The trade deadline is past, and the floodgates are open.
Amed Rosario was just the beginning.
Word of his arrival broke soon after the clock struck 4 Monday, and Chris Towers already explained in great detail what it means for Fantasy owners. But then, you had been hearing those same kinds of explanation in this space for months. As a prospect, Rosario sort of reminds me of Francisco Lindor, and his promotion was long overdue.
You haven't been hearing about Ozzie Albies' promotion for as long, and as prospects go, he's not quite on Rosario's level. He's not far off either, though, and particularly over the last two months -- 45 games, to be exact -- he has closed the gap statistically, batting .308 (60 for 195) with seven homers, five triples, nine doubles and six stolen bases.
Albies will be the youngest player in the majors -- the first ever born in 1997, actually -- and though he began his professional career as a shortstop, he's expected to play second base for the Braves, giving him a much higher threshold to meet for mixed-league relevance. It's why he's more of a wait-and-see type than Rosario, starting out at about 25th in my second base rankings, though if you need stolen bases specifically, it changes the equation a bit.
And if Albies happens to be shortstop-eligible in your league of choice, well, that changes equation, too.
Albies isn't the only Brave making his major-league debut Tuesday. Lucas Sims takes the mound after a season at Triple-A that righted so many of the wrongs that derailed the former first-round pick last year. He cut his walk rate from 5.9 per nine innings to 2.8 per nine and was among the most prolific bat-missers in all the minors, recording eight strikeouts or more in five of his final six starts.
His one trouble spot -- and it's a big one -- was a vulnerability to the long ball, but Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill believes Sims has addressed that issue.
"His issue early in the season was elevated fastballs, and now he's a lot more consistent staying down in the zone while working in and out," Berryhill told MLB.com. "Now he pitches up in the zone a little bit, but that's to elevate the eyes of the hitter when he works down in the zone. Now he gets a lot of 'chase' swings out of it."
Everybody could use another starting pitcher, and missing bats is the most important skill in today's game. I need to see Sims perform against major-leaguers, though, before taking the plunge in a standard mixed league.
But is he more rosterable than some future call-up? Just because Rosario, Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers are all up doesn't mean we've depleted the minors of potential 2017 contributors.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets
2016 minors: .302 BA (484 AB), 14 HR, 29 2B, .824 OPS, 50 BB, 74 K
2017 minors: .340 BA (427 AB), 16 HR, 33 2B, .928 OPS, 36 BB, 76 K
When general manager Sandy Alderson announced that Amed Rosario was coming up to the big leagues Monday, he added that Dominic Smith was "not far behind," which should have been obvious after the Mets moved Lucas Duda in a deal last week. Smith has played to his scouting report almost perfectly in the four years since the Mets made him the 11th overall pick in the draft, always hitting for average but gradually adding power with each step up the ladder. The hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League may overstate his power production this year, but then again, he'll be entering another hitter-friendly league when he gets the call to the majors. He's a high-floor prospect who'll have his work cut out for him at a deep position.
Reynaldo Lopez, SP, White Sox
2016 majors: 5-3, 4.91 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 44 IP, 22 BB, 42 K
2017 minors: 6-5, 3.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 111 IP, 42 BB, 117 K
"He's forcing the issue," general manager Rick Hahn said of Lopez ... and then the 23-year-old struck out 10 over five innings Wednesday. It gave him three double-digit strikeout efforts to go along with 1.96 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over his last six starts, with five of them lasting at least six innings. Seeing as Carlos Rodon is the only fixture in a rotation that also includes Miguel Gonzalez, Derek Holland, James Shields and Mike Pelfrey, the White Sox wouldn't have to do much shuffling to make it happen. And it will happen sooner than later, putting Lopez, with his near 100-mph heat, on the short list of starting pitchers who could make an immediate impact in Fantasy.
Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
2016 minors: .312 BA (154 AB), 4 HR, 14 SB, .821 OPS, 19 BB, 29 K
2017 minors: .311 BA (411 AB), 16 HR, 35 SB, .881 OPS, 34 BB, 113 K
Speaking of forcing the issue, Acuna has improved with every step up the minor-league ladder this year, looking all too comfortable at Triple-A Gwinnett for a 19-year-old who began the year at A-ball. The Braves are in no hurry to promote him, seeing as they've already packed it in for 2017, but they're an organization that believes in letting the player dictate his timetable. And Acuna is doing so with gusto. Maybe he's a September call-up. Maybe he doesn't arrive at all in 2017. But he's an exceptional talent who you'll be happy you stashed away if that time comes. (It ultimately did for Rafael Devers, after all.)
Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates
2017 majors: 2-6, 7.45 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, 54 1/3 IP, 29 BB, 50 K
2017 minors: 6-0, 1.46 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 55 2/3 IP, 24 BB, 85 K
We've seen plenty of failure for Glasnow at the major-league level already, which unfairly or not makes him less inviting for Fantasy purposes, but he continues to pile up strikeouts at Triple-A Indianapolis. His 12 over 6 1/3 innings Sunday gave him five double-digit efforts in his last eight, and he issued only one walk in the contest. Of course, he issued a combined eight walks in his previous two, but even though control remains an issue, the Pirates believe he's making strides at a pitcher.
"He's not just mixing pitches; he has a better idea of what he has to throw and when to throw it. So, he's developing his mentality along with his stuff and that's going to bode well for him when he gets back to the big leagues," Indianapolis pitching coach Stan Kyle told MLB.com.
Not too long ago, a top prospect struggling in his first big-league season was the norm. Let's not write off Glasnow so soon.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies
2016 minors: .281 BA (498 AB), 38 HR, 116 RBI, .943 OPS, 71 BB, 125 K
2017 minors: .281 BA (367 AB), 24 HR, 78 RBI, .942 OPS, 59 BB, 69 K
Well, the Phillies didn't end up moving Tommy Joseph at the trade deadline, which means Hoskins is as blocked as always. His production has leveled off at Triple-A Lehigh Valley after an impossibly hot start, but he still combines plus power with plus plate discipline to give him the closest thing in my mind to a can't-miss skill set. Even in spring training, he turned heads for the short time he was around. I don't know what the Phillies will do to get Hoskins involved -- maybe 2017 just isn't in the cards for the 24-year-old -- but I do know there aren't five minor-leaguers I'd rather stash. Better safe than sorry, right?
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Willie Calhoun, 2B, Rangers
2016 minors: .254 BA (503 AB), 27 HR, 88 RBI, .788 OPS, 45 BB, 65 K
2017 minors: .298 BA (373 AB), 23 HR, 67 RBI, .931 OPS, 36 BB, 49 K
Calhoun is one of those prospects who rates better for Fantasy purposes than in real life, which is why the world at large was underwhelmed by the Rangers' return for Yu Darvish. The guy can really hit, though, combining big power with an exceptional contact rate -- all in a (generously listed) 5-foot-8 package. He had begun playing some left field in the Dodgers system and really doesn't have the athleticism to stick at second base. That's fine since the Rangers are already settled there with Rougned Odor, so Calhoun may turn out to be a part-time DH, albeit one with the bat to play every day.
Jorge Mateo, SS, Athletics
2016 minors: .254 BA (464 AB), 8 HR, 36 SB, .685 OPS, 33 BB, 108 K
2017 minors: .258 BA (395 AB), 8 HR, 39 SB, .756 OPS, 31 BB, 111 K
At one time, Mateo was considered the heir apparent to Derek Jeter in New York, but his numbers have declined with each step up the ladder. He also had that ugly incident last year when he basically demanded to be promoted to the next level, which earned him a prompt suspension. Bottom line: I'm not sure the Yankees were so hesitant to move him in the Sonny Gray trade. The Athletics must like him, though, and he at least has a future as a base-stealer. If he's forced to move to the outfield, though, in an organization with a couple young shortstops already, it'll really cut into his long-term appeal.
Michael Kopech, SP, White Sox
2016 minors: 4-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 56 1/3 IP, 33 BB, 86 K
2017 minors: 7-7, 3.33 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 105 1/3 IP, 57 BB, 134 K
Kopech's numbers are really getting interesting now. The 21-year-old who was once clocked at 105 mph has suddenly begun to find the strike zone, issuing a grand total of four walks in his four starts since returning from the Futures Game.
"I kind of had gotten away from my direction to the plate," he said of his earlier control issues, according to MLB.com. "I started to spin off away toward first base when I threw my pitches, and it led to a lot more walks than I wanted this year. But right now, I feel like I'm commanding my fastball as good as ever because I'm able to keep my direction to the plate and through the zone."
The result? A 1.33 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings in those four starts. Kopech may be due for a move up to Triple-A, and when all's said and done, we may view him (and not Yoan Moncada) as the prize of the Chris Sale deal.
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies
2016 minors: .242 BA (466 AB), 12 HR, 11 SB, .724 OPS, 55 BB, 161 K
2017 minors: .364 BA (398 AB), 17 HR, 11 SB, 1.004 OPS, 32 BB, 76 K
McMahon's rehabilitation as a prospect this year is nothing short of inspiring. His stock nearly cratered when he hit .242 with 12 homers and a .724 OPS in 466 at-bats for Double-A Hartford last year, especially since it coincided with a move out of a hitter's league. But mirage he is not. In 49 games at that same affiliate this year, he hit .326 with a .926 OPS, and in 51 games since moving up to Triple-A Albuquerque, he has hit .396. Seeing as he has played first, second and third base this year, the Rockies seem eager to find an opening for him.
Alec Hansen, SP, White Sox
2016 minors: 2-1, 1.32 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 54 2/3 IP, 20 BB, 81 K
2017 minors: 8-7, 2.58 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 108 1/3 IP, 38 BB, 138 K
Overshadowed by Michael Kopech and some of the White Sox's other big trade acquisitions, Hansen, a second-round pick who was in the conversation to go No. 1 overall before a bad final season at Oklahoma, is looking like a home-grown gem for the White Sox. He struck out 12 over six innings in his last start Sunday, giving him four double-digit strikeout efforts this season, and he now has a 2.15 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 32 career minor-league starts. He's only at high Class A now, but you'll be hearing more of him in the years to come.