MLB Prospects - September Call-Up Options
For those lucky enough to have a bye this week in the first round of your fantasy playoffs, I salute you on a fine season of perseverance, patience and loyalty. The following list most likely encompasses the remaining fantasy-relevant prospects who are going to earn their long awaited promotions. September call-ups have been issued and depending on your league settings, you might be able to make unlimited moves and plug and play throughout the week for maximum category-output potential. We are down to the money weeks of fantasy, and we’re here to inform you about all the daily prospects that could help lead you to a championship.
Taijuan Walker (SP, SEA) – In the first half of 2013, the best pitcher in the minors was Archie Bradley at Double-A for the Diamondbacks. The Taijuan Walker came on strong, going 28 scoreless innings during a stretch between Double-A and Triple-A. With three plus pitches that he can locate more often than not, many scouts-- including myself-- have anointed Walker the top pitching prospect in the minors.
Well, he’s not in the minors any longer. He will not accrue enough service time to eliminate the "prospect" label for next season, but he could help your fantasy team during the playoffs. His stuff is electric and raw, which means if he’s locating his secondary pitches, he has ace potential. He is prone to the free pass, though, as he certainly walks his fair share-- close to four per start. On the other hand, Walker posted a 10+ K/9 rate, and that simply cannot be ignored in the fantasy realm.
Surely to be a top-ten (if not top-five) prospect going into next year, I expect Walker to get three to four starts down the stretch with an innings cap. In most outings, he’ll likely only go five innings (seven maximum) and provide great strikeout rates. His consistency with pitches and walks will determine whether those starts will be of the quality variety, but he’s already been picked up by many so you know he’s in high regards. If you need starts from someone, this is the September call-up that I would put in my basket, and if you need a stellar keeper for next year and have the space, Walker isn't a bad play (even if he doesn’t start next year in the majors).
Billy Hamilton (SS, OF, CIN) – Mr. Second Base is what I’d call him-- every single will try to become a double in Hamilton’s case. He’s the minor league record holder when it comes to single-season steals totals. We’ve heard about him for over a year because of the speed, but his on-base ability still just sits at .303 this year in the minors, so don’t expect him to get too many starts at the major league level. Regardless, even on the off days for other teams, he’s a good bet for steals as he’ll probably be pinch-running almost nightly for Cincinnati pitchers and position players late in games if the situation calls for it. If Dusty Baker allows it, he will try to steal every time he can and he’s already beat out a throw from Yadier Molina, the best defensive catcher in baseball.
Other Notes and Bits
James Paxton (SP, SEA) – Paxton is absolutely overshadowed by Walker, make no mistake about it. He’s been sketchy at Triple-A this season with a 5.00+ ERA in the first half of the year, but since the All-Star break has rebounded nicely to bring his ERA down to 4.45. He was highly regarded when drafted, but slid to the fourth round, where Seattle banked on his upside potential. He does average more than a strikeout per inning and has the advantage of being a lefty. I wouldn’t use him unless you absolutely have to, but it’s always interesting to see an early glimpse of a 2014 rotation mainstay in a pitcher’s park.
Erik Johnson (SP, CWS) – Johnson has been on the cusp of Top-100 rankings throughout the year. Admittedly, I don’t know as much about Johnson as I should, but I can tell you he has never been above a 2.75 ERA at any level of the minors and has pitched to a 1.57 ERA in 57 innings in Triple-A. He’s also 23 years old, so it’s not like he’s a newcomer to the prospect scene. Regardless, he could possibly be a sneaky addition for spot starts in your fantasy playoffs. Though he’s put two stellar seasons together in the minors, there’s definitely a reason he’s not a top-100 prospect according to the scouts. Perhaps it's because he struggles with control, averaging three walks per nine innings, although that’s not a terrible number or eyebrow raising at all, since youngsters often have trouble with the strike zone.
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