Last season, we saw the Baltimore Orioles call up Manny Machado in August. The top prospect, despite not playing his natural position at shortstop, helped key their playoff run and has joined right up with the rest of the league's top young talent.
This season, we're all wondering who could be this year's Machado. That top prospect that will be called up in the second half and contribute to a playoff run. It's tough to predict anyone coming in and jumping right into the type of role that Machado did, but here are a few possibilities (Keep in mind we're only looking at youngsters with contending teams. Sorry, Byron Buxton):
Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds). Hamilton is a kid that virtually every baseball fan on the planet is excited to see up at the Major League level. The main reason for that is his main asset: his speed. He's an absolute nightmare for opposing teams on the basepaths, and has a solid glove out there in the outfield. Of course, his inconsistency in actually getting on base could hold him back a bit.
Oscar Tavares (St. Louis Cardinals). We saw Matt Holliday go down with a hamstring injury recently. If that turns out to be a nagging injury, Tavares could be an option. If Jon Jay continues to struggle, Tavares is also an option. The Cards likely can't hold the future superstar in the minors too much longer, and he'd add even more pop to a lineup that already produces more runs than anyone.
Danny Salazar (Cleveland Indians). A bit of a wild card because of his injury history, Salazar came up and made a start prior to the break and was fantastic. He went into the sixth inning with a no-hitter and allowed only one earned over that span. He was sent down, but with his impressive arsenal of pitches, it shouldn't be too much longer before we see him back up with the Tribe for the stretch run.
Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox). The Red Sox aren't going to be able to hold him in the minors for much longer, it's just a matter of a spot opening up for him. His bat is his main asset, and is what will earn him a callup. The kid can rake, with 68 hits in 56 games at Pawtucket this year. Even if it comes with a change in position, Bogaerts will be at Fenway before the year is over.
Nick Castellanos (Detroit Tigers). Detroit has gotten nothing offensively out of left fielder Andy Dirks (despite his great glove), and Dirks has lost playing time to former Mariners top prospect Matt Tuiasosopo. If Tuiasosopo cools off from his torrid hot streak, the time may come to give Castellanos a whirl in the majors…unless the 21-year old is dealt, of course.