Each Thursday, Baseball America looks at the top fantasy call-up options for this season.
1. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Update: Pederson’s 9-for-36 in the past 10 games, but five of those hits were for extra bases, including four home runs. Encouragingly, he’s walked nine times and struck out nine times.
Prognosis: The subject of trade rumors involving the Red Sox (for Jon Lester) and Rays (for David Price), Pederson might be moving to one of those cities, or Los Angeles if a deal doesn’t go down. The Dodgers have given Yasiel Puig some starts in center, but it’s clear they moved on from using Matt Kemp out there. Look for Pederson to hit Chavez Ravine before August is up, unless he’s in a different organization.
2. Mookie Betts, cf/2b, Red Sox
Update: Betts has picked up where he left off following his return to Triple-A, hitting over .300 and and getting on base nearly 35 percent of the time. He homered Wednesday night.
Prognosis: Betts is likely to return to Boston in August after the dust settles from the trade deadline. He did nothing to hurt his status as one of the game’s best prospects and he stands to benefit from more time in a major league lineup as the team looks for ways to fit him in for 2015.
3. Javier Baez, 2b/ss, Cubs
Season Totals: .255/.313/.491 (95-for-373), 59 R, 24 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 76 RBI, 31 BB, 125 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 (.962 OPS). He’s homered four times and driven in 15 runs in the past 10 games.
Prognosis: Baez has played second base almost exclusively at Triple-A Iowa since July 17 as the Cubs examine whether he can man the position if he were to be called up. The team benefits by keeping Baez in the minors until next April, through which they’d be guaranteed an extra year of control. But, according to ESPNChicago.com, Cubs officials believe Baez's development would be greatly aided by facing major league pitching sooner rather than later.
4. Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Red Sox
Season Totals: 12-4, 2.41, 119.1 IP, 88 H, 37 R, 32 ER, 6 HR, 49 BB, 99 SO at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Update: Over his past 10 starts, four have been scoreless and three have seen Ranaudo allow only one run.
Prognosis: With a trade of Lester and/or John Lackey seemingly imminent, Ranaudo could be just a phone call away. Brandon Workman and Allen Webster might get the shot sooner, but Ranaudo has proven he’s just as worthy. He told the Boston Herald, “Being able to repeat my delivery, be more efficient during games, and throw more strikes ultimately has allowed me to turn that corner” and be on the radar for a big league callup.
5. Nick Kingham, rhp, Pirates
Season Totals: 5-9, 3.11, 127,1 IP, 113 H, 58 R, 44 ER, 6 HR, 38 BB, 96 SO at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Update: Kingham allowed four runs in six innings Wednesday in a no-decision against Buffalo.
Prognosis: The Pirates emerged as a dark horse candidate to acquire Lester, with Kingham reportedly part of a potential package, testament to what baseball thinks of the righthander. With three potentially above-average pitches, Kingham stands to be a part of Pittsburgh’s rotation next season, with a cameo in September likely, if a deal is not consummated.
6. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
Season Totals: 8-4, 2.99, 96.1 IP, 87 H, 36 R, 32 ER, 7 HR, 21 BB, 104 SO at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.
Update: Heaney has turned in consecutive strong outings after getting roughed up upon his return to Triple-A.
Prognosis: With the Marlins on the fringe of the wild-card race, Heaney remains optimistic he can return to Miami and improve upon his 0-3, 6.53 performance for the Marlins. “I had some mechanical issues that I had to work through,” he told the Times-Picayune. “I just had to kind of get myself right, and it’s hard to do that when you’re up there (in Miami). I’m starting to feel comfortable again, so hopefully I can build on this.”
7. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
Update: Franco has made a terrible start palatable with a sizzling July in which he’s hitting .344/.366/.604 with 23 runs knocked in in 24 games.
Prognosis: Thanks to his summer rebound, Franco has put himself squarely in a position to reach Philadelphia, especially with the Phillies playing for nothing the remainder of the year and manager Ryne Sandberg making it clear he’ll sit Ryan Howard against lefthanders. If Franco continues to hit, he’ll be at Citizens Bank Ballpark before too long.
8. Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians
Update: Lindor has been hot since his promotion with a .948 OPS and two homers in 10 games.
Prognosis: Lindor’s torrid Triple-A start must have the Indians giddy. At just 20, he’s the youngest player in Triple-A by nearly a year and would be just behind Rougned Odor of the Rangers should he reach the bigs this season, which could happen if the Tribe unloads Asdrubal Cabrera. As it stands, Lindor will likely begin 2015 at short for the Indians.
9. Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Mets
Update: The big righthander was solid for the second straight start, whiffing eight over five innings, while allowing five hits and two runs.
Prognosis: It’s unclear if Syndergaard will reach Citi Field by the end of 2014 unless the Mets offload Bartolo Colon. But reports suggest the Mets would part with Syndergaard in a deal for Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki. No matter where he ends up, one rival evaluator projects Syndergaard as an impact major league arm with a fastball that cruises in at 96-97 mph and is tough to square up.
10. Jon Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 9-5, 3.94, 105 IP, 93 H, 50 R, 46 ER, 9 HR, 31 BB, 96 SO at Double-A Tulsa
Update: Gray has struggled in his past two starts, allowing nine runs over 11 innings.
Prognosis: Eddie Butler is rehabbing and could potentially return to Colorado soon while Gray has struggled and could be nearing his innings cap. Still, Gray has the brighter major league future. One rival Texas League manager said Gray is pitching more to contact and throwing more changeups, but still brings it at 94-96.