One of the most unanswerable questions about prospects is, “When is Player X going to be promoted?"
It's unanswerable because as plugged in as we try to be, teams won’t tell you whether a player is going to be promoted in two weeks, or a month, or tomorrow.
But that doesn't keep us from highlighting some players who are arguably too advanced for their current leagues and could use an early-season bump to a higher level. Here are five prospects making a case for a promotion.
One player who would have made this list, Rays righthander Brent Honeywell, has already gotten a promotion to Triple-A Durham.
1. Dane Dunning, rhp, White Sox • Low Class A Kannapolis (South Atlantic)
The White Sox aggressively—some say over-aggressively—push prospects to challenging levels. The team has explained that it's trying a different tactic this year with more conservative assignments. But in the case of Dunning, the Nationals first-round pick in 2016 out of Florida who came to Chicago in the Adam Eaton trade, an assignment to low Class A Kannapolis has been anything but challenging.
In his first two starts, Dunning averaged 7.0 innings pitched, 3.5 hits allowed, 10.5 strikeouts and hasn’t walked a batter.
Fellow 2016 college draftee Alec Hansen was also sent to low Class A, but Hansen is trying to find control and command after a college career where he struggled to repeat his delivery. Dunning had no such issues at Florida (he walked 12 in 78.2 innings in his junior season). With his combination of command and stuff, Dunning is simply overpowering the average low Class A hitter.
2. Chance Adams, rhp, Yankees • Double-A Trenton (Eastern)
At this point, there's little doubt that Adams can handle Eastern League hitters. Adams went 8-1, 2.07 in 69.2 innings with Trenton last summer after a midseason callup. He's back for a return trip to start the 2017 season and the results have been even better: 2-0, 0.79 with a better strikeout rate (10.3 K/9) and a sparkling .103 average against.
Adams control could continue to use some refinement, and he only had a half-season in Double-A last year, but the call to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre should come before too long.
3. J.D. Davis, 3b, Astros • Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas)
Davis is the rare prospect who is blocked from Triple-A. With Colin Moran and Tyler White playing the infield corners for the Astros' Triple-A Fresno club, Houston decided to send Davis back to Double-A, even after he hit .270/.336/.488 last year with 23 home runs.
Davis is playing some left field to add to his versatility, but with Teoscar Hernandez, Derek Fisher and Preston Tucker in Fresno's outfield, there's not a lot of room there, either. As soon as an injury or promotion opens up a spot, Davis has made a pretty solid case to jump to Triple-A.
4. Chris Shaw, 1b, Giants • Double-A Richmond (Eastern)
After an outstanding first half in high Class A San Jose, Shaw struggled a little after a midseason promotion to Richmond last year. So it makes sense that he was sent back to the Eastern League to start 2017.
But if Shaw can keep up his hot start, which has seen him post more extra base hits (7) than strikeouts (5) while compiling a 1.240 OPS, he's making a case for Triple-A Sacramento.
5. Nick Senzel, 3b, Reds • High Class A Daytona (Florida State)
Senzel's assignment makes sense, as he finished last year in low Class A Dayton, so Daytona is the next step in the ladder. But as the most polished college bat in last year's draft class and one with a long track record of hitting in the Southeastern Conference, Senzel should speed through the Florida State League, even if he's gotten off to a slow start.
And . . .
6. Tim Tebow, of, Mets • Low Class A Columbia (South Atlantic)
No. As a 29-year-old who is struggling to hit low Class A pitching, Tebow has not shown signs of earning a promotion. But a Tebow promotion would not necessarily require him to set the South Atlantic League on fire. While Tebow is striking out in roughly one out of every four plate appearances, he's also drawing fans. Last year Columbia ranked sixth in the South Atlantic League in average attendance (3,785 fans per game) in its inaugural season. This year, Columbia leads the league with 5,787 fans per game. Tebow has played in front of 5,000-plus fans in seven of his first nine games in a league where just two teams are averaging 5,000 fans per game.
A bump up to St. Lucie would provide a similar boost to the attendance of the Mets high Class A club, which unlike the Columbia Fireflies, are owned by the Mets.