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Eye on the Minors: Prospects Ready for a June Call-Up


By Bryan from Florida (Oscar Taveras) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Recent Call-Ups

It’s a busy time for prospects, as many exciting young players are near ready for a Major League call-up in mid-June or so. In the meantime, a few guys have received a taste over the past week:

Jimmy Nelson, RHP, MIL

The fact that Jimmy Nelson is ranked by some as the Brewers’ top prospect speaks volumes about Milwaukee’s farm system. Not that Nelson is not a quality arm: he projects to be a mid-rotation innings-eater in the majors, generating a lot of ground balls with a workhorse (6’5”, 245 lb) frame. It’s just that these types of pitchers are usually rated further down prospect lists, but he sits atop a weak Brewers’ system. He struggles with command, which will result in higher rate stats than you want on your fantasy team. Nelson got his first start of the season Sunday as Yovani Gallardo was nursing a sprained ankle and performed well, tossing 5-plus shutout innings while pitching around three walks and five hits. He was immediately returned to triple-A where he will have to await another opportunity to start. With Milwaukee’s solid five-man rotation and backup-plan Tyler Thornburg on the roster, he probably won’t get too many chances this year.

Corey Knebel, RP, DET

The Tigers called up their “closer-of-the-future” to bolster their bullpen, but I wouldn’t expect saves from him unless Joe Nathan is felled by injury or ineffectiveness. Nathan has converted 11 of his last 13 save chances and has run into trouble recently, but he's still locked in as the Tigers' closer, so Knebel is solely a setup man for now. He has an arm built for late-inning relief, with a power fastball (95-97 mph) and a hammer curve to keep hitters off-balance. If he can develop a changeup, the Tigers could try him as a starter, but the best bet is that he’ll be racking up holds and handing the ball off to Nathan until the closer’s job opens up.

 

Late Season Possibilities

It is almost impossible to project what teams are planning for their young studs. It will all depend on how the major league season is going, how the players are developing on the farm and whether an opportunity for regular playing time exists in the Majors. Here are a few guys, who may (or may not) get a chance at some point in the near future, but are more speculative:

Rymer Liriano, OF, SD

The Padres’ offense ranks near or at the bottom of the league in most categories. Some of that is due to their pitcher-friendly ballpark, but a lot has to do with the hitting talent on the major league level. Liriano could step in at some point this season and immediately serve as one of the top hitters on the team. The six-foot, 225-pound right-hander blew out his elbow last spring and had Tommy John surgery, losing his entire 2013 season. Liriano may never hit for a high average, but he has power to all fields and 20-20 potential as a corner outfielder. The Pads are getting yeoman’s work from the likes of Seth Smith and Chris Denorfia in the outfield, but Liriano is likely the team’s future there. His future will begin once he can prove his health and pitch recognition in the minors. His .277 average and ten homers at double-A San Antonio this season are a good sign that he may soon get his chance.

Javier Baez, SS, CHC

By Nick Martinez (Javier Baez 9) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsAt long last, Baez has started hitting at triple-A Iowa. I had written previously that the Cubs’ top prospect would be unlikely to get a major league look this season, but with his recent numbers, who knows? In the past week, Baez has gone on a 14-for-30 tear with three homers and 11 RBI, adding seven doubles in that span. Baez is a free-swinging masher, who is extremely vulnerable to breaking pitches and offspeed stuff. Make a mistake though and he’ll punish it – he has as much power as any player in the minors – but he chases way too many bad pitches.

Most scouting reports I’ve read from this season feel that he’ll have a long adjustment period in the big leagues, as major league pitchers can abuse his impatient ways. For that reason, I still don’t see him making any fantasy impact this season. But once he learns to wait on his pitch and benefits from, say, 500-600 at bats in the majors, look out! He could be a 40-home run guy from a middle infield position.

 

Prospects Waiting for the Super Two Deadline

These are the guys who will definitely see Major League time this season.

Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT

Gregory Polanco Pittsburgh PiratesPolanco continues to wait to be safely out of risk for Super Two status, leading the International League in batting average at .355. For the uninitiated, there is no firm date for avoiding Super Two status. Three years from now, the MLB will look at all players who have more than two, but less than three years of service time. From that pool of players, the top 22% in terms of service time will be granted an extra year of arbitration. Those not in the top 22% will still have their salary for that year dictated by the club.

This is multi-million dollar distinction, potentially. Though the Pirates, or any other team, will never admit to holding a player back for these reasons, it happens. And it is happening with Polanco.

Oscar Taveras, OF STL

Tavares has been on fire lately, with five multi-hit games in the past week. The kid can hit and should continue to hit when the Cards call him up. Taveras and Polanco will be the biggest impact call-ups this summer, but the edge for fantasy goes to Taveras who can be plugged into the middle of the Cardinals’ order and contribute immediately.

Andrew Heaney, LHP, MIA

Some pitchers struggle with the promotion to a new level of the minors, but not Heaney. In his first two starts in the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League, Heaney allowed one run in five innings on May 22 and followed that up with a six-inning, one-hit performance on Tuesday night. Heaney is another guy with seemingly nothing to prove in the minors and should be in the Marlins’ rotation within the next few weeks, especially since they are holding their own in the NL East.

Archie Bradley, RHP, ARZ

Bradley announced (via Twitter) that he threw pain free from flat ground on Monday and that he’ll toss a bullpen session by the end of the week. This is positive news for the minor league’s top pitching prospect, but also an indication that the D-Backs are taking it slowly with their future ace.

 

Additional Notes

SP Marcus Stroman (TOR) made a few disastrous bullpen appearances with the Blue Jays and was sent back to Buffalo, where he hasn’t fared much better in two starts (9 IP/7 runs).

SP Taijuan Walker (SEA) began his rehab assignment Wednesday night with triple-A Tacoma. If things go well, he should be in the M’s rotation by mid-June.

2B Rougned Odor (TEX) could be entrenched at second base for the rest of the season, with a potential season-ending prognosis for Jurickson Profar.

SP Noah Syndergaard (NYM) seems to have dodged a bullet (for now) when an MRI showed just a mild elbow strain in his sore arm. He has been placed on the DL and can continue without surgery pending a second opinion. This type of injury is often a pre-cursor to TJ surgery, so we’ll have to wait and see.

 




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