Not long ago, we saw Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers make the splashiest of splashes in his major-league debut, and on Tuesday Pirates phenom Gerrit Cole will take the mound for the first time in a big-league uniform.
Those headline-grabbing events got us to thinking about other top prospects who might be contributing at the highest level well before the rosters expand in September. So let's run down five position prospects and five pitching prospect who are ready right now to help their big-league clubs -- big-league clubs who happen to need help at the positions/roles in question …
1. Wil Myers, OF Rays
2013 stats: .287/.361/.513, 12 homers at AAA-Durham
Myers' case for immediate promotion has already been laid out in this space. To recap, Myers is raking of late, the super-two deadline will soon pass, and the Rays need to cycle Luke Scott out of the lineup (and perhaps off the roster altogether). Myers is ready, and the Rays, locked in a tight AL East race, will need every run they can get this season.
2. Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers
2013 stats: .292/.369/.490, 10 HR, 18 2B at Triple-A Toledo
Castellanos entered the season ranked as the 21st-best prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com. Consider the hype justified thus far in 2013, as Castellanos ranks second in the International League in total bases. As for the Tigers, they could use the help, as Andy Dirks isn't hitting adequately by corner-outfielder standards.
3. George Springer, CF, Astros
2013 stats: .307/.413/.633, 18 HR, 18 SB at Double-A Corpus Christi
As you can tell from the numbers above, Springer is pretty well destroying the Texas League this season. It's a hitter's circuit, to be sure, but those numbers are impressive in any context. Springer entered the 2013 season ranked as a top-40 prospect by Baseball America, and he's done nothing but raise his stock since then. It goes without saying that the Astros could use all sorts of help, and their center-field situation is no exception. A Springer promotion would also give the fans a glimpse of the rebuilding process that's very much underway.
4. Cesar Puello, OF, Mets
2013 stats: .326/.401/.606, 13 HR, 17 SB at Double-A Binghamton
In terms of offensive output, the Mets have perhaps the worst outfield in all of baseball. So enter Puello? Why not? The right fielder is crushing the ball in the Eastern League. While his current numbers are well above those of his previous seasons, Puello's been well regarded since the Mets signed him out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2008 season. Puello's name does appear in Biogenesis documents, but he's on the 40-man roster, which means he'd be represented by the MLBPA should any disciplinary action be taken against him.
5. Hunter Morris, 1B, Brewers
2013 stats: .240/.319/.500, 13 HR at Triple-A Nashville
Morris's numbers have dropped a bit from 2012, when he tallied 28 homers and batted .303 for Double-A Huntsville. However, he's still hitting for raw power, and the Brewers very much have a need for a first baseman in Milwaukee right now. In fact, the Brewers, in terms of WAR (and just about any other meaningful measure out there) have gotten the least production from first base in all of baseball. Yes, Corey Hart is working his way back from knee surgery, but Morris merits an extended look.
1. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Mets
2013 stats: 63 IP, 4.14 ERA, 66 K, 25 BB, 8 HR at Triple-A Las Vegas
The next big thing in Queens? Wheeler's 2013 numbers are much better than they appear, as Las Vegas is one of the best hitter's environments in all of professional baseball. He's showing command with his more-than-full repertoire, and the home run rate will fall significantly once he gets out of Vegas. Wheeler, who came to the Mets from the Giants as part of the Carlos Beltran trade in July of 2011, is by most accounts a top-10 prospect. They could use him in New York right now.
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Twins
2013 stats: 79 2/3 IP, 3.16 ERA, 69 K, 26 BB, 3 HR at Triple-A Rochester
A top-50 prospect according to MLB.com, Gibson underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 but has rebounded nicely. He throws four pitches for strikes, including a wipeout change-up. Since Gibson is thriving at the highest minor-league level and the Twins are in desperate need for rotation help, you'd think a call-up would be in the offing.
3. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners
2013 stats: 71 1/3 IP, 2.52 ERA, 77 K, 29 BB, 6 HR
Let's a address Walker and his Mariners label-mate Danny Hultzen in one single entry, shall we? See below …
4. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners
2013 stats: 22 2/3 IP, 2.78 ERA, 25 K, 6 BB, 1 HR at Triple-A Tacoma
Walker, listed above, is on the short-list of top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Armed with a fastball that touches the high-90s and electric secondary pitches, Walker has improved his command this season. He's young, but he's ready for the next step.
As for Hultzen, he's been sidelined with a strained rotator cuff since late April. However, he's progressing toward a return to Tacoma (he recently threw a successful simulated game), where the top-20 prospect will resume his march to Seattle. Once he works through the rust, the M's should give serious consideration to calling him. Hultzen's surely better than what they have in place now.
Now to address the Mariner rotation in general … Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman are in it, so there's self-evidently a need.
5. Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers
2013 stats: 61 1/3 IP, 2.62 ERA, 57 K, 18 BB, 3 HR at Double-A Chattanooga
The Dodgers' once-vaunted rotation depth has been reduced to tatters in the first half of the season. At present, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano are on the DL, and stop-gap Matt Magill is lugging around an ERA of 6.51. Lee is faring very well in his second tour of Double-A, and there's nothing alarming about leaping a pitcher from the Southern League to the majors. Lee's stuff isn't crackling, but he boasts a full repertoire and has command of all of his pitches. The Dodgers are sufficiently desperate and "pot-committed" for this season. Thus it seems likely that Lee will pitch his way to L.A. soon enough.