Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the prospect call-ups, from Gleyber Torres to Walker Buehler to Mac Williamson
Some of the minor-leaguers we were most looking forward to seeing came pouring into the big leagues all at once this weekend. Scott White helps Fantasy Baseball owners sort them out.
Busy weekend, huh?
Not the gallivanting and carousing, the chores or rough housing. Whatever it is you do when left to your own devices I can only assume you did to the normal degree/quantity/intensity.
But the interruptions, the number of times you were pulled from your activity of choice to attend to your Fantasy Baseball team, are what you'll remember most as one after another some of the top prospects we've been waiting to get the call indeed got the call.
We're talking about a half dozen in all over the course of three days. Just as soon as you finished wrestling with the decision over who to drop for one, in came another, possibly stronger, faster, better and more deserving of a roster spot than that initial object of your desire.
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It was equal parts enthralling and aggravating -- enthralling because, duh, hope for the future, but aggravating because you're repeatedly making big decisions on little information. Some re-assurance would be nice.
Turns out re-assurance is my specialty. So let's consider what makes some of the weekend call-ups (or presumed call-ups, six in all) more deserving of a roster spot than others, even while recognizing that they're all deserving in terms of potential impact.
It's an important clarification because regardless of a team's stated intentions or presumed allegiances, we don't know what comes next for any of these players. Cody Bellinger was supposed to be just a short-term fill-in last April, and well, just look what happened to him.
Not only is Gleyber Torres the most highly-regarded prospect of this group, but he's also the one most likely to stick, with manager Aaron Boone confirming that the hope is he'll take the second base job and run with it. Circumstances have presented these others with a small opening to prove they belong, but Torres is permitted a more gradual introduction.
Which of course means we'll continue to agonize over what to do with him if he doesn't hit the ground running -- a likely scenario seeing as he's a 21-year-old who spent the second half of last season and all of the offseason recovering from Tommy John surgery. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
For now, with his major-league career no more than a blank canvas, we can focus on the upside, which I believe is substantial. Most every publication rated him a top 10 prospect each of the last two seasons, and his steady improvement in both plate discipline and power as he has climbed the minor-league ladder reminds me an awful lot of Carlos Correa.
Of course, having the upside and making good on it are two different things, and again, the Yankees are asking Torres to do it at a particularly young age and after a particularly invasive procedure. But shortstop-eligible players with this sort of offensive upside are always worth the investment just in case. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket, after all.
David Dahl is my second priority here, and yet the odds of him sticking are still fairly long. It's true Carlos Gonzalez, one of the Rockies' everyday outfielders, is on the DL with a strained hamstring, which would theoretically give Dahl time to find his footing, but his promotion came with two of the Rockies starters out of the lineup, not just one. Gerardo Parra is serving only a four-game suspension and will presumably regain his starting job once it's served, and if there's only the Gonzalez opening, you'd think the Rockies would prefer to use it on Ryan McMahon, who unlike Dahl made the opening day roster.
Truth is it's bad timing for Dahl all the way around. He had just returned from a weak-and-a-half-long absence for a stomach bug that robbed him of a few pounds and derailed the progress he was making at the end of spring training, when he hit .362 (17 for 47) with five homers and four steals during an 18-game span. And the guy doesn't need any more disruptions after missing practically all of 2017 with a stress reaction in his rib cage.
But the upside, as with Torres, is enormous, and unlike with Torres, it's partially realized. Dahl had the look of a five-category player during an extended major-league stay in 2016, making him someone I was stashing from the get-go in five-outfielder Rotisserie leagues.
Jack Flaherty isn't actually in the majors yet and isn't confirmed to be coming up. But that's the expectation after Adam Wainwright went on the DL with elbow inflammation Wednesday. He filled in earlier this year when Wainwright was sidelined by a hamstring injury and certainly made the most of the opportunity, striking out nine over five one-run innings.
But you can see how he might get squeezed out this time. The Cardinals have already announced they'll fill the immediate vacancy Tuesday by moving everyone up a day, but they'll still need someone for Saturday. The Cardinals would have to rearrange Flaherty's minor-league schedule to line him up for that start, though, and because Wainwright is expected back for his following turn, they may decide now isn't the time.
And even if not, it's looking like another one-and-done for Flaherty, who recently added a wicked two-seamer to his arsenal that pairs nicely with his slider for big swing-and-miss numbers. The appeal here is that he has already proven capable at this level, but it'll take an unexpectedly long absence for Wainwright or an injury to someone else for him to stick.
At 27 and with more than 200 major-league at-bats to his name, Mac Williamson isn't technically a prospect, but he was nonetheless forced to toil in the minors the first couple weeks ... where he put up some awe-inspiring numbers.
A Quadruple-A guy doing what Quadruple-A guys do? Maybe, except it came after a spring training in which Williamson also turned heads with a .318 batting average, four homers and 1.060 OPS in 44 at-bats and earned positive press for some swing adjustments he made in the offseason.
Basically, he worked with the hitting guru who transformed Justin Turner from a scrubby reserve to a perennial All-Star a few years ago, shortening his swing to better tap into the power that scouts long believed his 6-foot-4 frame possessed. And he put that power on display in his first game Friday, hitting a 434-foot opposite-field blast.
He followed it with a 464-foot opposite-field blast Monday, hitting it in a place few balls go at AT&T Park.
One inconsistency to the following-in-Turner's-footsteps narrative: Williamson had only a 23.5 percent fly-ball rate prior to the promotion, but particularly this early in the season, that data is greatly impacted by sample size and possibly not as revealing as the traditional stats.
The odds are obviously against Williamson at this stage of his career -- and it's almost laughable to call him an "upside play" amid a group of top prospects -- but Hunter Pence is well into his decline and in the final year of his contract. There's no reason Williamson can't overtake him if he capitalizes on this opportunity.
Walker Buehler was in the discussion for top pitching prospect in baseball at the start of the season, ranking up there with Michael Kopech, Forrest Whitley, Brent Honeywell and Alex Reyes, and it's easy to see why. Fresh off Tommy John surgery, he averaged 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his first full professional season last year, boasting a 98-mph fastball and not one but two plus-plus breaking balls.
It may have only been a spot start for him Monday, though. He was pretty good against the Marlins, allowing no runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts in five innings. But he recorded only three swinging strikes, which suggests he didn't exactly dominate a weak lineup, and his 89 pitches were actually the most he has thrown as a professional. The Dodgers may elect to keep him around for their doubleheader Saturday, but Rich Hill, whose spot Buehler is taking, is sidelined by only a cracked fingernail and is also expected to pitch in that doubleheader. So what then?
Still, Buehler did enough Monday to put him in the same position as Flaherty -- the obvious next-in-line for a rotation with a number of potential pitfalls. Every member of the Dodgers' starting five has an injury history, so as scarce as quality pitching is in today's game, Buehler might be worth stashing in a life-finds-a-way sort of way even after he's sent down.
Lourdes Gurriel has started all three of the Blue Jays' games since arriving in the big leagues -- two at second base and one at shortstop -- so while the plan is for him to bounce around the diamond, it looks like he at least has a chance for everyday at-bats. But it's not clear he's equipped to make a significant Fantasy impact.
He has his strengths as a hitter. Like older brother Yuli Gurriel, he makes contact at high rate, and there's some belief he was pressing in his first year in the U.S. last year, when he hit .229 with a .607 OPS between two minor-league stops. But because he's not a particularly disciplined hitter, he'll need to homer at an above-average rate to factor in Fantasy, and it's not clear yet how his power will play.
It's also not clear whether he'll stick around when Josh Donaldson (shoulder inflammation) returns from the DL, pushing Yangervis Solarte back to a super utility role. Along with Williamson, Gurriel is best left for leagues that roster 350-plus players right now.
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