With over a month already in the books, we have reached the point in the season where teams will look for reinforcements from within. The artificial deadline that teams set to gain an extra year of team control has passed, and small sample size struggles are beginning to turn into legitimate concerns - a perfect storm for a few young players to get a shot. In most circumstances (particularly those where a player is not a top tier prospect), those young players come from Triple-A.
What I am looking to identify here, then, are those players in Triple-A that are ready for a crack at the Show, and could have an opportunity to do so based upon the players ahead of them. I'm going to focus on those players that aren't necessarily top prospects, in the hopes that they may be available in fantasy leagues. Let's jump right in.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals
The Royals outfielders are currently batting .250/.322/.344, which places them 23rd in the Majors in wRC+. They make up for it by being strong defenders, to be sure but right field has been a veritable wasteland at the plate, with Jarrod Dyson and Co. combining to hit .239/.271/.265 with only 3 extra base hits (all doubles). The DH situation is somehow worse, with Kendrys Morales currently sitting at .195/.246/.333 with 4 HR in 134 PA. The 22-year-old Bonifacio is hitting .328/.365/.571 with 6 HR in his first taste of Triple-A, and he has the sort of power that could bolster the Royals struggling lineup immediately. And he fits in with the Royals identity, as well, as an above-average defender in right. If the team continues to get nothing out of RF and DH, Bonifacio should be first in-line.
Brian Goodwin, OF, Washington Nationals
Nationals outfielders are currently batting .207/.301/.423 - a line that is 13% below-average, per wRC+ - despite having Bryce Harper in right field. Jayson Werth (.196/.258/.411) and Michael Taylor (.185/.219/.296) have been terrible, and Ben Revere (.103/.156/.207 in 7 games) is showing the rust that many would expect. And Revere should not be a contending team's ace in the hole. The 25-year-old Goodwin is batting .327/.390/.495 with 3 HR and a couple of steals for Syracuse, and plays strong defense in center. He is no longer a top prospect, but he is almost certainly better than Taylor, and could spell the borderline decrepit Werth against tougher righties.
Tommy Joseph, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
The former catcher is batting .352/.375/.626 with 6 HR in 96 PA for Lehigh Valley, and has improved his contract rate by leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons (he has only struck out 11 times this season). He has an aggressive approach at the plate and above-average power, so cutting down on the whiffs is a great sign. The Phillies currently have a gaping hole at first base, where Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf have combined to hit .178/.235/.398 thus far. Ruf has been particularly impotent, with a .196 SLG, as the should-be lefty-mashing side of the platoon. Joseph would undoubtedly be an improvement in that role, at the very least.
Chad Kuhl, P, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kuhl may not have the scouting appeal of Tyler Glasnow or the resurgent Jameson Taillon (despite his sparkling 1.35 ERA), as his ceiling is limited to the back of the rotation. The 23-year-old righty has a plus sinker that he throws in the low-90s, good command and control, and a couple of fringe-average off-speed pitches (change-up and slider); he is remarkably similar to former Pirate Charlie Morton in many respects. With Jon Niese pitching his way out of the rotation and Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke playing the role of 'filler,' there will be plenty of opportunities in the rotation this year (and probably the bullpen, too). With Taillon making up lost time, I have to imagine that Kuhl is, at worst, second in-line when the Pirates decide to dip into the upper minors.
Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers
Okay - this one's cheating, as it was announced this morning that Moya was getting the call. Ostensibly, this is to give the struggling Justin Upton a couple of days to rest, but there could be more here than meets the eye. All three Tigers outfielders (Upon, Anthony Gose, and J.D. Martinez) are struggling, and the lineup leans right-handed. The lefty swinging Moya has been crushing it at Triple-A Toledo this season, batting .310/.341/.627 with 9 HR in 132 PA. He has struck out 29 times, as well, but that represents a career-best (and tolerable) 22.7% K%. We ranked Moya as the Tigers fourth best prospect entering the season due to his potential to be a middle of the order bat, and I suspect that this is a greater opportunity than some are suggesting. Gose seems like an easy player to shift to the bench, and Upton has played a passable center field in the past...