2019 Impact Prospects
On Friday, Keaton detailed his All-Breakout Squad, reviewing players he thinks will outperform their recent production. Admittedly, I am totally stealing his idea, detailing lesser-known potential impact prospects. While none of these prospects rank highly, each of these prospects could make significant noise in the majors this year.
Eric Haase, Cleveland Indians
In the span of five months last year, the Indians dealt Francisco Mejia and Yan Gomes. Now, only three catchers are on the 40-man roster, including light-hitting, defensive specialist Roberto Perez and recently acquired, underwhelming Kevin Plawecki. The third catcher is Eric Haase. Just two years ago, he launched 27 home runs in Double-A Eastern League (.258/.349/.574). Last year, Haase toiled in Triple-A, finding far less success (.236/.288/.443) and struggling with swing-and-miss (30.2% strikeouts and 17% swinging strikes). However, he quietly enjoyed an explosive final two months, hitting .263/.302/.572 with 15 home runs, and briefly debuted in the majors. Haase possesses huge raw power and, now, a fairly clear path to both short- and long-term playing time.
Other of Note: Jake Rogers, Detroit Tigers
Daniel Vogelbach, Seattle Mariners
It is March, which means Daniel Vogelbach will again tease everyone with a loud spring performance (.400/.609/.600). While he has struggled in the majors (.197/.301/.315), he has dominated in Triple-A, including .290/.434/.545 with a 59-to-77 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year. Most importantly, Vogelbach is now out of options. Consequently, the Mariners almost certainly will provide him another early season opportunity. With Edwin Encarnacion occupying either first base or designated hitter, Vogelbach will battle Ryon Healy and Jay Bruce for playing time at the other open spot. Should he find regular playing time, he is worth owning in all formats.
Other of Note: Rowdy Tellez, Toronto Blue Jays
Luis Rengifo, Los Angeles Angels
Few prospects experienced as big of a breakout season last year as Luis Rengifo, advancing all the way from High-A to Triple-A. Along the way, he hit and hit for some pop from both sides of the plate (50 extra-base hits), stole a bunch of bags (41-for-57), and displayed exceptional plate discipline (12.7% strikeouts and walks). Now, Rengifo is in direct competition with, and outperforming, David Fletcher this spring. He has more upside than Fletcher, with a chance to contribute some across the board.
Other of Note: Ramon Urias, St. Louis Cardinals
Kevin Cron, Arizona Diamondbacks
The younger brother of C.J. Cron, Kevin is a very similar player. A massive 6’5″ and 245 pounds, he understandably has big raw power, often earning plus grades. Further, he is a solid, steady hitter (.309/.368/.554), and he has made a lot of progress utilizing the whole field. A fly ball-heavy approach (47.3%) likely will limit his batting average, but should allow him to tap into a lot of his raw power (15.7% HR/FB). Following the trade of Paul Goldschmidt, Cron is only a Jake Lamb slump away from making noise in the majors.
Other of Note: Josh Fuentes, Colorado Rockies
Yu Chang, Cleveland Indians
The injury to Francisco Lindor opens the door ever so slightly for Yu Chang, who could surprise over the first couple weeks. He is a poor-man’s three-true-outcome slugger. A late-count hitter (4.07 pitches/plate appearance), Chang regularly accumulates plenty of walks (8.5%) and strikeouts (27.8%) despite manageable swing-and-miss (11.1% swinging strikes). In addition, he has a quick, upper cut swing, which generates a lot of fly balls (44.1%) and allows him to tap into his average-to-above raw power. Following Lindor’s return, Chang should stick as an utility infielder and continue to receive some playing time throughout the infield.
Other of Note: Cole Tucker, Pittsburgh Pirates; Willi Castro, Detroit Tigers; Mauricio Dubon, Milwaukee Brewers
Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians
The Indians’ outfield situation is dire. Oscar Mercado may be the solution. While he was only a league-average performer in Triple-A (.278/.349/.390), he remains raw and projectable with a solid, line-drive bat, plus speed, and reasonable swing-and-miss.
D.J. Stewart, Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles dumpster fire contains some fantasy potential. A former first round pick, D.J. Stewart showcased power and speed in his brief debut (.250/.340/.550 with 3 home runs and 2 stolen bases). Although the Orioles optioned him to Triple-A on Sunday, he should eventually receive regular playing time this year and provide a cheap source of power with a handful of stolen bases.
Pablo Reyes, Pittsburgh Pirates
Like Stewart, Pablo Reyes impressed in his brief debut last year (.293/.349/.483). The injury to Gregory Polanco provides an opportunity for immediate playing time, especially if oft-injured Logan Chisenhall gets, well, injured, which, of course, he already is.
Others of Note: Anthony Alford, Toronto Blue Jays; Billy McKinney, Toronto Blue Jays; Jason Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates; Myles Straw, Houston Astros; Chris Shaw, San Francisco Giants; Joe McCarthy, Tampa Bay Rays
Sean Reid-Foley, Toronto Blue Jays
Sean Reid-Foley no-hit the Padres over four innings in his latest spring start. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have a rotation consisting of inconsistent, injury-prone, and often mediocre aging veterans, including Clay Buchholz, Matt Shoemaker, and Clayton Richard. This is a recipe for opportunity. In his brief debut last year (5.13/1.56 ERA/WHIP), Reid-Foley displayed a deep, four-pitch repertoire, headlined by a mid-90s fastball (94.2) and a lethal slider. However, command is an ongoing concern, and he likely will vacillate between brilliant and disastrous outings.
Jose Suarez, Los Angeles Angels
Like Rengifo, Jose Suarez skyrocketed from High-A to Triple-A over just two months at just 20 years old. A small (5’10”) and stocky, left-handed pitcher, he experienced an unexpected improvement in velocity last year. With his newfound low-90s fastball, his two above-average secondaries (curveball and change-up) play up even more. Suarez could make a similar impact as Jaime Barria last year, and, given the lengthy injury history of the Angels rotation, he may debut sooner rather than later.
Brock Burke, Texas Rangers
The headliner in the Jurickson Profar trade, Brock Burke turned heads last year in Double-A Texas League (1.95/0.96 ERA/WHIP with 71 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings). The big (6’4″) lefty has two potential plus offerings in a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s power slider. Substantial progress with both command and his mid-80s change-up allow Burke to now profile in the rotation. The Rangers may have the worst rotation in the majors, so it is only a matter of when, not if, Burke or another young arm (Taylor Hearn, Joe Palumbo, or Jonathan Hernandez) arrives.
Jacob Nix, San Diego Padres
Last year, Jacob Nix surprisingly debuted in the majors after just one start in Triple-A. Unfortunately, he did perform well (7.02/1.54 ERA/WHIP), getting hit hard (42.1% hard contact) and inducing little swing-and-miss (6.6% swinging strikes). To say the Padres may have rushed him is a small understatement. Still, Nix remains on the cusp, behind a group of mostly uninspiring pitchers. Further, he has solid stuff, with a low-to-mid-90s fastball (93 mph), a potential plus curveball, and a solid change-up.
Rogelio Armenteros, Houston Astros
Josh James and Framber Valdez both received opportunities last year and, understandably, garner the most attention as potential candidates for the Astros’ rotation. However, Rogelio Armenteros is enjoying a strong spring on the heels of an impressive final 12-outing stretch in Triple-A last year (2.95/1.23 ERA/WHIP with 75 strikeouts in 64 innings). With little left to prove in the minors, he should debut in the majors early this year.
Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
Merrill Kelly is a 30-year-old prospect, and a former member of the Tampa Bay Rays organization. The Diamondbacks recently signed him as an international free agent acquisition after he spent several years in the Korean Baseball Organization. Kelly possesses a deep, four-pitch repertoire, including a low-90s fastball with solid spin rate and a mix of average secondaries (slider/cutter, curveball, and change-up). Ultimately, he lacks the stuff or command of Miles Mikolas, a common comparator, but he could develop into a solid 4- or 5-starter.
Others of Note: Ryan Helsley, St. Louis Cardinals; Framber Valdez, Houston Astros; Enyel De Los Santos, Philadelphia Phillies; Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies; Jordan Yamamoto, Miami Marlins
Darwinzon Hernandez, Boston Red Sox
Few pitching prospects have impressed as much as Darwinzon Hernandez over the last six months. Late last year, he moved to the bullpen, turning heads in the AFL (24 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings) and displaying explosive, elite stuff, including a lively, mid-90s fastball, a wipeout, mid-80s slider, and a solid, upper-80s change-up. Further, Hernandez has continued to dominate this spring, with 7 scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts. With the Red Sox bullpen in flux, he could make an immediate impact and perform similarly to Seranthony Dominguez or Jordan Hicks.
Others of Note: Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels; Travis Lakins, Boston Red Sox; Durbin Feltman, Boston Red Sox; Yoan Lopez, Arizona Diamondbacks