Each Thursday, Baseball America looks at the top fantasy call-up options for this season.
1. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Update: Pederson, who homered in the Triple-A all-star game in Durham, is 10-for-31 in his past 10 games with three homers, five stolen bases and 11 walks against nine strikeouts, a promising development in a season with 107 whiffs.
Prognosis: Despite what appears to be a crowded outfield, the Dodgers have no ideal defensive center fielder. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are or would be below-average defenders in that position, while Yasiel Puig failed in a 2013 experiment. Pederson not only has a 1.039 OPS—which is inflated by park and league contexts—but he has also improved as a center fielder, getting better jumps on the ball and showing a solid-average arm. Still, Dodgers vice president of player development De Jon Watson told the examiner.com that Pederson still needs to work on his defense, as well as other “areas of his game where there's still room for growth."
2. Javier Baez, 2b/ss, Cubs
Season Totals: .253/.316/.471 (86-for-340), 53 R, 22 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 30 BB, 114 SO, 16-for-24 SB at Triple-A Iowa.
Update: Baez has gone a long way toward erasing a brutal first two months with a sizzling July (.951 OPS).
Prognosis: Rival scouts and the Cubs remain enamored of Baez’s special bat speed and power, which graded a 75 on the 20-80 scout scale. Despite a slow start in 2014—including 63 strikeouts in his first 166 at-bats—he has rebounded of late, and through July 23 has 16 homers. The Cubs say his recent move to second base does not portend a callup, but it certainly doesn’t hurt his chances. He nearly made the team out of spring training at second base.
3. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Red Sox
Season Totals: 11-4, 2.54, 113 IP, 85 H, 37 R, 32 ER, 6 HR, 47 BB, 95 SO at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Update: After a dominant June, the 6-foot-7 righthander has allowed just two runs in his past 11 2/3 innings.
Prognosis: Ranaudo says he has one goal: reach the major leagues in 2014. Improved command of his 92-94 mph fastball—not to mention that downward plane—has helped stifle batters to a .208 average. But his 47 walks indicate his control still needs work. One evaluator has been impressed with the former Louisiana State ace, calling him the “dominant package when clicking” and calling him a potential No. 2 or 3 starter.
4. Nick Kingham, rhp, Pirates
Season Totals: 5-8, 2.64, 116 IP, 104 H, 47 R, 34 ER, 4 HR, 31 BB, 87 SO at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: Kingham gave up his first homer since being bumped to Triple-A, but he got the win despite giving up four runs over six innings against Columbus on July 19.
Prognosis: With a fastball that bumps the mid-90s and a mix of three potential above-average pitches, including a solid curveball and changeup, Kingham has put himself in a position for a promotion. He has shut down righthanders (.181 average) and made general manager Neal Huntington take notice. “Still got a ways to go, but a young guy we’re very excited about as a future major league starting pitcher,” the GM told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
5. Jon Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 9-4, 3.73, 99 IP, 87 H, 45 R, 41 ER, 9 HR, 29 BB, 91 SO at Double-A Tulsa
Update: After pitching 11 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run, the big righthander was touched for four runs and seven hits in five innings on July 22 against Springfield.
Prognosis: The Rockies are being careful with the former Sooners stud in his first exposure to full-season ball. He’s rarely exceeded five innings or 95 pitches and has performed well, averaging about a strikeout per inning. With Eddie Butler demoted, the Rockies do have a rotation void, and manager Walt Weiss acknowledged Gray’s got a shot. “He’s still in the picture this season,” Weiss told The Denver Post. “He’s making progress.” A rival evaluator called Gray a power arm with feel who should pile up the strikeouts as he gains endurance.
6. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
Season Totals: 7-3, 2.79, 81 IP, 75 H, 29 R, 25 ER, 4 HR, 16 BB, 83 SO at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.
Update: After a rough return to Triple-A, the 23-year-old lefty took a perfect game into the seventh inning on July 22, only to walk in the winning run in a 1-0 loss to Iowa.
Prognosis: Likened to a young Al Leiter, Heaney has the former big leaguer’s bulldog mentality. Though he went 0-3, 6.53 in four starts in the majors, he’s unbowed. “I’m not the first person to be humbled by the big leagues,” he told milb.com. “It’s just about having the confidence to getting myself back to square one and really just resetting myself.”
7. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
Season Totals: .232/.282/.364 (86-for-371), 42 R, 25 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 25 BB, 62 SO, 1-for-1 SB at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Update: After a putrid June, Franco is surging in July, posting a .912 OPS.
Prognosis: With the Phillies apparently in sell mode, Franco stands poised to get a shot in or before September. With Ryan Howard‘s struggles against lefthanders, Franco could platoon at first base or usurp Cody Asche at third. He said he’s not doing anything differently. “When (the Phillies) make the decision to bring me up, I’ll be ready,” Franco told Philly.com. “I’ll be ready for everything. I’m just trying to stay strong, stay positive in Triple-A. Keep working hard, do my job, help my team win however I can, and we’ll see what happens.”
8. Trevor May, rhp, Twins
Update: May, who had not pitched since June 21 because of a right calf strain, returned to the mound on July 19. He threw 47 pitches in three innings, allowing a run on three hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
Prognosis: May, or Rochester rotation-mate Alex Meyer, could certainly help the Twins, who currently are employing Yohan Pino and Sam Deduno to fill the injured Ricky Nolasco‘s spot. General manager Terry Ryan has been keeping an eye on both, but as to whether either would make the jump this season, he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “I have a feel for it, but I’m not going to divulge it.”
9. Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians
Update: The Indians promoted Lindor to Triple-A on Monday and he’s gone 3-for-8 since.
Prognosis: Lindor has already matched his career high in homers and is one shy of a personal best in steals. Still just 20—the youngest player at Triple-A by about a year—his promotion is no doubt a test to see if he can replace the free agent-to-be Asdrubal Cabrera in Cleveland by next season. With his athleticism, smooth hands and strong arm, he's got everything you want from a defensive standpoint.
10. Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets
Update: For the second time in three outings, the big righty was dynamic, blanking Tacoma over 6 2/3 innings on just four hits.
Prognosis: After a solid start to the season, Syndergaard has struggled the past two months, posting ERAs of 9.98 in June and 5.32 in July. But he's been hurt by an absurd .379 average on balls in play, including .426 this month. Should the Mets find a trade partner for Bartolo Colon by the end of August, if not July, then the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Syndergaard could be in Citi Field before the year is out. Despite his recent results, one rival evaluator projected Syndergaard as an impact major league arm with a fastball that cruises in at 96-97 mph and is tough to square up.