I'm changing up the format in this final 2017 edition of the Prospects Report.
It's the final one because regular-season play will soon be ending in the minor leagues, and as an offshoot of that, major-league rosters will be expanding from 25 to as many as 40, if an organization desires.
Most of the time, it's nowhere near 40, and most of the time, the new additions are bit players playing bit roles. But occasionally during September roster expansion, you'll see a legitimate prospect stake his claim to a big-league job.
It's not always predictable, but I see five who may be in line to do it. I wouldn't say they're priority pickups across the board, but depending on the depth of your league and the extent of your need, you may want to go ahead and put in a claim.
Of course, there are other prospects who've generated buzz this season who don't seem like great candidates to make a worthwhile contribution. I've made a point to identify some of them as well. No sense wasting the roster space if roster space is indeed valuable to you.
Ready to play and play often
(If any September call-ups are going to make a Fantasy impact, it's these five.)
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
2016 minors: 5-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 134 IP, 45 BB, 126 K
2017 minors: 14-4, 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 148 2/3 IP, 35 BB, 147 K
Flaherty nearly took Mike Leake's last turn in the starting rotation Saturday before the Cardinals abruptly decided to stay the course. So now that Leake has been traded to the Mariners, it's pretty obvious who's going to take his place, right? OK, so Adam Wainwright is supposed to come back from the DL eventually, but he got a PRP injection in his right elbow Aug. 19 and hasn't thrown since. Flaherty has already exceeded his previous career high in innings by 14 2/3, so he may have only three starts or so left in him. Maybe the Cardinals are thinking the 21-year-old with the improved fastball and mature secondary arsenal can bridge the gap to Wainwright's return.
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 (451 AB), 14 HR, 5 SB, .743 OPS, 76 BB, 95 K
Nearly every major prospect publication has ranked Crawford among the best of the best the last three years even though his numbers weren't always sparkling during that time. But they've been sparkling over the last two months, resulting in a .278 batting average 12 home runs and .917 OPS in 55 games. With his combination of pure athleticism and uncommon composure at the plate (just look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last two years) it was only a matter of time, and Freddy Galvis isn't any sort of roadblock if the Phillies decide they want a sneak peak at next year.
Tyler Glasnow, SP, Pirates
2017 minors: 8-2, 2.06 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 87 1/3 IP, 31 BB, 131 K
2017 majors: 2-6, 7.45 ERA, 1.91 WHIP, 54 1/3 IP, 29 BB, 50 K
Glasnow is an even easier call than Flaherty and Crawford since he's already on the 40-man roster, but then again, he's on the 40-man roster because he has already failed miserably in the majors. Fool me twice, shame on me. But lately, the people Glasnow has fooled the most are minor-league hitters. He has dominated in all 14 of his minor-league starts and especially lately, issuing just 1.9 walks per nine innings in his last six. And it hasn't compromised his stuff, at least judging by his 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings during that same time. No, ditching the windup has made his mechanics more repeatable, and if he's no longer beating himself with command, he's about to carve up big-league lineups as well.
Brandon Woodruff, SP, Brewers
2017 minors: 6-5, 4.31 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 77 1/3 IP, 26 BB, 71 K
2017 majors: 1-1, 1.62 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 16 2/3 IP, 8 BB, 12 K
Woodruff didn't deserve to get sent back down after an abbreviated start at Colorado Aug. 19, but the off days lined up so that the Brewers didn't need a fifth starter until September. Ergo, Woodruff is the Brewers fifth starter even though he's not actually on the roster right now. He did a fine job limiting runs in his first three big-league starts, but the walks were high and the strikeouts low. He still has plenty to prove, in other words, especially after an uninspiring showing at Triple-A Colorado Springs. That's like the minor-league version of Coors Field, though, and Woodruff had a 2.68 ERA, 1.02 ERA and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016. The upside is legit.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Tigers
2016 minors: .283 BA (474 AB), 13 HR, 39 2B, .840 OPS, 70 BB, 99 K
2017 minors: .263 BA (396 AB), 15 HR, 35 2B, .827 OPS, 46 BB, 102 K
The prospect hounds are divided over just how impactful Candelario will be at the big-league level, but Victor Martinez's heart condition has opened the door for the Tigers to get a first-hand look. He has already appeared in the majors this year, so it's a little surprising he hasn't gotten the call already. The Tigers are presently at Colorado and don't have access to the DH spot. Once they do, Nick Castellanos will likely be the one to fill it, with Candelario taking over at third. Of course, with 30 strikeouts to just five walks since moving from the Cubs organization to the Tigers, Candelario's greatest strength (plate discipline) has been compromised. You shouldn't expect him to have the longest of leashes.
Maybe they will, but will it matter?
(These prospects likely will see some action in September, but probably not enough to make a real Fantasy contribution.)
2017 minors: .285 BA (466 AB), 15 HR, 14 SB, .785 OPS, 25 BB, 141 K
2017 majors: .190 BA (42 AB), 2 HR, 2 SB, .642 OPS, 4 BB, 18 K
Barreto already got an opportunity in the big leagues this year, spending a couple weeks at shortstop while Marcus Semien was sidelined by a broken wrist. But he didn't make much of an impression then and hasn't set the world on fire at Triple-A either, showing not quite enough power to make up for his putrid plate discipline. Worst of all, though, is that the Athletics didn't move Semien or Jed Lowrie at the trade deadline, so where exactly is Barreto going to play?
Willie Calhoun, 2B, Rangers
2016 minors: .254 BA (503 AB), 27 HR, 88 RBI, .788 OPS, 45 BB, 65 K
2017 minors: .294 BA (463 AB), 29 HR, 83 RBI, .915 OPS, 42 BB, 58 K
Calhoun has a couple obstacles in his way. For starters, he isn't on the 40-man roster, so the Rangers will have to decide if he's worth forfeiting that flexibility. He may well be -- they're still in contention, after all, and he looks like a major league-ready bat -- but is regular playing time available to him? Joey Gallo and Mike Napoli have their faults, but seeing as they've been fixtures all year, it wouldn't make sense for the Rangers to turn away from them now. Calhoun has gotten some time in the outfield, but he's not replacing Carlos Gomez or Delino DeShields in center. If he makes an appearance, it'll be in a bit role.
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies
2016 minors: .242 BA (466 AB), 12 HR, 11 SB, .724 OPS, 55 BB, 161 K
2017 minors: .351 BA (464 AB), 19 HR, 11 SB, .968 OPS, 39 BB, 90 K
Likewise, the Rockies don't really have a place to play McMahon. He has made appearances at first and second base in addition to third this year, which helps his cause, but the fact is Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu are mainstays and Mark Reynolds isn't far off. Plus, Reynolds may already have to sit for Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra from time to time. McMahon has had the kind of year that has put him firmly back on the prospect radar, but at the major-league level, he's just too far down the pecking order.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Astros
Career majors: .156 BA (128 AB), 3 HR, 3 2B, .509 OPS, 18 BB, 49 K
2017 minors: .259 BA (448 AB), 32 HR, 22 2B, .880 OPS, 69 BB, 140 K
Remember him? Arguably the most-hyped prospect of last spring (2016, that is), Reed has fallen on hard times since then, but a two-homer game Tuesday has him tied for the minor-league lead in home runs. And while tying with Renato Nunez for something isn't the most notable accomplishment on its own, Reed has upped his production across the board the last two months, batting .285 (only a .284 BABIP) with 20 homers and a 1.041 OPS in 179 at-bats. He appears to have figured out Triple-A after struggling to make the transition and may be back in the Astros' good graces as a result. But if, given their top-of-the-division standing, they haven't seen fit to turn the page on Yulieski Gurriel yet, what makes you think they will now?
Willy Adames, SS, Rays
2016 minors: .274 BA (482 AB), 10 HR, 31 2B, .797 OPS, 73 BB, 120 K
2017 minors: .272 BA (478 AB), 9 HR, 27 2B, .765 OPS, 64 BB, 123 K
The best thing Adames has going for him is that he's on the 40-man roster, so when push comes to shove, the Rays might just say "why not?" But the 21-year-old hasn't looked much like the top prospect he is at Triple-A Durham this year, offering little in the way of powet. And if the Rays aren't convinced he's an offensive upgrade, why would they switch from the defensively capable Adeiny Hechavarria? If we see Adames, I imagine it'll be in a part-time role, which won't be enough for him to matter even at a thin position.
Don't count on it
(These prospects, despite our sincerest hopes, probably won't be getting the call at all.)
Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
2016 minors: .312 BA (154 AB), 4 HR, 14 SB, .821 OPS, 19 BB, 29 K
2017 minors: .325 BA (526 AB), 20 HR, 42 SB, .901 OPS, 41 BB, 137 K
Acuna is arguably the top prospect in baseball after ascending from high Class A to Triple-A in one season, improving at each stop. But he's also 19. What would the Braves have to prove by calling him up in September? They'd have to add him to their 40-man roster to do so, too, which might complicate their offseason. Better to play it safe with such a big part of their future, I say. Of course, if Acuna does get the call, unlikely though it may be, the impact would be so significant that he's still worth stashing in NL-only leagues, where the waiver wire is plucked clean anyway.
Brent Honeywell, SP, Rays
2016 minors: 7-3, 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 115 1/3 IP, 25 BB, 117 K
2017 minors: 12-9, 3.63 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 131 1/3 IP, 35 BB, 167 K
Honeywell is arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, so as with Acuna, you deeper-league owners with nothing of real promise on the waiver wire might as well hold on to him just in case I'm wrong. But he's also not on the 40-man roster yet, and the Rays have more to lose than gain by putting him there now. Yeah, they're fighting for a playoff spot, but they don't really need a starting pitcher with Matt Andriese back in the fold and Austin Pruitt turning in a fine start last time out. That's one too many starting pitchers already, and then when Jacob Faria comes back, forget it. Honeywell's innings are beginning to pile up, too, so I just don't think it's in the cards for him this year.
Scott Kingery, 2B, Phillies
2016 minors: .281 BA (531 AB), 5 HR, 30 SB, .723 OPS, 38 BB, 90 K
2017 minors: .306 BA (520 AB), 26 HR, 28 SB, .901 OPS, 38 BB, 104 K
Kingery also isn't on the 40-man roster yet, and seeing as the Phillies will already have to take that plunge with Crawford, I just don't know that it makes sense for a rebuilding club to limit its options so. It'd be one thing if Kingery was clearly the answer for next year, but he hasn't been as good since leaving hitter-friendly Double-A Reading. His numbers at Triple-A Lehigh Valley aren't bad -- a .298 batting average, eight home runs, nine stolen bases and .800 OPS in 242 at-bats -- but with 10 walks to 53 strikeouts, it's not entirely clear to me that he has mastered that level. And since Cesar Hernandez has proven to be a worthy big-league starter himself, the Phillies will need to figure out what to do with him before moving on to Kingery.