Each Thursday, Baseball America looks at the top fantasy callup options for the current season. Jon Singleton and Oscar Taveras are just the beginning of the June callups, and look for Gregory Polanco to follow soon.
1. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates
Season Totals: .355/.412/.550 (82-for-231), 45 R, 17 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 48 RBIs, 22 BB, 40 SO, 14-for-19 SB at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: Polanco’s recent move to the leadoff spot is the sort of experiment that portends a callup, but it won’t be Friday, despite Internet reports. General manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the recent move to leadoff was based on “(making) sure we didn’t ask him to do something at the major league level that he hasn’t done in a long time.”
Prognosis: As stated previously in this space, the reason Polanco remains stationed in the International League—which he leads in hits, extra-base hits, RBIs, runs and total bases—revolves around projections for Super Two arbitration cutoff dates. But even that won’t keep him from occupying right field in the majors’ most beautiful ballpark in the near future. When Polanco does get the call, expect more speed and all-around contributions than the raw power displays of Singleton, George Springer or Taveras.
2. Mookie Betts, 2b/cf, Red Sox
Season Totals: .353/.439/.554 (79-for-224), 58 R, 18 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 35 RBIs, 36 BB, 21 SO, 20-for-22 SB at Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.
Update: After terrifying Double-A pitchers during his scorching run at Portland, Betts earned a promotion to Triple-A on Tuesday and hit his first PawSox homer on Thursday.
Prognosis: Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told ESPN Boston that the organization decided to promote Betts because of “an obligation to challenge our young players.” He entered the season ranked as the No. 7 prospect in a deep Red Sox system, but after hitting .350 with power and speed for two months, while authoring a 66-game on-base streak, that will change.
3. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Season Totals: .337/.446/.625 (70-for-208), 45 R, 9 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 36 RBIs, 40 BB, 68 SO, 13-for-17 SB at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Update: Pederson struggled against lefthanders in 2013, hitting .200/.299/.269 at Double-A, but thus far he has tuned up Triple-A southpaws, going 22-for-76 (.289) with a .264 isolated slugging percentage—though a 32 percent strikeout rate suggests that might not always be the case. He has an advanced approach, the bat speed and the foot speed to contribute in all phases.
Prognosis: An injury to left fielder Carl Crawford could have cleared the way in L.A. for Pederson, but the Dodgers slid Matt Kemp to left and have installed Andre Ethier as the center fielder. If the Dodgers can’t find a place for Pederson to play in the majors—and he doesn’t have to go on the 40-man roster until this offseason—then they might opt to trade him and solve one of the team’s other issues.
4. Jon Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 5-3, 3.86, 53 2/3 IP, 47 H, 25 R, 23 ER, 6 HR, 10 BB, 46 SO at Double-A Tulsa.
Update: After allowing two runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts, Gray was hit hard (8 earned runs) in a loss to Frisco on May 29.
Prognosis: A desire to promote Gray’s big arm to the big leagues, combined with team need, could result in the Rockies bringing up the 2013 first-rounder as part of their bullpen. The Denver Post laid out a scenario in which Gray could be the team’s closer, supplanting LaTroy Hawkins and easing the big righthander into the majors. Gray still has maximum value as a starter, however, though gaining experience in the pen might not be a bad first step, especially with former Tulsa teammate Eddie Butler now in the rotation.
5. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
Season Totals: .223/.289/.344 (48-for-215), 26 R, 12 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 22 RBIs, 18 BB, 38 SO, 1-for-1 SB at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Update: Franco has struggled in the past week, going 2-for-18, but he had a productive May (.282/.358/.445) and showed improved plate awareness (15 strikeouts, 12 walks).
Prognosis: With big league third baseman Cody Asche on the disabled list, a callup for Franco could be near, though general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has tempered enthusiasm by saying Franco is “not really ready to be a big leaguer yet.” He projects to have plus power with average to above-average defense at third and a strong arm.
6. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Season Totals 3-2, 3.65, 56 2/3 IP, 47 H, 28 R, 23 ER, 4 HR, 27 BB, 67 SO at Triple-A Rochester.
Update: After three solid starts, Meyer was hit around a bit by Gwinnett on June 2. His SO/BB ratio eroded a bit in May (1.8) compared to April (3.2).
Prognosis: While Twins starters haven’t been terrible lately, they still have the second-highest ERA in the majors (4.87) this season. Eventually, Meyer could be the type of power No. 1 starter the Twins need to complement their current strike-throwing rotation pieces, but even with an upper-90s heater and a power curve, that might not come to fruition in 2014.
7. Javier Baez, ss/3b, Cubs
Season Totals: .219/.280/.408 (37-for-169), 23 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 25 RBIs, 12 BB, 65 SO, 7-for-7 SB at Triple-A Iowa.
Update: A putrid April dissolved into an improved May which ended with a bang. Baez hit .375/.383/.732 with four homers and eight doubles during his final 15 games in May. However, the strikeout-to-walk ratio still clocked in at 9-to-1.
Prognosis: Manny’s mentee? Since Manny Ramirez arrived in Iowa as a player/coach, Baez has experienced a turnaround, but the Cubs have been careful to say they want to see how Baez performs under the duress of having to make adjustments. Also, a lopsided strikeout-to-walk ratio clearly indicates problems with zone awareness.
8. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
Season Totals: 6-2, 2.55, 70.2 IP, 64 H, 23 R, 20 ER, 3 HR, 14 BB, 70 SO at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.
Update: After two spectacular starts at Triple-A, Heaney was hit hard on Sunday, allowing 11 hits in six innings, though his defense didn’t help. In the bigger picture, he has walked one against 18 strikeouts with New Orleans.
Prognosis: The Marlins have been aggressive with promotions (prospect Anthony DeSclafani temporarily replaced Jose Fernandez, Heaney to Triple-A), and another one for Heaney is almost certain before the end of the season. He has above-average command and control of three pitches and he has shown strides in all aspects of his game.
9. Jimmy Nelson, rhp, Brewers
Season Totals: 6-1, 1.64, 65 2/3 IP, 40 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 1 HR, 19 BB, 69 SO
Update: Nelson is coming off arguably his best minor league performance, striking out a season-best 11 on May 31.
Prognosis: As Matt Eddy pointed out in the May all-prospect team, Brewers starters have the seventh-best ERA (3.39) in baseball to this point, which explains how their top prospect has spent virtually all season in the Pacific Coast League. But his improved command of the zone at Nashville (3.6 SO/BB ratio, 0.90 WHIP) indicates he could be nearing a lengthy big league stay.
10. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners
Season Totals: 1-1, 3.77, 14 1/3 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 24 SO at high Class A High Desert, Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Tacoma.
Update: Working his way back from an impingement in his throwing shoulder, Walker made his first start at Tacoma and struggled, giving up two homers in three innings.
Prognosis: Walker is building up endurance, but with Tacoma he showed a fastball that sat in low 90s and flashed 95 mph. While he struggled, his fastball looked crisp and he has a 4.0 SO/BB ratio. He could be in Seattle’s rotation by the end of the month if he continues to progress, though what kind of workload can realistically be expected for a young, rookie starter coming off shoulder trouble?