MLB's Top Prospect Stock Watch, Mid-April Edition

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2018

MLB's Top Prospect Stock Watch, Mid-April Edition

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Mid-April has arrived, which means it's time to assess baseball's top prospects and decide whether their stock is trending up, down or remaining even.

    The sample sizes are small, obviously. But we've seen enough to note whether these MiLB blue chips are on a launch pad to The Show, need more minor league seasoning or have been derailed by injuries or other issues.

    Let's check in on the top 10, using MLB.com's rankings as our guide and eliminating players currently on big league rosters.

Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Francisco Mejia, the Cleveland Indians' catcher of the future, has gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A Columbus.

    Through eight games, the 22-year-old has slashed .229/.289/.371 with three extra-base hits in 35 at-bats. Perhaps adding a distraction, Mejia is embroiled in a lawsuit against Big League Advance over a deal that would guarantee the company 10 percent of his future big league earnings, per Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com.

    Mejia raked at Double-A last season before earning a big league call-up and hit .421 in 11 games this spring. He should pick it up and may be in Cleveland at some point in 2018. For now, his needle is pointing slightly southward.

    Stock: Down

Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Michael Kopech and his already-legendary triple-digit fastball were sent to Triple-A after the Chicago White Sox right-hander posted an 11.57 ERA in the Cactus League.

    In two outings with the Charlotte Knights, he's allowed one earned run and fanned 11 over 10 innings. He's trying to hone his off-speed stuff before an inevitable call-up.

    "For Michael, nobody's hiding that we're trying to work on his changeup, develop that pitch as a secondary pitch beyond his breaking ball," White Sox skipper Rick Renteria said, per Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune

    If and when the changeup comes around, look out.

    Stock: Up   

Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

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    Forrest Whitley is still listed as the Houston Astros' top prospect, ahead of power-hitting outfielder Kyle Tucker.

    Whitley opened eyes after a promotion to Double-A last season, striking out 26 in 14.2 innings and posting a 1.84 ERA. He's also serving a 50-game suspension handed down in February for violating MiLB's drug program, per ESPN.com's Buster Olney

    The 'Stros and general manager Jeff Luhnow didn't offer specifics regarding what sparked the suspension, but Luhnow sounded optimistic, via Olney:

    "On the pitching side I don't have any concerns, he's going to continue to develop and this is part of maturity. When you're a high school player and you get drafted and you're a top prospect there's a lot of pressure that goes along with that role. And I don't know if that had anything to do with this, but there's a maturation process going from high school and the big leagues and this is one step along the way for him."

    Still, a 50-game suspension is a 50-game suspension.

    Stock: Down

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    After posting a .910 OPS with 21 home runs in 117 games at Single-A last season, Fernando Tatis Jr. got the call to Double-A San Antonio, where he slashed .255/.281/.327 in 14 games.

    Tatis opened 2018 at the same level and thus far is hitting a scant .186 in 10 contests.

    Some context is required, however: Tatis turned 19 in January. The rebuilding San Diego Padres are accelerating him through their system because of his impressive, five-tool potential, but he's years away from being big league-ready. Scuffling a little at Double-A is no cause for alarm.

    Stock: Even

Nick Senzel, INF, Cincinnati Reds

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    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Nick Senzel posted a .905 OPS between High-A and Double-A in 2017. The second overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2016 had an outside shot to make the big league roster out of spring training.

    Instead, he was sent to Triple-A Louisville. He's hitting just .233 in 10 games but got an endorsement from Reds manager Bryan Price. 

    "I think he could help us," Price said, per Jeff Wallner of WCPO.com. "There's also the argument that the people that see him on a regular basis and know him better than I do need to feel that he's ready."

    A tepid start may have slightly delayed Senzel's MLB debut, but a few hot weeks could land him in Cincinnati. Your move, kid.

    Stock: Even

Victor Robles, CF, Washington Nationals

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Victor Robles hit .324 in 37 games at Double-A last season before making his MLB debut with the Washington Nationals in September. He began 2018 at Triple-A, a level he skipped in 2017.

    Through four games, Robles went 5-for-13 with two stolen bases. Then, the 20-year-old landed on the seven-day disabled list after suffering a hyperextended elbow on a diving catch attempt, per Lindsay Kramer of Syracuse.com.

    Injuries heal, and hopefully Robles will resume his blue-chip ways once he returns. For the moment, the Nats have to be disappointed their top prospect and Bryce Harper's possible heir apparent is on the shelf. 

    Stock: Down

Gleyber Torres, INF, New York Yankees

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    Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Gleyber Torres displayed some rust this spring. After undergoing Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow in 2017, the New York Yankees' top prospect hit .219 in the Grapefruit League.

    In 10 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Torres has gone 15-for-39 while seeing time at second base, third base and shortstop. 

    "I think he is playing well, and the last couple of days have been better," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, per George A. King III of the New York Post. "I have been watching a lot of his at-bats, and the last couple of days, he has gotten better. Obviously, with Gleyber, we watch closely."

    Look for the 21-year-old to be in the Bronx soon.

    Stock: Up 

Eloy Jimenez, LF, Chicago White Sox

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    Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

    When healthy, Eloy Jimenez walks, quacks and hits like a big leaguer. The 21-year-old tantalized White Sox fans with a .947 OPS between High-A and Double-A last season.

    A pectoral muscle strain sidelined him in late March. He's seeing action in extended spring training and should rejoin Double-A Birmingham soon barring further setbacks. 

    This isn't the first time Jimenez has battled injury, meaning a dollop of pessimism must be applied. The tools and results are there, however, along with the attendant expectations.

    Stock: Even

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a walk-off home run this spring at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, the yard where his Hall of Fame dad used to bash baseballs for the Expos. It was a great moment.

    The younger Guerrero has likewise enjoyed a great start at Double-A, hitting .361 with a 1.057 OPS in nine games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. 

    The 19-year-old needs more seasoning before he joins the Toronto Blue Jays, but with each passing day, his big arm and bigger power make him look like the second coming of Vlad.

    Stock: Up 

Ronald Acuna Jr., CF, Atlanta Braves

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    B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Ronald Acuna Jr. hit .344 with a .940 OPS in 54 games at Triple-A in 2017. He hit .432 with four home runs in the Grapefruit League. The Atlanta Braves sent him to Triple-A to delay his service clock and gain another year of club control, but a mid-April call-up appeared inevitable.

    Not so fast.

    The 20-year-old has gone 5-for-33 at Triple-A Gwinnett with 12 strikeouts. The Braves might tap the brakes on his MLB debut, service time be damned.

    A scalding week may be all it takes for Acuna to arrive in Atlanta. A handful of ho-hum minor league games don't erase all he's accomplished. But his promotion has shifted from foregone conclusion to wait and see.

    Stock: Down (slightly)

                                                     

    All statistics current as of Monday and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Reference.

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