliever this season, though, and his stuff could prove to be unhittable in short stints.

           

    San Diego Padres: 3B Christian Villanueva

    A former top prospect in the Cubs system, Christian Villanueva was non-tendered after suffering a broken leg in spring training that wound up costing him the entire 2016 season.

    The rebuilding Padres took a flier on the 26-year-old this past offseason, and it's a move that could pay dividends as he's returned healthy with a .301/.377/.544 line that includes 17 doubles, 18 home runs and 70 RBI for Triple-A El Paso.

    It's all about talent evaluation right now for a team like the Padres, and there's no reason not to give Villanueva a look as a potential diamond in the rough.

            

    San Francisco Giants: RP Reyes Moronta

    Reyes Moronta announced himself as a prospect to watch last season, when he saved 14 games with a 2.59 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 59 innings for High-A San Jose.

    MLB.com wrote: "If he can throw more strikes and refine his slider into a plus pitch, he could develop into a closer at the big league level."

    For now, his 70-grade fastball and improving breaking ball has continued to play in the upper levels of the minors, and he could be ready to audition for a regular bullpen gig in 2018.

           

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and MiLB.com, unless otherwise noted.