Each Thursday, Baseball America looks at the top fantasy call-up options for this season.
1. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Update: Pederson’s still hitting for power—five of his 10 hits this month are homers—but he’s swinging and missing at a high rate (15 in 45 at-bats).
Prognosis: With their lead in the division up to five games, the Dodgers are not likely to mess around with their everyday lineup, which is the only way, barring injury, that Pederson will make it to Chavez Ravine before Sept. 1. Dodgers officials express some concern about Pederson’s strikeout rate—major league projections forecast a 30-percent or greater whiff rate. But evaluators remain sanguine about Pederson, raving about his fast bat and power potential and his ability to hang in against lefthanders. One rival manager said Pederson is a no-doubt major league center fielder and that despite the strikeouts, has no red flags in his swing.
2. Jorge Soler, of, Cubs
Update: Soler has returned on a mission since two hamstring pulls ruined his first half. Eight of his 11 hits this month are for extra bases.
Prognosis: Soler’s improved plate discipline, noted by team president Theo Epstein recently, and his present power have the Cubs believing a major league stint could be beneficial. "Ever since he came off the disabled list the second time he's had consistent, high-quality at-bats,” Epstein told ESPN. “He's not swinging at chase pitches. He's focused throughout the at-bat. That's not something we taught him, that's something he showed up with."
Combined with what some scouts label 80 power on the 20-80 scale—which equates to 35+ homers in this depressed scoring period, Soler could be an impact player quickly, or at least until the league catches up. Questions about what’s politely termed “uninspired play” have dogged him since he signed, but a rival manager said Soler’s shown great improvement in his swing over last season and that his power is great, but overshadowed by Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.
3. Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians
Update: Lindor is just 10-for-56 in August after a hot start at Triple-A.
Prognosis: The Indians called up Zach Walters when outfielders Nick Swisher and David Murphy went on the disabled list, keeping Lindor put at Triple-A for now. But he’s another player who most certainly will get a look in September, if not sooner. Scouts say Lindor has not changed his approach significantly, but that simple weight-room work has increased his power. The team is happy with his commitment to defense and baserunning. He’s set to take over at shortstop in 2015 and will provide steals, decent average and some pop, although do not expect double-digit homers early in his career.
4. Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox
Update: Owens has done nothing to dampen the Red Sox’s enthusiasm about his ability to help their depleted rotation as soon as 2015, striking out 14 in 11 1/3 innings since the bump to Triple-A.
Prognosis: Scouts rave about his makeup, not to mention stuff. Owens, whose delivery and arm slot is reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner, has a dynamic changeup, a fastball at 88-92 that plays up because of deception and a developing curve that, went on, makes him unhittable. It looks likely he’ll get a shot at playing at Fenway by September at the latest.
5. Alex Guerrero, 2b, Dodgers
Update: Guerrero, who missed about six weeks after the dugout incident with Miguel Olivo, has struggled in the 18 games since returning (.232/.274/.304).
Prognosis: Guerrero’s bat has never been the issue, but he lost some key development time after his ear was on the receiving end of Olivo‘s teeth earlier this season. Dee Gordon‘s blocking Guerrero’s way right now, but at 27 already, expect to see the Dodgers try to get him to the majors this season and see where he fits for 2015.
6. Maikel Franco, 3b, Phillies
Update: Franco has followed up a strong July (.967 OPS) with a solid start to August (.723 OPS).
Prognosis: July and August are traditionally Franco’s strong months, which the Phillies are aware of. If he gets the call to the majors, his Triple-A manager expects he’ll play. “… I have a hard time believing he’s going to sit on the bench if he goes,” manager Dave Brundage told LehighValleyLive.com. “But at the same time, there are also experiences he can gain from that.”
7. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins
Season Totals: 8-6, 3.20, 112.1 IP, 100 H, 47 R, 40 ER, 9 HR, 26 BB, 120 SO at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.
Update: Heaney allowed only four hits over seven innings in a no-decision against Tacoma on Tuesday.
Prognosis: Despite his relative struggles upon his return to Triple-A, Heaney has maintained his excellent command, not walking more than two batters in the seven starts since he was demoted. He said the Marlins have told him to get more comfortable with his delivery and his timetable to return to the majors is unclear. His velocity’s been at 90-93 and his slider remains his out pitch.
8. Alex Meyer, Twins
Update: The 6-foot-9 righthander had his worst start since the end of June, giving up seven hits and four runs in two innings at Indianapolis.
Prognosis: The Twins decided to call up Trevor May when they needed a starter, and with his pitch count and innings be limited, Meyer realizes a callup might not be in the offing. “I’ve stopped worrying about it,” Meyer told the Indianapolis Star before his most recent start. “There is not much I can do. Wherever they tell me to go, I’m going to go out and pitch. If it’s the major league, it’s the major league. If it’s in A ball, it’s in A ball.
9. Jon Gray, rhp, Rockies
Season Totals: 10-5, 3.85, 117 IP, 97 H, 54 R, 50 ER, 10 HR, 38 BB, 107 SO at Double-A Tulsa
Update: Gray gave up two hits and three runs against Frisco on Friday, allowing a two-run homer to Joey Gallo, which is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since Gray ended up getting the victory.
Prognosis: Gray threw 94 pitches over five innings after going a career-long seven in his start prior to that. Gray’s thrown 154 1/3 innings in his career and likely won’t go much further this season than the 117 he’s pitched to date.
10. Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs
Update: Bryant wrestled the minor league home run lead from Joey Gallo when he slugged his 39th Tuesday night. He also has 101 RBIs.
Prognosis: Yes, we’ve heard Theo Epstein say clearly Bryant will not hit Wrigley this season, but it’s still fun to put the minor league home run leader on this list and dream about the possibilities. By 2015, the Cubs should have Bryant, Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and possibly Jorge Soler join Starlin Castro, so grab and stash Bryant now. One rival manager called Bryant’s power the best he’s ever seen and says Bryant can hit the ball out foul pole to foul pole.