Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire:
There's a new opening in the top five to stash.
After debuting there last week, Dustin Fowler indeed got the call Wednesday, coming off the bench for the plate appearance he was denied when he suffered a devastating knee injury in the first inning of his major-league debut with the Yankees last June.
But this isn't just some feel-good story. Judging from his numbers at Triple-A, Fowler is immediately the Athletics' best option in center field, at least against righties.
"You talk about your center fielder of the future, and this is the guy we've targeted for that," manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com. "Against righties, he'll get plenty of starts. There's no reason to bring him here and not play him."
Still, there are limitations. Fowler hasn't proven himself to be a big on-base guy, and I don't see him muscling up for 30 home runs even in today's homer-happy environment. Plus, the Athletics keep using the caveat "against righties," which leads me to believe he'll be less than a full-timer at the start.
But he can steal bases with enough pop to measure up in other areas, which makes him worth a flier in categories leagues, particularly those of the five-outfielder variety. If you're hoping for something like a poor man's Brett Gardner -- er, last year's Brett Gardner, that is -- you have the right idea.
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Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Nick Kingham, SP, Pirates
2018 minors: 2-1, 1.59 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 22 2/3 IP, 7 BB, 27 K
2018 majors: 2-0, 2.92 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 12 1/3 IP, 1 BB, 16 K
That's right: Someone who wasn't even on the prospect radar coming into the season is now the top minor-leaguer to stash because of -- get this -- something he did in the majors. OK, so it wasn't only the fact that Kingham one-hit the Cardinals in his major-league debut April 29, striking out nine. It was how he did it, unfurling a swing-and-miss slider that wasn't even part of his repertoire a month earlier. It helped explain the sudden dominance in the minors for a 26-year-old who had long been more of a command-and-control guy. And while he was sent down after his second start -- a solid outing against the Brewers -- because the Pirates don't need a fifth starter for a while, he's not a slam-dunk choice for this top spot, not with Joe Musgrove set to return from shoulder discomfort when that fifth turn comes up again. I'm hopeful the Pirates give Kingham first dibs, though.
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
2017 minors: 14-4, 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 148 2/3 IP, 35 BB, 147 K
2018 minors: 4-1, 2.27 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 31 2/3 IP, 7 BB, 41 K
Flaherty is probably more talented than Kingham, but unlike Kingham, he doesn't already have the inside track on a rotation spot, despite his best efforts. In fact, the Cardinals actually gave John Gant a turn over him the last time through, deciding it wasn't worth realigning the Triple-A rotation for a one-off. It didn't help that Flaherty was coming off the worst of his four starts at Triple-A Memphis, having issued four walks in just five innings. He got back on track Wednesday, striking out 13 while issuing just one walk in 6 2/3 innings.
"This time out I really just made the adjustment of attacking guys," Flaherty told MLB.com, an approach that has yielded several big strikeout efforts this season, even dating back to spring training. "I think that's been a big key, just going out and attacking."
I'd wish Adam Wainwright the best in his return from elbow inflammation this weekend, but ...
Ryan McMahon, 1B, Rockies
2017 minors: .355 BA (470 AB), 20 HR, 39 2B, .986 OPS, 41 BB, 92 K
2018 majors: .180 BA (50 AB), 1 2B, .517 OPS, 10 BB, 22 K
It'll take more than the .233 batting average and .581 OPS McMahon currently boasts at Triple-A Albuquerque to get him back in the majors, but it's only seven games he has played there and the disappointment of what looks like a missed opportunity is still fresh. Truth is the Rockies never gave him an opportunity -- not really. They put him on the big-league roster after a strong spring showing and then started him just once in their first 12 games. Way to break him in gently guys. The offensive force McMahon was at the highest levels last year, though, gives me confidence he'll come around, possibly just in time for the Rockies to move on from any one of Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez or Gerardo Parra (who are all, frankly, looking mostly like dead weight).
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
2017 minors: .321 BA (455 AB), 14 HR, 40 2B, .905 OPS, 49 BB, 97 K
2018 minors: .271 BA (85 AB), 3 HR, 3 2B, .809 OPS, 10 BB, 21 K
A bout with vertigo has sidelined Senzel since the last Prospects Report, and while something similar shut him down for good last August, part of the delay then was just figuring out what he had. He knows now, and he told The Cincinnati Enquirer this offseason that he knows how to handle it if it comes up again. the Reds have yet to offer a timetable, but this seems like one of those situations where no news is good news. For now, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, especially since an injury to any one of the Reds' infielders could earn him the call. It might have happened when Eugenio Suarez fractured his thumb early on if Senzel hadn't gotten off to such a slow start. The bat is special, though, and at 22, his opportunity will come this year as long as he's able to take the field.
Vladimir Guerrero, 3B, Blue Jays
2017 minors: .323 BA (437 AB), 13 HR, 28 2B, .910 OPS, 76 BB, 62 K
2018 minors: .392 BA (102 AB), 5 HR, 10 2B, 1.103 OPS, 12 BB, 12 K
So one thing we have to remember -- and by we, I mean both you, the reader, and me, the writer -- is that the top prospects to stash in Fantasy aren't necessarily the ones closest to a promotion. It's a combination of proximity and impact, and the latter tips the scales decidedly in Guerrero's favor. Dating back to this offseason, I assumed he had virtually no chance of reaching the majors as a 19-year-old with no experience above A-ball, but with the way he has dismantled Double-A pitching so far, the buzz is building. It's a crazy batting eye. It's a terrific contact rate. It's huge power. As an all-around prospect, Guerrero doesn't rate as high as Ronald Acuna, but as a pure hitter, he earns some of the highest marks I've ever seen.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Austin Riley, 3B, Braves
2017 minors: .275 BA (484 AB), 20 HR, 19 2B, .786 OPS, 43 BB, 124 K
2018 minors: .333 BA (111 AB), 6 HR, 11 2B, 1.047 OPS, 10 BB, 31 K
Riley himself may be a candidate for the previous fivesome sooner than later. The Braves just moved him up to Triple-A after he made his second stint at Double-A look even easier than his first. Yes, while last year's overall numbers look fairly ordinary, the 21-year-old made an adjustment to shorten his swing about midway through and took off. In fact, in his past 101 games -- I'll include the Arizona Fall League as well as regular-season play -- he has hit .323 with 20 homers in 344 at-bats. If the Jose Bautista experiment doesn't work out in Atlanta, keep an eye out for what happens next.
Stephen Gonsalves, SP, Twins
2017 minors: 9-5, 3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 110 IP, 31 BB, 118 K
2018 minors: 5-0, 1.30 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 34 2/3 IP, 12 BB, 39 K
The pitcher so few within the game seem to believe in just continues to dominate the minor-league ranks, allowing a combined one run on four hits with 14 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings since his promotion to Triple-A. The move up to Triple-A late last year was the first time the 23-year-old stumbled during his six-year minor-league career, during which he has compiled a 2.32 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings, so now that he appears to have conquered it, he's ready to test his so-called ordinary stuff at the top level.
Corbin Burnes, SP, Brewers
2017 minors: 8-3, 1.67 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 145 2/3 IP, 36 BB, 140 K
2018 minors: 1-0, 4.55 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 31 2/3 IP, 10 BB, 34 K
If the contrast between Burnes' 2017 numbers and 2018 numbers is jarring to you, keep in mind he's pitching at Colorado Springs now, which is roughly the minor-league equivalent of Coors Field. Each of his three road starts have been electric, most recently Sunday's outing at Oklahoma City in which he struck out 13 over seven one-run innings. With a four-pitch arsenal and plus control, he'll be right behind Brandon Woodruff whenever the Brewers decide to stop running retreads out there and take this season seriously.
2017 minors: .224 BA (375 AB), 19 HR, .816 OPS, 87 BB, 129 K
2018 minors: .235 BA (81 AB), 4 HR, .875 OPS, 30 BB, 29 K
Thought to be one of the top catcher prospects from the moment the White Sox took him 10th overall in the 2016 draft, Collins disappointed in his first full season of professional ball last year and began this season much the same way. But then something clicked on April 24. He went back to the old stance he used in college -- one he says allows him to see the ball better and attack pitches up in the zone -- and he has hit .386 (17 for 44) with three homers and incredible 17 walks compared to 10 strikeouts in 14 games since.
"Honestly, it just changed in the one game," he told MLB.com. "Right away from the first at-bat, I could tell I was seeing the ball a lot better. I almost wish I would've stuck to this since I got drafted. Unfortunately, I didn't, but things seem to be working really well now."
There's hope for him yet.
Franmil Reyes, OF, Padres
2017 minors: .258 BA (507 AB), 25 HR, 102 RBI, .785 OPS, 48 BB, 134 K
2018 minors: .353 BA (119 AB), 13 HR, 36 RBI, 1.183 OPS, 16 BB, 27 K
Who is Franmil Reyes and what is he doing at the top of the minor-league leaderboards? Well, I can tell you that none of the major prospect publications had him even in the Padres' top 30 to begin the year, and no other organization cared to select him in the Rule 5 draft when the Padres made him available this offseason. They may want a do-over after watching him hit two homers in back to back to back games -- going yard eight times in all during a five-game stretch -- last week. He's a defensive liability, sure, but his massive 6-foot-5 frame hinted at this sort of power breakthrough. If he can continue to control the strike zone as he has so far, his glove may not be enough to keep him out of the bigs.