Prospects remain the lifeblood of Major League teams, and it's apparent in the American League Central with the White Sox, Royals and Tigers all in a rebuilding stage, while the contending Indians and Twins have prospects who are close to reaching the big leagues and could help down the stretch
Prospects remain the lifeblood of Major League teams, and it's apparent in the American League Central with the White Sox, Royals and Tigers all in a rebuilding stage, while the contending Indians and Twins have prospects who are close to reaching the big leagues and could help down the stretch as they compete for the postseason.
The division boasts 18 players ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects, including eight from Chicago, five from Minnesota, three from Detroit and two from Cleveland. So it's clear that plenty of talent is going to make its way into the division in the near future.
With that in mind, here's a look at five prospects -- one from each team -- who could make an impact in 2018.
Prospect: RHP Shane Bieber
MLB Pipeline rank:No. 8 (Indians)
Why you should keep an eye on him: Bieber excelled with Double-A Akron (1.32 ERA in four starts) and hasn't missed a beat since being promoted to Triple-A Columbus (1.16 ERA through five starts). Overall, the precision-based righty had a 1.23 ERA with 54 strikeouts against just three walks in 58 1/3 innings through his first nine outings.
ETA: Possibly later this season. Bieber was a blip on the organization's radar coming into 2018, but he has risen to the next-man-up region of the depth chart. If there were a setback in the MLB rotation, the righty now looks like a real possibility to be called.
Prospect: LHP Richard Lovelady
MLB Pipeline rank:No. 17 (Royals)
Why you should keep an eye on him: Lovelady is only 22 and is rising through the system at a quick rate. He has a plus fastball with late life and a slider that could be Major League-ready now. Lovelady is 2-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 15 games at Triple-A Omaha this season.
ETA: Lovelady is not on the 40-man roster, but that could change when spots open up after the non-waiver Trade Deadline. There's a decent chance you'll see him at the big league level this season.
Prospect: OF Christin Stewart
MLB Pipeline rank:No. 10 (Tigers)
Why you should keep an eye on him: The Tigers need impact bats for their rebuilding project, and Stewart is about as impactful of a bat as they have in their system. But the power-hitting left-handed batter has been hitting for average, too, in Triple-A Toledo.
ETA: Stewart could make his debut late in the 2018 season, possibly as a September callup.
Prospect: SS Nick Gordon
MLB Pipeline rank:No. 4 (Twins), No. 30 (MLB)
Why you should keep an eye on him: After hitting .333/.381/.525 with 18 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases in 40 games at Double-A Chattanooga, Gordon was promoted to Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday. The son of former MLB closer Tom Gordon, he's also worked to improve his defense and is considered a capable shortstop.
ETA: Gordon could make his debut late this year, potentially as a September callup. Minnesota has a crowded middle infield with shortstop Eduardo Escobar and second baseman James Dozier, as well as shortstop Jorge Polanco set to return from his 80-game suspension in early July. But Dozier and Escobar are both impending free agents, so Gordon could establish himself as a regular next year.
Prospect: OF Eloy Jimenez
MLB Pipeline rank:No. 1 (White Sox), No. 3 (MLB)
Why you should keep an eye on him: Every rebuild has a cornerstone player or two, and the right-handed-hitting Jimenez appears to be that sort of presence for the White Sox. The Cubs may not have reached a third straight National League Championship Series in 2017 without acquiring lefty Jose Quintana at the Deadline, but in Jimenez, the White Sox received in return a potential offensive force for the next decade.
ETA: The White Sox certainly aren't rushing prospects, so he conceivably could spend the 2018 season in the Minors. But as general manager Rick Hahn has said, the good ones have a way of forcing the issue.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.