Every weekend I will be posting about the minor leaguers that you should be stashing on your team. These rankings are done solely for prospects who could potentially impact the 2019 season. Their ranks are predicated on when they will be called up and raw talent—we want to give you an edge in building your team throughout the year. Not all prospects need to be stashed in every league as not all league compositions are made equally.
Logan Allen’s odds of making it to the Majors seem to increase by the day with Nick Margevicius set to explode at a moment’s notice and Matt Strahm looking like a shell of the breakout star from this Spring. Allen will be competing with former first-round pick Cal Quantrill for the first opportunity but has a better track record and, despite a poor Spring showing, looked readier than Quantrill. Allen threw a combined 2.54 ERA between AA and AAA ball in 2018 with 151 strikeouts in 148.2 innings.
Justus Sheffield is starting his season in Triple-A and, like Allen, should get his first start this week. Sheffield was only able to start one game this Spring and with Seattle in full rebuild mode is in no rush to push Sheffield into the Majors. Sheffield will get consistent innings in Triple-A until an injury or when the team decides to move on from Marco Gonzales, Felix Hernandez, or Wade Leblanc. Sheffield threw a combined 2.48 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 116 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018.
3. Michael Soroka, SP Atlanta Braves – ETA Early May
Atlanta is sticking by Kyle Wright and Max Fried to round out their rotation, but if either performs poorly for too long into the season, the team has Michael Soroka and Touki Toussaint waiting in the wings. Who will get the call will be determined by when the call-up is needed. Soroka was on track to make the team during the Spring until a lingering shoulder injury slowed his timeline. If ready, Soroka should get the call over Toussaint and flirt with 200 strikeouts with an elite ERA. While Toussaint would equally be a strong call-up, Soroka should have an easier time staying in the rotation and out of Atlanta’s rookie pitching shuffle.
The White Sox reportedly have tried to work out a contract with Dylan Cease during Spring Training, evidence of how the team views him and the future plans they have in using him. With Eloy Jimenez locked down and Micahel Kopech recovering from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox are in need of an Ace and Cease is well positioned to take that mantle. Having only pitched 124 innings, Chicago seems to be cautious about not overworking Cease, but after pitching a combined 2.40 ERA and 160 strikeouts between High-A and Double-A last season, Cease will be pushing his way in sooner than later.
A bit of a surprise, Houston is starting Forrest Whitley off in Triple-A instead of Double-A (where he ended) or extended spring training. Whitley has little left to prove in Houston’s mind and, with this assignment, makes him closer than ever to a call-up. Whitley has one of the highest ceilings of any pitching prospect but is currently blocked by a trio of underwhelming talent (Wade Miley, Colin McHugh, and Brad Peacock). Josh James is Whitley’s toughest competition as James is already in Houston, albeit in a bullpen role, and James has been untouchable since early 2018.
Lewis Thorpe is the top pitching prospect for Minnesota and, with Stephen Gonsalves on the injured list with an elbow issue and Fernando Romero working out of the bullpen, is the top pitching call-up for the team. If either Kyle Gibson, Martin Perez, or Michael Pineda pitch so poorly as to join the bullpen or get injured (as Pineda is known to be)—Thorpe has earned a spot in the rotation. Thorpe pitched a 3.54 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 129.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2018.
7. Jesus Luzardo, SP Oakland Athletics – ETA Early June
Jesus Luzardo has as high a ceiling as anyone on this list and was set for an Opening Day roster spot until a rotator cuff injury forced him on the injured list for 4-6 weeks—that was two weeks ago. Oakland will want to work him out for a few weeks after returning and while that could be late-May, early June seems to be the realistic timetable for Luzardo—around the time teammate A.J. Puk should be ready. Luzardo pitched a 2.88 ERA with 129 strikeouts over 109.1 innings in 2018 from High-A all the way to Triple-A.
8. Brent Honeywell, SP Tampa Bay Rays – ETA Mid June
If not for a season-ending Tommy John surgery in February 2018, Brent Honeywell would have a full season in the Majors under his belt. Expected back in the minors by May, Honeywell is an absolute lock to pitch in the Majors once Tampa Bay thinks he is healthy enough. Circa Alex Reyes in 2018, expect Tampa Bay to slowly work Honeywell up the minor league ladder. Honeywell features five distinct pitches and has exceptional control—he should be a star if his undefined inning limit allows him to perform. When last he pitched in 2017, Honeywell threw a 3.49 ERA with 179 strikeouts in 136.2 innings—nearly all in Triple-A.
Brock Burke came to Texas via the three-team Jurickson Profar trade in the offseason and has done nothing but impress throughout the Spring. Although he is starting the season in Double-A, the team expects him to move quickly—with an early call-up not out of the question if Burke replicates his success from 2018 where, in Double-A ball, he threw a 1.95 ERA and 71 strikeouts (to only 14 balls) over 55.1 innings.
Despite his talent, Mitch Keller has struggled to find consistent success in Triple-A ball since getting promoted in mid-2018—largely a result of inconsistent control. While Keller has a phenomenal fastball and curveball, he faces too many batters each game by allowing too many base runners. In his 2019 debut, he walked five batters in only 4.2 innings, letting in three runs in the process. If Keller can tamp down his walks and take the next step, Pittsburgh will be waiting with open arms by mid-season.