Wednesday, in continuing our look at potential 2017 impact prospects, we took a look at the big name outfielders ready for their chance in the big leagues. Now, we look at some under-the-radar outfielders who may be ready to make a name for themselves at some point next season.
While Clint Frazier and Jesse Winker may be household names amongst prospect enthusiasts, this next round of guys may not be as well known, whether it be the market in which they play or the level on which they excelled. Still, all of these guys could very well see plenty of playing time in 2017 at the big league level.
Manuel Margot, San Diego Padres
Margot is the most likely on this list to have a job on an Opening Day roster, especially after his late-season call-up with Chihuahua outfield-mate Hunter Renfroe. Last offseason, Margot was instrumental in getting the Boston Red Sox their closer, as he came to the Padres as one of four pretty big prospects in the Craig Kimbrel mega-deal. This season, he was instrumental in helping El Paso win the Pacific Coast League title.
The 22-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder is known for his speed and hit tools. His speed plays well both at the plate and in centerfield, where his athleticism has seen him become a stout outfielder. This season, he only made 18 errors (.985 fielding percentage) while assisting on three double plays as well as gunning two other runners out.
Margot slashed .304/.351/.426 this season, clubbing extra-base hits all over the field with 21 doubles, 12 triples and six home runs. He won’t get you a lot of over-the-fence power, especially in San Diego, but his speed — which saw him steal at least 30 bases for the third consecutive season — will extend singles and score runs. The centerfield job appears his for the taking in 2017.
Tyler O’Neill, Seattle Mariners
O’Neill is certainly no longer under the radar after a monster 2016 that saw him first win the Southern League Most Valuable Player Award before taking home the SL Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors as he led Jackson to the title. His hit for average (.293), raked home runs (24), flashed some speed (12 stolen bases) and tremendously improved his walk rate (up to 10.8 percent in ’16 from last season’s abysmal five percent).
The 21-year-old left fielder has never seen a Triple-A pitch and the Mariners are not likely to rush him. He has shown immense power and has improved at the plate in both his strike out rates and walk rates over the years, showing that he can, in fact, be a big league hitter. He has a nice blend of speed that he can play the corner outfield positions without the Mariners needing to worry too much about him.
Many believed he would struggle when he jumped to Double-A. He proved them wrong with an MVP season. Should he have a strong first half in Tacoma, the Mariners may give their budding outfield prospect a shot in Seattle.
Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals
The 2015 third-round draft pick out of Florida had a big half-season debut last year split between the New York-Penn League and the Midwest League. He followed that up with an even more impressive run through Double-A before a promotion to Memphis (Triple-A), where he slowed down for the first time in his career. Still, climbing the minor league ladder from the bottom to the top in a calendar year shows what the Cardinals think of him.
Bader slashed .283/.351/.497 in Double-A this season, blasting 16 home runs. Those impressive numbers aside, Bader has some work to do in different areas of his game. Most importantly, and likely why he struggled at the highest level, he needs to improve his strike zone awareness. His 131-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio is not the profile of a centerfielder and would improve his slash line. He also has decent speed, but needs to use better judgment after getting caught on 50 percent of his attempted base thefts.
Bader is primarily a centerfielder, but he has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions. After his struggles in Triple-A, the Cardinals sent him back down to Springfield in Double-A to find his groove, where he hit three home runs in his final four games of the season. Expect the Cardinals to get Bader Triple-A at-bats to start this season, but also expect to see him hitting some home runs in St. Louis before 2017 is over.
Jordan Patterson, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have a problem. They have too many good outfielders. While Raimel Tapia may have the bigger star status after a breakout 2016, Patterson may sneak up on many as a productive big leaguer.
The Rockies’ current outfield is stacked with David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez set to begin 2017. Tapia could very well settle into the fourth outfield spot, but with trade rumors seemingly always aswirl around Blackmon and CarGo, Patterson could find himself a spot, especially after hitting .444 in a big league call up last season.
Patterson can play both corner outfield positions well. The Rockies also began to get him playing time at first. That’s where Patterson can find his niche and make an impact in 2017, giving the Rockies the versatility every bench needs.
He has nice power to the gaps (he hit 69 doubles over the past two seasons) and 15-to-20 home run potential, which could be increased with steady playing time in Denver. He also has sneaky speed for a 6-foot-4, 215 pound outfielder, going a perfect 10-for-10 on the base paths. He keeps his strikeout rates in check, and walks a decent amount. Essentially, Patterson is a nice cog that could help this youthful Rockies offense continue to roll.
Who else is ready for impact. Find out at Today’s Knuckleball by clicking on the link below: