Today’s Prospect Stock Watch takes a look at a promising Pirates pitcher, an impressive infielder in the Yankees system and a rising name in the Royals system.
Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates: Pittsburgh has developed some excellent big league arms in recent years with the likes of Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon but there is more on the way. Keller, 21, was recently moved from high-A ball to double-A. A back injury slowed his ascent earlier this year but he still produced some solid numbers. The right-hander’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and he struck out 64 batters in 77.1 A-ball innings. He uses his 6-3 height to create leverage and generates almost two ground-ball outs for every one made in the air. His combination of power, breaking ball, above-average control (20 walks) and ground-ball abilities makes him a potential No. 2 starter in the Majors – exceeding the potential of recent rotation additions Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams. Look for Keller to spend a good portion of 2018 in double-A but he should taste big league action before that season is out.
Nick Solak, 2B, Yankees: The Yankees have so many promising, young players that it’s easy for someone like Solak to slip through the cracks; he would likely be more hyped in another organization. He doesn’t have a massive ceiling but the young second man has a well-rounded offensive attack that includes some pop (10 homers), some speed (13 steals in 17 tries), a solid hit tool (.300 average) and a strong eye at the plate (BB-K rate of 53-76). Those numbers in 100 high-A game earned him a promotion to double-A earlier this week. Defensively, Solak bounced around the field as an amateur and spent a good portion of his college career in the outfield. It remains to be seen if he’ll stick at second base or move back to the outfield. He should open 2018 back in double-A but continued strong play could push him up to triple-A and perhaps into The Show later in the year. Incumbent second baseman Starlin Castro is locked up through 2019 (plus an option) and his improved play could push Solak to another position sooner rather than later.
Emmanuel Rivera, 3B, Royals: A 19th round selection out of Puerto Rico back in 2015, Rivera has seen his stock steadily increase over the past three seasons. His biggest assets right now are his strong arm and solid defence at third base. His offence, though, is just starting to click – in part because he still struggles with an overly-aggressive approach (29 walks in 370 at-bats). Despite that issue, he still makes a lot of contact and has struck out just 68 times – helping him hit .297 in low-A ball. He doesn’t project to be a big-time power hitter, but he’s added more pop and has extra-base homers. Rivera, 21, will no doubt be brought along slowly but the ingredients are there for a solid big league player at the hot corner — especially if he shows more patience and continues to tap into more power (15-20 homers a season). He has a shot at reaching double-A in 2018 if he continues to ride his existing learning curve.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.