We may never again see anything quite like last year’s incredible series of prospect promotions, which dramatically changed the post-season picture. Players including Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Sano, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto, Luis Severino, Stephen Piscotty and Joe Ross all made major contributions to contending teams — though all of their clubs didn’t ultimately qualify for the postseason.
While a repeat would be asking too much, there are many freshly-promoted youngsters who are increasingly critical to their teams’ hopes of advancing. In some cases, there was at least some pre-season expectation of such a development. In others, it has been more of a pleasant surprise. But these teams are benefiting by relatively late promotions from within, which also means that these players likely won’t end up qualifying for an extra year of arbitration via Super Two status.
Here are the prospects called up in mid-summer who have already begun shaping the still-developing post-season picture in 2016. (To draw some somewhat arbitrary cut-offs, we’ll only look at players who were promoted in June or later, and only include teams that are currently above .500.)
Trea Turner, IF/OF, Nationals — We always knew that Turner was likely to crack the majors this year, but we didn’t know he’d do so while playing just two innings (to date) at shortstop. Turner has seen action in center and, especially, second base — where he has been excellent — and now seems ensconced atop the Nats’ lineup with an excellent .314/.341/.525 batting line, three home runs, and a dozen steals. He’s not alone in receiving important mid-season calls from the Nats, who have also asked for contributions from highly-regarded young players like Wilmer Difo, Brian Goodwin, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito.
Willson Contreras, C, Cubs — As if the Cubbies needed the boost, Contreras has been a force since coming up, running up a double-digit walk rate while slashing .266/.354/.444 with seven home runs over 192 plate appearances. Not only that, he’s contributing in the corner outfield while also playing well behind the plate when he’s tasked with handling the staff. Given last year’s star youngster, it’s tempting to view Contreras as something like Kyle Schwarber 2.0, with less bat but more defensive capabilities.
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates — Taillon is showing the polish of a veteran craftsman, not a major league rookie who hadn’t pitched competitively since 2013 heading into the season. Over his 66 frames through 11 starts, he carries a sturdy 3.00 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 1.2 BB/9 to go with a 53.8% groundball rate. That’s exactly what the Bucs’ rotation needed.
Click below for the remainder of the players.
Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox — Boston may not have anticipated that Benintendi would be ready quite this quickly, or that there’d be a need when he was, but it has all lined up nicely thus far. Over his first 47 plate appearances in the majors, Benintendi owns a .326/.383/.419 batting line and has largely established himself as the team’s regular left fielder.
Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees — You could argue that Sanchez is the most important prospect in the Yankees organization, as he’ll not only have the chance to show off his promising bat but also to handle the team’s staff as it continues to transition to a more youthful roster. The 23-year-old might also be a significant driver for New York’s still-brewing, post-selloff postseason run. In his 13 games on the year, Sanchez has gone nuts: .360/.396/.720 with five home runs.
Alex Reyes, RP, Cardinals — The high-powered 21-year-old will ultimately be looked upon as a starter, but for now St. Louis hopes that he’ll inject some oomph to the back of its pen. So far, so good: through six innings over three outings, Reyes has rung up eight opposing batters via strikeout while issuing only two walks and two hits.
Edwin Diaz, RP, Mariners — Diaz, 22, has been electric since his call-up, even snatching the closer’s role from Steve Cishek along the way. It’s not hard to see why: he owns a 62:9 K/BB ratio through 34 rames on the year while pitching to a 1.85 ERA. While an eventual return to the rotation can’t be ruled out, Diaz is charting a course as an absolute lock-down closer.
Alex Bregman, IF/OF, Astros — The second overall pick in last year’s draft, Bregman flew through the Houston system and mashed at every level. That has changed thus far in the majors, as he’s carrying an anemic .198/.255/.291 batting line through his first 94 plate appearances. But the shortstop has played a brilliant third base thus far, which already has the organization pushing recent free agent signee Yulieski Gurriel into the outfield in possible preparation for a change of position. If Bregman can up his offensive production to match the glovework, he could provide a much-needed boost.