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The List: 10 Prospects In Line For Quick Promotions

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Andy Ibanez (Photo by Bill Mitchell) Andy Ibanez (Photo by Bill Mitchell)[/caption] Every team has a different philosophy on how quickly to promote prospects and what it needs to see from each player before he earns a promotion. Some prefer to push their prospects aggressively through the system, believing the talented ones will rise to the level of their competition and expedite their development. Others prefer a more patient approach, wanting to see players build a larger track record of high-level performance before jumping them to the next level. When a team decides a player is ready to move up a level, it can’t just promote the player in a vacuum. Moving a shortstop from high Class A to Double-A would affect the incumbent Double-A shortstop—hello, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies of the Braves—so there are factors beyond just a player’s readiness to handle a new level. Aside from players getting called up to the major leagues, we don’t see too many minor league promotions for prospects in April. But as we get nearly a month into the season, several prospects could be in line for quick promotions, either because of conservative Opening Day assignments that haven’t challenged them enough or because they look so talented that they might force their organizations to push them up the ladder. 1. Andy Ibanez, 2b, Rangers No prospect in baseball is screaming for a promotion more than Ibanez, who is hitting .435/.487/.710 in 16 games with low Class A Hickory. While it’s understandable that the Rangers would want to ease a Cuban player into his minor league debut, Ibanez could have handled a more aggressive assignment from the start based on his talent level and track record in Cuba. He’s even older than the Rangers major league second baseman, Rougned Odor. The Rangers have second baseman Travis Demeritte hitting well at high Class A High Desert, so skipping Ibanez a level to Double-A Frisco—something the Rangers have done in the past with prospects such as Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara—wouldn’t be surprising.
2. Andrew Benintendi, of, Red Sox The reigning college player of the year, Benintendi is having little trouble making contact or driving the ball for extra-base hits in the high Class A Carolina League. He likely wouldn’t have any trouble making the jump to Double-A, where the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Astros shortstop Alex Bregman, is already flourishing. The Red Sox typically have let even their best prospects stay at one level for a while, but with Dave Dombrowski now in charge, perhaps that could change, especially if the Red Sox are influenced by the drafted one year, MLB the next precedent set by a pair of elite college hitters in Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber last year.
3. Yoan Moncada, 2b, Red Sox Just like Benintendi, his Salem teammate, Moncada could test where the Red Sox are philosophically when it comes to pushing prospects aggressively or remaining patient in keeping them in one place for an extended period. Once Moncada shook off the rust from his layoff in the second half last year, he’s been unstoppable at the plate and on the basepaths, becoming the top-ranked prospect still in the minors. One scout who watched Moncada recently said he was playing way beyond the Carolina League level. The Red Sox do have a legitimate second base prospect ahead of him at Double-A, however, in Wendell Rijo.
4. J.P. Crawford, ss, Phillies Crawford has spent 103 games in Double-A Reading, where he has 63 walks and 55 strikeouts. With nearly a full season of Eastern League experience and a mature, disciplined hitting approach, it shouldn’t be long before Crawford gets a crack at Triple-A.
5. Josh Tobias, 2b, Phillies Tobias could prove quite the steal for the Phillies, who signed him for $10,000 last year as a 10th-round pick after his senior season at Florida. Tobias had a smaller, compact frame (5-foot-9, 195 pounds) without any loud tools, but he continued to hit, batting .349/.468/.556 in 17 games with 10 walks and 10 strikeouts. He’s also 23 and would benefit from being challenged against better pitching.
6. Thomas Eshelman, rhp, Phillies The Astros drafted Eshelman out of Cal State Fullerton in the second round last year, then shipped him to the Phillies in December as part of the prospect package to get Ken Giles. Eshelman can’t overpower anyone, so he relies on mixing his pitches and hitting his spots, which he’s done a masterful job of so far with just three walks in 19 innings for high Class A Clearwater. Fastball command is often something that farm directors want to see progress before they promote a pitcher to a new level, and with some scouts already pegging Eshleman with legitimate plus command, Eshelman could move quickly.
7. Edwin Diaz, rhp, Mariners Diaz is off to a terrific start for Double-A Jackson, with a stellar 32-3 K-BB mark in 22 innings to go with a 2.45 ERA, a rare bright spot in a thin farm system. Diaz has spent ample time at Double-A now with 126 1/3 innings over 24 starts, so his excellent April could get him to Triple-A Tacoma soon.
8. Brent Honeywell, rhp, Rays After Blake Snell threw 21 scoreless innings over first four games in high Class A Charlotte last year, the Rays quickly promoted him to Double-A Montgomery. Honeywell could follow in his footsteps, with an ERA of 0.73 through 24 2/3 innings over his first four starts for Charlotte. His command is even ahead of where Snell’s was at this time last year, with a sharp 26-2 K-BB mark.
9. Brett Phillips, of, Brewers In Triple-A Colorado Springs, the Brewers are giving Michael Reed an opportunity to play center field, which makes sense given that he runs well and doesn’t have the traditional power from a corner outfielder, though his hitting ability and plate discipline make him an enticing sleeper. So there’s reason to keep Phillips in Double-A a little longer—it’s not like the Brewers have any illusions of competing in 2016—but as one of the top center field prospects in baseball with 71 games of Double-A experience, Phillips probably won’t spend too much more time in Biloxi.
10. Donnie Dewees, cf, Cubs

Brent Honeywell Eyes Big League Debut

Having missed two years to two surgeries, Honeywell is confident he can get on a mound this year for the first time since 2017.

Dewees led Division 1 college baseball last year in slugging and ranked second in batting average, though he had a modest pro debut last summer in the short-season Northwest League after signing as a second-round pick. This year, the Cubs sent Dewees to low Class A South Bend, where he has shown the lefty stroke and advanced approach that impressed the Cubs scouts when he was at North Florida. As a fairly polished 22-year-old college hitter, Dewees could handle a more aggressive promotion to high Class A Myrtle Beach after a .369/.419/.631 start with seven walks and eight strikeouts through 16 games in the Midwest League.

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