Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Zac Gallen makes his pitch; Kyle Tucker back in the mix
Our Scott White tries to pinpoint the next big call-up, turning his attention to a surprising Marlins hurler.
My timing so far this year is a little off.
I wrote about both Keston Hiura and Austin Riley in last week's Prospects Report, but they weren't in my Five on the Verge. So I recognized they were doing things that put them in the conversation for a promotion, but I thought we had more time.
They're both the kind of prospect that most everyone in every league should be interested in rostering, so while you hopefully still had a chance at them when news of their arrival broke, you wouldn't have had to spend so much of your FAAB or sweat out a waiver claim if only you had a little more foresight.
Same is true for Willie Calhoun, who I actually had in my Five on the Verge last week before eliminating him altogether. Part of the reason was because I thought his past failures would make his call-up less exciting (which is true). Part of it was because those failures happened over enough at-bats that he technically wasn't a prospect anymore. Part of it was just because there were higher priorities. But again, at least in five-outfielder leagues, a little heads-up would have been appreciated.
Editor's Note: Brendan Rodgers was initially featured in this column as the No. 2 prospect "on the verge," but in keeping with a theme, he is no longer "on the verge." Because he's been called up to make his MLB debut Friday. .
And speaking of higher priorities, just where is Cavan Biggio anyway?
Maybe it's the sort of emotional reaction that will only further cloud my judgment, but he's out for this week. Tired of looking at him. Tired of talking about him. Plus, he has scuffled a little bit of late, so I don't know why the Blue Jays would choose now, as opposed to a couple weeks ago, to call him up. But then, I apparently don't know why anyone does anything anymore.
In his place, I tried to consider who I'd really regret passing up the opportunity to highlight if he were to be called up tomorrow — after all, impact is just as important of a consideration as proximity, if not more — and the first place my mind went was Casey Mize, the first overall pick last year who has already rocketed to Double-A with impossibly good numbers. Once a prospect reaches that level, his promotion is just a GM's light bulb moment away.
"Despite his hot start in the minor leagues this season, don't expect Mize to pitch in Detroit any time soon: With the Tigers still years away from competing, they will hold him back until at least next season."
Doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it? Guess Mize will remain off the list ... for now.
Fenech, by the way, wasn't the only beat writer who went out of his way to crush our dreams this week. We'll get to the other one shortly ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros
2018 minors: .293 BA (335 AB), 20 HR, 21 2B, .904 OPS, 42 BB, 92 K
2019 minors: .406 BA (129 AB), 15 HR, 14 2B, 1.354 OPS, 22 BB, 30 K
We reached the GM-begins-making-excuses-for-why-he's-not-up-yet stage of Alvarez's trajectory last week, which I take as the equivalent to when daggers start flying across the screen in the old Carmen Sandiego games: We're getting close. Luhnow did cite how long he kept the world waiting for Kyle Tucker last year, and when the world finally got its way, it didn't end in fireworks. The incentive for a GM is to be beyond sure a player is ready for the opportunity. But my goodness, Alvarez is making a complete joke of the minors' highest level, not only leading it home runs but actually raising his batting average 60 points since the end of April, when his .342 mark already made it blatantly obvious he deserves his shot.
Zac Gallen, SP, Marlins
2018 minors: 8-9, 3.65 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 133 1/3 IP, 48 BB, 136 K
2019 spring: 5-0, 1.16 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 54 1/3 IP, 9 BB, 64 K
I pointed out last week that Zac Gallen seems to allow two hits in seven innings every time out, and sure enough, in his one start since then, he allowed two hits in seven innings. It makes four starts now in which he has allowed two hits or fewer in seven innings or more. Only once in eight starts (all at Triple-A) has he allowed more than three hits and only once in eight has he thrown fewer than six innings.
It's an especially amazing performance for a pitcher who isn't thought to have front-line stuff, but solidifying his arm slot this season after drifting with it last year has helped that stuff play up in the most exciting way. Maybe the next move up the ladder exposes him for what he is, but at a time when most everyone playing Fantasy could use more pitching, Gallen seems well worth the stash.
Jesus Luzardo, SP, Athletics
2018 minors: 10-5, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 109 1/3 IP, 30 BB, 129 K
2019 spring: 0-0, 0.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9 2/3 IP, 4 BB, 15 K
For now at least, I'm keeping Luzardo among my top five to stash, but my enthusiasm was recently dealt a crushing blow by a throwaway line from maybe the single person most plugged into the Athletics, beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. In an article mostly about Jharel Cotton's recovery from Tommy John surgery, she suggested that Luzardo could be an option for the rotation "in August or September."
This article came on the same day Luzardo threw his first bullpen session as he recovers from a strained shoulder, and why he'd need 2 1/2 months to go from bullpen sessions to game-ready I don't know. But Slusser is more plugged in than I am, so we'd be wise to listen. It probably comes down to how convinced the Athletics are that Luzardo is big league-ready, but based on the way this spring went, I'd guess "highly."
Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
2018 minors: .332 BA (407 AB), 24 HR, 20 SB, .989 OPS, 48 BB, 84 K
2019 minors: .242 BA (128 AB), 11 HR, 7 SB, .875 OPS, 12 BB, 34 K
Yes, Tucker is the one who I'd hate to have not mentioned were he to get the call this week, and there's a case to be made he might get the call before Yordan Alvarez. He's more capable in the outfield, for one, and he's already on the 40-man roster. The biggest reason, though, is that he has completely turned things around after a miserable start bumped him from my Five on the Verge in the first place, batting .348 (23 for 66) with nine homers, five steals and a 1.260 OPS in his past 18 games.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Anthony Kay, SP, Mets
2018 minors: 7-11, 4.26 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 122 2/3 IP, 49 BB, 123 K
2019 minors: 4-2, 1.24 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 43 2/3 IP, 16 BB, 45 K
Discounted because of impending Tommy John surgery when the Mets drafted him in 2016, Kay seems to be rounding into form in his second year back from the procedure. Blessed with a high spin rate on both his fastball and curveball, and a changeup that also rates as above-average, the left-hander has some similarities to 2019 breakout Caleb Smith. Only once this year has Kay allowed more than one earned run in a start, putting up a goose egg four times, and his past two starts were seven innings apiece. Seeing as he's already 24, the majors could be in the cards for him this year, although he'll probably move up to Triple-A first.
Nate Pearson, SP, Blue Jays
2017 minors: 0-0, 0.90 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 20 IP, 5 BB, 26 K
2019 minors: 3-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, 28 IP, 3 BB, 46 K
Pearson, the Blue Jays' first-round pick in 2017, did appear in 2018, but for only 1 2/3 innings because of a fractured forearm. So far between high Class A and Double-A, he has been just as dominant as between Rookie ball and short-season Class A two years ago. With a fastball that pushes triple digits and a sharp slider, he offers plenty of swing-and-miss potential. So far, durability is his biggest concern, and it's why the Blue Jays have had him alternate between five innings and two innings every time out. Fortunately, he has been so dominant that he hasn't had to be pulled early yet.
Jorge Mateo, SS, Athletics
2018 minors: .230 BA (470 AB), 3 HR, 16 3B, 25 SB, .633 OPS, 29 BB, 139 K
2019 minors: .325 BA (169 AB), 5 HR, 9 3B, 1 SB, .937 OPS, 9 BB, 37 K
Once a top prospect in the Yankees organization who made headlines (and incurred a suspension) for complaining that the big club hadn't called him up yet, Mateo is having a resurgent season for the Athletics' Triple-A affiliate. He has always made good use of his speed, but the hit and power tools have fluctuated over the years. If he can muster just enough of either, he could matter in a Jonathan Villar sort of way. Of course, there's no obvious path to playing time as of now, especially since Franklin Barreto appears to be ahead of him in the pecking order.
Seth Beer, OF, Astros
2018 minors: .304 BA (260 AB), 12 HR, 14 2B, .885 OPS, 25 BB, 49 K
2019 minors: .328 BA (128 AB), 9 HR, 8 2B, 1.016 OPS, 14 BB, 30 K
The embodiment of the old Moneyball standard — power and patience — Beer has shown plenty of the former so far in May, hitting five home runs in 10 games to give him a .417 (15 for 36) batting average for the month. His bat should allow him to move fast in a Kyle Schwarber sort of way, but he has a Kyle Schwarber sort of problem in that the bat is all he has. Now, if it translates better than Schwarber's appears to have, it shouldn't much matter, but as the Astros have shown with both Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, they don't need a great excuse to keep a good hitter down. Nonetheless, Beer looks like a true dynasty asset.
Devin Smeltzer, SP, Twins
2018 minors: 5-5, 4.52 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 95 2/3 IP, 21 BB, 83 K
2019 minors: 3-1, 0.40 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 45 IP, 4 BB, 42 K
In what has become a recurring theme this year, Smeltzer is yet another early-season standout who both Baseball America and MLB.com left off the team's top 30 list at the start of the year. Thirty deep is generally too deep for our purposes — those players hardly qualify as prospects anymore — but when one starts putting up the numbers Smeltzer has, he becomes impossible to ignore. It's pretty clear command is a strength for him, and his move up to Triple-A and the offensive explosion happening there hasn't slowed his momentum. In two starts, he has yet to allow an earned run, throwing eight innings his last time out. I'll keep an eye out for more info, but it's a name to file away.
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