Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Best of what's left includes Ronald Acuna, Brent Honeywell, J.P. Crawford
Are there any potential call-ups still worth stashing in 2017? Maybe not, but Scott White looks at the best of what's available, led by a Braves 19-year-old outfielder.
So ... what's left?
Rhys Hoskins got the call Thursday. Dominic Smith a day later. We've waited out Yoan Moncada and Amed Rosario, reveled in the wonder of Rafael Devers, kept the faith on Lewis Brinson only to see him suffer what sounds like a season-ending hamstring injury ...
Just what more do we expect to come out of the minors this Fantasy Baseball season?
Well, um ... not much, to be honest. It's not that the talent is gone -- the minor leagues are one well that will never run dry -- but the threshold for a mixed league-caliber player is awfully high, as you know. And with six weeks to go, what are the chances of the right role materializing for a prospect of the right caliber?
Slim, I would say, but not impossible. After all, it was Aug. 17 a year ago when Dansby Swanson made his major-league debut, and while 2017 hasn't gone so well for the 23-year-old, he was a useful pickup down the stretch last year.
Might the Braves be planning something similar with their current top prospect?
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
2016 minors: .312 BA (154 AB), 4 HR, 14 SB, .821 OPS, 19 BB, 29 K
2017 minors: .317 BA (461 AB), 17 HR, 37 SB, .893 OPS, 40 BB, 124 K
Full disclosure: I don't expect Acuna to get the call this year. He's 19 years old and began the year at high Class A. The out-of-contention Braves wouldn't have much to gain from the move, and frankly, I'd expect them to proceed more cautiously after what happened with Swanson this year. But if Acuna does get the call, I want first dibs in my Fantasy league. Yes, he has moved fast, but his numbers have improved at every level. That goes for batting average, OPS and strikeout rate -- an unbelievable feat. He's batting .358 (19 for 53) with two homers and two steals in August and may well be the top prospect in baseball now.
Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates
2017 minors: 8-0, 1.57 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 68 2/3 IP, 26 BB, 103 K
2017 majors: 2-6, 7.45 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, 54 1/3 IP, 29 BB, 50 K
Something tells me if Glasnow hadn't gotten a shot in the majors already, he'd be there now. His performance since returning to Triple-A Indianapolis in mid-June is positively staggering, and there's no way an organization would let it go unrewarded unless it had seen this movie once before. But the tide may be turning. While Glasnow's walk rate between his 11 starts in the minors is an uninspiring 3.4 per nine innings, he issued just one walk in each of his last three starts, recording double-digit strikeouts in two of them. Ditching the windup has allowed his mechanics to crystallize, and his velocity is up as well. A big finish is distinctly possible.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies
2016 minors: .250 BA (472 AB), 7 HR, 12 SB, .688 OPS, 72 BB, 80 K
2017 minors: .237 BA (397 AB), 13 HR, 4 SB, .749 OPS, 66 BB, 82 K
Wait, what? After two straight years of miserable production, why would the Phillies see fit to promote Crawford, and why would we care if they do? Ah, but dig a little deeper. Since July 1 -- a span of 41 games -- Crawford has hit .291 (44 for 151) with 11 homers and a .998 OPS. It was a sudden about-face for a prospect whose standing was built mostly on reputation, but as we've seen time and time again, sometimes the smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference.
"He has made an adjustment with his hands," Triple-A hitting coach Sal Rende recently told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "They're closer to his body and lower. He has caught on, and his bat speed has picked up. He's driving the heck out of the ball."
Throughout his struggles, one skill that never faltered for Crawford was his plate discipline, so not surprisingly, he also has a perfectly sustainable .311 BABIP since July 1. And, yup, he's a shortstop.
Brent Honeywell, SP, Rays
2016 minors: 7-3, 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 115 1/3 IP, 25 BB, 117 K
2017 minors: 12-8, 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 125 IP, 32 BB, 160 K
Honeywell's overall numbers are fine, yeah, but how do a 0.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings sound to you? Better than fine, right? Those are Honeywell's numbers in his past seven starts, which in my mind solidifies his standing as the top pitching prospect in baseball. But his chances of the Rays promoting him this year become longer by the day. They don't really need him, for starters, with Austin Pruitt having put together three straight quality starts, and Pruitt himself is only filling in for an injured Alex Cobb. Plus, the Rays would have to commit a 40-man roster spot to Honeywell, and with his innings escalating, it may not be worth it so late in the season.
Luke Weaver, SP, Cardinals
2017 minors: 10-2, 2.55 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 77 2/3 IP, 19 BB, 76 K
2017 majors: 1-1, 3.77 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 14 1/3 IP, 5 BB, 15 K
Weaver was a higher priority on this list a week ago as the obvious next-in-line for the Cardinals, but the reality is that because of a broken wrist at the start of the 2016 season, he may be facing some real innings concerns himself. He's 27 1/3 innings away from his career high set one year ago, so by the time the Cardinals free up a spot for him, assuming they do at all, he may be close to the limit. His first start back at Triple-A Memphis two turns ago brought his numbers back down to earth a bit, too, so while he's still a great prospect with a bright future, he may not be the best use of a roster spot in a standard mixed league.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Twins
2016 minors: 13-5, 2.06 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 140 IP, 57 BB, 155 K
2017 minors: 9-3, 2.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 100 1/3 IP, 25 BB, 111 K
Gonsalves may not be getting enough attention as a potential September contributor. Because of a shoulder injury at the start of this season, he could actually use a few more innings, currently 40 shy of his previous high, and he has quickly adapted to every stop in the minors. In only his second Triple-A start Tuesday, he allowed one run in six innings, striking out eight. The left-hander has never gotten much love from the prospect hounds, lacking top-of-the-line stuff, but with the way his stuff plays up, racking up strikeouts at every level, he's a little reminiscent of Alex Wood.
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
2016 minors: .305 BA (243 AB), 7 HR, 24 2B, .912 OPS, 38 BB, 54 K
2017 minors: .323 BA (430 AB), 13 HR, 39 2B, .902 OPS, 39 BB, 93 K
Anyone worrying about Senzel's lack of home runs at high Class A Daytona to begin the year can officially stop now. The second overall pick in last year's draft has more than tripled his season total in a fraction of the at-bats at Double-A Pensacola, even delivering two two-homer games in his past five. It was never a real concern with the number of doubles he was hitting, but now that it's officially resolved, it's getting harder to find a real shortcoming for the 22-year-old. A 2018 debut now appears likely for Senzel, whose skill set has at times earned comparisons to Scott Rolen.
Fernando Tatis, SS, Padres
2016 minors: .273 BA (220 AB), 4 HR, 15 SB, .742 OPS, 13 BB, 57 K
2017 minors: .276 BA (417 AB), 21 HR, 28 SB, .895 OPS, 69 BB, 119 K
Tatis' father of the same name is most known for being the only major-leaguer to hit two grand slams in the same inning, but the younger version, who stands four inches taller, may well be the better power hitter of the two. Sure, he's only in low Class A, but the numbers he has put up just in the last two months are intimidating. Since June 10, a span of 55 games, he has hit .304 with 15 home runs and a 1.089 OPS in 191 at-bats -- and with nearly as many walks (49) as strikeouts (52). The Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero is clearly the best second-generation prospect in the game right now, but Tatis may not be too far behind.
Beau Burrows, SP, Tigers
2016 minors: 6-4, 3.15 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 97 IP, 30 BB, 67 K
2017 minors: 10-6, 2.84 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 120 1/3 IP, 38 BB, 126 K
After lighting up the Florida State League with a 1.23 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts, Burrows has had kind of a bumpy transition to Double-A Erie, but his last start Saturday was an absolute gem. He no-hit New Hampshire over six innings, striking out eight and walking two -- and that was coming off a 10-strikeout effort against Hartford. The hard-throwing left-hander, who struck out Rafael Devers and Amed Rosario in the Futures Game, needs to be on dynasty-leaguers' radars.
Wilmer Font, RP, Dodgers
2016 minors: 4-4, 3.68 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 66 IP, 12 BB, 55 K
2017 minors: 9-7, 3.30 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 125 1/3 IP, 32 BB, 168 K
As if the Dodgers needed more help, they plucked Font off the Independent League scrap heap last year and have watched him blossom into the minor-league leader in strikeouts. At 27, he's an atypical prospect for sure, having already made five major-league appearances for the Rangers back in 2012 and 2013, but this latest version looks like he has more to offer. He appears to have turned a corner in his past eight starts, too, compiling a 1.32 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, but with all of the Dodgers' pitching depth, he'll need to change organizations in order to break through. And the clock is ticking.
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