Instead of the usual assortment of notes, this week’s column features thoughts and projections on a number of future callups. The focus here is on prospects who could help this year, and I’ve excluded anyone currently in the majors.
Trevor Bauer - SP Indians - Starting off with the one guy we know is on the way, Bauer will be recalled Tuesday to replace Danny Salazar in Cleveland’s rotation. He’s earned his shot by going 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA and a 44/14 K/BB ratio in 46 innings for Triple-A Columbus, plus he excelled in a spot start for Cleveland last month. Bauer’s velocity is better now than it was at any point during 2013, and he’s also throwing more strikes. While his upside was very much in question a couple of months ago, he’s back looking like a future star right now. That’s not to say I trust him completely -- it’s hard to forget just how much of a mess he was last year, and he did just allow four homers in his last Triple-A start after allowing one in the previous six -- but I’d certainly give him a spin in a mixed league.
Spring projection: 5-7, 4.37 ERA, 1.429 WHIP, 90 K in 105 IP
Current projection: 8-5, 3.70 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 105 K in 120 IP
Mookie Betts - 2B Red Sox - The 21-year-old Betts might be the minor league player of the year so far, with his .393/.462/.607 line in the Eastern League. He leads the circuit in OPS by 117 points, he’s scored nearly 60 percent more runs than the No. 2 guy (44 to 28), he’s tops in steals with 18 and he’s struck out just 13 times in 150 at-bats. Of course, there’s a huge roadblock for him in Boston in the form of Dustin Pedroia, so finding him another position would seem to be a priority. That process finally started Sunday, as he got his first start in center field. He’d also seem to have the range for shortstop, if not the arm. His bat has come along so quickly that an arrival in Boston after the All-Star break is a possibility. Of course, he should slow down before then, but he should have slowed down like a month ago.
Spring projection: N/A
Current projection: .270/.340/.380, 2 HR, 18 R, 14 RBI, 6 SB in 135 AB
Garin Cecchini - 3B Red Sox - Cecchini’s power still hasn’t materialized -- he’s hit just one homer in 124 at-bats -- but he’s sporting a nice .306/.400/.379 line as a 23-year-old at Triple-A Pawtucket. In five minor league stops, he’s never hit lower than .296 and his worst OBP is .394. If only the Red Sox could somehow fuse his on-base ability with Will Middlebrooks’ power, they’d have an All-Star third baseman. As is, the point may come at which they decide they’d be better off with Cecchini’s output. Alternatively, they might just have to bypass both and install Xander Bogaerts at third base in order to improve their defense at short.
Spring projection: .259/.354/.374, 2 HR, 17 R, 14 RBI, 5 SB in 139 AB
Current projection: .255/.350/.350, 1 HR, 15 R, 12 RBI, 3 SB in 120 AB
Mike Foltynewicz - SP Astros - With Mark Appel increasingly unlikely to debut this year, Foltynewicz is getting more attention again. The 2010 first-round pick struggled some in April while being used in the Astros’ tandem system (start one day, relieve four days later, repeat), he’s allowed four runs and struck out 21 over four starts (21 innings) since being used exclusively as a starter in Triple-A. Some feel Foltynewicz, who throws in the high-90s but lacks a quality changeup, might fit best in the closer’s role for the long haul, and I’m not sure they’re wrong. Still, he’s worthy of a long look as a starter before any decisions are made. Besides, it’s not like the Astros are a closer away from becoming a contender.
Spring projection: 2-3, 4.62 ERA, 1.480 WHIP, 40 K in 50 2/3 IP
Current projection: 3-5, 4.50 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 60 K in 75 IP
Kevin Gausman - SP Orioles - Gausman made his season debut last week with an opportunity to lock himself into Baltimore’s rotation with a strong outing. Instead, he floundered again and got sent back to Triple-A. As frustrating as that is, he still has just six major league starts under his belt, and calls to move him to the pen on a more permanent basis seem premature. Gausman has four pitches and throws in the mid-90s, sometimes with excellent command. He’ll always give up his share of homers, but he should have a future as a No. 2 or 3 starter anyway. The Orioles may be tempted to try him again as a reliever if they feel he can help out there more in the short term, but the guess here is that he establishes himself in the rotation at some point within the next couple of months.
Spring projection: 7-5, 3.63 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 94 K in 101 2/3 IP
Current projection: 7-5, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 95 K in 110 IP
Francisco Lindor - SS Indians - The 20-year-old Lindor has been on fire of late, hitting .338/.419/.513 in his last 21 games, for Double-A Akron. He’s pretty much the surest thing of any prospect in the minors; even if he doesn’t fulfill his potential offensively, his glove will make him a quality regular. But he should still prove to be a nice hitter, and he might already be a better player than Asdrubal Cabrera, a free agent at season’s end. If Lindor keeps hitting, the Indians should make Cabrera available at midseason whether they’re in contention or not. Lindor isn’t quite as good of a fantasy prospect as he is a real prospect -- he doesn’t have major league home run power yet -- but he could hit for average and steal bases as a No. 2 hitter early on.
Spring projection: .245/.310/.333, 1 HR, 13 R, 7 RBI, 5 SB in 102 AB
Current projection: .260/.330/.370, 3 HR, 20 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB in 160 AB
Alex Meyer - SP Twins - Meyer, acquired from the Nationals for Denard Span prior to last season, has been the International League’s top strikeout pitcher this year, fanning 49 in 40 1/3 innings. He has walked 21 and posted a 3.79 ERA, so he hasn’t been dominant, and the Twins could give chances to older pitchers first if they decide to adjust their rotation in the near future. Meyer, though, should be an option come mid-June. With a mid-90s fastball, a plus curve and an improving change, he has big-time upside.
Spring projection: 2-2, 4.05 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 42 K in 46 2/3 IP
Current projection: 5-4, 3.90 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 85 K in 90 IP
Addison Russell - SS Athletics - Russell is an enormous talent, which is why he’s listed here even though he’s missed most of this season and he’s played all of five games above A-ball in his life. Only two of those games have come this year, the result of a strained hamstring suffered in spring training and aggravated at Double-A Midland. At least they were a nice two games: he went 5-for-7 with a homer, a double, a walk and a steal. The injury has decreased the odds that he’ll get a look in the second half, with Jed Lowrie perhaps moving to second base. I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, though.
Spring projection: .241/.317/.379, 4 HR, 20 R, 18 RBI, 6 SB in 174 AB
Current projection: .250/.320/.380, 2 HR, 12 R, 10 RBI, 3 SB in 100 AB
Aaron Sanchez - SP Blue Jays - Sanchez’s stock slipped some last year after he missed time with a shoulder ailment, but he was one of the most pleasant surprises in the Grapefruit League this year, pitching 15 1/3 scoreless innings for the Jays. In Double-A, his ERA has been solid (3.12), but it comes with a somewhat disappointing 35/26 K/BB ratio in 43 innings. So, a callup prior to the All-Star break seems unlikely now. He still could be a factor in the second half with his mid-90s fastball and curve.
Spring projection: 4-5, 4.46 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 62 K in 74 2/3 IP
Current projection: 3-4, 4.30 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 45 K in 60 IP
Jon Singleton - 1B Astros - Singleton hit .220/.340/.347 with six homers in 73 games after joining Triple-A Oklahoma City last year. In 40 games this year, he’s at .286/.398/.605 with 12 homers, which would certainly seem to qualify as a step forward. His arrival in Houston has seemed imminent for weeks now, but the Astros have held off, and now that they’ve gone this long, they’ll probably wait until early June so that he can be ruled out as a Super Two guy. I’m not sold on Singleton becoming a big asset right away, either for Houston or for fantasy teams. Still, the power is certainly legit.
Spring projection: .220/.323/.382, 9 HR, 29 R, 30 RBI, 2 SB in 254 AB
Current projection: .225/.330/.410, 14 HR, 40 R, 40 RBI, 2 SB in 320 AB
Chris Taylor - SS Mariners - With Robinson Cano, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin all ahead of him, Taylor seemed like a long shot to play a role in Seattle this year. However, he’s been a breakout star at Triple-A Tacoma, hitting .372/.414/.593, while alternating with Franklin between second base and shortstop. That Taylor is better than Franklin defensively would seem to make him the superior choice for the Mariners if Miller is demoted, though Taylor isn’t an option at the moment after suffering a finger injury last week. The team has shown admirable patience with Miller so far, but since he’s started kicking balls while also not hitting, something has to be done. For the long haul, Taylor is still more likely to be a utilityman, though a potentially very good one, than a regular.
Spring projection: .231/.296/.308, 1 HR, 7 R, 5 RBI, 2 SB in 65 AB
Current projection: .245/.310/.350, 2 HR, 15 R, 12 RBI, 7 SB in 150 AB
Kyle Zimmer - SP Royals - The Royals have gone very slowly with Zimmer this season after the 2012 first-round pick came down with shoulder tendinitis towards the end of last year. The plan is for him to start working in simulated games this week and then resume pitching in the minors next month. The absolute ideal is that he does for them in the second half what Sonny Gray did for Oakland last year, though that’s asking a lot for a guy with just four Double-A starts under his belt. The talent is undeniable.
Spring projection: 4-4, 4.15 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 67 K in 69 1/3 IP
Current projection: 3-3, 4.15 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 56 K in 58 IP
Javier Baez - SS Cubs - The bloom isn’t exactly off the rose, but whereas two months ago many wanted the Cubs to carry Baez out of spring training -- he hit five homers in 53 at-bats in Cactus League play -- the idea seems silly now with the shortstop batting .145/.230/.255 for Triple-A Iowa. He’s struck out 45 times, and only one qualified player in the PCL has a worse OPS. Baez remains one of the game’s most exciting prospects with his lightning quick bat, but it doesn’t currently look like he’ll hit his way up to Wrigley this year. In fact, the Cubs haven’t even tried him at second base yet after saying they would in spring training.
Spring projection: .246/.291/.446, 13 HR, 39 R, 42 RBI, 7 SB in 285 AB
Current projection: .225/.280/.415, 6 HR, 16 R, 18 RBI, 4 SB in 140 AB
Jesse Biddle - SP Phillies - Biddle had a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts in Double-A last year, but the Phillies have him back at Reading this season. So far, he has a 3.20 ERA and a 58/22 K/BB in 50 2/3 IP. The walk rate still isn’t ideal, but it’s a nice improvement over last year’s 84 BB in 138 1/3 IP. A promotion to Triple-A should come any time now, and he could make his major league debut in the second half if needed. There are no assurances that he will, though; the Phillies have tread carefully with him thus far and they aren’t particularly likely to stay in the NL East race.
Spring projection: 4-5, 4.19 ERA, 1.408 WHIP, 84 K in 92 1/3 IP
Current projection: 3-4, 4.10 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 65 K in 70 IP
Archie Bradley - SP Diamondbacks - A popular NL Rookie of the Year candidate, Bradley has been sidelined by a flexor tendon strain for three weeks now and is still at least a couple of weeks away from pitching in games again. If he fully recovers, then he should join the Diamondbacks at some point after the All-Star break. Bradley still has command issues, but he also possesses some of the best stuff in the minors. Last year, he had a 1.97 ERA in Double-A, and he’s allowed a total of 12 homers in 314 innings as a minor leaguer.
Spring projection: 9-6, 3.64 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 121 K in 128 2/3 IP
Current projection: 4-2, 3.70 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 60 K in 65 IP
Kris Bryant - 3B Cubs - While Baez has floundered, Bryant has crushed Southern League pitching to the tune of a .323/.420/.600 line and 11 homers in 155 at-bats. He has, however, struck out 51 times already. Also, it should be noted that he’s actually a year older than Baez and still playing at the lower level. Bryant, though, seems to be the more major league-ready player now, and he should eventually push Mike Olt to the outfield, whether it happens in the second half or next year. I think next year is the more likely scenario, but he has too much upside to be left out of the article.
Spring projection: .240/.302/.403, 5 HR, 16 R, 18 RBI, 2 SB in 154 AB
Current projection: .240/.310/.420, 5 HR, 14 R, 16 RBI, 2 SB in 140 AB
Eddie Butler & Jon Gray - SP Rockies - Colorado’s top two pitching prospects currently have 2.98 ERAs in Double-A, though Gray’s 38/7 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 IP is more impressive than Butler’s 31/12 mark in 51 1/3 IP. However, Tulsa has two guys with even better records in Daniel Winkler (1.48 ERA, 51/12 K/BB in 48 2/3 IP) and Tyler Anderson (2.48 ERA, 32/13 K/BB in 40 IP), giving the Drillers four of the six best pitchers in the league. As a result, there’s no banking on any single one of Colorado’s pitching prospects helping out in the second half. Gray is probably the best bet, but he’s still at least as likely not to see the majors until 2015.
Butler’s spring projection: 4-4, 4.11 ERA, 1.386 WHIP, 59 K in 65 2/3 IP
Butler’s current projection: 2-3, 4.40 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 35 K in 45 IP
Gray’s spring projection: 3-4, 4.37 ERA, 1.439 WHIP, 45 K in 57 2/3 IP
Gray’s current projection: 4-3, 3.90 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 52 K in 60 IP
Adam Duvall - 1B-3B Giants - When the Giants lost Brandon Belt for six weeks, calling up Duvall to play first or third seemed like a possibility. They went in another direction instead, but Duvall hasn’t let it get him down; he’s homered in six of his last 10 games for Triple-A Fresno and is now hitting .282/.350/.620 with 15 homers overall. So, the Giants might have to find room for him anyway, though with Sandoval’s play perking up some of late, it’s not necessarily a priority. At 25, Duvall has never been young for his leagues, and he wasn’t all that great while hitting .252/.320/.465 in Double-A last year. Still, he does have major league power and that’s always in demand in San Francisco.
Spring projection: .211/.270/.368, 2 HR, 6 R, 7 RBI, 0 SB in 57 AB
Current projection: .230/.290/.415, 8 HR, 23 R, 25 RBI, 1 SB in 190 AB
Maikel Franco - 3B Phillies - Cody Asche is hitting well of late, but it’s coming with lousy defense at third base. Franco has also gotten a whole lot better this month, following up a dreadful April (.172/.234/.253) by hitting .338/.427/.523 in his last 16 games. Defensively, his reputation is worse than Asche’s, though the results aren’t all that different. Offensively, his potential blows Asche’s out of the water. There’s obviously not going to be any pressure on the Phillies to make a change while Asche is producing, but once Asche cools off, it’ll be hard to resist the temptation to take a look at the organization’s No. 1 prospect.
Spring projection: .264/.305/.443, 12 HR, 34 R, 43 RBI, 1 SB in 296 AB
Current projection: .260/.310/.415, 7 HR, 25 R, 30 RBI, 1 SB in 220 AB
Alex Guerrero - 2B Dodgers - So much for second base being a problem area for the Dodgers. Dee Gordon has been a revelation, and all Guerrero has done is hit .333/.386/.619 with seven homers in 30 games for Triple-A Albuquerque. The Dodgers have little reason to promote Guerrero now, but they should eventually call him up to start against lefties; he’s hit .378/.410/.649 against southpaws, with as many homers (three) as strikeouts in 37 at-bats. A larger role won’t come unless Gordon falls way off, and while Guerrero could be an option at third base starting in 2015, he’s yet to play the position this season.
Spring projection: .240/.306/.405, 13 HR, 40 R, 46 RBI, 1 SB in 346 AB
Current projection: .250/.300/.430, 7 HR, 20 R, 25 RBI, 1 SB in 170 AB
Andrew Heaney - SP Marlins - With Jose Fernandez out for the year, a Heaney promotion come mid-June is looking quite a bit more likely. The 2012 first-round pick has been remarkably solid in Double-A, posting a 2.35 ERA and amassing a 52/13 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings for Jacksonville. While a stint in Triple-A is a possibility, the Marlins have never been shy about jumping guys from Double-A to the majors, and Heaney, who turns 23 next month, seems quite capable of making that leap with his 92-95 mph fastball, slider and changeup.
Spring projection: 6-7, 3.98 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, 80 K in 106 1/3 IP
Current projection: 7-7, 3.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 95 K in 125 IP
Taylor Hill - SP Nationals - The least known player on this list, Hill has been one of the best performers this year, going 5-1 with a 1.99 ERA and a 41/7 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings for Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals have Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan as experienced rotation depth, so they might get through the whole season without having to turn to Hill or another minor leaguer. Still, if they do need Hill at some point, he’d be worth grabbing in NL-only leagues at least. He’s not someone who is going to blossom into a top-of-the-rotation guy, but he throws strikes with an 89-92 mph fastball and cutter and he should always handle righties well.
Spring projection: N/A
Current projection: 3-2, 4.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 30 K in 45 IP
Tommy La Stella - 2B Braves - La Stella isn’t all that much of a fantasy prospect because of his lack of power and modest steal ability, but he might be the Braves’ best option at second base right now. He has slumped some of late, leaving him at .281/.370/.331 in 139 at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett. Last year, he hit a more impressive .343/.422/.473 in 283 at-bats in Double-A. Defensively, he should be an upgrade on Uggla, but still probably a bit below average at second base, something that might prevent him from becoming a long-term regular. The Braves will have to consider giving him a try anyway as bad as Uggla has been.
Spring projection: .270/.347/.358, 2 HR, 25 R, 15 RBI, 3 SB in 215 AB
Current projection: .260/.340/.330, 2 HR, 25 R, 15 RBI, 2 SB in 230 AB
Jimmy Nelson - SP Brewers - The Brewers haven’t needed a sixth starter yet. It was supposed to be Tyler Thornburg’s role, but he’s been so strong as a reliever that leaving him there and trying either Nelson or Mike Fiers when needed would seem to be a better option. Nelson, the team’s top pitching prospect, has been every bit as good as hoped in Triple-A, going 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA and a 53/16 K/BB in 51 IP. It’s Fiers who has been the big surprise; nearly written off after a disastrous 2013 season, he has a 2.01 ERA and a 72/7 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings as Nelson’s teammate. That’s 18 more strikeouts than anyone else in the PCL. That probably puts Fiers first in line for the job if a Brewers starter gets hurt in the near future. Nelson, though, could overtake him later.
Spring projection: 5-5, 4.14 ERA, 1.358 WHIP, 82 K in 91 1/3 IP
Current projection: 5-4, 4.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 75 K in 80 IP
Joc Pederson - OF Dodgers - If Pederson played for practically any other team, he’d be getting as much attention as Gregory Polanco and Oscar Taveras right now. The Dodgers, though, just don’t have any room for him behind Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, and even if a spot opens up later, it wouldn’t necessarily make him anything more than a fourth outfielder. Pederson is still one tier down from Polanco and Taveras as a prospect anyway, though he has been huge this year. He’s hitting .355/.465/.658 overall in Triple-A, including a monstrous .402/.516/.765 against righties. The excellent offensive environment at Albuquerque is helping out there, but he still has a 1.040 OPS in road games (1.211 at home).
Spring projection: .243/.325/.402, 4 HR, 15 R, 14 RBI, 4 SB in 107 AB
Current projection: .250/.340/.430, 5 HR, 15 R, 18 RBI, 4 SB in 110 AB
Gregory Polanco - OF Pirates - There’s no doubt that Polanco would be in the majors already if not for the Super Two factor. As is, the Pirates will try to hold off for another three weeks or so. Polanco isn’t making it easy: he’s hitting .373/.447/.612 for Triple-A Indianapolis in May after hitting .400/.457/.632 in April. He’s even excelling in lefty-lefty matchups, hitting .373/.458/.471. His 1.076 OPS leads in International League by 116 points, even though he’s five years younger than the circuit’s average player. He’s the best bet of anyone listed here to be a big asset in fantasy leagues for the final 3 1/2 months of the season.
Spring projection: .243/.304/.374, 5 HR, 26 R, 22 RBI, 11 SB in 206 AB
Current projection: .265/.325/.440, 12 HR, 45 R, 40 RBI, 16 SB in 310 AB
Noah Syndergaard - SP Mets - Another team probably would have sent the 21-year-old Syndergaard back to Double-A this year rather than put him in the very harsh environment for pitchers at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Mets, though, decided he could handle it just fine, and they were right; he’s 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA and a 51/17 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings. He is being used carefully -- he’s averaging just 5.4 innings per start -- which should give the Mets the flexibility to bring him up in July if they’re still in contention. If they’re out of the race, it’d probably make more sense to keep him in reserve until 2015.
Spring projection: 2-3, 3.83 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 48 K in 51 2/3 IP
Current projection: 4-3, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 70 K in 70 IP
Oscar Taveras - OF Cardinals - Primarily a left fielder early on this season, Taveras has now made six of his last seven outfield starts in center (with two games as a DH mixed in), as the Cardinals have gotten more aggressive with him and the ankle injury that caused him to miss much of last year. If he were better in center, he would have been added to the major league roster weeks ago. He lacks range, though. He’s also cooled off offensively lately, hitting .242/.294/.419 in 62 at-bats this month. The Cardinals will eventually carve out a role for him, whether it’s as a full-time outfielder or as a role player, but there shouldn’t be any rush. While he projects a superstar down the line, he’s not a great fit for the team at this moment.
Spring projection: .282/.329/.458, 9 HR, 40 R, 39 RBI, 6 SB in 284 AB
Current projection: .280/.330/.460, 8 HR, 35 R, 35 RBI, 4 SB in 240 AB
Matt Wisler - SP Padres - Wisler earned a quick promotion this year after amassing a 2.10 ERA in six starts in Double-A, but he’s had a rough go of it in the PCL so go, giving up 16 earned runs and five homers over 11 1/3 innings in his first three starts. Fortunately, the Padres don’t need him yet anyway. The 21-year-old Wisler has No. 3-starter stuff with his low-90s fastball and slider, though with Petco supporting him, he rates as a superior fantasy prospect. He could debut in June or July.
Spring projection: 4-4, 3.76 ERA, 1.268 WHIP, 53 K in 64 2/3 IP
Current projection: 4-5, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 65 K in 80 IP
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