5 Baseball Prospects Who Could Make an Impact in 2016
Last season was a historic and memorable year for baseball prospects.
Carlos Correa, Miguel Sano, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Francisco Lindor and Noah Syndergaard are just some of the top-flight prospects who were called up mid-season and instantly made a massive impact for their respective teams.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see that kind of production from a rookie class for quite some time, there are some exciting prospects who could make meaningful contributions at the big-league level in 2016.
Here are five youngsters to keep an eye on as we inch toward Opening Day.
For the purpose of this list, international signings are not included. Players who made their debut in 2015 but did not lose their rookie status are considered. Also, Hector Olivera is not included. While he is still a rookie, as a player entering his age-31 season, he doesn’t fit the mold of a youthful, up-and-coming player, although he could certainly have a big year.
Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Steamer projection: .265/.315/.423, 17 homers, .319 wOBA
Seager, 22 years old, enters 2016 as the clear favorite for National League Rookie of the Year honors. Called up in the latter stages of 2015, Seager forced his way into an every-day role with the Dodgers, racking up an absurd .421 wOBA and 12.4 percent walk rate in 113 plate appearances. While Steamer doesn’t peg him to maintain those sort of numbers, Seager did post a triple-slash line of .307/.368/.523 over 1,704 career plate appearances down on the farm, so he's the truth. After battling the corpse of Jimmy Rollins for playing time last September, Seager will be locked in as the Dodgers’ starting shortstop.
Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
Steamer Projection: .282/.325/.398, 7 home runs, 18 steals
Trea Turner came up at the tail end of 2015, hitting to the tune of a .278 wOBA in a small sample size of 44 plate appearances. With Ian Desmond out of the way, shortstop in the nation’s capital belongs to Turner for the foreseeable future. Drafted with the 13th overall pick in 2014, Turner has flown through the minor leagues and possesses plus defensive skills with good speed and emerging pop. In 500 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Turner slashed .322/.370/.458 with 8 bombs, 24 doubles and 29 steals (while getting caught just six times).
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Steamer Projection: 3.99 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 7.84 K/9
With Minnesota surprisingly in the playoff race last season, there was some chatter about Berrios, 21 years old, making his debut as a September callup. It never happened, but Berrios will certainly pitch for the Twins in 2016, possibly starting the season in the rotation. At 6'0" and 190 pounds, Berrios doesn’t fit the traditional mold of an ace, but don’t tell that to the minor leaguers he’s dominated. In 166 1/3 innings last year between Double-A and Triple-A, Berrios recorded a 2.87 ERA with 176 strikeouts to just 38 walks. His FIP in 75.2 innings at Triple-A was a pencil-thin 2.79.
Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Steamer Projection: 4.07 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 8.47 K/9
Snell, a 23-year-old, pitched in three levels last season and excelled at each one, fanning at least 29.5 percent of hitters at all three stops. In all, he posted a superb 1.41 ERA while amassing an eye-popping 163 strikeouts in 134 innings in 2015. Tampa Bay is traditionally aggressive with their prospects, but Snell may not appear in The Show until later this season. Steamer projects him to pitch just 28 frames with the Rays while fanning 8.47 hitters per nine innings, which would’ve ranked 28th last season among qualified starters.
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
Steamer Projection: .258/.309/.398, 11 homers, 21 steals
The 22-year-old Byron Buxton, the consensus number-one prospect at this time a year ago, struggled to produce in his 46 games with the Twins in 2015. He appears ready to contribute defensively and with his legs, but Buxton’s bat is lagging behind. In 138 plate appearances with Minnesota, he recorded a make-you-gag .209/.250/.326 slash line with 2 homers and an ugly 31.9 percent strikeout rate. Manager Paul Molitor hinted at Buxton opening 2016 in Triple-A. Despite all that, he’s a top-rated prospect with gobs of upside. In 327 minor league plate appearances in 2015, he put up a slash line of .305/.367/.500 with 7 jacks and 22 steals in 25 attempts. The Twins could be in for some rainbows and sunshine the next few seasons as Buxton, Berrios and Miguel Sano give Minnesota an incredible core of young talent around which to build.