Think Bryse Wilson deserves to be in the majors? What about Touki Toussaint?
Both have had sensational minor-league seasons. Both had impressive big-league debuts, with Toussaint two-hitting the Marlins over six innings Aug. 13 and Wilson shutting out the Pirates over five innings Monday. With those factors in mind, I suspect neither has made his final start for the Braves this season.
And yet I wouldn't list either among my five prospects to stash.
For a player to be worth stashing, he has to be able to make an honest-to-goodness impact in Fantasy, and I don't believe either will have the opportunity to do so.
Oh, they'll pitch, but in the same capacity we've already seen them pitch — as a spot starter filling in here and there, with little fanfare or forewarning.The Braves will need some of that down the stretch. Two of their top pitchers, Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb are nearing their career highs in innings, and while they could probably make it through September no problem, the Braves have their sights on a deep October run and need to make sure they have some bullets left. Their mountain of major league-ready pitching prospects is their ticket.
But do you really plan to stash these two hoping to hit a moving target? And even if you do get a heads-up for when the next start will be, are you sure you'd be willing to start either, as little as we've seen of them at the highest level?
It'd be one thing if it was only one pitcher with a reasonable chance of making 4-5 occasional starts down the stretch, but those scattered opportunities figure to be divided between at least two, if not more. It'd have to be an awfully deep league for me to make Wilson or Toussaint a priority on my bench.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox
2017 minors: .312 BA (333 AB), 19 HR, 22 2B, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
2018 minors: .326 BA (368 AB), 21 HR, 25 2B, .951 OPS, 29 BB, 61 K
So the talk in prospect land this week has of course been the arrival of Michael Kopech, the rifle-armed, bat-missing wonder who may well go down as the prize of the Chris Sale deal (apologies to Yoan Moncada). But an offshoot of that discussion is whether the White Sox's decision to promote their top pitching prospect signifies a willingness to do the same for their top hitting prospect. After all, it was just a few days earlier that I speculated it wouldn't happen, and while I was mostly talking about Jimenez, I quickly dismissed the possibility of Kopech as well. Whoops.
So do I feel better about Jimenez's chances today? Sure, a little. Just don't look for general manager Rick Hahn to tip his hand.
"We're judging each individual based on what's best for them,'' Hahn told the Chicago Sun Times when asked what Kopech's promotion means for Jimenez. "As for Eloy, he's going to remain in Charlotte at this time and continue on the path that he's on, and we'll certainly continue to evaluate where he's at in the coming weeks. And when the time comes, we'll explain the logic behind whatever decision with regards to the rest of his 2018 season as well."
Hahn is actually going out of his way to shoot down any optimism surrounding Jimenez's timetable (which I don't take as a good sign), dismissing director of player development Chris Getz's recent claim that the 21-year-old is "very close."
"Everyone in Triple-A is close,'' Hahn said Monday. "By definition, they are a level away from being in the big leagues. There was not any intention in terms of foreshadowing an imminent move with that comment. It was just a statement about him making progress this year and obviously being one level away from making his major-league debut.''
Hold and hope. After this long, what more can you do?
Vladimir Guerrero, 3B, Blue Jays
2017 minors: .323 BA (437 AB), 13 HR, 28 2B, .910 OPS, 76 BB, 62 K
2018 minors: .394 BA (310 AB), 18 HR, 25 2B, 1.104 OPS, 33 BB, 35 K
If I'm still not expecting Jimenez to get the call, then I'm about ready to label Guerrero a lost cause. But as I mentioned with Wilson and Toussaint, stashing prospects isn't just about the likelihood of seeing them. It's also about their potential to impact Fantasy lineups if and when we do. And for Guerrero, there's no comparison. Even when it looks like he's in a slump of sorts, his batting average dipping below .400 (oh noes!), a closer look reveals he's 7 for 15 with no strikeouts in his past four games. The bat skills are ridiculous. What he can do at the dish at 19 defies all logic and reason. In the off chance he does get the call, you need to be the one who benefits, especially if you've already put in the time.
But, man, the fact the Blue Jays have resorted to playing catcher Russell Martin at third base rather than turning it over to the future of the franchise is a bad, bad sign.
Joshua James, SP, Astros
2017 minors: 4-8, 4.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 76 IP, 32 BB, 72 K
2018 minors: 6-4, 3.13 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 109 1/3 IP, 47 BB, 166 K
Here's one who has escaped the sights of this column for too long, probably because he's 25 and has languished in the Astros farm system for years. But Josh James, as he's more familiarly known, has seen a big jump in velocity this season, which has led to a big increase in strikeouts. How big? So big that his 13.7 per nine innings leads all minor-leaguers with at least 15 starts. And now he finds himself at the precipice of the majors, having made 16 starts for the Triple-A club. With the Astros lacking an obvious replacement for Lance McCullers, James would seem to be next in line:
Jeff Luhnow said Brian McCann catching Josh James last night at Triple-A was intentional. The Astros wanted McCann's intel on James, who could make a spot start this season and will certainly be placed on the 40-man as Rule 5 protection— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) August 19, 2018
James was up to 100 mph, Luhnow said.
You see what I mean about the velocity? You see what I mean about next in line?
Luis Urias, SS, Padres
2017 minors: .296 BA (442 AB), 3 HR, 20 2B, .778 OPS, 68 BB, 65 K
2018 minors: .292 BA (432 AB), 8 HR, 28 2B, .838 OPS, 64 BB, 108 K
The Padres, who are just as out of it as the White Sox and Blue Jays, have their own version of Jimenez and Guerrero. His name is Fernando Tatis, and he's out for the season. Urias is in the next tier of prospects, and because of that, I think his chances of a September debut are pretty strong, especially in light of his recent performance. He's 17 for 28 (.607) with five doubles and three triples in his past seven games. Now that's how you break down the door. The overall numbers won't blow you away, but he has shown an uncanny ability to make solid contact throughout his minor-league career, boasting not just a low strikeout rate but also one of the highest average exit velocities, which to me makes him a prime candidate to step up his power production in the big leagues.
Austin Meadows, OF, Rays
2018 minors: .290 BA (231 AB), 8 HR, 12 SB, .821 OPS, 16 BB, 33 K
2018 majors: .292 BA (154 AB), 5 HR, 4 SB, .795 OPS, 8 BB, 35 K
One of the remarkable things about Meadows' time in the Pirates organization is how he remained a top prospect despite consistently lackluster minor-league production. Nothing lackluster about what he has done with the Rays' Triple-A affiliate, though, batting .318 with six homers compared to just nine strikeouts in 66 at-bats. Obviously, his first taste of the majors before coming over in the Chris Archer deal went pretty well, too, and he's no doubt in the Rays' September plans. The only question is if Mallex Smith's emergence leaves Meadows anywhere to play regularly.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Justus Sheffield, SP, Yankees
2017 minors: 7-7, 3.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 98 IP, 34 BB, 88 K
2018 minors: 6-6, 2.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 110 2/3 IP, 50 BB, 118 K
We know Sheffield will make his major-league debut in September because general manager Brian Cashman has straight up said so. Problem is it won't be in an impactful role:
Sheffield was shifted to the bullpen at AAA today. Cashman said the plan is for Sheffield to make 3 or 4 appearances in relief to get him ready for that role at the major league level in Sept.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) August 22, 2018
Thinking long term, it's obviously good that he has progressed to this point, but I do worry about the bullpen becoming too good of a fit for him. He has a tremendous fastball that has led to low hit rates and high strikeout rates in the minors, but he's inefficient, consistently walking too many batters, and isn't built like a workhorse who can throw 110 pitches every time out. Most publications list him as a top-25 prospect now, but I value him less than that.
Wander Franco, SS, Rays
2018 minors: .373 BA (209 AB), 10 HR, 4 SB, 1.063 OPS, 24 BB, 14 K
As a 17-year-old who had yet to play his first professional game, Franco was already being listed among the top shortstop prospects, and now 53 games into his professional career, we're seeing why. Granted, it's on the lowest rung of the minor-league ladder, but he has been a hitting savant there, demonstrating the advertised contact ability and plate discipline — and with plenty of power to boot.
"Yeah, he's 17. We all get that, but he does things defensively and offensively that you're not supposed to be able to do at his age," manager Danny Sheaffer told MLB.com. "I've managed a lot of great players, and I've played with a lot of great players. He doesn't seem like a 17-year-old kid at this level. He seems like a grown man playing a kids' game."
Could Franco be as much of a natural as Juan Soto, cruising to the majors before his 20th birthday? Probably not, but you'd be wise not to underestimate the talent.
Dean Kremer, SP, Orioles
2017 minors: 1-4, 5.18 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 80 IP, 34 BB, 96 K
2018 minors: 9-5, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 119 1/3 IP, 42 BB, 160 K
Presumed to be one of the lesser pieces in the deal that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers, Kremer has continued to make strides with the Orioles' Double-A affiliate, most recently throwing six shutout innings with six strikeouts Tuesday. That's actually a low strikeout total for him. He has eight starts with nine strikeouts or more and did most of his damage at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga of the hitter-friendly California League. With a mid-90s fastball that gets surprising movement and a big-breaking curveball, his strikeouts might just be legit.
Austin Hays, OF, Orioles
2017 minors: .329 BA (523 AB), 32 HR, 32 2B, .958 OPS, 25 BB, 85 K
2018 minors: .234 BA (256 AB), 8 HR, 10 2B, .649 OPS, 12 BB, 57 K
My No. 17 prospect at the start of the season has been a colossal misfire so far, going from fighting for a job in spring training to fighting for each and every hit at Double-A. But in the earliest days of the exhibition season, his chances were derailed by a lat injury.
"I'd say the biggest part of it was because I missed so much time during spring training I didn't really get all the at-bats and kind of the rhythm and flow of the game I was able to get last year [when] I was healthy all spring training," he told MLB.com last week. "So I was kind of dealing with the timing issues and just the feeling of the game to start the season."
More recently, Hays has spent time in a walking boot because of a bum ankle. Particularly given how productive he was at this same level last year, it's possible the injuries are to blame for everything, so a strong finish would go a long way toward redeeming his value. On that note, he's 13 for 41 (.317) with two homers and four doubles over his past 10 games.
J.D. Davis, 3B, Astros
2018 minors: .354 BA (291 AB), 16 HR, 23 2B, 1.028 OPS, 30 BB, 61 K
2018 majors: .176 BA (85 AB), 1 HR, 2 2B, .483 OPS, 8 BB, 23 K
Davis has had a few productive seasons in the minors already, which is why he has gotten occasional looks in the majors over the past couple years. But he has taken it to a new level at Triple-A Fresno, where he has homered eight times in his past nine games. Similar to Tyler White before he got the call back to the majors, Davis' numbers are looking positively superhuman at Triple-A, and the 25 -year-old surely has nothing more to gain at that level. White has managed to carve out a role in the Astros crowded lineup simply by performing, and Davis will probably get his next chance to do so in September. Most likely, though, it'll take a trade to redeem his full value.