It’s almost that time of year where teams begin promoting their minor league gems. Some players deserve to already be here but their club decided
it would be cheaper to keep them in the minors that they weren’t ready and needed a little more seasoning in the minors. Whatever, I couldn’t care less about the games the front office plays, we’re at a point where there is no reason to hold these kids back.
For those of us in keeper/dynasty leagues, it gives us a chance to see if our investments have paid off as we get a taste of what our super rookie is capable of. Owners in these formats have very little chance of picking up one of these players; for those that play in leagues that don’t allow you to add a prospect until they are added to the active roster, this is your chance These rookies aren’t just for owners who are in it for the long haul, those in redraft leagues can benefit as well.
Kevin Jebens article Prospect Performance, Year One: Hitters discusses what you can expect to see from some of these players. Not these specific players, but a general sense of what to expect. Some of these players may hit the ground running, others may take a month or so to get adjusted (like George Springer) and then there are the ones that will fall flat of expectations and find their way back to the waiver wire and possibly their minor league affiliate. There is no guarantee, only upside, hopes and dreams of a winning lottery ticket. There is no timetable on when or even if any of the players below will be called up, but their upside is more valuable than that backup shortstop or 5th/6th outfielder.
Here are the players most likely to receive an early call. While they are the best of the best, don’t ignore those lesser prospects and no name guys who may receive a promotion as well. Some of them can produce better than these blue chippers if they get off to a hot start so keep your eyes open.
Jonathan Singleton (1B – Astros): If it wasn’t for the early promotion of George Springer we probably wouldn’t be discussing Singleton. The Astros early promotion of Springer was a welcome surprise, and since he’s coming along nicely the promotion of his counterpart seems inevitable. Currently Singleton is mashing away for the Oklahoma City Wildcats.
The batting average is a little lower than his minor league totals. The strikeouts are a little high but he balances them out nicely with an improving walk percentage. Singleton’s main asset is his power and ability to get on base and drive in runs. He’s been compared to players like Ryan Howard & Prince Fielder, and while his overall numbers may be in line I don’t see as much power. Still, a potential 30 home run hitting first baseman isn’t something to turn your nose up at. Singleton’s path to the majors is clear and he’s obviously ready, we just need the green light from the Houston brass. Gausman & Krauss are just treading water right now at first and neither are capable of holding Singleton back. He may not be the first prospect called up in June, but he will be one of them. Stash him now before his promotion.
Tommy La Stella (2B – Braves): Ok he beat the super 2 deadline, he’s not one of those top blue chip prospects and was brought up a few days ago, but he still deserves a mention (remember what I said about those lesser named players). Dan Uggla is no more (ok he’s still there, but on the bench where he belongs). La Stella isn’t a power hitter or a stolen base threat so don’t count on more than 10 of each over the course of a full season. What he brings to the table is a superior batting eye and a career.322 batting average. La Stella hit .328 in A ball, .318 in A+, .343 in AA and .293 this year in AAA. He doesn’t walk much and only has 136 walks for his minor league career, but he also rarely strikes out (102 in 1,013 AB). La Stella would make a perfect #2 hitter for the Braves and if he can maintain that same average he showed us in the minors, he’ll find himself at the top of the order soon. If/When that happens, La Stella goes from a one hit wonder to a 3 category player. Combined with a little pop and speed, he could be a very underrated person to own and a perfect player for those with a weak MI player on their roster. For standard 10 & 12 team leagues with no MI slot you can sit back and watch how this unfolds, everyone else though should give serious thought to adding La Stella to their roster.
Maikel Franco (3B – Phillies): After a cold start it looked like Franco might have to wait for a September call up. Now with Cody Asche hitting the disabled list and Franco’s bat heating up, it’s now a matter of when and not if he gets promoted. His 2014 line makes him appear worse than Asche, but look at his numbers from last year and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
Third basemen that can hit for power and average with low strikeouts aren’t easy to come by; with the exception of inept Cody Asche, the only thing standing in Franco’s way is Franco. The Phillies are in the basement, the infield is aging and the team and fans need a shot of encouragement. This one seems like a no brainer, but not all teams make decisions that are best for the team. Still, Franco is worthy of a speculative stash for his bat and position. While a June call up makes sense, don’t be surprised if Philly keeps him down until July. For more on Franco, Paul Hartman featured him in his gambling on prospects article earlier this month.
Kris Bryant and Javier Baez (SS and 3B – Cubs): The odds are slim that we see both of these men called up in June, but there is a slight chance we see one of them. Bryant is raking in AA:
Those numbers are in line with his NCAA and minor league totals and would make anyone giddy with anticipation. Mike Olt is batting .168 with 9 home runs and could easily shatter the strikeout record if given 500 at bats. Rolling the dice on Bryant seems like a no brainer here.
Then there is his partner in crime Javier Baez, who got off to a slow start but has quickly turned things around as of late. In his last 50 at bats, Baez has hit .442 with 8 doubles, 4 home runs and 14 RBIs. That’s in line with what we expected after last year.
While his numbers make your mouth water, Baez still doesn’t walk much and strikes out way too much. He’s only 21 so there is time for improvement.
Here’s the problem that both of these players face. The Cubs are in last, not just in their division but in all of baseball. There are a few bright spots on the team (Anthony Rizzo, Junior Lake, Jeff Samardzija), but not enough to help the Cubs crawl out of the basement. Starlin Castro is hitting for average and power (although the speed hasn’t returned) so shortstop remains blocked. Olt can and should be sent down which would open up a spot on the roster, but that open spot could be second or third base since Luis Valbuena has been playing both and hasn’t done anything recently to deserve diminished playing time.
Given the Cubs place in the standings and the finances behind promoting a rookie, I don’t see either of these players coming up on or around the super 2 date. I do however can see one of them getting the call come July, but which one? I believe this will come down to if Baez continues to hit like he has the past few weeks. If he does then a promotion and move to second base could be in order along with a Bryant promotion to AAA. If Baez Stumbles and Mike Olt doesn’t do something to bring his average above .200, Bryant will be the one getting the call. If I’m in a redraft league and had to pick one, I would go with Baez. Both men will be hyped in the coming weeks so depending on your league, you may not be able to take that wait and see approach. As much as I love both players, I might be looking at one of the other players on this list who have a better chance of seeing the majors.
Oscar Taveras (OF – Cardinals): There’s a lot more talent to Taveras than his minor league stats show. His numbers in AAA this year mirror what he did last year.
There’s not much else to prove here, the Cardinals know this and so does everyone else. He started the year in the minors since there was no place for him to play, plus they wanted him to get a little more seasoning (and given the few injuries he’s had in the minors this made sense). Well Taveras is hitting and healthy; question is, are the Cards ready to pull the plug on the Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos experiment. Both men are there to play center but neither man can produce with their bats. Most thought (or hoped) that Matt Adams would hit a wall or that Craig would run into one and hit the DL. Adams hasn’t hit for power but holds a .325 average, and Craig started out slow but has been hitting lately and is healthy (knock on wood). That brings us back to centerfield; as much as I’m a fan of Taveras, I don’t see him getting called up in June. Someone has to go so until the Cards release or trade Jay or Bourjos, Taveras is going to have to wait just like the man below.
If you’d like another view on Taveras, Kevin wrote an article in April entitled Perceived Value Variance: Oscar Taveras that you might find interesting.
Joc Pederson (OF – Dodgers): Paul did a great job breaking down Pederson several days ago in his Gambling on Prospects article. I recommend you give it a read and consider Pederson a good stash candidate as he’s the type of player that can be a difference maker. If you decide to wait and you hear any rumors involving Ethier or Kemp, Jump Immediately and don’t wait for the those rumors to become reality.
Gregory Polanco (OF – Pirates): In his first full year of AAA (I don’t count the 9 AB last year), Polanco has lived up to the hype.
The average will eventually level off to the .300 range, but the power and speed remind me of his soon to be teammate Andrew McCutchen. Just like Taveras, Polanco has an inept duo blocking his path. Unlike Polanco, he plays for a team that is in need of production and not afraid to promote their rookies when the time is right. Travis Snider hasn’t done anything to warrant a starting job let alone a job on this team. Jose Tabata is serviceable, but given his versatility and ability to play all fields, he’s better suited as a fourth outfielder. That leaves Josh Harrison who hasn’t embarrassed himself but his ability to play all over the infield makes him a good utility player, not a starting right fielder. At 1.2 million dollars, it might be worth it for the Pirates to eat Snider’s contract and either trade him or release him. I can see Polanco being a June call up and I would add him before the two outfielders mentioned above.
Andrew Heaney (SP – Marlins): The Marlins proved last year they are not afraid to promote their top talent early, and considering their place in the standings they shouldn’t start showing fear now. Heaney has breezed through the minors after 3 years at Oklahoma State.
His only blemish was the 20 innings in A ball in 2012, otherwise the top pick in the Marlins organization has been everything they could ask for. Heaney was recently promoted to AAA and has had 2 dominant starts allowing only 1 run and 14 K’s in 11 innings (in the PCL no less). The Marlins could use some help towards the back of their rotation and there are no roadblocks standing in Heaney’s way, other than the front office. I can see Heaney being one of the first if not the first pitcher promoted after the super 2 deadline. If the starters at the back-end of your fantasy team look anything like the choices the Marlins have, dump one of them and stash Heaney now. This one could be a difference maker.
Odrisamer Despaigne (SP – Padres): WHO? I have to admit that up until a few days ago this guy was a mystery to me, but thanks to Scott White he is on my radar. According to Mr. White’s article, “the 27-year-old right-hander played eight pro seasons in Cuba, amassing a 61-43 record with a 3.55 ERA, 684 strikeouts and 390 walks in 213 appearances (957 1/3 innings)”. Baseball Reference didn’t have much more on the man other than the fact he moved from the closer role to the starting rotation. This could turn out to be nothing or it could be something. He did well in 2 starts at AAA and moved right to AAA (his first start wasn’t great).
So if so little is known about the man, why recommend him as a potential stash. One would be the influx of Cuban Players lately and the success they have had. The other is that mystery factor. I mentioned in my intro those no name guys that could receive a promotion that could outperform some of the well-known name brand blue chip players. Is this one of them? I don’t know but you can bet I’ll be monitoring his next few starts. If you like what you see then add him if he’s in the player pool for your league. The Padres need pitching and at age 27 and already under contract, there is little point to keeping him in the minors. Despaigne will be up sooner than later.
Jesse Biddle (SP – Phillies): The Phillies top pitching prospect is having a decent year in AA, sporting a 3.18 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and a 9.69 K/9. The high WHIP is due to a 3.81 BB/9 which is an improvement over last year but still high. Biddle has been able to get away with the high walks thanks in part to a minor league average 7.44 H/9. His numbers this year are slightly below his minor league average and his FIP support those numbers. Will the Phillies give Biddle the call? That all comes down to Cliff Lee as there is no timetable for his elbow strain. If Lee looks to be out for an extended period of time then Biddle might receive a promotion. If it’s a short-term DL stint, the Phillies will probably muddle along with whatever they have and save Biddle for a September call up or give him a shot next spring. This isn’t someone you want to stash right now, but someone you should keep an eye on (along with Cliff Lee).
Alexander Guerrero (2B – Dodgers): He’s not a super 2, but this is still a rookie (in name only) that you should keep on your watch list. The 27-year-old Cuban import will be sidelined following the Mike Tyson incident with (former) teammate Miguel Olivo. Before the altercation Guerrero was hitting the cover off the ball, batting .376 with 10 home runs in 117 at bats. If he is still hitting like this when he returns, the Dodgers will have to do some shuffling to make some room. The logical choice would be to move Hanley back to third, then either play Guerrero at shortstop or move Dee Gordon over to short and let Guerrero play second. Regardless of who plays where, a power hitting MI players is someone you should have on your radar. You don’t have to add him right away, but in a few weeks if you see the recovery going well you might want to start considering who you want to drop on your current squad to make some room.
Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler (SP – Rockies): I don’t see either man being a June call up, but either one could be a consideration in July around the all-star break. Both pitched 3 years of NCAA ball, both are in AA and both are on the fast track to the majors. The Rockies are in third in the West. If they can maintain their place or move up without the help of these two men, they will probably leave both in the minors as long as they can. If they begin to fall in the standings there is a chance one (or possibly both) will get promoted, but I don’t see the Rockies rushing either one. Then again I didn’t see the Marlins rushing Fernandez so you never know. While I don’t see either pitcher being someone you have to roster now, monitor both of them as well as the pitching situation in Colorado (Franklyn Morales is on thin ice).
Addison Russell (SS – A’s): Russell just returned from a torn hamstring so a June call up isn’t in the cards. A call up sometime in July though is a possibility. The A’s have a black hole at second base and could easily slide Jed Lowrie over to fill that void and insert Russell at short. Last year in A+ he had 17 home runs and 21 steals in 429 at bats. If Russell can show this year in AA what he showed last year, I don’t see any reason why the first place A’s (who saw that one coming) wouldn’t give Russell a shot. Eric Sogard and Nick Punto have been horrible; unless the A’s make a move for another second baseman or find another internal option, Russell could be their answer. Russell isn’t someone to stash now, but at the end of June if his bat is hot, you might want to consider it.
Looks like we’ll see you in September:
Regardless of what these players are doing I don’t see any of these players being fantasy relevant this season. Most if not all of them will have to wait until August or the roster expansion in September to get a taste, and even then there is no guarantee. Granted an injury or trade can open a spot right up for some, but overall they are nothing more than a late season call up. Those of you in redraft leagues can probably press the ignore button on most of these players until next year, but jot their names down somewhere.
Noah Syndergaard (SP – Mets): The Mets currently have deGrom & Montero fighting it out to see who will keep their spot once Dillon Gee returns. Even if he is called up when rosters expand, he probably won’t get more than one start and will be used out of the pen.
Mookie Betts (2B – Red Sox): With second base blocked, Betts is learning to play in the outfield. Granted the outfield in Boston is full, but he has a better chance of unseating one of those players than he does of moving Pedroia. Betts is part of Boston’s future, but there is no room for him in the present.
Archie Bradley (SP – Diamondbacks): Bradley’s ascension to the majors hit a speed bump this year in AAA. With an ERA over 5.0, the D-Backs will likely keep their prized prospect in the minors to learn some control despite the need for pitching.
Francisco Lindor (SS – Indians): With Asdrubal Cabrera on the final year of his contract and making ten million dollars, Lindor will have to settle for a cup of coffee in September.
Jorge Soler (OF – Cubs): He’s only played 7 games this year and is sidelined with his second hamstring injury of the year. Just like Taveras last year, he’ll spend the rest of the year in the minors getting healthy and proving himself.
Alex Meyer (SP – Twins): Even though the Twins are DESPERATE for pitching, look for Meyer to remain in AAA for the rest of the year to build up his innings (he only pitched 129 innings in 2012 and 78 last year).