Week 19 Rookie Roundup: Recently Promoted Prospects

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Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Recently Promoted Prospects! Here I discuss some recently promoted prospects and what to make of their production for fantasy owners.

Most weeks it seems the top prospects promoted are all hitters. And while there were some solid options with the bat called up this week, it is the group of pitchers that really stand out. There are two pitching prospects called up compared to only one hitter on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list. So for those of you who are in need of some pitching help, this is the week for you!

Without any further ado, let’s get right into talking about the recently promoted prospects for week 19!

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Hitters:

Jorge Alfaro (C, PHI) - 2% owned
The Philadelphia Phillies called up Alfaro to serve as the backup catcher following Andrew Knapp’s fractured hand injury. Alfaro has long been regarded as one of the top catching prospects in the game, however he has struggled to live up to that hype. And that trend has continued into 2017. Slashing just .241/.291/.358, Alfaro has been largely ineffective offensively in his first taste of Triple-A action. He is still striking out far too much (32.3 percent of the time), not taking many free passes (4.6 percent walk rate) and has not been able to hit for much power despite that being his calling card on offense (seven homers and .117 ISO). And with him likely headed back down to the minors when Knapp returns, Alfaro is not worth owning in any leagues beyond dynasty leagues.

JD Davis (3B, HOU) - 0% owned
With Carlos Correa still sitting on the DL and Colin Moran out for a while, the Houston Astros decided to promote Davis to serve as an option at third base. Davis has built on back-to-back 20+ homer seasons in 2015 and 2016 with 21 homers in 87 games at Double-A and then adding five more long balls to his total in 16 games at Triple-A. All the while, he has reduced his overall strikeout rate by nearly 2 percent and has maintained a solid walk rate and batting average. Davis is not regarded as a top prospect with most scouts citing poor defense, little to no speed and a slightly below-average hit tool, but he is regarded as a solid power hitter who could launch 20-25 homers in a full season. If he receives regular playing time during Correa’s and Moran’s absence, he could be a solid source of power for fantasy owners in deeper leagues.

Cameron Gallagher (C, KC) - 0% owned
We now return from our brief break to return to the catcher show of offensive prospects. The second of four catchers on this list, Gallagher was recalled from Triple-A as the corresponding move to the placement of Salvador Perez on the 10-day DL. Like Alfaro, Gallagher is expected to play the role of backup with Perez out and Drew Butera sliding over to the starting role. Unlike Alfaro, he is not regarded as a top prospect and neither has exciting power nor a particularly great bat. Though he is still young and could be a defensive-minded backup in the majors, Gallagher is not worthy of adding in any format.

Raffy Lopez (C, TOR) - 0% owned
The oldest “prospect” on this list, Lopez is a 29-year-old rookie who was promoted following an injury to backup catcher Miguel Montero for the Toronto Blue Jays. Lopez debuted in 2014 with the Chicago Cubs, returned to the majors last season with the Cincinnati Reds and is now back up again for his third stint in the big leagues. He has put together his best season in the minors this season, slashing .293/.368/.551 with 12 homers over 59 games. But as the backup to Russell Martin, he is not expected to steal any meaningful playing time, and will likely return to the minors once either Luke Maile or Montero returns. Therefore, you can just leave Lopez on the waiver wire.

Kyle Farmer (C/3B, LAD) - 0% owned
Talk about starting your career off with a bang. In his first Major League at-bat, Farmer collected his first hit in the majors — a pinch-hit, two-run walkoff double against the rival San Francisco Giants on July 30. Farmer had been putting up solid numbers at Triple-A prior to his promotion, slashing .316/.363/.503 with six homers, a 5.3 percent walk rate and a 16.3 percent strikeout rate. He also provides the Los Angeles Dodgers with a solid utility player, capable of stepping in behind the dish or playing first, second or third base. However, the Dodgers are extremely deep at every position, and their primary backup catcher — Austin Barnes — is already their top utility guy. So while Farmer is a cool story on the year for his heroics against San Francisco, he is not a great fantasy add.

 

Pitchers:

Reynaldo Lopez (SP, CWS) - 6% owned
No prospect promoted this week carries the same level of hype that will come with Lopez. Acquired by the Chicago White Sox in the Adam Eaton trade, Lopez was originally viewed as the second-best piece in the deal with Lucas Giolito representing the primary return. However, Lopez has pitched well at Triple-A Charlotte while Giolito has struggled to find any consistency. While in the International League, Lopez has posted up a solid 3.79 ERA and 4.17 FIP over 121 innings, and has posted his highest strikeout rate (25.4 percent) since last season at Double-A.

The question with Lopez has always been whether or not he has the stuff to last as a starting pitcher. He is really just a fastball/curveball guy right now with an average changeup. He is also a bit smaller in stature (6-foot, 185 pounds) which has inevitably led to questions about durability. But at least for this season, Lopez appears destined for the rotation, a role he is far more likely to stay in moving forward than he was had he remained with the Washington Nationals given the White Sox lack of starting pitching depth compared to the Nats’. Lopez should be able to provide owners with consistently high strikeout totals, though his inconsistent control could lead to the occasional clunker. Don’t count on him to be an ace this season, but owners in 12+ team leagues could use Lopez as a solid depth piece if looking for an arm with plenty of upside.

Brandon Woodruff (SP, MIL) - 5% owned
Woodruff was actually promoted much earlier in the season, but was injured before he could debut in the big leagues. But he healed up, made a rehab start and officially made his first MLB start for the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He dazzled against a solid lineup, spinning 6.1 scoreless innings and scattering seven hits and two walks while striking out six.

It had taken Woodruff a while to gain some acclaim, but he pitched quite well in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, especially considering that he called super hitter-friendly Colorado Springs home. He posted a 4.46 ERA and 4.42 FIP while missing bats (22.4 percent strikeout rate) and avoiding walks (7.7 percent walk rate). Most impressively though, he kept the ball in the yard, limiting opposing hitters to just 0.99 HR/9 and maintaining a solid 11.3 percent HR/FB rate. The concern with Woodruff in the past has been whether he has the stuff to make it in the majors, but he has demonstrated an above-average fastball/slider combination and an average changeup with great control, leaving scouts to believe he could make it as an innings-eating middle-of-the-rotation starter for Milwaukee. It may be a bit much to expect him to rise up to that level this season, but Woodruff could still be a solid depth add in 14+ team leagues.

Anthony Banda (SP, ARI) - 2% owned
Banda was recalled for his second start in the majors, and it’s safe to say it went a lot better than his first appearance. Though he was fine in his debut, he did a much better job avoiding bats in his outing against the Giants this past Friday, as he allowed just one run to cross the plate over six innings. That run came on the strength of three hits and four walks while he struck out five. And while the walks are a tad concerning, it was still overall a promising outing. Banda is one of the few decent prospects in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system, and he has the stuff to profile as a No. 3 or 4 starter in their rotation. If he can keep the walks down and improve on his control a bit, he could reach that upside sooner rather than later. He does play in a bit of a launching pad and in a really tough division for pitchers which limits his upside, but he could still be a solid NL-only/deep league add for owners desperate for starting pitching depth.

Marco Gonzales (SP, SEA) - 1% owned
Acquired at the hefty price of one Tyler O’Neill, Gonzales was sent over to the Seattle Mariners from the St. Louis Cardinals in the hopes of providing the Mariners with some starting pitching depth. But Gonzales looked shaky in his Seattle debut, giving up five runs on seven hits and one walk over four innings. He struck out five. But the former top prospect still carries plenty of upside with one of the best left-handed changeups in the minors and strong control. If he can return his velocity to where it was even earlier in the season, he has the potential to miss bats at the big-league level. But for now, there is too much risk in Gonzales as he has been unable to prove he can live up to his hype. He is a super deep league add at best, and is probably best left on the waivers until he proves he can get batters out with some consistency.

Max Fried (SP, ATL) - 0% owned
When Fried opened up the season at Double-A, it looked like the 2012 seventh-overall pick would have a chance to steal a rotation spot by the time the middle of the season rolled around. But Fried struggled mightily through the year, posting a 5.92 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 22.1 percent strikeout rate and miserable 11.2 percent walk rate. So instead, the Atlanta Braves opted to promote Fried to their bullpen with the hopes that he might be able to iron out some of his issues there (and also limit his innings total a bit). However, he was not overly sharp in his debut as he walked two batters and gave up two hits in just two innings of work (though he was able to avoid giving up any runs). Fried still has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher at some point, but owners should keep expectations low for this season, understanding that he is likely to just spend most of his time in the bullpen.

 

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