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MLB Prospect Watch: Five youngsters who could brighten things for non-contenders, including Nats’ Cade Cavalli

These five players could soon reach the majors and make an impact for teams far away from contention. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Last week’s Prospect Watch focused on five youngsters who could soon debut with contending teams and perhaps impact playoff races. (The Braves have since promoted one of those players, outfielder Michael Harris II.) This week’s Prospect Watch is highlighting the inverse cases: Five players who could reach the majors soon, but whose teams are distant from contention (meaning their Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds are in the single digits). Their impacts, then, might be limited no more than giving local fans a new reason to tune in.

Do note that we originally had Grayson Rodriguez, the Orioles’ brilliant top pitching prospect, in this piece. He exited his start on Wednesday with lat discomfort, however, and it’s unclear if or how much time he’ll miss. As such, we’ve erred on the side of caution by including a different prospect instead.

The players are presented in alphabetical order.

1. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Nationals
Last year saw Cavalli become the rare draftee who reached Triple-A in his first professional season. He’s been stuck there since, amassing a 6.23 ERA and a 1.97 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 starts. To his credit, he has pitched better as of late, surrendering no more than two runs in three of his last four times out. Cavalli has a big-time fastball and has shown promise with his secondary offerings, though he needs to find more consistency with them and his command in order to live up to his full promise. Expect to see him in The Show before long if he keeps up his recent run.

2. Riley Greene, OF, Tigers
Greene was expected to make Detroit’s Opening Day roster before he suffered a broken foot in spring training. He recently returned to game action, with his rehab assignment having since been transferred to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers have been hard and often with injuries to outfielders — Austin Meadows, Robbie Grossman, and Victor Reyes are all out and Akil Baddoo hurt himself after a demotion — meaning Greene still has a direct path to the majors.

3. Shea Langeliers, C, Athletics
Langeliers, the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, was part of the return Oakland received from the Braves for Matt Olson. The book on him has always been that he’s a good defensive catcher with above-average raw power. He wasted little time showcasing the latter for his new club, as he homered nine times in 20 April games. (He’s launched just two since.) Langeliers’ arrival to the majors would seem connected to another trade, with this one sending out veteran catcher Sean Murphy likely sometime closer to the August 2 deadline.

4. Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals
The Royals keep using Carlos Santana at first base, but it seems like a matter of time before they press the necessary buttons and swap him out for Pasquantino. (Or, we suppose, Nick Pratto, their other top first-base prospect.) Pasquantino is a former 11th-round pick from Old Dominion who has overperformed as a professional. This year, he’s batting .298/.392/.667 with 15 home runs and nearly as many walks (26) as strikeouts (30). Pasquantino’s swing won’t win any beauty contests, and he’s not going to take any footraces, either; none of that will matter if he keeps hitting like he has to date.

5. Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies
This may seem aggressive given that Tovar is 20 years old, but he’s already on the Rockies’ .326/.408/.593 with 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases (on 17 attempts). Tovar’s 1.001 OPS is so far beyond most of his teammates, including Michael Toglia and Aaron Schunk (two former collegiates who were top picks in the 2019 draft), that just two others are above even the .800 mark. And oh, by the way, Tovar is a high-quality defensive shortstop to boot. The Rockies often behave in unpredictable ways, yet trading José Iglesias and installing Tovar around the deadline seems like a given.

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