Progress Report Grades for Former Top MLB Prospects Thus Far in the Big Leagues

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2020

Progress Report Grades for Former Top MLB Prospects Thus Far in the Big Leagues

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Until they reach the big leagues, top MLB prospects are all about potential. 

    A few pan out immediately upon arrival. Others struggle with adjustments and injuries. Some turn into stars, and some ultimately fizzle.

    Let's examine eight recent blue chips who've made the jump to The Show and offer progress reports for each. We narrowed the list to guys who meet the following criteria:

    • Were ranked among's top 20 prospects prior to last season
    • Saw enough big league action to exceed their rookie limits in 2019
    • Are currently on an MLB roster (or the injured list)

    All have time to soar or sink since their careers are just getting started. But we've seen enough to hand out initial grades based on where their potential has gotten them so far.

RHP Mike Soroka, Atlanta

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rankNo. 20

    After a five-start audition in 2018, Mike Soroka became a mainstay in Atlanta's rotation last year.

    He rewarded the club with a 2.68 ERA in 174.2 innings while making the All-Star team and finishing second in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

    The 23-year-old right-hander came into this season hoping to build on his success. But in his third start of 2020, he suffered an Achilles injury while attempting to cover first base and underwent season-ending surgery.

    It was a significant blow for both Soroka and Atlanta in the short term. The silver lining is that it isn't an arm injury, the surgery was a success and he should be back next season.

    Progress report grade: B+

SS Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 11

    Bo Bichette played 46 games in 2019 with the Toronto Blue Jays and swatted 11 home runs, hit .311 and posted a .930 OPS.

    The 22-year-old has picked up where he left off, slashing .356/.387/.678 with five home runs through his first 13 games of 2020. He also became just the third player in MLB history to tally at least 38 extra-base knocks in his first 59 games. The others? Joe DiMaggio (46) and Cody Bellinger (38).

    That's elite company, and thus far, Bichette is proving himself worthy of the comparison. He's also staking his claim as the best of the Jays' touted trio of second-generation players, a group that also includes second baseman Cavan Biggio and first baseman/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (whom we'll check in on shortly).

    Progress report grade: A

OF Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 6

    The second overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Nick Senzel made his Cincinnati Reds debut in May 2019 after a brief delay caused by an ankle injury and possible service-time considerations.

    In all, he played 104 games with the Reds and slashed .256/.315/.427 with 12 home runs and 14 stolen bases. It was a respectable rookie year, but it didn't feel like the 25-year-old had come close to his ceiling.

    Senzel has started 2020 with a .244 average, but he's flexed his muscles with five doubles and two home runs among 11 hits. He's also drawn six walks in 14 games after walking just 30 times in 2019.

    His conversion from the infield to center field continues to go reasonably well as the defensive metrics don't hate his glovework in a small sample.

    Senzel is athletic and versatile, and he's flashed plus pop and emerging plate discipline. He's still waiting to break out completely, but there are plenty of positive signs.

    Progress report grade: B-

OF Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 5

    Kyle Tucker posted a .989 OPS with 24 homers and 20 stolen bases at Triple-A in 2018 and got a 64-at-bat audition with the Houston Astros. In 2019, he posted a .909 OPS with 34 homers and 30 steals at Triple-A and got a 67-at-bat stint with the 'Stros.

    Clearly, the 23-year-old has nothing left to prove in the minors. But he's yet to show he can consistently handle big league pitching.

    In 68 games with Houston between 2018 and now, Tucker owns a .204/.266/.363 slash line. That's obviously not enough of a sample to draw any sweeping conclusions, and he's tallied five doubles, a triple and a home run among his 14 hits in 2020.

    The fifth overall pick in 2015, Tucker remains a big part of the Astros' plans, especially with outfielders George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick all set to hit free agency after this season. But at some point soon, Houston will want to see him translate those MiLB results.

    Progress report grade: C-

OF Victor Robles, Washington Nationals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 4

    Victor Robles played the 2019 season in the shadow of Washington Nationals teammate Juan Soto, who posted a .949 OPS with 34 home runs and picked up down-ballot MVP votes in his sophomore campaign.

    But Robles enjoyed a solid breakout of his own, slashing .255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases while posting an impressive 23 defensive runs saved in center field.

    So far in 2020, the 23-year-old is hitting .277 with a home run and two doubles in 15 games, and he joins Soto, who missed the beginning of the season after testing positive for COVID-19, to form an enviable outfield duo for the Nats.

    Progress report grade: A-

OF/DH Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 3

    Eloy Jimenez came on strong in late 2019, hitting .340 with nine home runs and 25 RBI in 24 September games for the Chicago White Sox.

    In all, the 23-year-old slugger hit 31 homers with an .828 OPS and finished fourth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. 

    Jimenez also struck out 134 times in 122 games and posted a ho-hum .315 on-base percentage. So far in 2020, he's hit five home runs in 17 games but has also struck out 17 times and sports a .275 OBP.

    There is some swing-and-miss in Jimenez's game, as well as room for improvement in the plate-discipline department. He's also a suspect defensive left fielder who may be best suited as a DH.

    But there's no denying his eye-opening pop, which elevates the Sox's dangerous young lineup. If he can improve his on-base abilities, he could develop into an MVP-caliber masher.

    Progress report grade: B

SS Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 2

    Fernando Tatis Jr. was squarely in the mix for NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2019 before a back injury ended his season. He also missed time with a balky hamstring but slashed .317/.379/.590 with 22 home runs and 16 steals in 84 games for the San Diego Padres.

    Twenty-one games into his 2020 campaign, Tatis has a 1.032 OPS with eight home runs and is making a case for himself as the best offensive shortstop in baseball.

    He appears to have put the injury troubles behind him. And at age 21, he's likely still climbing toward his sky-high ceiling. 

    "He's the face of this franchise," Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer told ESPN's Jeff Passan. "And I think he's gonna be the face of this game very, very soon."

    Progress report grade: A

INF/DH Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Pre-2019 prospect rank: No. 1

    Vladimir Guerrero Jr. debuted with the Blue Jays in 2020, carrying the hype associated with his famous father and the prodigious power he flexed in three-plus minor league campaigns.

    Just 20 years old last season, the son of Vlad didn't take the league by storm but hit a respectable .272 with a .772 OPS and 15 home runs in 123 games.

    In 16 games this season, he's slashing .242/.309/.403 with two home runs and four doubles.

    After posting minus-nine defensive runs saved at third base in 2019, Guerrero has been a first baseman and DH this season. His future probably lies at the latter spot.

    Considering he's only 21, there's every reason to anticipate 40-plus-dinger power on the horizon. But there may be some more growing pains along the way.

    Progress report grade: C+


    All statistics current entering Saturday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.