With elbows exploding across baseball, the latest news that Archie Bradley is going on the disabled list with elbow discomfort is troubling. He isn’t scheduled for Tommy John surgery, and the Diamondbacks have said he’s expected to come back after a few weeks, but putting the word “minor” in front of an elbow or shoulder injury for a pitcher is a bit of an oxymoron—especially if we’re talking about the ability of a pitcher to help a team this year.
Bradley entered the season as the best pitching prospect in the minors, but in his last three starts he allowed 12 runs in 12 1/3 innings. He’s still a premium prospect, but given his current injury and that his command wasn’t sharp enough to merit a major league callup before his elbow started barking, that’s enough for me to drop him off this list of impact fantasy prospects for 2014.
1. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates
Season Totals: .400/.457/.632 in 95 at-bats, 21 R, 6 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 25 RBIs, 9 BB, 16 SO, 4-for-8 SB at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: It’s hard for Polanco’s stock to go much higher, but he continues to exceed lofty expectations. He has continued to build upon a dominant winter ball showing in the Dominican League by demolishing Triple-A pitching, with nothing left to prove at this level.
Prognosis: The Pirates can publicly talk all they want about bringing Polanco up to the big leagues once he’s “refined,” but it’s all complete nonsense. By mid-June, once the (projected) Super Two arbitration cutoff date has passed, he will magically become major league ready, just like Wil Myers was with the Rays in 2013.
That’s not to say the Pirates are doing the wrong thing by keeping Polanco down, but let’s not pretend that he needs to be in Triple-A because he needs to work on things. Every player, whether it’s Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen or anyone else, has parts of their game that are continually a work in progress. Polanco is ready now, represents a significant upgrade over the Pirates’ incumbent right-field options and should be a fantasy monster with immediate impact potential. You’re just going to have to wait another six weeks or so to see him in Pittsburgh.
2. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
Season Totals: .322/.378/.544 in 90 at-bats, 15 R, 5 2B, 5 HR, 17 RBIs, 7 BB, 10 SO, 1-for-2 SB at Triple-A Memphis.
Update: A healthy Oscar Taveras is a productive Oscar Taveras. Riding a 14-game hitting streak, he has a .922 OPS in Triple-A, something he could replicate once he gets an opportunity in St. Louis.
Prognosis: When Taveras will get the chance to be an everyday player in St. Louis isn’t clear, but he’s going to force his way up as long as he keeps hitting like this and stays healthy. Whether he can stay healthy is a legitimate question, since that’s one of his few weaknesses. But when he’s on the field, Taveras is one of the most dangerous offensive prospects in the game in terms of his potential to hit for batting average and power.
3. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Indians
Season Totals: 3-0, 1.40, 25.2 IP, 18 H, 4 R, 1 HR, 28 SO, 7 BB at Triple-A Columbus
Update: Bauer rattled off another productive Triple-A start this week, holding Norfolk to two runs over seven innings with seven strikeouts and one walk.
Prognosis: With his fastball back to 93-96 mph, two plus breaking pitches and an approach that has him attacking the strike zone early to throw first-pitch strikes instead of falling behind hitters, Bauer is back to being the potential frontline starter he looked like coming out of UCLA. He’s ready to get back to Cleveland and shouldn’t be in Triple-A much longer.
4. Marcus Stroman, rhp, Blue Jays
Season Totals: 2-2, 1.69, 26.2 IP, 22 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 36 SO, 7 BB at Triple-A Buffalo.
Update: Stroman had his best start of the year on Tuesday, throwing six scoreless, no-hit innings against Louisville with 10 strikeouts and one walk. As Vince Lara-Cinisomo explained, Stroman could be in Toronto very, very soon.
Prognosis: This isn’t Disney World. It doesn’t matter how tall or short Stroman may be—he has the stuff, delivery and command to be a starter who pitches at the front of Toronto’s rotation. His ability to spot his fastball and knack for missing barrels should help him have a smooth transition while racking up plenty of strikeouts.
5. Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets
Season Totals: 4-2, 3.94, 32 IP, 33 H, 18 R, 14 ER, 3 HR, 28 SO, 12 BB at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Update: Five of Syndergaard’s six starts this year have come in hitter-friendly Las Vegas, where his numbers have been pedestrian at best. He started to rectify that yesterday, throwing seven innings while allowing only one run (it was unearned) with seven strikeouts and two walks against Reno.
Prognosis: While a promotion for Stroman is obvious based upon his stuff and performance, Syndergaard hasn’t done anything yet this year to merit any clamoring for him to be brought up immediately. Las Vegas isn’t an easy place to pitch, but Syndergaard has the stuff, command and aptitude to figure it out quickly. His mediocre April should just be a temporary bump in the road, with yesterday’s outing more likely a sign of what to expect going forward.
6. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Season Totals: .398/.504/.663 in 98 at-bats, 22 R, 8 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBIs, 21 BB, 29 SO, 9-for-10 SB at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Update: Back in Albuquerque the last three days, Pederson has homered, been on base 11 times in his last 16 plate appearances and stolen three bases in three tries. He’s fifth in the minors in OPS and fourth in on-base percentage.
Prognosis: Pederson is an exciting prospect both for real-world and fantasy purposes, but he’s still just as blocked as ever given the outfielders ahead of him in Los Angeles. Albuquerque puts a bunch of air into anyone’s numbers, but Pederson is hitting .327/.431/.582 in 15 road games, though he does legitimately need to improve against lefthanders.
7. Javier Baez, ss, Cubs
Season Totals: .172/.238/.379 in 58 at-bats, 8 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBIs, 4 BB, 22 SO at Triple-A Iowa.
Update: After a stellar (and meaningless) spring training, Baez has been terrible to start the year. he still is an elite prospect, but his 22 strikeouts in 63 plate appearances are troubling.
Prognosis: Baez has made strides with his hitting approach since signing, but he’s still learning to lay off pitchers’ pitches and harness a more selectively aggressive approach. Even when he mis-hits balls, they can go out of the park, which in some ways is both a gift and a curse now that he’s facing pitchers more adept at exploiting his holes. In the long term, he will make those adjustments, but it’s not a surprise to see him needing time to adapt along the way.
8. Eddie Butler, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 1-2, 2.87, 31.1 IP, 25 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 25 SO, 7 BB at Double-A Tulsa.
Update: Butler has been steady every time out, allowing no more than two runs in four of his five starts. He had his deepest outing of the year on Saturday, going 7 2/3 innings with two runs, one walk and four strikeouts.
Prognosis: Butler now has 11 Double-A starts under his belt, a stretch of 59 innings and a 1.83 ERA. He might get a little more time in the Texas League, but he’s ready for a new challenge and shouldn’t be there much longer. Seeing him in Colorado before the all-star break is a definite possibility.
9. Jon Singleton, 1b, Astros
Season Totals: .293/.398/.646 in 99 at-bats, 23 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 27 RBIs, 18 BB, 31 SO, 0-for-1 SB at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Update: Singleton leads the Pacific Coast League with nine home runs, is tied for third with 18 walks and ranks among the top 10 in slugging and OPS.
Prognosis: After a challenging 2013 season, Singleton has rebounded in 2014, hitting for power and crushing lefthanders in the season’s first month. He’s a patient hitter with a good approach and balance at the plate, though if there’s a red flag, it’s that Singleton has struck out in 26 percent of his plate appearances. That’s a little elevated for comfort, but he has the natural hitting attributes to cut down on that. Given how terrible Houston’s major league first basemen have been, no one really stands in his way, so a June callup seems likely.
10. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 2-2, 3.80, 23.2 IP, 21 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 2 HR, 25 SO, 4 BB at Double-A Tulsa.
Update: Gray faced nine batters, recorded two outs and gave up six runs in his second start of the year on April 11. Since then, he has looked like the potential ace the Rockies drafted third overall last year, with only one run allowed in his last 18 innings over three starts.
Prognosis: After an early hiccup, Gray is back on track. He’s operating in the mid-90s, touching higher and putting hitters away with an outstanding slider. He’s walked just four of the 95 batters he’s faced and has a track record of filling up the strike zone, so even though he’s less than a year removed from his junior year at Oklahoma, Gray is polished enough to be in Colorado by the second half of the season if the Rockies are willing to push him.