Every week, Baseball America looks at the top fantasy call-up options for the current season.
1. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates
Season Totals: .374/.435/.598 (65-for-174), 31 R, 14 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 39 RBIs, 18 BB, 35 SO, 10-for-14 SB at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: Outside of not hitting a home run in the past week, Polanco remains the minor leaguer most deserving of major league meal money. The tooled-up right fielder was 9-for-26 with three doubles this week. Some other metrics that indicate his readiness for the bigs are his ability to hit in key situations. He’s hitting .471 with runners in scoring position and .333 when behind in the count, suggesting he’s comfortable when batters might commonly be at a disadvantage or when pitchers bear down.
Prognosis: By delaying Polanco’s arrival at beautiful PNC Park until mid-June or later, the Pirates are saving an estimated $15 million in future salaries, according to ESPN’s David Schoenfield. Of course, the team will not acknowledge that, fearing the potential of a grievance. Still, Polanco’s SO/BB totals suggest he might struggle with zone discipline when facing tougher competition. For his part, Polanco is not concerned about his immediate future. “I think I’m ready to play whenever they put me,” he told a Pittsburgh TV station. “So, I just have to keep working and see what happens later.”
2. Jimmy Nelson, rhp, Brewers
Season Totals: 5-1, 1.71, 9 GS, 58 IP, 37 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 1 HR, 17 BB, 58 SO at Triple-A Nashville.
Update: Nelson has gotten stronger with each start, allowing just one run and six hits in his past 13 innings. Now that he’s cut down on his walks, as J.J. Cooper wrote earlier this week, he’s a viable, middle-of-the-rotation big league starter right now.
Prognosis: If the Brewers sustain a rotation injury, Nelson would almost certainly get the call, despite teammate Mike Fiers‘ success. With a heavy fastball that keeps the ball in the park, improved control and an increased ability to get lefties out, Nelson is one of the better starting pitching prospects to arrive this summer when he does get the call.
3. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Season Totals: .351/.454/.638 (61-for-174), 42 R, 8 2B, 14 HR, 29 RBIs, 33 BB, 56 SO, 13-for-17 SB at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Update: Another tremendous week for Pederson with three home runs and seven RBIs. The negative has been 11 strikeouts to just one walk in that time. Still, we’re picking nits.
Prognosis: We’ve ranked Pederson low because of the crowded house that is the Dodgers outfield. But his superb season cannot be overlooked because of something out of his control. Pederson is a rare power-speed threat who, when the Dodgers tire of their see-saw start, would get the call if someone shakes out from the Puig-Kemp-Ethier-Crawford scenario.
4. Jon Singleton, 1b, Astros
Season Totals: .269/.398/.563 (44-for-160), 32 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 35 RBIs, 35 BB, 46 SO, 0-for-1 SB at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Update: It’s been a lousy past seven days for Singleton (2-for-16) with just two singles, but he did gather eight walks against seven strikeouts.
Prognosis: The slugger appeared on the verge of joining George Springer at Minute Maid Park, but a poor week might have slowed his timetable a bit, as general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Houston Chronicle that seeing confidence from Singleton was a key part of the timing. Still, the lack of production at first base combined with the Astros’ better play of late (they’ve won five of seven) could create an opportunity. Singleton hasn’t gotten a whole lot of hittable pitches recently, so the Astros moved him to the No. 2 spot in the Oklahoma City lineup to see if that would help.
5. Allen Webster, rhp, Red Sox
Season Totals: 2-2, 2.47, 10 GS, 54.2 IP, 47 H, 16 R, 15 ER, 2 HR, 23 BB, 39 SO at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Update: Webster has allowed just three runs in his past 10.2 IP with 13 strikeouts in that time, but he’s also walked five, continuing his season-long issues with command (3.8 BB/9). As BA correspondent Alex Speier wrote, Webster’s ERA may be a bit of a mirage, given that he’s holding opponents to a .128 average with runners in scoring position.
Prognosis: The injury to Felix Doubront has Webster, along with Brandon Workman, on alert. Webster struggled mightily in a big league audition in 2013 (1-2, 8.60, 23/18 20/BB ratio in 7 GS), but, as Speier noted, the Red Sox regard that experience as an “academic exercise.”
6. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
Season Totals: .313/.361/.512 (52-for-166), 27 R, 13 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 34 RBIs, 12 BB, 22 SO, 1-for-2 SB at Triple-A Memphis.
Update: After a slow start to the week, Taveras has eight hits in his past three games.
Prognosis: Taveras’ dilemma is similar to that of Pederson. The Cards do have a crowded outfield, as evidenced by the recent demotion of Randal Grichuk—who himself is raking at Memphis—for the purpose of playing time, so a spot for Taveras might simply not exist. General manager John Mozeliak told insidestl.com, “From a pure baseball standpoint, he could play in the big leagues.” The Cardinals have said Taveras needs to continue to work to be proficient in center field. But it’s clear his time is nearing.
7. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 4-2, 2.98, 8 GS, 42.1 IP, 34 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 3 HR, 7 BB, 38 SO at Double-A Tulsa.
Update: Gray’s trademark command has been apparent this season with a 5.43 SO/BB ratio. He comes off a six-inning, two-hit effort against Northwest Arkansas.
Prognosis: The Rockies have been careful with Gray, with his longest outing this season 6.2 IP and his most batters faced in one start 25. But the team’s surprisingly strong start combined with holes in the rotation lead to speculation that a callup of the advanced Gray or perhaps teammate Eddie Butler could be near. The Rockies are in the bottom third in baseball in starter ERA (4.28) yet still have the second-best run differential in baseball, meaning they are bashing opponents. Gray could benefit from—and be protected by—an offense like that.
8. Mookie Betts, 2b, Red Sox
Season Totals: .368/.440/.575 (64-for-174), 47 R, 16 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 27 RBIs, 23 BB, 14 SO, 19-for-22 SB at Double-A Portland.
Update: The first real downturn for Betts (8-for-32) in the past week has coincided with him moving off of second base, at least for a few games. In an effort to evaluate his versatility—as well as viability of a callup—Betts played four games in center field and the Red Sox did not rule out trying him at one of the corner outfielder spots, Alex Speier reported. He did have a scary moment Wednesday, as Josh Norris noted.
Prognosis: The surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew complicates matters somewhat for Betts. Not that shortstop is a viable position for Mookie, but the domino effect—Xander Bogaerts moving to third—eliminates one possible landing spot. If Betts proves to be merely efficient in the outfield, particular left field, he could find himself playing caroms off the Green Monster in July.
9. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
Season Totals: 4-2, 2.35, 8 GS, 53.2 IP, 45 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 2 HR, 13 BB, 52 SO at Double-A Jacksonville.
Update: Heaney was impressive in what turned out to be his final Double-A start. In a season-best 7 2/3 innings, he struck out eight, walked one and gave up eight hits and two runs. He was slated to start Thursday with Triple-A New Orleans.
Prognosis: The 6-foot-2, 188-pound lefthander’s fastball has been above average with late life, sitting a comfy 91-92 and touching 96. One Marlins executive said the team is “very excited about his future,” and vice president of player development Marty Scott told the New Orleans Advocate that the team hopes Heaney can make the jump at some point this season.
10. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
Season Totals: .235/.315/.370 (38-for-162), 23 R, 10 2B, 4 HR, 18 RBIs, 17 BB, 29 SO, 1-for-1 SB at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Update: Franco is hitting as expected in May (.307/.402/.507) after a putrid April. He’s walking more (11/11 SO/BB ratio), showing improved zone discipline.
Prognosis: The Phillies have at least had internal discussions about moving third baseman Cody Asche to left field, clearing the way for Franco. The timing might be more about 2015, but if Franco continues to show plate awareness, a callup could come sooner.
Alex Guerrero, 2b, Dodgers
Season Totals: .376/.417/.735 (44-for-117), 20 R, 6 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 29 RBIs, 6 BB, 18 SO, 1-for-1 SB at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Update: Well, you might have heard about Guerrero’s left ear ending up as a snack for Miguel Olivo. That could have eliminated Guerrero from contention in this space, simply because he might miss five weeks of action. But had this incident not taken place, Guerrero very have possibly been called up instead of Erisbel Arruebarrena. In Guerrero’s past six games, he had six homers and 11 RBIs.
Prognosis: Should Guerrero return to action quickly (which isn’t a sure bet), he could replace Arruebarrena—although it is fun to think about Vin Scully saying Arruebarrena. His bat is undeniably major league caliber, Ned Colletti said, with his defensive at second base still a work in progress.