Each year in MLB, young hitters make their ascension to the big leagues and make an immediate impact on the postseason race. These players aren’t always solely top prospects, as one of the biggest factors in young players making a difference is circumstance. Eloy Jimenez has been up with the White Sox since Opening Day, but the only way he’s going to end up factoring in the playoff hunt is if he hits a walk-off bomb against a team that finishes one game out of the Wild Card game.
Today we’re going to look at a few young guys who have started out hot at in AAA (albeit hitters with the juiced up ball) and might contribute on contending clubs if they get the call this year. You already know about guys like Vlad Jr (and let’s face it, he’s probably not going to help the Blue Jays contend this year) but here are a few bats who’ve put their parent clubs on notice that they could a key cog in a postseason run.
All stats as of 5/2/19
The Recent Big Leaguers
These are two guys who just got the call and might stick for a while on contenders.
Carter Keiboom – WAS (.379/.506/.636 in AAA)
Think Keiboom was ready for his first taste of AAA? He mashed to open the season and earn a promotion to Washington (aided by some injury misfortune suffered by the Nats). While he hasn’t come out of the gate quite as quickly in the bigs, he has gone deep in two of his first six games.
If Keiboom sticks (questionable when Trea Turner returns) he could be a big piece to the Nats postseason run.
Nate Lowe – TB (.300/.444/.987 in AAA)
All hands on deck already for the Rays, who hold a surprising lead in the AL East. Lowe has crushed the ball since being drafted out of Mississippi State, and continuing that level of success in the big leagues would be huge for Tampa Bay as they try to hold off the Yankees & the rest of the division.
Waiting on the Call
Keston Huira – MIL (.309/.346/.680 in AAA)
Another day, another article where I rave about Keston Huira. He hits, and he’s ready to hit at the highest level, as AAA has barely been a speed bump for him. Huira already has 8 home runs this year and will be ready the second the Brewers have space for him at 2nd base. I picked him as my NL Rookie of the Year, something I still think he can do if he gets up by June and rips off the same sort of slash line he’s got now.
Austin Riley – ATL (.293/.352/.586 in AAA)
Do yourself a favor; if you haven’t already, go to Twitter and search “Austin Riley 492” to take a look at Riley’s 492ft mammoth home run blast from the other day. There have long been concerns about Riley’s bat speed and ability to catch up to elite velocity, but there’s no concerns about the numbers he’s put up in the minors the last two years. He could be a guy who ends up hitting the second he gets the call to head to Atlanta.
Oscar Mercado – CLE (.302/.394/.500 in AAA)
Yeah, Mercado has hit well in his second go in AAA (and ran well, with 10 SBs) but should Cleveland pull him up, he could not only add some pop to a lineup that sorely needs it, but also provide plus defense in CF. The glove has long been Mercado’s calling card, but if the bat keeps up as it has to start the year, he could be a difference maker when it comes to the Indians ability to chase down the Twins in the AL Central.
Kean Wong – TB (.360/.507/.961 in AAA)
By far the least heralded prospect on this list (at least currently; Wong was well-regarded as a 4th round pick out of high school in 2013) but Kolten’s little brother has arguably out-produced everyone on this list except Keiboom.
It seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s only 24, and as I stated earlier, it’s already all hands on deck for a Tampa Bay club that needs to capitalize on every chance to seize a playoff birth as they can. If Wong keeps hitting, they might just plug him into the big league lineup.
By Kyle Bandujo