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Hot Prospects To Watch: Close Call-Ups and Hot Starters

Perhaps there's nothing more tantalizing in fantasy baseball than drafting an up-and-coming prospect or rushing to the waiver wire to bid on a Triple-A call-up. With no minor leagues this year, our favorite prospects are now playing on taxi squads, making it difficult for us to fantasize about since we can't get eyes on their progress. However, that doesn't mean we don't know who's on the cusp of making the big leagues.

Last week, we looked at the league's top prospects who were on the verge of receiving their big-league promotion. Among that group, Jo Adell was called-up Monday, Nate Pearson dazzled in his first career start against the Nationals, while Nick Madrigal showed us his potential by recording a four-hit game on Sunday. With the service time deadline now in the rearview mirror, it's open season for prospects to join their major-league clubs without the team losing an extra year of control.

There was plenty of speculation surrounding a few big-name prospects last week, which ultimately left us disappointed when they didn't get the call. Today we'll assess a few of these situations, plus we'll take a look at some less-coveted prospects with low ownership who have already made a splash with their Opening Day squads.

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Close Call (Ups)

Casey Mize - SP, Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire got the baseball world excited over the weekend by cryptically telling reporters that they needed to promote a starter from their taxi squad. All signs pointed towards the 2018 first overall pick Casey Mize, but alas, we were let down when Daniel Norris received the nod.

Mize is the top-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in baseball and will debut at some point with the Tigers in 2020. He impressed in the minors a year ago, holding a 2.55 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP while showing elite command of the strike zone displayed by a 5.3% walk rate. The 23-year-old's 24.7% career K-rate isn't as overpowering as some other pitching prospects, but with a mid 90s fastball, and a finely-tuned slider/splitter combo, he doesn't need to rely on whiffs to achieve success. If an injury opens up another spot opens in the Tigers rotation, proactive managers should add Mize before waiting for an official announcement.

Joey Bart - C, San Francisco Giants

In less than 24 hours, Giants catching prospect Joey Bart went from "every expectation" that he'd get called up soon to "nowhere near imminent" after the team proclaimed he wasn't MLB ready. Perhaps it was exaggerated excitement on behalf of the team's beat writers, but it got our juices flowing nonetheless.

Selected second-overall behind Mize in the 2018 draft, Bart shined in his first professional season in the minors winning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year and defensive player of the year. A hit-by-pitch on his catching hand forced him to miss six weeks of action in 2019, which may be a factor into why he's still playing at the team's alternate site in Sacramento.

Although the Giants selected another catcher 13th overall in this year's draft, Bart is destined for the everyday backstop role in the Bay City. With Buster Posey absent this season, he'll get a chance to prove why at some point with the club in 2020. Bart's also taking reps at first base to open up another path to playing time, which is wise since Tyler Heineman has done a nice job behind the plate so far. He likely won't impact single-catcher leagues once he gets the call, but you can certainly do worse in two-catcher setups.

Forrest Whitley - SP, Houston Astros

When Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander landed on the injured list last week, many thought this was finally the opportunity we would see the team's top prospect Forrest Whitley make his big-league debut. Instead, it was the club's sixth-ranked prospect Cristian Javier who received the promotion to the rotation, but more on him later.

The main reason Whitley wasn't brought up is that he's still dealing with some arm soreness that initially stemmed during an intrasquad game in summer camp. He's since encountered more pain at the team's alternate site in Corpus Christi, so it doesn't appear the Astros will rush the 2016 first-round pick after he missed time in 2019 with shoulder fatigue as well. By the time Whitley is healthy enough to receive a promotion, the Astros will likely have other more experienced options to use in the rotation down the playoff stretch.

 

Hot Starters

Brusdar Graterol - RP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Brusdar Graterol was a controversial piece in the Mookie Betts deal, and the flamethrowing right-hander is making the Red Sox regret not acquiring him this offseason. Entering Monday with the Dodgers, Graterol has allowed one earned run over 4.1 innings pitched with four strikeouts and no walks. The control is worth noting for the young hurler who averages just over 99 MPH with his sinking fastball, and that pitch has also helped him generate an outstanding 72.7% ground-ball rate. The 21-year-old's dynasty appeal is growing by the outing, but his ratios can still help fantasy teams in 2020 despite the fact he may not enter any save situations this year.

Cristian Javier - SP, Houston Astros

Despite only making two career starts over Double-A, Cristian Javier impressed in his first major league start versus one of the toughest lineups in the league. The right-hander limited the Dodgers to just two hits and a walk over 5 2/3 of one-run ball while striking out eight in the no-decision. Javier has had serious control issues over his minor-league tenure, but after throwing 65.9% of his pitches for strikes last Wednesday, his command in his next start will tell us if it was a fluke. Javier is worth adding even if his rotation spot is short-lived, but it's hard to see him return to the bullpen if he continues to succeed.

Nico Hoerner - 2B, Chicago Cubs

Cubs top prospect Nico Hoerner is off to a terrific start after showing us glimpses of excellence in 20 games with the club last season. The 23-year-old is entering Monday hitting .292 (7-for-24) on the campaign with five runs and five RBI while playing nearly every day at second base. After hitting .327 in the minors in 2018, he followed that showing with a .292 BA a season ago while posting commendable plate discipline metrics that have translated to the majors. Hoerner doesn't possess much power with just eight homers across all levels during his professional career, but he'd be a welcomed addition to any fantasy lineup looking for a BA helper.

Evan White - 1B, Seattle Mariners

Evan White hasn't wowed us so far this season if we're looking solely at raw numbers, but there is optimism with some of his batted ball metrics. Although he's hitting a mere .139 (5-for-36) with one dinger for the M's this season, he's currently in the 91st and 80th percentile in Hard% (55.0%) and Exit Velocity (91.8 MPH) respectively. Those numbers would have finished among the league leaders in 2019, but there is a glaring issue in his 39.0% K-rate. Considering White posted a 20.3% mark over his minor league career, he's bound to improve in this area and will start living up to that six-year deal that he inked with the club in November.



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