Kenny Giles has become a minor celebrity in Philadelphia. He throws 100 mph, which makes him the best pure arm in a pretty thin Phillies farm system. And while the Phillies’ big league pen is imploding, Giles has posted a 0.00 ERA in eight appearances with an amazing 17.1 strikeouts per nine innings for Double-A Reading.
As we explain further down in this week’s Top 10 Fantasy Prospects, Giles still has work to do in the minors and his fastball-heavy approach might not be ready for the big leagues. But he has given Phillies’ fans a reason to chance Reading’s box scores every night.
Onto this week’s Top 10.
1. Gregory Polanco, of, Pirates
Season Totals: .403/.439/.623 in 77 at-bats, 31-for-77, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBIs, 4 BB, 11 Ks, 3-for-6 on SBs.
Update: Polanco hit .360/.385/.560 this week, so in other words, it was a poor week that dragged down his season-to-date averages in all three categories.
Prognosis: It looks highly possible, even likely that Polanco will hold this spot until the Pirates are sure he’s clear of the Super Two arbitration window in June. Current right fielder Travis Snider has been producing at an above-league-average pace, so there’s not a gaping hole that Polanco has to fill. Polanco looks ready to give a fantasy team help in batting average, runs scored and RBIs as soon as he’s called up, but the home run and stolen base numbers should be solid, just not as spectacular as you may expect right away.
2. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Indians
Season Totals: 2-0, 0.96, 3 GS, 19 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 21 Ks for Triple-A Columbus. 0-1, 1.50, 1 GS, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks for Cleveland.
Update: Bauer was excellent once again, as he held Triple-A Gwinnett to six hits and one run in 6 ⅔ innings. Bauer has worked through the sixth in all four starts this year.
Prognosis: The velocity has returned to the level that made Bauer one of the top pitching prospects in the game just two years ago. But more importantly, Bauer is being much more pitch efficient and is throwing significantly more strikes. Bauer has found the strike zone with at least 61 percent of his pitches in all four starts this year. Last year, he managed that only five times in 26 starts.
3. Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks
Season Totals: 1-3, 3.98, 4 GS, 20 IP, 19 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 8 BB, 20 Ks for Triple-A Reno.
Update: For a second consecutive start, Bradley failed to get through the fifth inning as he allowed three runs in four innings at Fresno. He did strike out eight of the 12 batters he retired, but racked up high pitch counts doing so.
Prognosis: Can Bradley use a little more Triple-A polish? Sure. But he’s also better than at least three-fifths of the Diamondbacks’ current starting rotation. With the Diamondbacks’ front office and manager Kirk Gibson all feeling the heat of a brutal 6-18 start, the pressure to start winning is pretty clear. Mike Bolsinger has already made a start for Arizona this season, Bradley shouldn’t be far behind. If he’s called up, he’ll provide strikeouts and some great highlights but he’s not a sure bet to help your WHIP or ERA just yet.
4. Marcus Stroman, rhp, Blue Jays
Season Totals: 1-2, 2.18, 4 GS, 21 IP, 22 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 26 Ks for Triple-A Buffalo.
Update: Stroman has the first poor outing of the season, as he allowed 10 hits and four runs (three earned) in 5 ⅓ innings against a quality Pawtucket lineup.
Prognosis: Yes, the Blue Jays rotation has been better this year than it was last year, but it still hasn’t been very good (besides Mark Buerhle). There’s no need to turn to Stroman just yet, but it’s hard to envision him not joining the rotation by midseason. Once he gets there, he should provide help in strikeouts.
5. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
Season Totals: Hitting .299/.356/.493 (20-for-67), 12 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 12 RBIs, 5 BB, 10 Ks, 0-for-1 on SBs for Triple-A Memphis.
Update: Taveras made his first appearance of the season in center field on Monday night, but it also was the last game he played this week, as he rolled his left ankle and has been out since. The good news is it was Taveras’ right ankle that bothered him all last year. The bad news is that Taveras is having yet more ankle problems.
Prognosis: Taveras ranks lower on the list this week because he’s having more injury problems, but also because it’s not all that inconceivable that he could spend much of the year in Triple-A. Right fielder Allen Craig hasn’t hit so far this year, but it’s hard to see him getting benched and Matt Adams’ strong start silences any calls for Craig to slide back to first base. Taveras isn’t really a center fielder, so he’s not a real option to replace the also slow-starting Peter Bourjos and Matt Holliday is healthy and hitting.
6. Joc Pederson, of, Dodgers
Season Totals: Hitting .417/.523/.736 (30-for-72), 19 R, 8 2B, 5 HR, 10 RBIs, 16 BB, 16 Ks, 6-for-7 on SBs for Triple-A Albuquerque.
Update: Pederson went on a six-game hitting streak this week while slapping four doubles. He already has 10 multi-hit games just 19 games into the season.
Prognosis: Like Taveras, Pederson would rank higher if he didn’t look buried behind a roster logjam. He could be a fantasy stud with power, speed and hitting ability, but with a four-headed outfield sharing at-bats already in Chavez Ravine, there’s no clear ETA for Pederson to make the flight from ABQ to LAX.
7. Rafael Montero, rhp, Mets
Season Totals: 2-0, 3.80 4 GS, 21 IP, 18 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 24 Ks.
Update: Montero has proven immune to the difficulties that come with pitching in Las Vegas, but even he couldn’t handle the nightmare that is pitching in Reno. The game in which Montero was shelled saw 17 runs scored and 29 hits. In other words, it was just another normal night in Reno.
Prognosis: Montero now has 20 Triple-A starts under his belt. There’s currently no need for immediate help in the Mets rotation, but he’s ready and waiting if a need arises.
8. Tommy La Stella, 2b, Braves
Season Totals: Hitting .333/.403/.367 (20-for-60), 11 R, 2 2B, 10 RBIs, 9 BBs, 3 Ks, 1-for-1 on SBs for Triple-A Gwinnett.
Update: La Stella is 10-for-20 this week including back-to-back three-hit games against Charlotte. La Stella has gone 43 at-bats since he last struck out on April 11.
Prognosis: With B.J. Upton getting his batting average above .200 for the first time in his Braves career, Braves’ fans ire is starting to shift back to Uggla. His .220/.280/.347 line isn’t bad enough to outweigh the $13 million per season he gets this year and next year just yet, but La Stella’s strong start is a reminder that the Braves have a midseason option if the lineup ever needs a jolt. For fantasy purposes, La Stella will eventually provide help in batting average and runs scored, but don’t expect much in other categories.
9. Javier Baez, ss, Cubs
Season Totals: Hitting .184/.244/.421 (7-for-38), 6 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 16 Ks for Triple-A Iowa.
Update: Baez returned from a sprained-ankle induced trip to the disabled list to strike out six times in his first three games back.
Prognosis: It’s hard to see Baez making it to Chicago anytime in the near future. He’s got to prove he’s healthy, he’s got to shake off a post-spring training back-in-the-minors malaise and he’s still got to find a position where he can get a clear path to Wrigley Field. For all of the talk of the Cubs’ plan to get Baez time at second and third base, he’s yet to play any position other than shortstop for Iowa. If you’re in a deeper league with keepers, there’s a pretty good chance that everyone I’ve listed above might already be taken. If that’s the case, here’s a deeper sleeper to keep an eye on.
10. Ken Giles, rhp, Phillies
Season Totals: 0-0, 0.00, 6 saves in 6 opportunities, 10 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 19 Ks.
Update: A seventh-round pick in 2011 out of Yavapai (Ariz.) CC, Giles has always thrown really, really hard. He touches triple digits regularly and sits 98-99 mph. But this year he’s started to locate his fastball with more regularity. By getting ahead more, his still-erratic slider has become more of a weapon and he’s been nearly unhittable in his first swing through the Eastern League.
Prognosis: Have you had a look at the Phillies bullpen this year? Jonathan Papelbon, he of the steadily decreasing velocity, is the only regular member of the Phils bullpen with an ERA under 4.00. The majority of the ‘pen is filled with pitchers who give up too many hits when they aren’t giving up too many walks. Giles is in no way a savior—he has 10 innings above Class A at this point. In Double-A, he’s getting a lot of his strikeouts on fastballs up in or out of the zone. His slider has gotten better, but it’s still a clear second pitch that is better early in the count rather than later. Most relievers need to have a second pitch they can rely on consistently. Giles doesn’t have that yet, but he’s a lot closer to the big leagues than he was just a month ago. The Phillies need plenty of bullpen help, which gives Giles a chance to be there sooner than anyone would have expected coming into the season.