After last week's All-Star Break, the Prospect Primer takes a special turn this week to look at the second-half prospect rankings and how they might help your fantasy team. Always vital, these players could provide an enticing spark when they're promoted, and supplement a championship-caliber fantasy team down the playoff stretch or help middle-of-the-road team get over the hump and make the playoffs. All players on this list are worthy of placement on a watchlist for, at the very least, you should be monitoring their situations. Even more interestingly, as for example in the Matt Garza trade, a prospect can see his ranking rise substantially, like in the case of Mike Olt, who suddenly finds himself debuting on this list for his new team, the Chicago Cubs.
Let’s get to it!
- Michael Wacha (SP, STL) – He’s just a rotation injury away from being recalled to the Cardinals rotation. Carlos Martinez was called up for bullpen work and would need to be stretched out again for a rotation spot, so Wacha is prepared to help fantasy owners if needed. Some good news for Wacha owners: he’s missed some starts and his innings have already been limited so that he can pitch deep into the season.
- Erasmo Ramirez (SP, SEA) – He’s been recalled to Seattle and will be with the rotation for the remainder of the season, barring some unforeseen struggling. As mentioned in previous primers, Ramirez has already had big-league success and should be a decent fantasy option at the back of a rotation.
- Nick Castellanos (OF/3B, DET) – I know we sound like a broken record, but he’s going to get a chance and he’ll be in one of the best lineups that fantasy can offer. The third-base eligibility really helps with versatility as well, and Castellanos can offer 10-HR power the rest of the way even if he only hits .250 for the Tigers.
- Christian Yelich (OF, MIA) – It’s been reported recently that Yelich will get a call-up and showcase in late July or early August. Yelich isn't exactly sizzling in the minors, with a .280/.365/.518 line and only 7 HR, but he has tremendous athletic upside and could provide five-tool production when called up.
- Xander Bogaerts (3B/SS, BOS) – Make no mistake, Bogaerts might be the best prospect left in the minors in terms of keeper potential. His SS eligibility and 25-HR power is rare. He could provide a Manny Machado-like spark for the Red Sox down the stretch and will be in a fantastically productive lineup for fantasy purposes.
- Taijuan Walker (SP, SEA) – Like I have said before, Walker is the best pitching prospect presently in the minors. After his promotion to Triple-A, he has a 0.50 ERA through three starts. It’s only a matter of time until he is called up for the Mariners, as they continue to build the core of their major league team.
- Oscar Taveras (OF, STL) – Still battling lingering injuries, Taveras hasn't proven much this season other than durability issues. That said, the potential is still there, and he can make an impact with the Cardinals today if needed. Tavares ranks third behind only Bogaerts and Walker when it comes to keeper potential.
- Danny Salazar (SP, CLE) – We can finally look past the Trevor Bauer hype in Cleveland. Salazar is the next-in-line starter for the Indians, and he flashed his promise during a one-earned-run start with eight strikeouts in six innings before the All-Star break. Whether he sticks with Cleveland or gets traded, he should make an impact for someone in the second half.
- Jake Marisnick (OF, MIA) – Like Christian Yelich, Marisnick could provide some five-tool spark for Miami and your fantasy team. He’s not as highly regarded as Yelich but he could be just as good. It’s too bad the Marlins team doesn't offer much in offense, otherwise they would represent a serious buying opportunity for for Marisnick and Yelich as far as fantasy support goes.
- Henry Urrutia (OF, BAL) – Another call-up from previous primers, Urrutia is a plus contact hitter who hit .367 in the minors this season. He should get regular playing time in Baltimore for the remainder of the season and provide a decent amount of runs and safe-to-own batting average. I wouldn't expect too much power, but there will be a chance at double-digit steals rest of the season.
- Sonny Gray (SP, OAK) – Gray would be more highly ranked if I knew he would be entering the Athletic’s rotation soon. They are limiting his innings and hoping he can contribute down the stretch in the rotation, but for now he’s pitching lights out in the bullpen. Definitely keep an eye on Gray and don't be shocked if he sticks in the bullpen to serve Oakland's immediate needs.
- Archie Bradley (SP, ARI) – At one point this season, Bradley was the top pitching prospect in the minors. He pitched terrifically in Double-A, but has slipped up a bit in Triple-A of late. Nothing to be concerned about, though, and if Tyler Skaggs ends up dealt or continues to be up and down, Bradley could see his big-league debut soon.
- Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN) – Everyone remembers the minor league all-time steals record holder from last season. If Hamilton gets the call, which depends entirely on his on-base issues in Triple-A, he could provide speed immediately. Keep in mind that Hamilton is also on the trade watch, as Cincinnati might try to make a play for a veteran to support their playoff push.
- Mike Olt (3B/1B, CHC) – Olt is back on the prospects list because of his trade to the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs need a 3B option and that is Olt’s natural position, to which he should immediately return in the minors. I think an August call-up is fairly easy to predict, and despite Olt’s contact issues, he should provide a decent chance at fantasy production at Wrigley Field.
- Kevin Gausman (SP, BAL) – I know, I know, he struggled mightily in the first half, but sometimes we just need to temper our expectations on these prospects and wait for them to calm down at the major league level. Gausman has number-two starter stuff, and if the Orioles don’t trade for a starter, he’s the man for a call-up and a rotation spot at some point. The second time around, you can expect Gausman to be a lot more stable.
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