The past week actually saw one prospect promotion of fantasy significance. Trevor Bauer came up, pitched well and was quickly sent right back to Triple-A. Not many fantasy owners got a lot of benefit from Bauer’s appearance because understandably everyone was fearful of being burned by a pitcher who posted a 1.82 WHIP last year.
We’re still a few weeks away from the first wave of service-time related callups, but those considerations do weight who ranks high on this week’s Fantasy Top 10 Prospects list.
1. George Springer, of, Astros
Season Totals: .291/.420/.516, 9-for-31, 10 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 6 BB, 10 K, 2-for-2 SB at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Update: Springer’s off to a solid start to the season, especially when you consider that the Oklahoma City Redhawks have played in some of the tougher parks in the Pacific Coast League.
Prognosis: The Astros have a bigger need in the outfield than the Pirates do. While Dexter Fowler has been a beneficial addition, L.J. Hoes, Alex Presley and Robbie Grossman are three fourth outfielders trying to handle bigger roles. Springer will be an immediate upgrade at the point he is promoted, which will likely be coincidentally timed with either when Springer no longer is eligible for a full-year’s credit of service time or when his promotion no longer will grant him super two arbitration status. Springer still has a pull-heavy approach that will keep his batting average down, but he has enough power and speed to help any fantasy lineup whenever he’s promoted. By the way, if you can’t wait for Springer to be called up for your fantasy team, just imagine what it’s like for Springer. In Triple-A, the average player will make a little under $500 a week. In the big leagues, major league minimum pays more than $2,500 a day.
2. Gregory Polanco, of, Pirates
Season Totals: .433/.469/.600, 13-for-30, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 1-for-2 SBs at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: Polanco couldn’t do much better in his first extended exposure to Triple-A pitching (he was a callup for the playoffs last year). He has a seven-game hitting streak after a hitless Opening Day and he’s hitting over .400 against lefthanders and righthanders.
Prognosis: The combination of Travis Snider and Jose Tabata have not been a big problem for the Pirates just yet, but even they know they are just biding time. Polanco’s fast start is a reminder that he’ll complete the Pirates’ outfield of the present and the future before long. Polanco ranks behind Springer because while his present hit tool is better, Springer has more present power and more speed. Polanco has averaged 39 steals a season for the past two years, and he will get some steals himself, but Polanco doesn’t turn on the ball enough presently to put up 20-plus home runs.
3. Archie Bradley, rhp, Diamondbacks
Season Totals: 1-0, 0.00, 1 GS, 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks at Triple-A Reno.
Update: Bradley avoided any trouble in his Triple-A debut. Pitching in the brutal pitcher’s environment of Reno, he generally dominated El Paso.
Prognosis: The Diamondbacks have traded away Trevor Bauer, Pat Corbin and Tyler Skaggs in the past two seasons. That’s left the club understandably a little thinner in starting pitching depth. Trevor Cahill, Randall Delgado and Brandon McCarthy have ERAs more befitting Boeing airliners (7.82 for Cahill, 7.90 for McCarthy) than a major league starting pitcher. With no other obvious options in the Reno rotation, Bradley looks closer to joining the big league club. Arizona obviously wants to hold off until it can push back Bradley’s arbitration eligibility, but it’s less clear if the rest of the rotation will give the Diamondbacks that option.
4. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Indians
Season Stats: 0-0, 1.50 in Triple-A, 1-0, 1.50 in MLB. 12 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 17 Ks combined.
Update: Not bad, Bauer. Called up for a spot start in a doubleheader, Bauer struck out eight in six excellent innings. His stuff was much crisper than it was last year, and his control was significantly better. Bauer’s my-way approach to pitching hasn’t always impressed front offices, but front offices love results.
Prognosis: The back end of the Indians rotation is not set in stone. Carlos Carrasco will get a few starts to get untracked, but he has enough of a frightening previous track record that if Bauer keeps this up in Columbus, he may be back for good before long. When he gets there, he could provide plenty of wins and strikeouts, or he could destroy your WHIP and ERA. He’s a high-risk, high-reward addition.
5. Rafael Montero, rhp, Mets
Season Stats: 1-0, 2.45, 2 GS, G G, 11 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 14 Ks.
Update: Much like a cactus in the desert, Montero is the rare pitcher who has figured out how to thrive in an inhospitable environment. He’s posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 18 starts with Las Vegas between last year and this year. In comparison, Zack Wheeler was doing pretty well with a 3.93 ERA in his time at Vegas last year.
Prognosis: Montero isn’t the prospect that Noah Syndergaard is, but he has more Double-A and Triple-A time, throws lots of strikes and is a little more ready for the call if it arrives now. Don’t expect this kind of strikeout-to-walk ratio at the big league level, but Montero could give your fantasy team a decent ERA and WHIP and some wins if the Mets need rotation help in the near-future.
6. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
Season Stats: .258/.324/.516, 8-for-31, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBIs, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 0-for-1 SBs for Triple-A Memphis.
Update: Taveras got off to a slow start to the season, but he broke out on Thursday with his first multi-hit game of the year, a 3-for-5 night that raised his average by 66 points.
Prognosis: Taveras would rank higher if not for the fact that he appears blocked for the short term. None of the Cardinals outfielders are hitting yet, but Allen Craig and Matt Holliday aren’t going anywhere and Taveras isn’t really a viable option to play every day in center unless the Cardinals are willing to take a significant hit defensively.
7. Joc Pederson, of, Dodgers
Season Stats: .417/.548/.875, 10-for-24, 8 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 3 RBIs, 7 BB, 5 SO, 2-for-2 SBs for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Update: Pederson leads the first Prospect Hot Sheet of the year, thanks in part to a massive home run that cleared the batting eye in center field in Reno.
Prognosis: So you thought Taveras was blocked? Pederson is buried under a Dodgers’ avalanche of outfielders. Matt Kemp’s “I’m back” two home run game last Sunday combined with an outfield that already included Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig means that Pederson can fully unpack his stuff in Las Vegas. That said, he’s able to play all three outfield spots, he has power and speed and could be a fantasy weapon if Kemp and Crawford’s fragile bodies break down again.
8. Javier Baez, ss, Cubs
Season Stats: .154/.214/.423, 4-for-26, 4 R, 1 2B, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs, 2 BB, 10 Ks.
Update: It’s not been a great week for Baez. He has gotten off to an awful start at the plate but he made even bigger news by being ejected from a game and then getting into a fight with a teammate. Baez’s makeup has long been many teams’ biggest concern with him, going back to his high school days. So far, it hasn’t proven a big issue, so for now consider this a cause for caution rather than a reason to look elsewhere for a fantasy stud.
Prognosis: Interestingly, Baez has played only shortstop in Triple-A. The Cubs had talked about him getting time at second base to potentially speed his big league arrival. Until he gets some second base action at Iowa, it’s hard to see him coming up to push Darwin Barney/Emilio Bonifacio out of that job.
9. Eddie Butler, rhp, Rockies
Season Stats: 0-0, 2.25, 2 GS, 2 G, 12 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 12 Ks.
Update: Butler has been a strike-throwing machine in two starts, finding the strike zone with nearly 70 percent of his pitches.
Prognosis: Yes, Butler’s teammate Jonathan Gray was on this list last week, but Butler should be a little closer to the big leagues because he has more upper-level time and a little more refinement at this point. Colorado’s starting staff is off to a good start, so for now Butler is just a fill-in ready and waiting for the opportunity.
10. Billy Burns, of, Athletics
Season Stats: .292/.469/.375, 7-for-24, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 8 BB, 4 Ks, 6-for-6 SBs.
Update: Burns is working on a three-game stolen base streak and has walked at least once in every game this year. Burns has been successful in his last 20 steal attempts dating back to last year.
Prognosis: Burns makes this list not because he’s a likely immediate callup, but because if he does come up, he could be a fantasy game-changer as the rare player who can help teams make up significant ground in the steals category. And Burns does it while putting up high on-base percentages as well.