Well, it’s here. The moment of truth. One of these prospects always tells the truth, the other always lies. Depending on how tightly you are in contention, your team’s future may lie with these young players, immediate futures uncertain as they may be. Stash wisely and may force outs be with you.
Here’s the list for the minor league hitters most likely to make an impact for your fantasy team in 2015. It does not include hitters who have already hit in the majors this year.
1. Orlando Arcia (SS, Brewers) – Many of the guys on this list are high-risk, high-upside types. Arcia is not one of these. What he is, is a far safer bet to be a productive major leaguer, and possibly a star. As a 21-year-old, he just turned up the power knob with 3 homers in his past 6 games and is now hitting .301 with 8 Home Runs and 23 stolen bases. That also comes with a great 12% K rate and outstanding defense to stick at short. With such a broad base of skills, odds are good that he’ll help you in some way, and quite possibly in multiple ways. Much like an excellent show made by Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, he’s All That.
2. Javier Baez (2B/SS, Cubs) – Joe Maddon said that Baez is “definitely on the radar screen” for a September Call-up, and Cubs fans who don’t give up too fast should rejoice. While he hasn’t quite shown the mammoth power he has in past campaigns, he’s hit for better average and cut his Triple-A K rate from 30% in 2014 to 24.8% this year. He’s flown under most people’s radar screens but a prospect with his pop might be able to stick in the majors if he can transfer that improved plate discipline to the majors. He’s still only 22 and frankly has just too much upside to ignore.
3. Max Kepler (1B/OF, Twins) – Kepler’s returned to earth this week, going 0-for-9 over his last three games. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s demonstrated a broad base of skills and could do very well in his debut. He also has defensive versatility, which he might need to get ABs on a team that doesn’t have a clear opening for him. He’s in some ways similar to Arcia; in his favor, he has a better walk rate, but against him is a less scarce position and less speed.
4. A.J. Reed (1B, Astros) – I’d have Reed higher on this list if I were more confident he’d get regular playing time, or get called up at all, since he’s not on the 40-man. But I think given the void at the position he can force his way in with a call-up and a hot start. It’s not often that September contenders would hand the reins to a newbie, but if it does happen, a hitter like Reed in a park like Minute Maid offers juicy potential. (Note: This pun was actually not intended until I noticed it three seconds after writing the sentence).
5. Hector Olivera (2B/3B, Braves) – His call-up seemed both imminent and inevitable, but apparently the Braves wanted to make sure Olivera’s bat didn’t turn into tapenade after going 0-for-16. Sure enough he’s warmed up this past week with two multi-hit games. But the sample size is large enough now to show concern for his lack of power, so he’s only this high due to the guaranteed At-Bats. I still see a big question mark every time I see his name. Maybe I should see a doctor for this condition.
6. Nick Williams (OF, Phillies) – A couple days ago Williams went 4-for-6 with a triple shy of the cycle, but aside from that it’s been a week he’d like to forget. Because on the week he’s 5-for-26. Still his season line remains strong, but he hurt his chances of a call-up a bit. Then again, if he gets it, I do expect him to have a clear path to playing time, and good power/speed production.
7. Adam Duvall (1B/OF, Reds) – He’s struggled offensively as of late, but that’s more acceptable as he’s been adjusting to learning outfield, since it’s the only way he may be able to carve out a role in the majors. He’s hit 30 home runs this year, and his K rate of 21% is much better than most other hitters with that power (see Shaffer, Blash, Moya). Many have already written him off as a quad-A type but I think he could have a big month and carve out a full-time role, and his sudden OF eligibility gives him a significant value boost.
8. Mallex Smith (OF, Braves) – He’s the less likely Braves outfielder to get recalled because he’s not on the 40-man roster. But if you’re a fantasy leaguer who needs stolen bases, you’re crossing your fingers and praying it happens. He’s stolen 50, count ’em, 50 bases this year, and he hits for good average and draws walks to boot. He lacks any longball skills and strikes out more than high-contact guys like Peraza and Arcia, but he can fill a dire need for SBs in a hurry.
9. Chad Pinder (2B, Athletics) – Pinder just keeps cruising along, and is now hitting .319 with 15 Home Runs and 7 Stolen bases on the year. He’s been striking out less the past few weeks and I wouldn’t be so surprised if he gets a full tryout this month to establish himself as the A’s new second baseman. But he’s not on the 40-man roster so it’s no guarantee either.
10. Brandon Drury (3B, Diamondbacks) – Drury has had a rather bizarre campaign. After hitting 23 homers in 2014, this year he only has 5. He also was quite mediocre in Double-A, yet he got promoted to Triple-A anyway, and has been hitting .336 since then. Streaming for average generally isn’t a great strategy, but he does have a low K rate, and he could be one of those guys who re-kindles his mashing ways after reaching the show, and it later becomes an inspirational movie called “Drury Duty”
Honorable Mention: Jabari Blash (OF, Mariners) – If fantasy leagues were judged based on player names, Blash would be a first rounder, next to Balbino Fuenmayor and Bubba Blau (BUBBA BLAU!) While this is not the case, the 26-year-old has otherwise distinguished himself with an impressive display of power, with 28 longballs in 452 PA. And ten (10) of those Blash Blasts (TM) have come since August 6th. That is INSANE. While he’s no guarantee for playing time, the Mariners love power hitters and Blash fits that profile. He’s a sleeper in OBP leagues as he walks a lot, though not as much as he strikes out. Very high risk, very high reward here. While he could tank your average, fortune favors the bold and Blash. Splish splash I’ll be stashing Blash.
Players of Note: Jesse Winker (OF, Reds) has put up a solid season and is a might fine prospect. But the team’s brass have indicated that they haven’t “given much thought” to calling him up. Or they gave it a thought, but the thought was “nah” and that would make for a strange press conference. Remember Terrance Gore (OF, Royals)? He may murder the basepaths as a pinch runner, but expecting more than empty speed is likely folly. Trevor Story (SS, Rockies) has adjusted to Triple-A and now sports an identical 24% K rate at the level, though his walks and steals have tailed off. The upside is great if he does get the call but it’s uncertain if it’ll happen, and how much playing time he would get. Corey Seager (SS, Dodgers) has rallied lately with a couple of dingers, but it probably won’t make much difference… with Utley, Peraza and Enrique Hernandez all in the fold, he’s probably just there for an espresso shot and to say “Oh boy!” like an excited child a few times. It appears that Nomar Mazara (OF, Rangers) could get a chance to win the promotion due to Gallo’s struggles, but he’s not on the 40-man. All of you hopefuls stashing Aaron Judge (OF, Yankees) he’s not getting the call and the Yankees brass put their clown down. Protest all you want, but the clown is down.