The race for the postseason is heating up and teams that need a boost will likely call upon reinforcements from the farm. This may not indicate that top prospects are going to be called up, but it does mean that desperate teams will send for prospects performing well in the upper echelons of their minor league system. Relatively unknown players will pop up on their team's rosters-much to the confusion of their fans. On the other hand, the boost can come in the form of a top tier prospect; one who can be an impact player in the long run. Here, I'll highlight both of these types of players so you can grab them before they reach the scene.
(In no particular order)
- Nick Kingham - The Pirates right-hander has made quick work of the minor leagues and is already at AAA Indianapolis at age 22. He sports a solid fastball that he can throw to any spot in the strike zone. Kingham has always had great command and control over his arsenal. His curveball is another good pitch that touches 85 mph, and his changeup keeps batters in the park, only allowing three home runs all this season. Since the Pittsburgh rotation is a mess at the moment, Kingham can find himself in a permanent role with the major league club soon enough.
- Mikie Mahtook - The Tampa Bay Rays 25th rated prospect (per Baseball America), Mahtook finds himself in a favorable position this season. The 2011 first rounder jumped all the way to High A in his first professional season (2012) and has spent the entirety of 2014 with AAA Durham. He is an above average defender, sporting great range in the outfield because of his good speed. His approach at the plate isn't that great, leading to a career 2.5/1 strikeout to walk ratio, and his power is still growing. He may find himself in Tampa if the Rays decide to give Matt Joyce a rest while Wil Myers sits on the shelf.
- R.J. Alvarez - The Angels have a pitching problem at the moment and Alvarez could be the solution. He has yet to allow a run in 20 innings this season at AA Arkansas, walking 5 and striking out 30. Alvarez requires some effort in his delivery but it is hard to argue with his results. He throws an easy plus fastball in the upper 90's and a near-plus changeup in the upper 80's. With some luck, Alvarez could be the Angels' closer by the end of the season.
- Rob Refsnyder - A relatively unknown prospect until this season's breakout. Drafted in the fifth round in 2012 without much fanfare, Refsnyder was climbing the organizational ladder as expected up until his promotion to AAA Scranton this year. He's batting .345 with 9 home runs and 7 stolen bases even though his plate discipline is not what it had been in previous years. His tools (or lack thereof) means that he probably has a lower ceiling than most. His position is not fully established yet either, leading some to believe he can fill in for the disappointing Alfonso Soriano in the outfield or in the barren infield.
- Michael Ohlman - The Orioles might as well give Ohlman a shot in the major leagues. With their normal catcher, Matt Wieters, out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and the incumbent catchers being fairly inept with a full-time role, Ohlman could be next on the organizational depth chart. He hasn't produced to his fullest potential in 2014 at AA Bowie, hitting .246 with just 2 home runs over 228 at bats, but he could see an improvement in his game if he reaches Baltimore. His bat is an average tool because he has a fairly long swing even though he has the potential for above average power. Ohlman is big for a catcher at 6'5" but shows the ability to call a game and gun out base-runners. He already owns a 40-man roster spot and impressed in his tiny sample during spring training, going 2 for 3 at the plate.
- Jimmy Nelson - The Milwaukee Brewers' first ranked prospect has proved his doubters wrong this season. The former second round pick has managed to improve upon his walk and strikeout rate in every year since 2012. Through 15 games at AAA Nashville this season, Nelson has the league-leading ERA at 1.66 with 105 strikeouts in 97.1 innings. He is an aggressive pitcher, filling the zone with low to mid 90's fastballs and tough slider. His changeup is now an average pitch for him, which has helped him limit lefties even more. He has the build to help keep his stuff sharp deep into games and the season. He has already made a spot start earlier this season and is on the verge of becoming the best homegrown pitcher in Milwaukee since Yovani Gallardo.
- Tyler Collins - The Tigers had plans for Collins earlier this season, allowing him 15 plate appearances before sending him down to AAA Toledo, where he has performed well up until this point. Collins is batting a decent .252 with 12 home runs in 2014 and could see time in either left or right field. The trio of Andy Dirks, Rajai Davis, and Torii Hunter haven't produced much this year, amassing to a total 1.1 WAR among the three of them. If they continue to play poorly and J.D. Martinez finally suffers from BABIP regression, Collins may be in the mix for some playing time. His bat is average and so is his power, but Collins may have the ability to outproduce both current candidates in left field.
- Cory Knebel - Knebel was one of the first 2013 draftees in the major leagues. There is an obvious need for bullpen help in Detroit, with closer Joe Nathan having a forgettable year and his highly lauded backup, Bruce Rondon, recovering from Tommy John surgery. The rest of the bullpen has a 4.05 ERA on the season. His mid 90's fastball has great movement and he uses it to amass plenty of whiffs. He also possesses a 70 rated hard-slamming curve and good deception. He has breezed through the Tigers' system to this point but faced hard enough competition in the major leagues to send him back down to Toledo. Knebel could be back up any day though.
- Chris Taylor - The Seattle infield has been anchored by new-addition Robinson Cano this season. However, shortstop Brad Miller hasn't played up to expectations. Most had the sleeper shortstop pegged for a great year. He has failed to produce and Taylor has not. The infielder has batted to a .329 batting average with 4 home runs and 11 stolen bases in AAA Tacoma. He won't serve up too many home runs or steals, but he has the skills to stay productive at the plate. He has the ability to make the most of his swing and sprays line drives to the entire field. If Miller continues to struggle, expect Taylor to get the call. (Maybe Nick Franklin...)
- Kyle Waldrop - The Reds are not afraid to move their prospects aggressively if it means securing a club victory. While it would surprise many to see Waldrop in the major leagues this season, I don't find it too unfeasible. He was off to a torrid start in A+ Bakersfield and only recently got promoted to AA Pensacola. However, he is batting an absurd .355 on the season with 6 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Most prospect sources didn't even peg Waldrop in their top thirty lists except for John Sickels of Minor League Ball, who described Waldrop as an "exciting athlete". If the Reds don't try Donald Lutz again, it wouldn't surprise me to see them bring up Waldrop to fortify left field.
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