Every weekend, I will be posting about the minor leaguers that you should be stashing on your team. Unlike dynasty content focusing on who to own for their production years down the road, these rankings will be done solely for the 2018 season (there will be discrepancies). Players that will be called up sooner will be ahead of players with more talent who might only be called up late in the year — we want to give you an edge. Prospects are a great way to stay ahead of everyone else rather you are in a dynasty league or a 10-team league.
This week’s article was written much sooner than normal as the author has a wedding to attend in the wilderness of northern Michigan – if a trade has happened that affects a players value – bear with him as he’ll do his best to update the article on Sunday night.
1. Jalen Beeks (Tampa Bay Rays) – ETA Late July
Jalen Beeks was traded this week to the Tama Bay Rays where he will have the opportunity to lock down a starting role or be relegated to long-term relief – either way you slice it, Beeks will be pitching in the Majors. Beeks has excelled in Triple-A this season, throwing a 2.89 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 87.1 innings although he bombed in his first two starts for Boston. He does most of his damage with his plus fastball and plus changeup, but has an ever-improving cutter. Beeks is still in the AL East, but now with two championship caliber teams to face – he will be worthy of spot starts in 2018.
2. Justus Sheffield (New York Yankees) – ETA Early September
The Yankees moved Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate in their trade for Zack Britton – shortening the number of options to fill in their fifth spot in the rotation, even if by a bit. We are still several days away from the trade deadline, but Sheffield himself may fill that void if the Yankees are unable to or choose not to acquire a starting pitcher. Domingo German was optioned after another blow-up and Jonathan Loaisiga is still out – the Yankees decision is coming quickly.
3. Michael Kopech (Chicago White Sox) – ETA Early September
Michael Kopech is too good for Triple-A, but too raw for the MLB. In four of his last six starts, Kopech went at least six innings and in total thrown a 2.53 ERA. He leads Triple-A baseball with 131 strikeouts on the season, but also sports a ghastly 58 walks in 94.1 innings. He’s the definition of a boom or bust start, but when he’s booming there are few pitchers that can compare. Kopech will be up this season for a taste and to see if he can temper his volatility in the Majors – with as few pitchers offering as much strikeout upside as Kopech and in the weak AL Central – Kopech is worth the risk in 12-man leagues or as the occasional spot start in 2018.
4. Sean Reid-Foley (Toronto Blue Jays) – ETA Early September
Sean Reid-Foley could be up shortly after Toronto completes a deal for J.A. Happ (for which the Yankees are a front-runner) who is expected to be traded at the deadline. I’m sure by the time this article publishes a deal will in fact be done. Reid-Foley has utterly excelled this season and looks poised for success in the Majors. He has thrown a quality start in six of his last eight games and if not for one 8 run game would be sporting a 2.50 ERA on the season between Double-A and Triple-A.
5. Kolby Allard (Atlanta Braves) – ETA Late August
Kolby Allard has been nothing but consistent throughout 2018. He currently sports a 2.80 ERA and has let up more than 3 runs only once this season. He doesn’t walk many batters although he doesn’t strike out many either (although as of late has seen an uptick in strikeouts). With Max Fried set to return over the weekend and fill out Atlanta’s rotation, Allard’s chances seem slim that he will be called up as a spot starter. I still expect Allard up this season, although in what capacity will be determined by the success of a somewhat shaky rotation.
6. Enyel De Los Santos (Philadelphia Phillies) – ETA Early August
Enyel De Los Santos was sent back down to Triple-A after two uninspiring outings and Zac Elfin‘s return from the disabled list. It is unclear how long Nick Pivetta‘s leash is, with an ERA now ballooned to 4.69 – but De Los Santos will be in the discussion. The Phillies are looking to acquire an additional piece or two (largely it seems to be in the outfield) and De Los Santos may be a key piece in a deadline trade similar to Jalen Beeks‘ situation. This optimism despite the Phillies giving Ranger Suarez a quick debut this past week.
7. Colin Poche (Tampa Bay Rays) – ETA Early August
Colin Poche led the minor leagues in strikeout rate in 2017, while he isn’t leading at the moment – he is in the mix. Having let up a run this past week, Poche’s ERA has skyrocketed to 0.70 on the season with 90 strikeouts in 51.1 innings. He’d be hard-pressed to close, even for a team as poor as Tampa Bay, but would immediately become a high leverage reliever that could still make a fantasy impact. Poche has been a lockdown reliever that rarely lets up a hit, but will get multiple strikeouts per inning on an almost guaranteed basis.
8. John Means (Baltimore Orioles) – ETA Early September
Baltimore had traded for pitching prospects so far at the deadline, but they have another well-performing prospect of their own who may get a shot come September (although the addition of Josh Rogers immediately becomes his toughest competition for a spot). In the 68 innings, he has pitched in Triple-A this season Means has a 3.01 ERA (2.63 FIP), 8.65 strikeouts per nine innings (for a total of 61 strikeouts), and 1.05 walks per nine innings. More impressively, he has thrown a quality start in eight of his last nine outings and is currently on a 7 game streak (including a most recent complete game shutout). Means is putting together everything to see a call-up this year and like many of the other pitchers on this list – he is in the AL East, so play him accordingly.
9. Mitch Keller (Pittsburgh Pirates) – ETA Early September
Prospect progression is not always linear, Mitch Keller took a step back in his first two outings in Triple-A and it took a game in A+ to (sort of) get him back on track. Keller has a high ceiling and a high floor and despite his slow start to Triple-A should turn it around. In Double-A, Keller had a 2.73 ERA and 76/32 K/BB over 86 innings. 10 of his 14 starts were quality starts and remains one of baseball’s top prospects. Barring a complete collapse, Keller should be up for a cup of tea in September and could serve as an effective starter in most leagues.
10. Josh James (Houston Astros) – ETA Early September
If you are a regular reader, you’ll know of my love for Josh James and the optimism that the Astros don’t leave him out in the cold this season. James has upped his presence in baseball this season by leading the minor leagues in strikeouts nearly all season (and currently all of baseball by 3 strikeouts). This is due to an uptick in his fastball velocity and making steady improvements to his slider and change-up. He has a 3.01 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A ball and has a 139/40 K/BB over 86.2 combined innings. My optimism stems from the likelihood that the Astros rest their rotation as Justin Verlander is the only starter on the roster without durability concerns although age will remain a concern for the rest of his career. Adopting a 6-man rotation or allowing pitchers to skip a start or two with James filling in could be to the benefit of the team. If an injury arises, James will be getting the call.
Dakota Hudson: At the time this article was drafted, Hudson was in line for his debut against the Cubs this weekend. Hudson has been an effective pitcher in Triple-A this season and although the Cubs are a tough draw, there is much reason for optimism.