Predicting Boom or Bust for MLB's Most Hyped September 1 Prospect Call-Ups

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 2, 2016

Predicting Boom or Bust for MLB's Most Hyped September 1 Prospect Call-Ups

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    The Yoan Moncada era is set to begin in Boston.
    The Yoan Moncada era is set to begin in Boston.Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    The final month of the MLB regular season has arrived, and with that comes roster expansion from 25 to 40 players.

    For contenders, it's a chance to add one last wave of reinforcements for the stretch run, generally in the form of additional bullpen arms and bench bats.

    Corey Seager proved that September call-ups are capable of making a real impact last season, though, when he took over as the Los Angeles Dodgers' everyday shortstop over the final month.

    For non-contenders, it's an opportunity to get an up-close look at some of the minor league talent who may be ready to step into a more prominent role the following season.

    Zach Davies turned heads after joining the Milwaukee Brewers rotation in September last year, parlaying that into a spot on the team's staff in 2016.

    Now that teams have made the first wave of call-ups this season, let's take a look at some of the notable prospects joining the MLB ranks and take a crack at predicting whether they'll boom or bust down the stretch.

    Here's how we defined those two categories:

    • Boom: A prospect who makes a legitimate impact, whether it's in a starting role or as a key bat off the bench or an arm in the bullpen.
    • Bust: A prospect who fails to make a legitimate impact due to lack of playing time or poor performance.

    These are not meant to be long-term predictions for what type of future these players will have; it's simply a look ahead to how they might fare in September.

    Note: To be considered for this list, a player must still have rookie eligibility. That left guys such as Byron Buxton, Cody Reed, Dalton Pompey and Kevin Plawecki excluded from the conversation.

Other Notable September Prospect Promotions

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    Ty Blach
    Ty BlachMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    LHP Ty Blach, San Francisco Giants

    Blach had the look of a potential back-of-the-rotation innings-eater when San Francisco took him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton, and that's what he's been as a pro.

    The 25-year-old went 14-7 with a 3.43 ERA and a 113-38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 162.2 innings of work in Triple-A this year, and he could be tabbed for a spot start if the need arises.

    LHP Jed Bradley, Atlanta Braves

    Taken No. 15 overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 draft, Bradley was acquired in June, and his career has been on the upswing since joining the Braves organization.

    He pitched to a 2.35 ERA with 9.6 K/9 in 65 innings at the Double-A level following the trade before going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three Triple-A starts prior to his September promotion. His future may be in the bullpen given his inconsistent command, but he has a chance to be a useful lefty arm.

    OF Destin Hood, Miami Marlins

    Signed to a $1.1 million bonus as a second-round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2008, Hood has always possessed impressive athleticism. It has not translated to pro success, though.

    He's bounced around the past few seasons, landing in Miami as a minor league free agent this past winter. His prospect clock is ticking at the age of 26, but he may yet have something to offer after hitting .267/.316/.435 with 29 doubles, 15 home runs, 80 RBI and 11 stolen bases in Triple-A this season.

    IF Deven Marrero, Boston Red Sox

    Marrero will probably never live up to being the No. 24 pick and the first college infielder off the board in the 2012 draft, but he still has a chance to be a useful MLB player.

    While he's hit just .198/.245/.242 over 388 plate appearances in Triple-A this season, he's a terrific defender at shortstop and has added some versatility this year with time at second and third base.

    C Tom Murphy, Colorado Rockies

    Platooning Murphy with upcoming free agent Nick Hundley down the stretch and setting him up for a run at the starting job next spring seems like a no-brainer for the Rockies.

    Murphy posted an .876 OPS with three home runs in 39 plate appearances in a September call-up last season, and he hit .327/.361/.647 with 26 doubles and 19 home runs in 322 plate appearances in Triple-A this year. It's simply a matter of his defense continuing to improve.

    LHP Steven Okert, San Francisco Giants

    In his second go-around at the Triple-A level, Okert lowered his walk rate from 4.3 to 2.1 BB/9 and continued to punch out batters at an impressive rate with 60 strikeouts in 47.1 innings.

    He has the power fastball-slider combination to be a legitimate late-inning weapon, and he'll have a chance to make some meaningful appearances for a Giants team battling to hold on to a playoff spot.

    C/1B Tomas Telis, Miami Marlins

    The Marlins acquired Telis from the Rangers last summer in the deal that sent reliever Sam Dyson to Texas, and he's quickly become one of the best bats in the upper levels of a thin Marlins system.

    A catcher by trade with average defensive skills, he's begun seeing some time at first base this year as well. It's his bat that will carry him, though, and he's hit .310/.362/.429 with 16 doubles and six home runs with Triple-A New Orleans.

    RHP Gabriel Ynoa, New York Mets

    Ynoa has gone 12-5 with a 3.97 ERA in 154.1 innings in Triple-A this season, and the Mets will use him as a long man out of the bullpen over the final month.

    He's capable of eating innings and has a good feel for pitching. However, his .287 batting average against, 4.5 K/9 and mediocre off-speed stuff could be exposed at the MLB level.

RHP Jonathan Holder, New York Yankees

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    Age: 23

    Prospect Rank: NR in NYY system

    Stats

    LevelGW-LSVERAWHIPBBKIP
    A+/AA/AAA425-1161.650.658710165.1

    Prospect Outlook

    Jonathan Holder was a sixth-round pick in 2014 after racking up 37 saves in three seasons as the Mississippi State closer.

    The Yankees used him primarily as a starter during his first two pro seasons before returning him to the bullpen, where he's overpowered opposing hitters.

    He's punched out an eye-popping 101 batters in 65.1 innings while walking just seven, and he turned in perhaps the most dominant single-game performance in all of minor league baseball last month.

    Entering the game in the sixth inning, he struck out the first 11 batters he faced before giving up a single to John Ryan Murphy and then striking out the final batter of the game for a four-inning save.

    With a mid-90s fastball and a slow breaking ball that can lock up hitters, he has the stuff to continue piling up strikeouts at the MLB level.

    Boom or Bust in September: Boom

    Even after trading away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees have a solid one-two punch at the back of the bullpen in Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances.

    However, the rest of the relief corps has been anything but dominant since the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, and that could open the door for Holder to step into a key late-inning role for a Yankees team clinging to contention.

    The last time he took the ball was his 12-strikeout performance last Sunday, and it will be interesting to see what he does for an encore.

RHP Brady Rodgers, Houston Astros

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    Prospect Rank: No. 22 in HOU system

    Stats

    LevelGW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    AAA2212-42.861.15223116132.0

    Prospect Outlook

    The prototypical high-floor collegiate arm, Brady Rodgers was part of the Houston Astros draft class in 2012 that also included Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Preston Tucker.

    His stuff is not overpowering by any means, but he has fantastic command of a four-pitch repertoire, posting a 1.6 BB/9 walk rate in 558.2 professional innings.

    A fastball that tops out at 93 and a plus slider are his two best pitches, and he also throws a changeup that is an effective offering against left-handed hitters and a curveball as change of pace.

    Chances are he won't develop into anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever, but Rodgers has earned this opportunity with a fantastic 2016 season.

    Boom or Bust in September: Bust

    Rogers is fresh off of winning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, and he's already thrown a career-high 132 innings on the year. So chances are the Astros won't stretch him much further in 2016.

    Calling him a bust is more about an expected lack of opportunity to make an impact, as he'll likely make a few low-leverage appearances to get his feet wet and little else.

    He has nothing left to prove in the minors, so expect Rodgers to compete for a spot in the bullpen next spring. Otherwise, the Astros could opt to keep him stretched out in Triple-A as one of the first men up when they need a spot starter.

IF Erik Gonzalez, Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Age: 25

    Prospect Rank: No. 9 in CLE system

    Stats

    LevelGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    AAA104.296/.329/.4501273111536212
    MLB10.111/.200/.111100020

    Prospect Outlook

    Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Erik Gonzalez saw his prospect star reach its peak in 2014 when he hit .309/.352/.428 with 34 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A.

    After a disappointing .666 OPS last year, he's been productive in a full season at Triple-A Columbus while showing some additional pop with 31 doubles and a career-best 11 home runs.

    A lack of plate discipline is his biggest drawback, as he's walked at a 4.1 percent clip this season and just a 5.2 percent rate for his career, but his defensive versatility and adequate mix of power and speed should make him a useful bench option if nothing else.

    "Gonzalez's overall game needs more consistency, but he has the necessary tools to become a quality big league middle infielder," wrote MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

    Boom or Bust in September: Boom

    Gonzalez hit .297 with an .894 OPS and 14 extra-base hits in 23 games in Triple-A in August, so he carries some positive momentum into his September promotion.

    There might not be a ton of at-bats with Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez locked into their respective spots along the infield, but he should immediately jump ahead of Michael Martinez as the team's top utility option.

    With Ramirez now locked in as the team's everyday third baseman, Gonzalez could be auditioning for a key spot on the team's bench in 2017.

3B/OF Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 25

    Prospect Rank: No. 2 in KC system

    Stats

    LevelGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    AA/AAA129.296/.366/.533144442375797

    Prospect Outlook

    The Kansas City Royals reached for Hunter Dozier with the No. 8 pick in the 2013, using the money they saved to give Sean Manaea an above-slot deal at No. 34 overall.

    The Stephen F. Austin product's pro career got off to a slow start, including a full season at the Double-A level last year where he hit a paltry .213/.281/.349 with 12 home runs and 53 RBI in 523 plate appearances.

    He's turned a corner in 2016, though.

    The 25-year-old has always possessed solid raw power, and it's begun to show up more in games as he's laced 44 doubles and 23 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A amid a breakout offensive season.

    An even more telling stat is his strikeout rate, which has been trimmed from 28.9 percent to 22.6 percent, while his walk rate has climbed from an already respectable 8.6 percent to 9.9 percent.

    That speaks to a hitter who is figuring things out at the plate and making the necessary adjustments to his approach.

    He has also added some defensive versatility by working in the outfield after playing primarily third base prior to this season.

    Boom or Bust in September: Boom

    Dozier cooled a bit in August, hitting .267/.333/.475 with just two home runs in 114 plate appearances, but he'll still be a welcome addition to what has been a thin Royals bench.

    With Paulo Orlando struggling in August (.298 OBP, .686 OPS) and Lorenzo Cain dealing with a wrist injury, there are at-bats to be had in the Kansas City outfield.

    A few strong performances could be enough for Dozier to play his way into a significant role.

CF Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 22

    Prospect Rank: No. 4 in COL system, No. 78 in MLB

    Stats

    LevelGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    AA/AAA128.328/.361/.458173258489323

    Prospect Outlook

    With limited power potential and subpar plate discipline, Raimel Tapia faces varying opinions about what type of player he will become. 

    He knows how to hit, though.

    The 22-year-old boasts a career .317/.363/.446 line in 2,539 career minor league plate appearances, and he's banged out at least 150 hits while batting over .300 in each of the past three seasons.

    He has good raw speed but is still working on translating that to the basepaths, evidenced by his 23 stolen bases against 17 times caught stealing this season. He'll also likely need to move to a corner outfield spot defensively, though he has the arm to play right field.

    It's his hit tool that will determine whether he's an MLB regular.

    Boom or Bust in September: Bust

    With an outfield of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl in place, there probably won't be many at-bats for Tapia.

    However, CarGo and Blackmon have both seen their names pop up in trade rumors in the past, and in a thin market for bats, this winter could be the time the Rockies pull the trigger on moving one of them.

    He may not make an impact in the month ahead, but the door could swing open for Tapia to step into a prominent role this offseason.

RHP Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    Prospect Rank: No. 4 in CIN system, No. 60 in MLB

    Stats

    LevelGSW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    AAA248-94.411.36171120136.2
    MLB22-03.001.0834412.0

    Prospect Outlook

    There's no question the ingredients are there for Robert Stephenson to be a front-line starter.

    He has a strong 6'2", 200-pound frame, a fastball that can touch the upper 90s and a good curveball-changeup combination to complement it.

    However, he's struggled to consistently perform up to his potential, and that drew the ire of Triple-A manager Delino DeShields after one particularly rough outing in August, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    This is what we’ve been going through with this kid for the last three or four years. Until he makes an adjustment, it’s going to continue. It’s not going to get better. It’s on him. He’s been told what he needs to do and what he needs to work on by numerous coaches and staff members. It’s up to him to make those adjustments. If I was him, I’d be embarrassed.

    The rebuilding Reds will give him every chance to realize his potential as an ace-caliber starter, but a move to the bullpen could be waiting down the line if he doesn't make the aforementioned adjustments.

    Boom or Bust in September: Bust

    Stephenson's 4.7 BB/9 mark was identical to his walk rate between Double-A and Triple-A last season, indicating a troubling lack of progression in the command department.

    Chances are he'll be pitching out of the bullpen down the stretch, and there's no telling how he'll take to that transition on the fly.

    A 6.38 ERA and 1.636 WHIP over his last seven starts in Triple-A doesn't inspire much confidence for a strong September showing.

LHP Yohander Mendez, Texas Rangers

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    Age: 21

    Prospect Rank: No. 2 in TEX system, No. 59 in MLB

    2016 Stats

    LevelG/GSW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    A+/AA/AAA24/2112-32.191.01841113111.0

    Prospect Outlook

    With Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate traded at the deadline, left-hander Yohander Mendez has taken over as the top pitching prospect in a still-talented Texas Rangers farm system.

    His lanky 6'5" frame has some projection remaining, but he already features an advanced three-pitch mix with a mid-90s fastball, average curveball and a terrific changeup.

    The 21-year-old has climbed quickly since starting the season at the High-A level, closing out his minor league season with a 0.57 ERA and 0.894 WHIP in 31.1 innings of work in Triple-A.

    He held opposing hitters to a .184 average this season and continued to display solid command, which should allow him to challenge for a spot in the Texas rotation as soon as next season.

    Boom or Bust in September: Boom

    Mendez was rolling to close out the MiLB season, and he has a chance to make a legitimate impact out of the Texas bullpen.

    While Sam Dyson, Tony Barnette and Matt Bush have been a terrific trio from the right side, the relief corps is lacking a second reliable southpaw to pair with hard-throwing Jake Diekman.

    Mendez may not have the stuff to overpower MLB hitters, but his fastball-changeup combination is good enough for him to be effective at the highest level.

RHP Jose De Leon, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Age: 24

    Prospect Rank: No. 2 in LAD system, No. 35 in MLB

    2016 Stats

    LevelGSW-LERAWHIPBBKIP
    AAA167-12.610.9382011186.1

    Prospect Outlook

    Jose De Leon has technically not been called up yet, but he was scratched from his weekend start in Triple-A on Friday, and according to Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball, he'll get the start for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

    Truth be told, it's somewhat surprising that it's taken the Dodgers this long to call on the 24-year-old, considering he'll become the team's 15th different starting pitcher when he toes the rubber this weekend.

    A former 24th-round pick who has seen a significant uptick in his stuff since beginning his pro career, De Leon stands out as much for his impressive command as he does his swing-and-miss stuff.

    Along with a mid-90s fastball, he boasts one of the best changeups in the minors and a slider that should play fine as a third offering.

    Since the start of the 2014 season, he's struck out a whopping 393 hitters in 277.2 innings, and he has all the tools to join Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias atop the Dodgers rotation for years to come.

    Boom or Bust in September: Boom

    The Dodgers have been winning without Kershaw, but they've been doing it in spite of their pitching staff for the most part.

    They posted a 5.05 ERA as a team in the month of August, so it won't be hard for De Leon to provide an immediate boost to the staff.

    His combination of polish and pure stuff should make his transition a smooth one, and the fact that his season started late due to shoulder soreness and an ankle injury means he's not facing an innings limit with only 86.1 thrown on the year.

    If you had to pick one September call-up who is going to make the biggest impact in September, De Leon would be a smart choice.

IF Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 21

    Prospect Rank: No. 1 in BOS system, No. 1 in MLB

    2016 Stats

    LevelGBA/OBP/SLGH2BHRRBIRSB
    A+/AA106.294/.407/.5111193115629445

    Prospect Outlook

    The Boston Red Sox shelled out $63 million to sign Yoan Moncada last March, and so far he looks every bit the part of a future superstar.

    The Cuban phenom is a five-tool talent, with speed being his biggest weapon.

    He's stolen 94 bases in 109 attempts since beginning his pro career, including 45 this season, and he'll add a new element to a Red Sox team that ranks in the middle of the pack with 71 steals on the year.

    At his peak, Moncada has a chance to be a perennial .300 hitter who gets on-base at a solid clip and regularly turns in 20-plus home runs and 30-plus steals. We're talking legitimate superstar potential.

    Boom or Bust in September: Boom

    It won't take much for Moncada to unseat the struggling duo of Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill as the Red Sox's everyday third baseman.

    "We’ve talked about Yoan, and not just as a pinch runner," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. [He’s] an exciting young player, extremely talented guy. There’s all positive reviews and evaluations of him.

    "When that major league experience is going to initiate, time with tell that. But in terms of playing the position of third base, yes, that conversation has been had."

    He could emerge as this year's version of Corey Seager, stepping into a starring role over the final month.

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. Call-up announcements via Roster Resource. Prospect rankings referenced in the article refer to MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

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