Pleskoff: National League prospects who could make impact in 2017

03 March 2016: Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford (77) draws a walk during the MLB Grapefruit League Spring Training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

The prospects listed below have a chance to be part of their club’s major league roster at some point this year.

To be eligible for rookie status, a player may not have exceeded 130 at-bats. A pitcher may not have exceeded 50 innings on the mound. No player may have appeared for more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club during the 25-player roster limit timeframe.

The players listed below all have rookie status remaining.

A number noted in parenthesis is the player’s ranking on my Top-50 Prospects for 2017. The initials ROY indicate my belief the player will be in Rookie of the Year conversations.

Not all team prospects with the potential of playing in 2017 are listed. That list would be far too long. I’ve listed the players and pitchers I feel have the best chance to make an appearance in the coming season.

  • Arizona Diamondbacks

ANTHONY BANDA – LHP – AGE 23 – 6’2″/190 lbs.

The D-backs acquired Banda along with outfielder Mitch Haniger in their 2014 trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Banda throws an effective fastball in the range of 91-95 miles per hour, with the capability of hitting 96 with little effort.

He has a good swing-and-miss curveball and a less-than-average changeup. If his changeup improves as a quality third pitch, he will have a better chance for success. He controls his pitches well, but still needs to define and repeat his delivery with greater consistency. Banda can eventually compete for a role in the rotation.

JIMMY SHERFY – RHP – AGE 25 – 6’0″/175 lbs.

The D-backs selected Sherfy in the 10th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Strictly a relief pitcher in his career, he brings his fastball between 94 and 97 miles per hour. It’s his best pitch by far, but he has trouble with control and command. He also throws a slider, giving him two pitches out of the pen. He has to improve his walk rate, which hit 5.0 walks per nine innings last season at Triple-A Reno. Sherfy’s clock is ticking.

  • Atlanta Braves

DANSBY SWANSON – SS – AGE 23 – 6’1″/190 lbs. (No.7) ROY

Swanson still qualifies as a rookie, even though he had an outstanding 129 at-bats for the parent Braves. He projects to hit for a solid batting average and steal his share of bases with good speed. Defensively, he has enough to stick at shortstop and become a catalyst for his team in their new park.

OZZIE ALBIES – SS/2B – AGE 20 – 5’9″/160 lbs. (No.17) ROY

Slightly built, Albies is a good counterpart to Swanson. Albies should become the second base part of the middle-infield tandem. A good contact hitter with speed, Albies has a chance to get on base, steal and score. He’s a solid defender as well.

SEAN NEWCOMB – LHP – AGE 23 – 6’5″/255 lbs.

Big and strong, Newcomb was a first-round pick of the Angels in 2014. They traded him to Atlanta in a deal for shortstop Andrelton Simmons. I still don’t understand the need or wisdom of that deal for either team. Newcomb has a 96-98 mile per hour fastball, a curve and a changeup. If he is to progress he will have to improve his control. Like many lefties, his command and control are the last aspects of his development in need of improvement before his final promotion to the big league club. We should see him 2017.

RIO RUIZ – 3B – AGE 22 – 6’1″/230 lbs.

With a relatively stocky frame, Ruiz has a chance to add some pop to the Braves lineup. He does, however, have to improve on defense to climb his way to the big league club. I do think he can become a dangerous hitter with more repetition against quality pitching.

LUCAS SIMS – RHP – AGE 22 – 6’2″/220 lbs.

Sims has to improve his command and control to keep himself in the Braves pitching mix. Once considered a fine prospect, his control regressed to yielding 6.7 walks per nine innings last year. He has a good arm with enough stuff. He just has to throw strikes and repeat his delivery–both crucial for success.

  • Chicago Cubs

ALBERT ALMORA – CF – AGE 22 – 6’2″/190 lbs.

In all likelihood, Almora will get playing time in center field for the 2017 Cubs. He’s an outstanding defender with good range and speed. He may have to hit more than he has in the past to keep his roster spot, but his defense will speak volumes. More than likely, the Cubs will have enough firepower if he just holds his own at the plate. He may have some future power potential. He could begin the year in a platoon role.

JEIMER CANDELARIO – 3B – AGE 23 – 6’1″/210 lbs.

Unfortunately, Candelario plays the same position as MVP Kris Bryant. He may well be stuck for a long time. But Candelario can hit. If the Cubs need additional pitching at some point in the season, Candelario is almost major league ready and can probably help a club as either a third baseman or as a designated hitter in the American League.

MARK ZAGUNIS – OF – AGE 24 – 6’0″/205 lbs.

See Candelario. Zagunis has a quality bat, but he really doesn’t have much chance for playing time in the loaded Cubs outfield configuration. So what to do? He doesn’t have great power, but Zagunis can hit for average. He could help some club that is short on outfield help as a trade chip at some point.

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02: Chicago Cubs Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. (5) slides into home plate to score a run during the tenth inning of the 2016 World Series Game 7 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians on November 02, 2016, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 8-7 in 10 innings to win the World Series. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 02: Chicago Cubs Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. (5) slides into home plate to score a run during the tenth inning of the 2016 World Series Game 7 between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians on November 02, 2016, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. Chicago defeated Cleveland 8-7 in 10 innings to win the World Series. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

  • Cincinnati Reds

AMIR GARRETT – LHP – AGE 24 – 6’5″/210 lbs.

The lanky lefty clearly has a chance to help the Reds as early as this season. He could find himself in a rotation that needs starting pitching. His best two pitches are his power fastball that can touch 97 and his slider. He still has to complete a fuller repertoire with effective secondary pitches, but his changeup is on the way to being serviceable. He has to refine his command and bring his walk rate down. He doesn’t pick up as many strikeouts as one might expect with his strong arm.

ROBERT STEPHENSON – RHP – AGE 23 (Turns 24 on Feb. 24, 2017) – 6’2″/200 lbs.

Stephenson was a first-round pick by the Reds in 2011. His fastball range is from 90-95 miles per hour. He also has a curveball and a changeup, enough of a repertoire to claim a spot in the Reds rotation. I’m not bullish on Stephenson, as I don’t think he has shown enough consistency to earn a starting job. He may, however, fit in the Reds bullpen.

JESSE WINKER – OF – AGE 23 – 6’3″/215 lbs.

I’ve always been a big fan of Winker’s bat. He should post a nice batting average and could claim a role as a regular in the Reds outfield this coming season. He has little to no speed and only marginal power. But his bat can help set the table for bigger hitters in the Reds lineup.

  • Colorado Rockies

JEFF HOFFMAN – RHP – AGE 24 – 6’5″/225 lbs.

Hoffman was a key part of the Rockies trade with Toronto for Troy Tulowitzki. A former first-round pick by Toronto, Hoffman has a mid-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He could be an important piece in the middle part of the Rockies rotation if he can keep the ball down and induce ground balls.

GERMAN MARQUEZ – RHP – AGE 21 (Turns 22 on Feb. 22, 2017) 6’1″/185 lbs.

Marquez came to the Rockies in the deal that sent Corey Dickerson to Tampa Bay. He has good command, but his velocity is in the low- to mid-90s. My concern for Marquez can be stated in two words: Coors Field.

TOM MURPHY – C – AGE 25 – 6’1″/220 lbs.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Murphy can do in Coors Field. He has some true pop in his bat. A bit less advanced on the defensive side of the ball, spring training will be a time for Murphy to show what he can do with the bat.

RAIMEL TAPIA – OF – AGE 23 – 6’2″/160 lbs.

Tapia is a very athletic outfielder with good contact skills and some speed. Most scouts feel he can hit big league pitching. Still young, Tapia may see some playing time for the parent club, but he will likely need more time to develop his defense before he assumes too much of a big league role.

KYLE FREELAND – LHP – AGE 23 – 6’3″/170 lbs.

Freeland is a former first-round pick of the Rockies. He has been fighting arm miseries in his past but now appears to be healthy. He has a good fastball and throws a solid slider, curve and changeup to complete his repertoire. I don’t think he has one solid pitch to carry his career. He may just have enough to get a good strong look, but pitching in Coors will be a challenge.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers

BROCK STEWART – RHP – AGE 25 – 6’3″/210 lbs.

Stewart is more a control/command pitcher than anything else. He scuffled in his 28 big league innings last season, but he has the upside to serve as a starter at the back end of the Dodgers rotation. He’ll have plenty of competition and will have to step up to make the club.

August 28, 2016: Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Brock Stewart throws a pitch during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire)

  • Miami Marlins

DESTIN HOOD – OF – AGE 26 – 6’2″/205 lbs.

Hood got a taste of the big leagues with Miami last year. He hit .240 in 25 plate appearances. He has some pop in his bat and he may get a bit of a longer look this season. Virtually finished with his development, Hood has been injured in the past and may be a candidate to put up some nice numbers.

TAYRON GUERRERO – RHP – AGE 26 – 6’8″/210 lbs.

Guerrero is a very tall and very lanky flame-throwing right-hander. He can hit up to 100 miles per hour with his fastball. He is a candidate to pitch in relief by using a combination of fastball/slider. He came over from the Padres in the Andrew Cashner deal. He could be a sleeper if he ever figures out his control.

  • Milwaukee Brewers

LEWIS BRINSON – OF – AGE 22 – 6’3″/195 lbs. (No.14) ROY

Brinson has a chance to be a terrific defensive center fielder while hitting well. It will take some time to refine his approach at the plate against top-quality pitching, but he has all the tools to make an impact in the Brewers lineup. He was a major chip in the deal the Brewers made with Texas for Jonathan Lucroy. Brinson has a big future.

JOSH HADER – LHP – AGE 22 – 6’3″/185 lbs. (No. 22) ROY

Hader has gone from being drafted by Baltimore and traded to Houston and then Milwaukee. I believe both the Orioles and Astros will regret having the deceptive lefty on their roster and letting him go. He has an outstanding high-velocity fastball that can hit 98 miles per hour that anchors his repertoire. He then shuts down the hitter with a wipeout slider and a changeup in progress. I think he’ll be an outstanding starter, but if need be, he can cut his teeth in the pen until the brass feel he is ready to retire big league hitters. I’m very bullish on Hader.

BRANDON WOODRUFF – RHP – AGE 24 – 6’4″/215 lbs.

Woodruff might be able to step into the Brewers rotation at some point during the season. He has a nice combination of pitches, but nothing is really overwhelming. He’s average, but he can probably eat innings on a club that isn’t too deep in starting pitching. He can likely be an effective long reliever if the Brewers see a better fit with that role.

  • New York Mets

AHMED ROSARIO – SS – AGE 21 – 6’2″/190 lbs. (No. 6) ROY

This clearly may be Rosario’s time with the Mets. He’s an outstanding prospect. His defense has always been a true calling card, but his offense could be excellent in the future as well. He has some pop in his bat and can be the team’s top shortstop for years to come. Time will tell if he breaks camp as the team’s starting shortstop. If not then, soon.

DOM SMITH – 1B – AGE 21 – 6’0″/250 lbs. (No.40) ROY

Dominic Smith can hit line drives to his pull side. His power is beginning to blossom as well. Likely the first baseman of the future for the Mets, Smith may clearly be in the conversation for a role this coming season. He has a good eye at the plate and is patient enough to accept bases on balls. Like shortstop Rosario, Smith is part of the new younger generation of Mets players.

ROBERT GSELLMAN – RHP – AGE 23 – 6’4″/205 lbs.

Gsellman could find himself with a role on the Mets pitching staff. Yes, the rotation is loaded. However, if any of their starters falter or have a tough time returning from injury, Gsellman will be waiting in the wings. He has a mid-90s fastball and very good secondary pitches that include his slider and curveball. He also throws a changeup that is still in development.

BRANDON NIMMO – OF – AGE 23 – 6’3″/205 lbs.

Nimmo has been hanging around as a prospect with the Mets for quite some time. The team may have to determine if he can hit. If he can, he can find his way to the team’s outfield. If he can’t consistently hit big league pitching, the team may go elsewhere for outfield help. Nimmo has had parts of six years in the Mets development program. He has played at Triple-A and is ready for a promotion. I am not convinced about his bat.

GAVIN CECCHINI – SS – AGE 23 – 6’2″/200 lbs.

Cecchini will have a tough time sticking at shortstop for the Mets as long as Ahmed Rosario is getting close to big league status. Cecchini has put up excellent numbers as a minor league hitter. He doesn’t have much pop, but his batting average could give him a second and third look in camp.

.September 24, 2016: New York Mets Infield Gavin Cecchini (2) [9741] doubles on a line drive to left, scoring New York Mets First base Lucas Duda (21) [7530] during the eighth inning of the game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citi Field in Flushing, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

  • Philadelphia Phillies

J.P. CRAWFORD – SS – AGE 22 – 6’2″/180 lbs. (No.11) ROY

Crawford was the Phillies first-round pick in 2013. A gifted athlete, probably the only thing that can hold Crawford back is his enthusiasm. He has to play with some spark and enthusiasm to get the most of his many talents. A fine fielder, Crawford may scuffle against quality pitching at the big league level until he has enough experience to make adjustments at the plate. I would guess we will see him in Philadelphia at some point this season, but probably not when camp breaks in April.

JORGE ALFARO – C – AGE 23 – 6’2″/225 lbs. (No.38) ROY

Selected by the Rangers but traded to the Phillies, Alfaro is the catcher of the future in Philadelphia. Coming off a Double-A season where he hit .285 for Reading, he is on the rise. There is some major power in his bat, but he has to make more consistent contact to be most effective. His defense is improving behind a cannon of an arm. Like Crawford, he may not break camp with the team, but we should seem him in 2017.

ROMAN QUINN – OF – AGE 23 – 5’10″/170 lbs.

Quinn is a speedy, top-of-the-order-type hitter with excellent speed. He reminds me of Ben Revere. If he can get on base, he can steal. I think the getting on base part could be an issue. A switch-hitter, Quinn has had trouble staying healthy in his career. If he’s healthy, he can be a real pest.

NICK WILLIAMS – OF – AGE 23 – 6’3″/195 lbs.

Williams is a good hitter with a bit of pop in his bat. He didn’t hit as well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year as he did the previous season at Double-A Reading. He struck out way too much at Lehigh Valley. If he can show he can make contact against quality pitching, he has enough tools to help. He has upside as a good-hitting outfielder with tools.

BEN LIVELY – RHP – AGE 24 – 6’4″/190 lbs.

Lively is a big and strong righty with an average, but complete, repertoire. He yielded only 83 hits in 117.2 innings last season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has a chance to wind up in the Phillies rotation. He won’t overwhelm, but he could eat innings and keep his team in games.

MARK APPEL – RHP – AGE 25 – 6’5″/220 lbs.

Time has moved along and Appel is now 25. He has been hanging around a long time. Might this be the year he breaks out as a starting pitcher with the Phillies? He can bring the mid-90s and has an array of secondary pitches. But he has battled injuries in his past and will have to step up soon to be viable.

  • Pittsburgh Pirates

TYLER GLASNOW – RHP – AGE 23 – 6’8″/220 lbs. (No.13) ROY

Glasnow is a huge presence on the mound. He made his debut last season, pitching 23.1 innings for the Pirates. He has a good chance to make the starting rotation out of camp this spring. He can throw his fastball in the high-90s, and has a good curveball and an improving changeup. Glasnow is not totally refined as a pitcher yet, but he has the upside to be an important part of the Pirates rotation.

AUSTIN MEADOWS – OF – AGE 21 – 6’3″/200 lbs. (No.9) ROY

Meadows is poised to take a role in the Pirates outfield if an injury occurs or if the team does, indeed, trade star outfielder Andrew McCutchen. It would appear that Meadows is the next in line and in a good position to assume a full-time role. He can hit. He scuffled a bit in a brief Triple-A trial, but he has hit well in his career. He may need more time, but the Pirates like him.

JOSH BELL – 1B – AGE 24 – 6’2″/240 lbs. (No.49) ROY

Bell has adjusted from the outfield to first base. He is injury-prone and is currently dealing with a procedure he had on his knee. He is expected to be ready for opening day. If healthy, he has some true pop in his bat and he should be the team’s first baseman for a long time–provided he stays healthy and can hit big league pitching.

NICK KINGHAM – RHP – AGE 25 – 6’6″/225 lbs.

Kingham is another big, big right-hander with a chance to pitch in the Pirates rotation. He may not be ready at the start of the season, but Kingham could be on the short list to assume a starting role if needed. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and now appears to be ready to assume a role as a top-pitching prospect. He is a low-90s fastball pitcher with a curve and a changeup.

  • San Diego Padres

MANNY MARGOT – OF – AGE 22 – 5’1″/180 lbs. (No.21) ROY

Sent to the Padres as part of the deal that brought Craig Kimbrel to Boston, Margot could very well open the new season as part of the Padres starting outfield. He is a good contact hitter with outstanding speed. He should be able to use his speed to steal bases and score. Defensively, Margot is a possible Gold Glove-type outfielder with good instincts, a strong arm and a knack for being in the right place. His power may emerge.

HUNTER RENFROE – OF – AGE 25 – 6’1″/220 lbs. (No 34) ROY

A well-proportioned athlete, Renfroe could assume the starting right field role for the Padres. He has some pop in his bat as his 34 home runs at Triple-A El Paso last season indicated. He drove in 105 runs and showed the type of loud bat that should fit very nicely in the middle of the Padres lineup.

10 July 2016: Team USA (11) Hunter Renfroe (SD) during the MLB All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

  • San Francisco Giants

TYLER BEEDE – RHP – AGE 23 – 6’3″/210 lbs. 

Beede may be the first reinforcement called to the Giants’ pitching rotation if they need a boost. It is highly probably Beede will be needed at some point during the season–perhaps sooner than later. He has a high-velocity fastball that sits between 97 and 98 miles per hour with improving command and control of the pitch. He also throws a solid changeup and curveball. He has to have consistent command and throw strikes to be of full value to his team.

STEVEN OKERT – LHP – AGE 25 – 6’3″/210 lbs. 

Okert is a solid left-handed pitcher with a good fastball, a cutter and a slider. He has work to do on his changeup. He seems to fit well as a reliever for the Giants. He can be useful in the pen and will be in line for that role in spring training.

  • St. Louis Cardinals

LUKE WEAVER – RHP – AGE 23 – 6’2″/170 lbs.

To be clear, Weaver does not have the upside of Alex Reyes, who is lost for the 2017 season. But Weaver is an outstanding starting pitcher prospect in his own right. His fastball/changeup combination changes hitters’ eye levels and alters the balance of hitters. He’s still a bit raw and needs a bit more time, but once his development is done we can probably find him on the Cardinals mound. Late 2017 works for me.

HARRISON BADER – OF – AGE 22 – 6’0″/195 lbs.

It would not be a shock if we saw Bader patrol center field on the big league club at some point this coming season. He’s a terrific player with outstanding defense and enough offense to help. A player out of the Cardinals mold of hustle and good athletic skills, Bader will fit nicely on a big league club that has players like Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty on the roster.

CARSON KELLY – C – AGE 22 – 6’2″/220 lbs.

Kelly is learning from Yadier Molina, a terrific catcher and tutor. Kelly may well be the heir apparent behind the plate in St. Louis. He is getting better and better as a receiver and his bat is improving as well. He was drafted as a third baseman, but he’s made an outstanding conversion to catching. With a terrific arm and good mechanics behind the plate, it looks as though Kelly has been a catcher his entire life. He will be the backup to Molina, but eventually the job will be his on a full time basis.

  • Washington Nationals

AUSTIN VOTH – RHP – AGE 24 – 6’2″/215 lbs.

Voth pitched last season at Triple-A Syracuse in the International League. He yielded 138 hits in 157 innings. His walk rate spiked, however, to 3.3 walks per nine innings while his strikeouts went down. I’m not sure there will be a rotation spot waiting for Voth, but the team has traded away some starting pitching options in the offseason. The net results put Voth among the pitchers waiting in line to help if needed.

KODA GLOVER – RHP – AGE 23 – 6’5″/225 lbs.

Glover is big and strong and may force himself on the Nationals with a good beginning to the new season. He had a taste of Triple-A last season, as he pitched at several levels. He can bring his fastball to the high 90s with relative ease. He combines that with an effective slider. He has to develop a third pitch to be effective as a rotation option. However, he can continue to be used as a power pitcher in the bullpen, a role he will probably assume with Washington when he makes the big club.

PEDRO SEVERINO – C – AGE 23 – 6’0″/215 lbs.

Severino is an outstanding defensive catcher. He has a strong arm and is fine mechanically behind the plate. The questions deal with his bat. Will he hit enough to earn a role as a major league catcher? Time will tell, but he has the defensive ability to be a solid backup in Washington.

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