Prospect Stock Watch: McMahon, Stubbs, Verdugo

This week’s Prospect Stock Watch takes a look at a fast-rising Rockies third base prospect, an Astros catching prospect that’s exceeding expectation every step of the way and yet another promising Dodgers prospect.

Previous Prospect Stock Watch:
 May 1 Alford, Funkhouser, Soroka

Ryan McMahon, 3B/1B, Rockies: I’ve been one of McMahon’s biggest supporters since he turned pro but he hit a significant speed bump during his first shot at the upper minors in 2016. His OPS dropped below .860 for the first time in his four-year career when he ended the double-A season at .724. This year, upon a return to the same level, he’s up to .998 through the first 25 games.

McMahon, 22, is always going to strike out a lot – his career rate is north of 25% — but he’s made some adjustments to his swing/approach (as noted in this piece by David Laurila) and is down to 17% so far this year. As well, almost half his hits have gone for extra bases – a trend more in line with his numbers from 2013-15. McMahon is a doubles-machine and ‘the Colorado effect’ could help turn some of those into over-the-fence bombs giving his 20-30 home run potential — especially if the inflated home run rates in the majors continue.

He has the potential to be an average fielder with a very strong arm at third base with some extra work. However, he’s not going to move the slick-fielding Nolan Arenado off the hot corner so a move to right field might make sense; he’s played some first base but that would waste a valuable asset in his arm strength.

Look for McMahon to consistently enter the discussion as one of the better hitting prospects in the minors as he heads for a collision course with triple-A in the second half of 2017 – with a potential late-season promotion to The Show.

Garrett Stubbs, C, Astros: Former Yankee/Brave Brian McCann has been a revelation behind the plate for the Astros – while pairing beautifully on offence with Evan Gattis – but both catchers are in their 30s so Father Time is watching them closely. Luckily for the Astros, Stubbs is ascending quickly through the minor league ranks and could soon provide excellent protection at the position.

Currently in double-A, he’s hitting a robust .302/.373/.566 through his first 15 games of the season. Interestingly, his bat has gotten stronger with each promotion. He gets knocked for his lack of size (5-10, 175) but he’s shown solid extra-base pop. He’s also a threat to walk as much as he strikes out and his strong athleticism makes his a solid base runner (He’s 20-for-23 stealing bases in his career).

Defensively, Stubbs could play in the majors based on his defence alone. He reportedly receives well and has thrown out base runners at a rate of more than 50% in his career. He also has great makeup and leadership potential.   

Stubbs has exceeded expectations throughout his pro career. He wasn’t even drafted in his junior year at USC before being popped in the eighth round by Houston in 2015. In their ’15 draft scouting report, Baseball America wrote: “He lacks power and fits as a senior sign and organizational soldier who has the makeup to become a bit more.”

Stubbs, 23, now looks like the future everyday catcher for the Astros and could reach the majors in 2018 – although he’ll likely break in as a backup or third-string injury replacement. 

Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers: The Dodgers’ Corey Seager won the Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and Cody Bellinger already looks like an early contender for 2017… so the Dodgers are done with spitting out stud hitting talent, right? Wrong. Just 20 years old, Verdugo is already at the triple-A level and has a .333 average (.413 OBP) through his first 25 games and he’s a .304 career hitter (.357 OBP) despite being one of the youngest players at every level.

The biggest knock on Verdugo – aside from perhaps some maturity issues – is his lack of power. He favors a line-drive, all-fields approach, which limits his ability to drive the ball over the fence. He makes excellent contact and currently has a BB-K of 12-12 through 104 plate appearances. Even if he tops out at 12-15 homers in the Majors, the strong on-base rate mentioned above could make him an above-average regular – possibly hitting out of the two-hole in the lineup.

Verdugo has played a lot of center field in the minors despite the lack of blazing speed. He has a plus-plus arm and good instincts, both of which could combine to allow him to stick in center for a while before moving over to right field where the lack of pop would be more obvious.

He doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season so Verdugo may not reach The Show this year – especially with a crowded outfield already looking ready to overflow when Adrian Gonzalez returns from the disabled list and bumps Bellinger back to the outfield (or the minors). But he could very well be worth the wait.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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5 years ago

Is it fair to say that Garrett Stubbs’ stock is bouncing?