Major League Baseball's season is about a month away from coming to an end. That isn't stopping teams from promoting some of their best prospects. You may have noticed that there's been a slew of big-league debuts lately. The Cardinals brought up Masyn Winn; the Reds did the same with Noelvi Marte; and the Angels continued their aggressive approach with recent draft picks by starting Nolan Schanuel less than two months after picking him No. 11.
Why is everyone so promotion-happy all the sudden? It's twofold, though both parts of the equation have to do with there being fewer than 45 days left in the regular season -- or, the exact amount of service time that would remove a player's rookie eligibility (as would exceeding 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched). That feeds into a player's chances of fetching a draft pick via the Promotion Incentive guidelines.
(1) He must appear on a preseason Top 100 Prospects ranking by at least two of Baseball America, ESPN or MLB Pipeline.
(2) He must be rookie-eligible and must have fewer than 60 days of prior MLB service.
(3) He must accrue one year of MLB service as a rookie.
As such, teams can safely promote their top players to get their feet wet this season without it jeopardizing their eligibility. Hence Winn, Marte, and Schanuel getting the call.
With that in mind, here are eight more minor-league prospects who could make their big-league debuts this year -- even if they aren't necessarily going to be PPI eligible. (Do note the players are presented in alphabetical order.)
1. Evan Carter, CF, Rangers
With the Rangers in the thick of the AL West race, they at least have to think about bringing up Carter as a reinforcement. He's spent the season in Double-A, posting the second-highest OPS on a club that also included recently traded prospects like Thomas Saggese and Luisangel Acuña.
Of course, there is some risk involved with skipping a prospect over Triple-A, and the Rangers might reason that they'd prefer to do everything by the book when it comes to handling one of the game's best young outfielders.
2. Pete Crow-Armstrong, CF, Cubs
Obtained from the Mets at the 2021 deadline for Javier Báez, Crow-Armstrong is a plus runner and defender who has successfully tapped into his raw power throughout his professional career.
He's already achieved a level of success at Triple-A, meaning his promotion could hinge on whether or not the Cubs think they can find big-league at-bats for him the rest of the way. Mike Tauchman's surprising competency has made that a tougher call than expected. The Cubs could also promote lefty Jordan Wicks and righty Ben Brown before long.
3. Colt Keith, 3B, Tigers
Since demoting Nick Maton to the minors, the Tigers have deployed a rotating cast of characters at the hot corner: Matt Vierling, Zack Short, Zach McKinstry. They're just keeping the spot warm for Keith, who has continued to show off a well-rounded offensive game.
He should hit for both average and power, and draw walks. It's possible he has to move off the position in due time, but for now the Tigers can afford to plop him down at third to get his bat into the lineup.
4. Heston Kjerstad, OF, Orioles
The Orioles have such an abundance of talented young position players that you could sub in Coby Mayo or Connor Norby here if you wanted to -- or, heck, No. 1 overall prospect Jackson Holliday (though we think that's far less likely). Kjerstad, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, had his career stalled by a case of myocarditis. He's since made up for lost time while continuing to show an adaptable swing that produces well-struck line drives. Kjerstad is more prone to swinging and expanding his zone than some of the O's other young hitters, but there's nothing wrong with a little lineup diversification.
5. Ronny Mauricio, UTL, Mets
Mauricio is a switch hitter who can impact the baseball, albeit often at single-digit launch angles. He has an incredibly aggressive approach as a right-hander, and he's probably more of a second baseman/left fielder in The Show. That's fine. Have you seen some of the lineups the Mets have trotted out there since the deadline? There's no argument against bringing up Mauricio and letting him audition over the coming weeks for a spot on next year's team.
6. Jackson Merrill, SS, Padres
A.J. Preller has shown a willingness to skip his best prospects over Triple-A. He did it with Fernando Tatis Jr. and CJ Abrams, and now he could do it with another young shortstop. Merrill has not only played well since being promoted in July, he's seen assignments around the diamond in recent weeks. Maybe that's a case of the Padres planning ahead for next year, but we suspect that Preller will be tempted to press the button in a salvation attempt.
7. Connor Phillips, RHP, Reds
The Reds acquired Phillips as part of the trade that sent outfielder Jesse Winker and third baseman Eugenio Suárez to Seattle. He's split the season between Double- and Triple-A, missing bats and the plate with regularity. Phillips has a starter's arsenal, complete with a rising mid-90s fastball and some quality breaking balls, but it's unclear if he'll ever have the command to start. The Reds have had him throwing shorter outings as of late, and they could slot him into their big-league bullpen as they push for the NL Central title.
8. Austin Wells, C, Yankees
We covered Wells in greater detail last week. Long story made short, he's a bat-over-mitt backstop who hasn't wowed offensively in the upper minors. Wells will work a count and take a walk, and he's adept at lifting the ball. He's struck out more than 25% of the time in Triple-A, however, and his negative defensive value will put additional pressure on his stick. Nevertheless, the Yankees have little to lose by bringing him up and giving him a look.