At the start of every month this season, I'll drop this column highlighting prospects on the move. These players aren't necessarily moving locations but are moving the needles of teams and scouts around the league. While the focus won't always be on top prospects, it will be on what peripheral stats make up the narrative around the players' notable season, and what they need to do improve.
For the inaugural May edition, I'm looking at six prospects knocking on the door of their big league club and have a legitimate claim to a starting or platoon role once they arrive. Some players you won't find are Jose Berrios, Sean Manaea, and Nomar Mazara, who have locked up spots for the moment. Others you won't see include top prospects Willson Contreras and Orlando Arcia, who despite hot starts in Triple-A have no realistic reason to be called up at the moment. What you will find in this edition is a lot of big names, and a few that have made cameo appearances but are being held back for one reason or another.
Trea Turner, SS, Nationals (Triple-A)
Service time is the common theme among most players on this list, but it's really the only reason Turner is being held back. That, or some stubborn archaic preference by Dusty Baker to play veteran Danny Espinosa — who, mind you, has been awful (.192/.310/.288) — over the budding rookie. Turner is a complete package of sorts. He drives the ball to all fields, runs, plays defense, and has a little power. He's shown all that so far in Syracuse, amassed in the neat stat box below.
Almost as impressive is that the swing and miss hitter hasn't done much missing in 2016. For his career he's generally been a 20 percent strikeout and 9 percent walk player. In Washington last year, he struck out 27.3 percent and walked 9.1 percent of the time. That's improved through 98 Triple-A plate appearances to a 15.4 percent strikeout rate and an 11.2 percent walk rate. He has nothing left to prove in Triple-A, and his improved approach is helping him take a battering ram to the door in Washington.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (Triple-A)
A struggling pitching staff in Pittsburgh will increase the clamoring for the Pirates' top pitching prospect to debut. At 6-foot-8, Glasnow carries a quiet, though not always consistent, delivery. He has a plus-plus fastball offering and entered 2016 with an improved look to his changeup, a third pitch that compliments a big breaker of a curveball.
Control has always been Glasnow's biggest issue and a product, somewhat, of his long frame. Control is also the main problem for the current Pittsburgh staff. Jonathon Niese (2.86), Gerrit Cole (3.29), Juan Nicasio (4.00), Francisco Liriano (5.46), and Jeff Locke (5.74) have all contributed to the third-worst BB/9 in baseball (4.29), behind only division mates and notably bad pitching staffs the Reds (4.47) and Brewers (4.54). Glasnow hasn't been much better in Triple-A, but if he can find the zone more consistently, there's a spot for his dominant swing-and-miss stuff sooner rather than later.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates (Triple-A)
After missing the last two seasons due to Tommy John and hernia surgeries, Taillon is an added bonus for PIttsburgh in 2016. A once-unanimous top-10 and top-20 prospect, the uncertainty surrounding his comeback from two lost years dropped him out of numerous top 100 lists this year. But Taillon has moved himself to the front of the line for the call to Pittsburgh, flashing his mid-90s fastball again, as well as improved and impeccable control.
Although walks never buried Taillon as they have with Glasnow, he's greatly refined his ability to locate his pitches to start the season, as evidenced by his 0.77 BB/9 in Triple-A. Control, combined with swing-and-miss stuff, can cure what ails the Pirates' typically-heralded pitching staff. The Pirates might understandably handle him with kid gloves this year, and they'll certainly make sure service time is considered before giving him the nod. He's on the verge of one of baseball's great comebacks.
Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Rangers (Triple-A)
We know most of the story on Gallo by now: legendary power and legendary strikeouts. Of all the prospects on this list, Gallo is the man most without a home. In pretty much any other system he'd have a starting job and a power spot in the lineup. But alas, he's blocked to an extent by Adrian Beltre and now the emergence of Mazara — and for some reason Josh Hamilton when he's healthy — from getting regular at-bats in Texas.
Gallo's aggressive approach looks toned down from 2015, and he's starting to see the results in his K rate (24.7 percent) and BB rate (20 percent). His rates haven't been this good since High-A in early 2014, but he always seems to regress down to a mid-30 percent strikeout showing and walk rates closer to 12 percent. As expected, Gallo is mashing the ball when he makes contact, hitting mostly fly balls and generating hard contact 49 percent of the time to just 15.7 percent soft contact. This is his second go-round at Triple-A; we'll see if Gallo has made the adjustments needed to be a more productive big league player. He could hasten the Rangers' efforts to find him a position if they don't want to dangle him in the trade market.
Note: After writing this, the Rangers announced Gallo is out 3-4 weeks with a Grade 1 groin strain.
Blake Snell, LHP, Rays (Triple-A)
Snell already made a cameo appearance in an impressive five-inning debut against the Yankees in April. He's certified ace material if he can continue to make gains on his control, which he did last year, cutting more than a walk per nine innings off his line. But the walks have creeped up in the early part of season. Conversely, though, so have his strikeouts.
As he showed against the Yankees, Snell has a plus fastball that sits between 92-94, a nice secondary slider, and a developing changeup. Tampa Bay is notorious for keeping its star pitchers down as long as it can, so no surprises if Snell is in Durham for most of 2016. But that tempting flash of potential he showed in Yankee Stadium will have him first on the list for a spot start or prolonged appearance, as needed.
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates (Triple-A)
One might call this an embarrassment of ready-now riches in Pittsburgh, and I wouldn't argue. If it weren't for Austin Meadows' orbital bone fracture this offseason and the long-awaited arrival of outfielder Gregory Polanco, there might be a fourth Pirate on the list. Bell is new to first base dating back to last season, so while his bat is ready, his defense could hold him back. But make no mistake, there's a problem in Pittsburgh if he doesn't get at least two months of solid time at first.
The Pirates are currently rolling out a platoon of John Jaso and Sean Rodriguez, a duo which doesn't bring much to the table. The switch-hitting Bell has a refined approach and makes a lot of contact to go with the walks. His power is developing better, too, a welcome sign for a team lacking a contact-power combination in the middle of the order. His second stint at Triple-A is starting where he left off in 2015, and he'll be ready soon enough.
Jerry Burnes is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score.
Editor's Note: New players win cash in their first league or get their entry fee refunded. Offered in partnership with FanDuel. Here's the link.