We’ve started the Midseason Top 50 process here at Baseball Prospectus. There is a ways to go—so far we are only at the point where we have sorted a draft in a car heading to Camden Yards and then were unable to explain to the rest of the staff why Joshua Lowe ended up on it—but one of the hardest parts of the process is pegging who will actually be eligible. We only consider players in the minors at the time of publication, and now that we are well past the Super 2 safe harbor date, teams don't have service time manipulation reasons to keep their best upper-level prospects in the minors (well, maybe one of them, which we’ll get to). So let's take a look at some of the top names who may send us scrambling to find more top 50 prospects at the last minute (I guess Lowe still has a chance after all).
The Situation: Stop us if you have heard this one before: The Red Sox have a Big-Dig-sized hole at the hot corner, and a top prospect in Portland available to fill it. The second coming of Pablo Sandoval was greatly exaggerated, and after a 30th-best performance in 2016, Red Sox third basemen have somehow been 80 points worse by OPS this year. Recent attempts to triage with Devin Marrero have gone exactly as you'd expect. Meanwhile Rafael Devers is smashing the Eastern League to the tune of a .925 OPS.
Why we’d do it: Um…their third basemen have a .577 OPS? That’s not a high bar to get over for a team with designs on a division title. And Devers is one of the best pure offensive prospects in the minors. There is a potential plus hit and power combo here. I'd say he made Dunkin Donuts Park look like a bandbox in my look at him, but…it is a bandbox. The balls went really far though. And there is a potential for 7 pop that will play in any ballpark. There have been mixed reviews on his defense but he’s perfectly acceptable there now with good instincts, soft hands and a strong, accurate arm. He may not remain at the hot corner in his late twenties, but Boston needs a third baseman now, not three years from now. That’s their stance.
The argument against: Well, the Sox tried this last year with Yoan Moncada, and it didn't go great. Devers arguably has a better pure hit tool than Moncada, but he doesn't get cheated up there, and the jump from Double-A to the majors is significant. Like with Moncada, he may be cast as the savior for a team in a pennant race, a big weight to carry on 20-year-old shoulders.
What we think will happen: The Red Sox have been signaling to just about everyone that they have no intention of calling up Devers. That could change with a few good weeks in Pawtucket and continued sub-.600 OPS performance from the big league options, but I think he will be ranked—and very highly—when our midseason list drops.
The situation: Boston’s not the only AL East contender with issues at third. Chase Headley has posted a .245/.335/.362 slash line, which would make him a huge upgrade if the Red Sox could sneak him into the Acela baggage car. But the Yanks could look to move on from Headley and have more than enough petty cash lying around to absorb the 15 million or so he's still owed. Now I thought I would be writing about Gleyber Torres in this space, but apparently sometimes my lists get screwed up by position players getting Tommy John surgery too. So instead we turn to a personal favorite of mine, baseball Swiss Army knife Tyler Wade. He’s currently playing mostly shortstop for the RailRiders, but has experience at six positions.
Why we’d do it: We put Wade 101 on our preseason list. That spot has usually been reserved for a player who may not strictly be the 101st best prospect in baseball, but who we just like for whatever reason. Well, even if we thought he was literally 101, that looks low now. Wade has broken out in Triple-A at 22, hitting over .300 and adding plenty of doubles. He’s a borderline plus-plus runner with a strong approach at the plate that will give him extra opportunities to use his speed on the bases. He's always flashed more power than you’d expect given the profile, and it's still a projectable body. He's just about major-league-ready, can spot you at every position other than catcher, and his left-handed bat would help balance out the Yankees righty-leaning lineup. In other words, he adds a lot more pages to Joe Girardi’s binder.
The argument against: This is the first year Wade has really hit. Now I always thought this was in here, but it's only a half season of actually doing it. Headley’s shown signs of life again after a moribund May, and it might not be worth cutting bait with the veteran for a marginal upgrade. You could just move Headley across the dirt of course, but the Yanks seem even less inclined to move on from Chris Carter.
What we think will happen: The Yankees will hold onto their veterans and the required 40-man spot until at least the all-star break. Yankees fans will keep agitating for the wrong Tyler on twitter. Craig will do his best to argue Wade off our Midseason 50. None of these tactics will achieve the desired results. [ed. note: I will absolutely have the desired result]
The situation: We will move to a team out of the playoff race, though very much amongst it in the long second-half pub crawl for Seth Beer. The Phillies have been more willing to move on from their floundering veteran, DFAing Michael Saunders. That would have seemed to open up a spot in left field, Williams’ likely major league home. BUT! They called up Cam Perkins instead to platoon with Daniel Nava.
Why we’d do it: Williams has almost 1500 PA in the upper minors now. If you are gonna wait for him to put up a sabermetrician-approved K/BB rate, you are gonna be waiting another 1500 PA. What he can do is hit. Now he might end up as Tim Anderson in left field, which, uh, isn't a useful major leaguer, but there is value in starting to figure that out now.
The argument against: Williams could be hideously overmatched by major league arms. The K/BB ratio could require formal operations to calculate. But it can't get much worse for the Phillies, can it?
What will happen: Williams will lose a pop up in the sun and get benched for a couple weeks for poorly explained reasons. The Phillies will cash out Daniel Nava for a short-season arm even I haven't heard of.
The situation: Asdrubal Cabrera has been hurt like four separate times since the April service time clawback date. The Mets are running out a Jose Reyes/T.J. Rivera double play combo in a season when they were supposed to compete for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, it’s 115 degrees this week in Las Vegas, which makes the gametime temperature on the field only slightly hotter than Amed Rosario, the Mets best prospect—and global number one candidate—who is hitting .325/.368/.479 in Sin City.
Why we’d do it: The Mets have seen their playoff odds dip into the low single digits while comically bumbling injury management in typical Metsian fashion. But like with the Phillies there is value in seeing Rosario in the majors, and specifically seeing if he can make the inevitable first-level adjustments against major-league pitching in a low stakes atmosphere. If nothing else, his plus glove could help an infield defense that has been bottom-five at turning groundballs into outs. And frankly, there aren't many reasons to go out to Citi nowadays.
The argument against: We are well past the point of Amed Rosario pushing the Mets back into the playoff picture. And hey, since they’ve soft shoed long enough, nothing stopping them reprising that classic showstopper “His walk rate isn't high enough” straight through to April 20th, 2018. If that sounds overly cynical, well, you haven't followed the Mets much recently. They did something similar with Noah Syndergaard in 2014 after a “disappointing” season in the PCL (complete with 1.70 DRA) and ended up with cost-controlled 2021 Noah Syndergaard out of the gambit. Oh, and Terry Collins is an unfireable maniac who is giving quotes about playing Asdrubal Cabrera at second base to keep Jose Reyes at shortstop.
What will happen: See above. Sadly Thursday was the last day to purchase tickets to our Citi Field event, which I feel like I did an excellent job promoting. #Dontbesurprisedbeready to see Rosario near the top of our midseason list.
The situation: The Rays are tied for the second wild card spot despite giving nearly a third of their starts to the replacement level duo of Blake Snell and Jake Odorizzi. The obvious choice to help bolster the rotation is Jose de Leon, but he is on the shelf with a mild lat strain. And his boring but safe Role 5 profile isn't gonna elevate the Rays above the cluster that is the AL Wild Card race. However, his rotation mate in Durham is staking a case for best (healthy) pitching prospect in baseball.
Why we'd do it: If we called the screwball a circle change, Honeywell would get less attention for that and more for the fact that he has #thegoodstuff. His fastball can bump the high-90s, and he has a full assortment of average or better offspeed offerings including that ol’ screwball. He’s missed bats everywhere he has pitched and that will be a boon to a staff that is middle of the pack in K-rate. Anyway, the Rays have been trying to trade Odorizzi for years, and there are worse swaps than him straight up for Honeywell.
The case against: Honeywell has been a little hittable against International League bats. He might need to find more command refinement before unfurling him against the dinger-hitting cadres of the AL East. When I said above that the Mets like to manipulate service time, I did not mean to suggest they or any other team does it as aggressively as the Rays. We’ll have to read multiple features about Uncle Mike’s pitching philosophy.
What will happen: I could actually see this one happening. The Rays can always claw back service time if things go poorly, and it could be the arm that brings them to the forefront of a very murky AL playoff picture. Will it? Well I will just direct you to my stock answer for anytime anyone asks me about the American League nowadays…