Top 10 Fantasy Prospects: Time To Push Jonathan Gray

Noah Syndergaard and Mookie Betts are two of the game's best prospects, but neither of them are on this week's list of the top fantasy prospects for 2014.

Syndergaard ranked high on my list in previous editions, and there's still a chance he's able to be a strong contributor in the second half of the season. While it's good news that an MRI revealed a flexor-pronator strain instead of something that would wipe him out for the next year, Syndergaard is still on the disabled list with an elbow injury that's going to push back his timetable and cause the Mets to be even more conservative with him. There are better fantasy options among pitchers this year.

Betts hasn't cracked my list yet, even though he's one of my favorite prospects in the minors. It's possible Boston calls him up by the end of the year, but I'm not sold that he gets to the big leagues this year.

1. Gregory Polanco, rf, Pirates

Season Totals: .355/.419/.570 (71-for-200), 36 R, 15 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 43 RBIs, 21 BB, 40 SO, 11-for-16 SB at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Update: While Pirates fans are clamoring for Polanco to get to Pittsburgh, so are International League pitchers, who would like to get the league leader in OPS out of there as quickly as possible.

Prognosis: If I re-ranked my personal Top 100 list today, accounting for prospect graduations of players such as Xander Bogaerts who no longer qualify, Polanco would be my No. 2 prospect in baseball, behind only Byron Buxton. It's a joke that Polanco is still in the minors right now, with service time manipulation the sole reason for the Pirates leaving him in Triple-A. In a few weeks, it will be Polanco time in Pittsburgh.

2. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals

Oscar Taveras

Season Totals: .325/.373/.524 (62-for-191), 15 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 40 RBIs, 14 BB, 25 SO, 1-for-2 SB at Triple-A Memphis.

Update: Taveras has hit righthanders and lefties at almost an equal clip, showing his usual knack for the barrel and plus power from the left side.

Prognosis: Taveras could come up tomorrow and be an above-average player immediately in the Cardinals outfield, but unlike Polanco, there isn't a clear spot to put him. A trade of Matt Adams or Allen Craig could help open the door for Taveras, but until that happens, he might have to spend a little extra time in the Pacific Coast League.

3. Joc Pederson, cf, Dodgers
Joc Pederson

Season Totals: .340/.448/.629 (66-for-194), 43 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 32 RBIs, 38 BB, 63 SO, 13-for-17 SB at Triple-A Albuquerue.

Update: Pederson is dominating PCL pitching, though if there is a concern, it's that his strikeout rate has hopped to 27 percent from 22 percent a year ago, with an offensive paradise of a ballpark and a .440 BABIP propping up his slash line.

Prognosis: Pederson is in the same boat as Taveras, a major league-ready outfielder on a team without an easy way to get him into the lineup. A sprained left ankle for Carl Crawford helped the Dodgers sort out their glut of outfielders currently on the major league team with Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier now playing everyday. But a trade in the next two months could get Pederson to the big leagues, whether it's in Los Angeles or another city.

4. Jonathan Gray, rhp, Rockies

Jonathan Gray

Season Totals: 5-2, 2.79, 48.1 IP, 39 H, 17 R, 14 ER, 4 HR, 8 BB, 42 SO at Double-A Tulsa.

Update: After two ugly starts to open the year, Gray has allowed one or zero runs in six of his other seven starts, usually getting pulled after throwing 80-90 pitches.

Prognosis: Pitchers who throw as hard as Gray and with similar arm actions have been succumbing to elbow injuries at an alarming rate. The Rockies need to maximize value out of Gray by bringing him to Colorado as soon as possible. Gray doesn't have any issues throwing strikes—he's walking 1.5 per nine innings this year and has a strong track record of limiting free passes—so his transition to the major leagues should be relatively smooth. He won't be an ace this year, but he could immediately be a mid-rotation starter if the Rockies call him up next month.

5. Marcus Stroman, rhp, Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman (Photo by Mike Janes).

Season Totals: 2-4, 3.03, 35.2 IP, 32 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 45 SO.

Update: After a rough major league debut in which he allowed 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings out of Toronto's bullpen, Stroman is back in Triple-A as a starter. His first two starts back in the IL haven't been easy, with seven runs allowed in nine innings.

Prognosis: Allowing a young starter to get acclimated in the bullpen when breaking into the major leagues can have its benefits, but it also can disrupt a pitcher's preparation and approach. Despite the constant remarks about his size and whether that makes him better suited for relief, Stroman has the stuff and the command to be a major league starter, and as long as the Blue Jays keep him in that role, he should be able to put a challenging month behind him.

6. Alex Meyer, rhp, Twins
Alex Meyer
Season Totals: 3-1, 3.31, 51.2 IP, 40 H, 24 R, 19 ER, 3 HR, 26 BB, 62 SO at Triple-A Rochester.

Update: There are games when Meyer's long levers work against him and he loses his release point—that led to six walks in 8 2/3 innings with 10 runs allowed in his first two starts this month. When he's in sync, though, he's an extremely uncomfortable at-bat for opponents, who've managed to score just three runs on him in his last three starts, a stretch of 16 1/3 innings.

Prognosis: Minnesota's 5.04 ERA among starting pitchers is tied with Arizona for the worst in baseball. There isn't anyone standing in Meyer's way, and while the Twins certainly aren't known for zipping players through the system, Meyer is a 24-year-old with premium stuff and 10.8 K/9 in Triple-A. Health is always going to be a concern with Meyer, but by next month, he should be in their big league rotation.

7. Andrew Heaney, lhp, Marlins

Andrew Heaney

Season Totals: 5-2, 2.09, 64.2 IP, 53 H, 17 R, 15 ER, 2 HR, 13 BB, 66 SO at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.

Update: Since making his Triple-A debut last week, Heaney has a spectacular 14-0 K-BB mark and only one runs allowed in 11 innings.

Prognosis: The Marlins aren't shy about pushing their prospects. Heaney has certainly merited an aggressive promotion schedule, with just under 90 innings at Double-A split between 2013 and 2014 the longest he's spent at one level since the Marlins drafted him in the first round in 2012. With the Marlins surprising the industry by trailing the first-place Braves by just half a game in the National League East, Heaney could get moved to the big leagues as soon as next month.

8. Eddie Butler, rhp, Rockies
Eddie Butler
Season Totals: 4-4, 2.39, 64 IP, 55 H, 18 R, 17 ER, 3 HR, 17 BB, 36 SO at Double-A Tulsa.

Update: Butler hasn't allowed an earned run in his last three starts, including two seven-inning shutouts, though those two starts were sandwiched around an outing in which he walked a season-high four batters in 5 2/3 innings.

Prognosis: It's not clear whether Butler will beat Gray to the big leagues. Butler is a little older than Gray and has more experience both in pro ball and Double-A, but Gray's command is ahead of Butler's, and from both a fantasy and real-world perspective, there's more upside with Gray because of his superior ability to miss bats. Butler is still one of the game's best pitching prospects, though, and both should be in Colorado by the end of the year.

9. Jonathan Singleton, 1b, Astros
Jonathan Singleton

Season Totals: .265/.394/.535 (49-for-185), 35 R, 9 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 40 RBIs, 40 BB, 50 SO, 1-for-2 SB at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Update: Singleton's numbers have dipped a bit in May after a torrid start, but the underlying skills of patience, power and contact are all in there to make him one of the game's top first-base prospects.

Prognosis: Singleton has 124 games of Triple-A experience under his belt, and with the numbers he's putting up in Oklahoma City, he shouldn't be there long. Counting on a 22-year-old first baseman to hit at an above-average clip for a first baseman in the big leagues is a tough thing to bet on, but if you're in need of some help at the position, Singleton is an option with upside.

10. Matt Wisler, rhp, Padres
Matt Wisler
Season Totals: 2-3, 4.83, 50.1 IP, 58 H, 29 R, 27 ER, 7 HR, 14 BB, 15 SO at Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.

Update: Wisler has been getting shelled since getting promoted to Triple-A at the beginning of the month, giving up at least four runs in his first four starts and more than a run per inning. But that’s OK because . . .

Prognosis: Wisler’s slow start will just keep him undervalued—for now. Wisler allowed just two hits and one run (it was unearned) in seven innings in his last start, which is more in line with what you should expect from him going forward. Pitching in San Diego perhaps cools the hype machine for one of the game’s best pitching prospects, but the Padres’ spacious ballpark will help Wisler’s numbers. With three average to plus pitches in his fastball, bat-missing slider and changeup, Wisler could be a mid-rotation starter if the Padres bring him up in the second half.