MLB Prospect Watch: 10 Players on the Verge of Being Called Up

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterMay 8, 2014

MLB Prospect Watch: 10 Players on the Verge of Being Called Up

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    Among top prospects, the Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco might make the biggest impact, but he might not arrive first.
    Among top prospects, the Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco might make the biggest impact, but he might not arrive first.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    In the past week alone, Detroit Tigers lefty Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman and Los Angeles Angels first baseman C.J. Cron became the latest prospects called up, following in the wake of the Houston Astros' George Springer, who debuted last month. All of which raises the question: Who's next?

    With the Super Two deadline nearing—it typically falls somewhere around late May to mid-June—baseball is about to see a plethora of prospects promoted.

    Here, then, is a look at a batch of 10 young stars who are on the verge of making it to the majors. They're as close as they are to getting the call because of their current performance in the minors—or lack thereof by or injury to the player(s) ahead of them on the depth chart at the big league level.

    Here's the wrinkle: Instead of ranking these prospects based on their talent, they're listed in order of estimated time of arrival, from latest to earliest. The one thing these impact young'uns all have in common? They should be making it to The Show over the next month.

Honorable Mentions

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    If not for a bout of pneumonia, Kevin Gausman likely would be back in Baltimore this month given the club's pitching struggles.
    If not for a bout of pneumonia, Kevin Gausman likely would be back in Baltimore this month given the club's pitching struggles.Associated Press

    Again, the following prospects are listed in order of latest to soonest call-ups:

    Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Alexander Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

    Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies

    Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies

    Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets

    Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

    Ken Giles, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

    Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (pictured) 

Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Statistics: 3-1, 2.31 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 37 K (39.0 IP)

    Current Level: Double-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: No

    Age: 22

    The ninth overall pick out of Oklahoma State University in 2012, Andrew Heaney was expected to be on the fast track as a polished college left-hander, and he's made good on that by reaching Double-A late last year and racking up 12 starts already at that level in his first two full pro seasons.

    Heaney hasn't just arrived at Jacksonville, either; he's been been very, very good there, compiling a 2.60 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 7.4 K/9 in his time.

    While he displays good pitchability and control (2.3 BB/9 career), Heaney is more than a finesses southpaw, as he possesses a low-to-mid-90s fastball and an out-pitch slider.

    The Marlins never have been shy about promoting their prospects once they deem them to be ready—Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich, none of whom spent a lick of time at Triple-A, are Exhibits A, B and C—so it wouldn't be surprising at all to see them jump Heaney from nearby Jacksonville to Miami soon.

    If they're still hanging around and maintaining the look of a surprise playoff contender a few weeks from now, Heaney would be a nice reinforcement to call upon, perhaps before he turns 23 on June 5.

Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: 4-2, 3.58 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 36 K (37.2 IP)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: No

    Age: 21

    Before this season started, Noah Syndergaard looked likely to be the Mets' third top young right-hander in three years to be promoted midseason, following in the footsteps of Matt Harvey (July 2012) and Zack Wheeler (June 2013).

    2010 first-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, Syndergaard came to the Mets along with catcher Travis d'Arnaud in exchange for R.A. Dickey in what was a very nice swap for New York. While d'Arnaud has struggled some in trying to prove he's the club's catcher of the future, Syndergaard could have much more immediate success upon his arrival, particularly as a hard-throwing, 6'6" right-hander who gets to pitch in Citi Field.

    Across his four-plus professional seasons, Syndergaard owns a 2.74 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, to go with a 9.9 K/9 compared to a 2.6 BB/9 (good for a fantastic 3.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio).

    As his numbers up top indicate, he's had his first real hiccups in 2014, in large part due to working under very pitcher-unfriendly circumstances—not only in the Pacific Coast League but also at Las Vegas' high-scoring park. That can be attributed to an elevated .349 BABIP.

    Other than overcoming the tough environs in which he's currently pitching, Syndergaard's biggest obstacle to getting to Flushing is the Mets' pitching depth. The five-man has been solid so far (3.79 rotation ERA), and there's always a chance the club chooses to first bring up fellow right-hander Rafael Montero—a good prospect in his own right, but not quite in Syndergaard's class—to test the waters.

Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: 1-0 , 3.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 38 K (33.0 IP)

    Current Level:Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: No

    Age: 21

    Matt Wisler's numbers above looked a whole lot better prior to his most recent outing in which he surrendered six earned on eight hits and four walks over 3.0 innings. But give the young right-hander a bit of a break—he was making his Triple-A debut.

    Of course, Wisler had earned the promotion because he'd flat-out dominated Double-A in his first six starts: 2.10 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.5 K/9.

    Already quite the find for the Padres, who landed him in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, Wisler has an above-average fastball with good movement and a plus slider, as well as good command of his full repertoire. This is a "just about big league-ready" arm who showed as much by nearly making the Padres out of camp in spring training. 

    With the back-end of the Padres' rotation looking rather shaky, namely Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin, both of whom have ERAs north of 5.00, Wisler could get another promotion—his final one—in the very near future.

Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: .297/.346/.492, 18 R, 13 XBH (5 HR), 24 RBI, 1 SB (127 PA)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: Yes

    Age: 21

    One of the fastest rising prospects around this time a year ago, Oscar Taveras' 2013 was ruined by an ankle injury that limited him to 188 plate appearances and eventually required surgery. The injury and recovery then lingered some into spring, which briefly caused some frustration and concern within the organization. Still, he remains a consensus top-five prospect in the sport.

    The good news is Taveras' violent lefty swing looks back to normal now that he's finally healthy. Over his past 20 games, the outfielder has notched at least one hit in all but two and accrued nine of his extra-base knocks (three homers) and 16 of his RBI.

    Taveras was passed up when the Cardinals, searching for some sort of offensive spark, reached down and plucked fellow outfielder Randal Grichuk last week, but he shouldn't be long for Triple-A at this point.

    General manager John Mozeliak indicated recently that Taveras still has some work to do before he gets the call. In particular, Taveras, who projects as a corner outfielder long-term, may need to prove he can handle center field for now, since that is the lone outfield spot where he isn't blocked by a centerpiece big leaguer.

Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Scott Kane/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: .333/.366/.462, 7 R, 3 XBH (2 HR), 5 RBI, SB (PA)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: Yes (2013, 2014)

    On 40-man roster: Yes

    Age: 23

    After getting his feet wet with a late-2013 debut in St. Louis and then hitting .375 with eight extra-base hits in spring training, Kolten Wong looked like the next Cardinals youngster ready to be a key contributor to a perennial playoff contender.

    Alas, that plan went awry when Wong struggled to find any kind of consistency and went just 16-for-71 (.225) before being demoted in late April.

    To his credit, the lefty-swinging Wong has gotten himself back on track at Triple-A, where he's doing his usual thing, which is a little bit of everything. The key for Wong, who makes a lot of contact, is to make harder contact, which he did Monday by smacking a double and a home run.

    Wong's not likely going to be a star like some of the others on this list, but his solid all-around skill set should make him a capable starting player on a first-division club and get him another opportunity in St. Louis in short order, especially with 36-year-old Mark Ellis serving as the primary keystone at the moment. 

Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Statistics: 1-0, 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 40 K (31.1 IP)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: No

    Age: 24

    Checking in at 6'9" and 220 pounds, Alex Meyer is a right-hander with a fastball that's just as big as he is. The 2011 first-round selection by the Washington Nationals regularly registers in the upper 90s with his heater, a pitch he gets great downhill plane on, given how large of a human being he is.

    At 24, Meyer, who joined Minnesota in the Denard Span deal, is a little older than some of the others on this list, and he's battled arm trouble in the past, so the Twins would do well to get him up sooner than later to see what they have in him.

    They would also do well to get him up sooner than later because their rotation, which has been a disaster the past few seasons, remains as such. Even after the additions of Ricky Nolasco (5.64 ERA) and Phil Hughes (4.71 ERA), the club's 5.29 starters' ERA is second-worst in baseball, and barely ahead of the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks' embattled five-man.

    The Twins have a very real need for quality arms, specifically a power one like Meyers, whose career strikeout rate is 10.5 per nine. Seriously, how much longer can the folks in Minnesota stand to watch Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey?

Jon Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: .277/.392/.605, 25 R, 18 XBH (10 HR), 28 RBI, 0 SB (143 PA)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: Yes

    Age: 22

    Last year was a lost one for Jon Singleton, who was suspended 50 games for a drug of abuse—he later admitted to struggling with an addiction to marijuana—and didn't play well when he was on the field, either.

    A fast start to 2014, though, has helped the lefty slugger turn over a new leaf. Singleton's 10 homers so far are the second-most in all of the minor leagues.

    While he still has some swing-and-miss in his stick (23 percent strikeout rate), Singleton has strong plate discipline, knows how to get on base (.392 OBP) and possesses enough power to play at first base, where there's practically nothing blocking his path in Houston (no offense to Jesus Guzman and Marc Krauss).

    With fellow top prospect George Springer's promotion to Houston starting things off last month, Singleton isn't far from joining along as the franchise's rebuilding phase starts to advance at the major league level.

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2014 Statistics: .395/.444/.613, 23 R, 16 XBH (4 HR), 28 RBI, 7 SB (135 PA)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: Yes

    Age: 22

    Gregory Polanco's name has been a popular one in the news of late, because he's essentially been the Troy Tulowitzki of Triple-A, posting a near-.400 batting average and tearing apart the International League, the less hitter-friendly of the two Triple-A circuits.

    Beyond that, the lefty-swinging Polanco also made waves for turning down a long-term contract that could have kept him in Pittsburgh for the next decade—and likely gotten him called up by now had he accepted, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

    The Pirates might not admit in public that they're keeping Polanco down for financial reasons—if he avoids gaining Super Two status, it will save the club millions in arbitration—but they need the soon-to-be star outfielder something fierce.

    At 14-20 and with an offense that is scoring just 3.9 runs per game—10th-worst in MLB—the Pirates are desperate for a jolt, the kind that Polanco could provide by taking over in right field, which currently is being manned by a combination of Jose Tabata (.604 OPS) and Travis Snider (.682 OPS).

    It's understandable that the Pirates don't want to heap savior-like expectations on a 22-year-old, but if they wait another month to manipulate Polanco's service time, it might be too late.

Tommy La Stella, 2B, Atlanta Braves

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: .306/.368/.333, 13 R, 3 XBH (0 HR), 17 RBI, 1 SB (125 PA)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: No

    On 40-man roster: No

    Age: 25

    Pretty clearly, the Braves have grown more than a little tired of Dan Uggla, their incumbent-but-slumping second-sacker who was held off the postseason roster last October and has been ceding time to veteran utility man Ramiro Pena of late.

    Good thing, then, that Tommy La Stella basically is the anti-Uggla. Whereas Uggla is—or rather, was—known for home runs and strikeouts, La Stella is a contact machine with a career strikeout rate of just 8.6 percent in his three-plus pro seasons.

    A 2011 eighth-round pick, La Stella has battled injuries but also has shown an uncanny ability to hit for high averages and get on base, as the lefty hitter's .325/.407/.478 career triple-slash line shows.

    With Uggla eroding exponentially—he's hitting .184 with only six walks in 112 trips to the plate—it can't be long before Atlanta looks elsewhere to address second base. La Stella won't be a stud, but Atlanta doesn't need him to be. Plus, his approach would be a welcome change to a lineup that is extremely strikeout prone, with a 24.1 percent strikeout rate that checks in as the third-highest in MLB

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    2014 Statistics: 3-0, 1.10 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 31 K (32.2 IP)

    Current Level: Triple-A

    MLB Experience: Yes (2012, 2013, 2014)

    On 40-man roster: Yes

    Age: 23

    Trevor Bauer already has had three stints in the big leagues since being selected with the No. 3 pick in 2011 out of UCLA. And yet the right-hander has yet to stick, in part because he's been battling his command and control seemingly ever since being drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    The D-backs quickly gave up on Bauer, trading him after his first full pro season in December 2012 as part of a three-team deal, and he didn't help his cause by failing to do much of anything during his initial impression in the Indians organization. In fact, in 2013, Bauer posted a 5.29 ERA in four starts with Cleveland and a 4.15 ERA (and 1.58 WHIP!) at Triple-A.

    The good news is his stuff has looked much sharper and crisper at the outset of this season, as he showed by hitting the mid-90s with his fastball and showcasing some nasty breaking balls in an early April spot start against the San Diego Padres. That's reflected in his performance at Columbus, too, where he's yet to give up more than two runs or pitch fewer than six innings in any of his five starts.

    In the past, efficiency was Bauer's biggest problem, primarily how he would nibble at the corners rather than go after hitters with his deep repertoire. If Bauer, who's walking just 2.5 per nine at Columbus, can maintain what he's done so far in 2014, he could be a huge weapon for an Indians team whose rotation has been better of late but still ranks 10th-worst in baseball with a 4.21 starters' ERA.

    Should recent call-up Josh Tomlin, who replaced Carlos Carrasco in the five-man, show any hint of a hiccup in his next few starts, Bauer will be next in line.

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11

    Statistics from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, except where otherwise noted.