Today’s Prospect Stock Watch takes a look at the Reds’ top prospect, a Rockies third baseman without a home and a military hero who’s going to make his MLB debut on Saturday.
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds: Cincinnati is starting to build a pretty impressive system but the cream of the crop continues to be 2016 second overall draft pick Senzel. He’s split the 2017 season between high-A and double-A with a combined .320 average and .947 OPS. He has just 11 homers in 106 games but the 38 doubles hint at more over-the-fence pop to come as he matures as a hitter. Senzel also runs unusually well for a third baseman and has good athleticism – both of which make him a very well-rounded player who could threaten to have a 20-20 season early in his MLB career if so motivated. He should also be an above-average fielder at the hot corner. Cincinnati’s home park has turned Eugenio Suarez into a productive player for the Reds but his days of being the starter at third base should come to an end sometime in 2018 when Senzel descends upon the position.
Ryan McMahon, 3B/1B/2B: The Rockies have a pretty nice problem with McMahon. They have no real spot to play him. A natural third baseman, McMahon is blocked by incumbent Nolan Arenado — perhaps the best in the game at the hot corner. The injured Ian Desmond was signed to play first base. Second base — McMahon’s third best spot — is held down by the underrated D.J. LeMahieu. The Rockies prospect is going to hit and he’s very likely going to be a star with the bat (perhaps with a little help from the altitude) so where is he going to play? Third base, as mentioned, is out. So too is second base, really. That leaves first base… or perhaps left field. His strong arm would be wasted at first base so the position makes sense – if he can show enough range. In fact, moving Desmond back to the outfield in 2018 would probably also make the Rockies better. With underperforming veteran Carlos Gonzalez likely done as a Rockie at season’s end, an outfield of McMahon, Desmond and Charlie Blackmon (in right field, not center) would be a pretty decent group. Oddly, the Rockies have yet to try him in the outfield and seem content to waste an asset (his arm strength).
Chris Rowley, RHP, Blue Jays: Rowley — who will start for Toronto on Saturday in his MLB debut — has a fun little background. He was signed as an amateur free agent after graduating West Point to help fill a void on the Jays rookie squads after the 2013 draft. He appeared in nine games with three walks and 39 Ks (with a 1.10 ERA) in 32.2 innings before leaving baseball for two years to complete a commitment to the US military. He was excused from his five-year commitment early — to become an ambassador for the military — and had an unexpectedly-good season when he was pushed to high-A despite two years of rust.
Rowley produced a 3.49 ERA in 31 games (14 starts) and showed the same excellent control that he had in his debut. Moved up to double-A in 2017, the 26-year-old right-hander was at it again early in the year with outstanding numbers in 10 games (six starts). That pushed him to triple-A where he’s produced a 2.82 ERA with 15 walks and 41 Ks in 54.1 innings. All along the way he’s also produced above-average ground-ball rates.
The thing about Rowley, though, is that his stuff is modest. He relies on lots of movement, changing eye levels, excellent control and a ton of moxie. His heater sits in the upper-80s and works in the 87-91 mph range most of the time. He’s made 67 appearances in his pro career with 30 of those coming as a starter suggesting Toronto isn’t sold on him as a starter. The Jays need arms — badly. So Rowley is going to start in the Majors. He has value as a big league arm but it’s likely going to be as a reliever long term. The lack of fear and incredible makeup could help him become the next Luke Gregerson – a soft-tossing right-hander who can nonetheless become a decent high-leverage reliever despite the lack of mid-90s bullets.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.