Every week, Baseball America looks at the top fantasy call-up options for the current season.
1. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates
Season Totals: .373/.440/.613 (56-for-150), 28 R, 11 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 35 RBIs, 17 BB, 29 SO, 8-for-12 SB at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: The perfect storm for Polanco’s Pittsburgh arrival appeared to happen in the past week. Pittsburgh went into Sunday night’s prime time game against the Cardinals with an ailing Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. Instead of bringing up Polanco, they promoted fellow Indianapolis outfielder Jaff Decker (who was hitting .238/.339/.356 in Indianapolis). In response to the Polanco outcry, general manager Neal Huntington and team president Frank Coonelly spoke to MLB.com. There’s a simple test that will determine whether what Huntington and Coonelly said is true or spin. If Polanco arrives in Pittsburgh just after the deadline to ensure he avoids Super Two arbitration status (expected to be sometime in mid-June), then the talk of needing development time and more at-bats is simply double-speak to avoid a grievance. If he ends up spending all of June and part of July in Triple-A working on his game, then Coonelly and Huntington were being truthful.
Prognosis: He’s cooled down recently, but Polanco still leads the International League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, extra base hits, hits, total bases, runs scored and triples. Do you really think that Polanco is going to be in Indianapolis in July? We’re now reaching the final month of Polanco’s time in Triple-A. Prepare accordingly.
2. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
Season Totals: .307/.359/.507 (43-for-140), 24 R, 11 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 29 RBIs, 11 BB, 21 SO, 1-for-2 SB at Triple-A Memphis.
Update: After not playing center field at all in the first two weeks of the season and only sporadically in the first month of the season, Taveras has now played center field in four of Memphis’ past six games, which could point to him arriving in the majors before too long.
Prognosis: The Cardinals are 20-20 roughly a quarter of the way through the 2014 season. They are starting to make noise that Allen Craig or Matt Adams could be had in a trade, which would open up a spot for Taveras in right field. They also could hold their nose, live with Taveras’ sub-par defense in center field and bring him up to replace Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. Bourjos has started five of the Cardinals’ past six games after starting only one of the previous six and he’s hitting .350/.409/.650 over that stretch, so the pressure to bring Taveras up has lessened. There is still no clear spot for Taveras at the moment, but the longer the Cardinals’ remain stuck at .500, the more St. Louis may be willing to shake things up.
3. Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets
Season Totals: 4-2, 3.92, 8 GS, 44 IP, 48 H, 24 R, 19 ER, 4 HR, 15 BB, 46 SO at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Update: Las Vegas’ rotation got a lot lonelier as Syndergaard watched Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom travel cross country to join the big league club. He has to stay in Las Vegas for now, but he did strike out a season-high 10 with no walks in his most recent outing. Maybe he threw too many strikes (74 in 104 pitches), as he gave up eight hits as well to Tacoma in six innings.
Prognosis: Syndergaard may be the last of the big three in Las Vegas to head to New York, but he is the best. Montero and deGrom are potentially useful fantasy pickups, but Syndergaard is much more valuable in the short and long-term once he arrives. By 2015, the Mets could post an impressive rotation of Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Syndergaard and either Montero or deGrom or Dillon Gee.
4. Jon Singleton, 1b, Astros
Season Totals: .293/.401/.629 (41-for-140), 29 R, 41 H, 9 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 34 RBIs, 26 BB, 37 SO, 0-for-1 SB at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Update: After striking out 31 times in 99 at-bats in April, Singleton has struck out only six times in 41 at-bats this month while upping his walk rate.
Prognosis: Singleton is oh-so-close to giving the Astros a first baseman that can bat in the middle of the order without invoking laughter from the opposing dugout. Current Astros first basemen Jesus Guzman (.211/.259/.329) and Marc Krauss (.188/.309/.338) should find themselves out of a regular job before long.
5. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Indians
Season Totals: 4-1, 2.15, 7 GS, 1 CG, 46 IP, 36 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 5 HR, 14 BB, 44 SO at Triple-A Columbus.
Update: We are witnessing the best stretch Bauer has had as a pro, but he did have his first hiccup of the season with a rough outing at Rochester (5.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 4 HR). He’s pitching with excellent velocity, improved control (better than 60 percent strikes in all eight starts this year) and effective secondary stuff.
Prognosis: It’s only a matter of time before Cleveland sees what they’ve got in Bauer in a extended stretch of big league time. As we mentioned in a What To Expect this week, Bauer’s love of the up-in-the-zone fastball makes him prone to having days where he gives up some home runs, but the overall package is a pitcher who can succeed in the big leagues.
6. Tommy La Stella, 2b, Braves
Season Totals: .289/.379/.328 (37-for-128), 15 R, 5 2B, 0 HR, 17 RBIs, 19 BB, 12 SO, 1-for-2 SB at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Update: Just at the point that Dan Uggla lost the starting second base job in Atlanta, La Stella hit a cold streak. He’s posted a .396 on-base percentage this month, but he’s hitting only .244 with a .317 slugging percentage this month.
Prognosis: La Stella can hit for average, but his surprising lack of pop this spring gives the Braves a reason to hold off on bringing him up. La Stella is a passable defender at best at second, so if he isn’t providing at least some pop (note the .328 slugging percentage), he’s not going to be all that useful unless big league pitchers get tired of watching him foul off two-strike pitches and walk him. For fantasy owners, don’t expect help in more than runs scored and batting average categories.
7. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 3-2, 3.22, 7 GS, 36 IP, 32 H, 15 R, 13 ER, 3 HR, 5 BB, 34 SO at Double-A Tulsa.
Update: The Rockies have been very careful with Gray. He’s thrown no more than 92 pitches in any outing, has thrown 88 or less in all but one of his seven starts and he’s often kept his dominating slider on ice as he works on his fastball and changeup command.
Prognosis: Scouts who saw Gray pitch last year in college thought he could move quickly. Nothing has changed. There’s no reason Gray couldn’t pitch in Colorado right now if the need arose.
8. Jimmy Nelson, rhp, Brewers
Season Totals: 4-1, 1.76, 8 GS, 51 IP, 33 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 1 HR, 16 BB, 53 SO at Triple-A Nashville.
Update: Nelson has worked at least six innings in all eight starts this year, he’s yet to allow more than three earned runs in any start and he’s allowed one earned run or less in five of his eight starts. He’s been a picture of consistency, filling the zone with lots of strikes (62 percent or better in every start this year).
Prognosis: Nelson works his way onto the list because he is a very viable option to fill in if anyone from the surprisingly strong Brewers rotation falters. Nelson isn’t a sure bet to get a call-up if the need arises, as big league vet Mike Fiers has been great (6-1, 1.59 start at Triple-A) with an even better 64-6 strikeout-to-walk mark, but Nelson has better pure stuff.
9. Mookie Betts, 2b, Red Sox
Season Totals: .401/.467/.619 (59-for-147), 44 R, 12 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 24 RBIs, 20 BB, 13 SO, 18-for-21 SB at Double-A Portland.
Update: It’s been 70 games since Betts failed to reach base. Usually our Mookie Meter is pegged at 2, 3 or 4 as Betts generally gets on base more than once a game. In 35 games this year, Betts has reached base twice or more 25 times. He has 12 games this year where he’s reached base three or more times. From a fantasy perspective, Betts is also an amazingly productive and efficient basestealer. After stealing a career-high 38 bags last year, he’s on pace to steal 80 this year. For his career, he has 77 steals in 88 attempts.
Prognosis: The only factor keeping Betts from ranking higher on this list is the lack of a clear spot for him to play in Boston. There’s no real reason to break up the productive double-play duo of him and Deven Marrero in Portland to send Betts to Triple-A, but if Dustin Pedroia did go down with an injury, Boston would have to consider bringing up Betts.
10. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Season Totals: .359/.477/.648 (51-for-142), 33 R, 8 2B, 11 HR, 22 RBIs, 32 BB, 45 SO, 11-for-14 SB at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Update: He plays on the West Coast, so he’s putting up his regular 2-for-5 nights often after many people on the East Coast are in bed, but Pederson has been consistently outstanding. Yes, he’s slowed down, but no one was going to hit .398/.504/.663 for the full season like Pederson did in April. His .273/.418/.614 May is quite acceptable.
Prognosis: Like Betts, Pederson is ranked this low only because it will require an act of God to get him into the Dodgers lineup. Yasiel Puig is one of the best hitters in baseball, Matt Kemp has been very solid since he returned and Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier have been adequate. It would take a blockbuster of a trade to clear a spot for Pederson, but Los Angeles needs to be thinking about how to get him into its lineup by the start of next season. For this year at the worst, he’s worthy of a late-season callup to help as a bench outfielder in September and the playoffs.