Prospect Watch: 5 Future All-Stars No One Is Talking About by Zach Simas February 25, 2017 I chose to stick with hitters in this article, because pitching prospects are extremely difficult to predict, and I think the pitchers who do get the hype are typically deserving. However, I do see a trend of some unnoticed hitting prospects turning out great careers in the majors. Let’s get right to it. 1. Travis Demeritte – 2B – ATL In 2016, Demeritte went from the Rangers’ to the Braves’ system and spent the entire year in high-A ball, where he dominated at the plate. A 2B with power like Cano, good speed and the ability to get on base is such a rarity. In my opinion, Demeritte has the highest chance of being a perennial All-Star out of these five prospects. The middle infield in Atlanta has an extremely bright future. I’m predicting that Demeritte will make his splash in 2018, and make his first ASG appearance by 2020 (age 25). Let’s look at his numbers from a season ago: Name Age G AB PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BB% K% OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ Travis Demeritte 21 145 547 635 145 33 13 32 78 200 20 4 12.3% 31.5% 0.905 0.283 0.393 139 Let’s compare these to the four All-Star 2B in 2016 and Brian Dozier. Name G AB PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BB% K% OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ Jose Altuve 161 640 717 216 42 5 24 60 70 30 10 8.4% 9.8% 0.928 0.194 0.391 150 Robinson Cano 161 655 715 195 33 2 39 47 100 0 1 6.6% 14.0% 0.882 0.235 0.37 138 Brian Dozier 155 615 691 165 35 5 42 61 138 18 2 8.8% 20.0% 0.886 0.278 0.37 132 Dustin Pedroia 154 633 698 201 36 1 15 61 73 7 4 8.7% 10.5% 0.825 0.131 0.358 120 Ian Kinsler 153 618 679 178 29 4 28 45 115 14 6 6.6% 16.9% 0.831 0.196 0.356 123 Some things to keep in mind as we compare these players: Demeritte was playing in A+ ball, but he did play an average of 12 less games than these major-leaguers. As you can see, it’s basically a two-man race (other than Dozier’s 42 HRs) between Altuve and Demeritte here. While we cannot expect these A+ ball numbers to translate directly against ML pitching, Demeritte definitely deserves more attention in top-prospect lists. While he’s not quite as speedy as Altuve, he has more power, and he walks at a far higher rate. The one glaring weakness is the K numbers for Demeritte. However, some of the top players in the league K at very high rates. As long as the OPS stays high, it doesn’t really matter how a guy makes outs anymore. I should note that 2016 was a breakout year for Demeritte; in years past he didn’t quite live up to his potential, and also served an 80-game PED suspension. These could be the main reasons why he hasn’t garnered much attention yet. He still has to prove himself to most. However, I’m sold. I’d pencil him in for the majority of the 2020s’ ASGs right now. 2. Ramon Laureano – OF – HOU Laureano has all the tools: he can play any OF spot well, he has speed and pop, and he gets on base. Houston’s farm has taken a bit of a hit due to some trades in the last two years, but that’s because they knew they had guys like Laureano who don’t have super high trade value, but have a chance to be great ML players like the guys they traded. Let’s look at Laureano’s 2016 numbers. Name Age G AB PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BB% K% OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ Ramon Laureano 21 128 461 555 146 32 9 15 73 128 48 15 13.2% 23.1% 0.943 0.206 0.418 159 The numbers speak for themselves. This is the making of a star; where is the hype? I know it’s not a huge sample size, and we don’t have much to go off from the previous year either, but in A+ and AA last year he put up those phenomenal numbers you see above. If those aren’t All-Star numbers, then I don’t know what are. Laureano’s ability to play all three OF spots will keep him in the lineup everyday and help his chances of making it to the ASG. When he does get the call-up, if his numbers stay relatively close to this, there’s no way he doesn’t make three to four All-Star Games. As of now, he’s more of a speed threat, but as he develops, the speed/power combo will even out and he will be an Andrew McCutchen-type player. Keep tabs on this guy. 3. Christin Stewart – OF – DET While researching Stewart, I couldn’t find an article more recent than September of 2015. There’s no one talking about him…why? As we know, Detroit is aging and looking to deal top players. So, I’m assuming we will be seeing a lot of opportunities for young guys to step up and prove themselves. Detroit’s system isn’t super deep, but that could change anytime if they do decide to move some key pieces. Regardless, I see Stewart as the prospect to watch moving forward; he has the tools to be an All-Star. Let’s check out his numbers from 2016. Name Age G AB PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BB% K% OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ Christin Stewart 22 147 514 622 132 29 2 31 93 154 4 2 15.0% 24.8% 0.883 0.245 0.407 156 The power is impressive, and by this chart he looks even a bit better than the two previous guys I mentioned. However, with the K numbers pretty high up there, and not a whole lot of speed, Stewart is a player that could fall into slumps. Often times, adjusting to the majors can be challenging, and some top prospects never quite figure it out. While Stewart’s MiLB numbers are pretty insane, his slump potential makes him a pretty risky pick here. However, I do believe that if he does indeed figure it out, he will make it to a few ASG and serve as an everyday player in this league for a decade. HRs and BBs get it done. Keep an eye on Stewart. 4. Jason Martin – OF – HOU Another Houston OF prospect…another future All-Star? I think so. The future is certainly bright over at Minute Maid Park: Altuve is a cornerstone, Correa is a centerpiece, Springer is a baller, and they have prospects for days. If they can just figure out how to pitch, they could be a WS contender for the next eight years. Why Martin, though? Let’s check out his 2016 numbers from high-A ball. Name Age G AB PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SB CS BB% K% OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ Jason Martin 20 121 431 502 114 25 7 23 63 112 22 12 12.5% 22.3% 0.874 0.251 0.382 131 Impressive, to say the least. At just 20 years old, he pumped out 23 homers in 121 games. He walks every eight at-bats, and he also grabbed 22 bags on the season. The ability to walk and run (lol) will typically keep guys out of major slumps. While Martin is not a highly-touted prospect at this point, I think he will be a household name by 2022. I expect him to get the call-up in 2019 and play a significant role during a pennant race that year. In 2020, he will burst onto the scene and prove his worth to this franchise. With Houston’s current build, this might be a guy we see dealt if they are trying to add talent at the deadline this year. That doesn’t change my prediction, however. I see Martin suiting up for the ASG a few times throughout his career. Stay posted. 5. Tom Murphy – C – COL You can’t keep putting Yadier Molina in there every year. And with Buster Posey most likely making that change to 1B full-time within three years, Jonathan Lucroy getting dealt to the AL, Kyle Schwarber playing OF, etc, pathways for guys like Tommy Murphy open up. Making the All-Star Game as a C is not saying as much as other positions, in my opinion. A decent hot streak in the first half will inflate your hitting numbers. For example, Derek Norris in 2014. It may seem like he was the best catcher in the league at the halfway point, but, as usual, it evened out by season’s end. With that being said, Murphy has proven he has pop, and playing in Colorado is a huge advantage for him. While I don’t think he will be a Hall-of-Fame catcher, I do think he’s flying under the radar right now and will probably open some eyes in 2017. I’d say he makes two appearances in the ASG before 2022. However, once he gets up near 30 and he’s no longer playing in Colorado, I think he will have trouble keeping a job. I have him on the list, first of all, because he meets the criteria, and also because I think people should pay attention to him, and lastly because he’s ML-ready, unlike the rest of these guys. Trevor Story didn’t have a whole lot of hype; most people didn’t expect him to make the team out of spring, but with the Jose Reyes situation, the kid got a shot and as we all know, he ran with it. I’m not saying Murphy will make a cannonball-esque splash like Story, but I think he will turn some heads and maybe even get some ASG votes this year. Anything can happen, especially in Colorado. Keep tabs on him. Honorable Mentions Dylan Cozens – OF – PHI There’s not a lot of buzz surrounding Cozens, which is surprising to me, because usually when we see 40 HR in 134 games, we really perk up. In his age-22 season, he played all 134 games at the AA level for the Phillies affiliate, Reading Fightin’ Phils, a place where most Phillies prospects prosper. The reason why Cozens doesn’t quite make the cut here is because of the words, “future All-Star.” He is one of those lefties that mash in the right ballpark and against RHP, but usually career platoon hitters, even if they are highly effective, don’t make the ASG. Rhys Hoskins – 1B – PHI Hoskins is another AA player in the Phillies system. He probably has a little bit more of a well-rounded hitting ability than does Cozens, but he’s a 1B, and that’s an overloaded position. You have to be incredible to crack that ASG squad, and I just don’t think Hoskins will ever be quite at that level. I do believe he will pan out to be an everyday guy for a good amount of time in this league. He has really good power and he gets on base, two things that will keep you in the lineup more often than not. Bobby Bradley – 1B – CLE Bradley is another guy I would keep an eye on; I’m just not sold on him yet. He has a a lot of raw power, but a really high K rate in the low levels of the minors. Also, he’s a 1B, so once again, really hard to make the ASG at that position.