The trade deadline gives sellers a chance to begin plotting for next season, and often that means introducing some of their top prospects to the scene. We're sure to see those instances over the next week.
But the quickest path to the majors is still an untimely injury, and that's still exactly how Luke Weaver is making his way back to the Cardinals rotation. He's the most obvious choice to fill in for the recently deactivated Adam Wainwright (stiff back) Thursday, having been scratched from his latest Triple-A start Tuesday.
And it could turn out to be a great thing for Fantasy owners, who by this point have learned not to place too much trust in Wainwright even with his more recent success. You won't find numbers much better than Weaver's in the minors the past two years.
The Cardinals have interfered with his progress over the past month, though, calling him up in early July for a couple relief appearances, and he lasted only five innings in each of his two starts back at Triple-A. They may play it extra cautious with him, in other words, particularly if Wainwright's injury figures to sideline him for only a couple turns.
There's no harm in picking up Weaver, of course -- I love the upside, and maybe he takes off with his second opportunity, sort of like Jose Berrios did earlier this year -- but depending on need, he's not necessarily a higher-priority stash than these five:
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Amed Rosario, SS, Mets
2016 minors: .324 BA (479 AB), 5 HR, 19 SB, .833 OPS, 40 BB, 87 K
2017 minors: .328 BA (372 AB), 7 HR, 17 SB, .836 OPS, 21 BB, 61 K
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports confirmed earlier this week what we all kind of suspected about Rosario's timetable:
hearing top mets prospect amed rosario could be up in a week or so, maybe just after the trade deadline— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 25, 2017
I take it to mean the Mets will try to find a taker for Asdrubal Cabrera right up to the trade deadline, but one way or another, they're moving on from the malcontent, giving Rosario a more inviting locker room for his debut. In the meantime, the 21-year-old will be working to regain his strength after missing most of the last week with a case of food poisoning. His numbers have understandably stagnated since the All-Star break, but he has nothing more to prove at Triple-A and should make an immediate impact at the weak shortstop position.
Brent Honeywell, SP, Rays
2016 minors: 7-3, 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 115 1/3 IP, 25 BB, 117 K
2017 minors: 10-8, 3.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 102 1/3 IP, 29 BB, 135 K
Honeywell has gotten some buzz lately with Jake Odorizzi sidelined by a lower back strain, and it's no wonder if you've seen some of the midseason prospect lists. With Alex Reyes still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Honeywell is arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball right now and would appear to be primed for the big leagues after nearly a full season at Triple-A. He has gotten on track recently, allowing a combined two earned runs over his last three starts with 11 strikeouts in the most recent. The Rays have other places they can turn -- including Ryan Yarbrough, who struck out 13 in his last start and has had a nice season despite his lower profile -- but Honeywell's upside makes him the one to stash.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies
2016 minors: .281 BA (498 AB), 38 HR, 116 RBI, .943 OPS, 71 BB, 125 K
2017 minors: .281 BA (352 AB), 23 HR, 75 RBI, .939 OPS, 54 BB, 66 K
We've already come this far. Might as well let the trade deadline play out, see if the Phillies ship Tommy Joseph somewhere and then reconsider our decision to stash Hoskins, who has continued to rake at Triple-A with the kind of peripherals that suggest he'll make an immediate impact in the majors. Seeing as he's already 24, finding at-bats for him has to be a priority for the Phillies, but they're not just going to squander Joseph's value either. My faith in Hoskins' success whenever he does get the call makes up for his lack of a clear path.
Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves
2016 minors: .292 BA (552 AB), 6 HR, 30 SB, .778 OPS, 52 BB, 96 K
2017 minors: .284 BA (362 AB), 9 HR, 21 SB, .769 OPS, 25 BB, 85 K
The Braves have really taken a liking to Johan Camargo, starting him at shortstop in six of their past nine games, and while I don't think he has much ability backing up his production, I do think he's partially standing in Albies' way. And Dansby Swanson is still hanging around even though he appears to have lost his job. In other words, Albies' arrival may still hinge on a Brandon Phillips trade, which may or may not happen. Albies has slowed down a bit of late, though seven homers in his last 40 games is still a positive sign.
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, 106 IP, 40 BB, 107 K
The White Sox still have yet to hint of a Lopez promotion, but how much more do they need to see of Derek Holland, James Shields and Mike Pelfrey? It's happening sooner than later, and Lopez is doing his part to force the issue, delivering his fifth consecutive gem at Triple-A Charlotte Friday. He allowed one run on two hits with six strikeouts in six innings, giving him a 1.71 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings during that six-start stretch. He has front-line stuff, including a fastball that pushes triple digits and a swing-and-miss curveball, so you'll want to be the one who takes a chance on him in your league.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Lucas Sims, SP, Braves
2016 minors: 7-11, 4.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 141 IP, 92 BB, 159 K
2017 minors: 7-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 110 1/3 IP, 33 BB, 124 K
Blair: 3 IP, 5 R, 5 BB, 3 K, 75 pitches. This shouldn't alter the plan to slot Sims in the rotation as early as next week— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) July 26, 2017
See? With that sort of clarity, Sims' numbers would be good enough to put him in my Five on the Verge most weeks -- he has missed bats aplenty and eliminated the control issues that plagued him last year -- but he has unfortunately proven to be susceptible to the long-ball in what should be a fairer environment than the majors. I'm intrigued, just not enough to make a preemptive move for him. As with Jacob Faria (who remained highly available long after his debut), it's wait-and-see for me.
Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves
2016 minors: .312 BA (154 AB), 4 HR, 14 SB, .821 OPS, 19 BB, 29 K
2017 minors: .310 BA (384 AB), 15 HR, 35 SB, .876 OPS, 33 BB, 108 K
I may be understating his upside by leaving Acuna out of this week's Five on the Verge. It'll take something radical, like an Ender Inciarte trade, for him to debut immediately after the trade deadline, but seeing as the Braves are pursuing big fish like Sonny Gray, we can't rule anything out. The game comes so easily to the 19-year-old, inviting comparisons to Andruw Jones, and he has somehow improved his production every step up the ladder this year, batting .292 (14 for 48) with three homers, two steals and a .935 OPS in his 13 games at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Jose De Leon, SP, Rays
2016 minors: 7-1, 2.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 86 1/3 IP, 20 BB, 111 K
2017 minors: 1-2, 3.62 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 27 1/3 IP, 9 BB, 34 K
De Leon has had almost all of his 2017 season swallowed up by injuries, most recently a strained lat, but if his earliest rehab starts are any indication, he still has a chance of salvaging it. The 24-year-old, who has been one of the minors' most prolific bat-missers over the past three seasons, struck out eight over four one-hit innings Monday. Granted, it was in the Rookie league, but it demonstrated a return to health regardless. He may be ready to go before the Rays decide they're comfortable turning to Honeywell, especially if they go with someone else entirely this first time through the rotation.
Tyler O'Neill, OF, Cardinals
2016 minors: .293 BA (492 AB), 24 HR, 12 SB, .882 OPS, 62 BB, 150 K
2017 minors: .243 BA (358 AB), 20 HR, 9 SB, .806 OPS, 44 BB, 112 K
The Cardinals didn't totally buy low on O'Neill when they swapped Marco Gonzales for him last week. While his season-long numbers leave something to be desired, he had homered 13 times in 24 games leading up to the trade. Add one in three games since, and ... well, he's clearly turning over a new leaf. Standing 5-feet-11, O'Neill nonetheless has some of the best raw power in the minors, and his line-drive rate suggests he may deserve better in the batting average department. If he stays hot for a couple more weeks, he's a good bet to arrive in August.
Luiz Gohara, SP, Braves
2016 minors: 7-2, 1.81 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 69 2/3 IP, 23 BB, 81 K
2017 minors: 5-2, 2.34 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 88 1/3 IP, 28 BB, 99 K
Also traded by the Mariners this year, Gohara has somehow managed to stand out amid the Braves' embarrassment of pitching riches. His most impressive effort came in his most recent start Saturday, when he struck out 11 in six shutout innings. Missing bats isn't the problem for the big left-hander, whose fastball flirts with triple digits and sweeping slider continues to emerge as a plus pitch, but durability may be. He almost certainly won't reach the majors this year seeing as he has already exceeded his previous high in innings.