Note: Play one-day Fantasy Baseball for cash today! FanDuel is hosting a league that's just $3 to play and pays out $100,000-plus in prizes. Sign up now!
The Phillies are bad. Have been for few years now.
The difference this year is that they seem to know it. While in years past, a 12-23 start would have had them clinging to a possible Cliff Lee return or bemoaning Ryan Howard's and Chase Utley's "slow starts," they seem more resigned to their fate now and have shifted their focus to the long term.
Maikel Franco's promotion would be a big step in that direction.
It seems inevitable with Cody Asche now down at Triple-A to learn the outfield. The Phillies conveniently freed up the position Franco happens to play and are making do with bench fodder there for now. A weekend promotion is widely speculated.
Franco himself is notable as a power bat with a knack for making consistent contact. He's not a perfect prospect by any means. He rarely walks and has endured some lengthy cold stretches during his minor-league career, such as the first half last year when he hit .230 with six home runs a .649 OPS. But he's hitting .350 with four home runs and a .913 OPS at Triple-A this year and hit .320 with 31 home runs and a .926 OPS between high Class A and Double-A in 2013. Is he someone you rush out to pick up right away? At a deep position, maybe not in standard mixed leagues, but you see the potential for him to make a significant impact in Fantasy.
More than anything, though, his arrival signals a changing of the guard in Philadelphia.
And there's more where he came from.
Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has already rained on this parade, telling MLB.com that he wouldn't anticipate seeing Nola in the majors "any time soon."
"He's right where he needs to be right now," Amaro said. "We're trying to make sure we develop these guys for the future, not today. We try to maximize their development time so when they're ready to be in the big leagues, they'll be in the big leagues."
Fair enough, but it doesn't change the fact that Nola was widely considered the most polished pitcher in the 2014 draft, with some suggesting he could have gone straight to the majors. His performance so far supports that claim. With an eight-inning gem last time out, he has a 2.04 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in six starts for Double-A Reading.
Not "any time soon" could mean anything, really, but I take it to mean "not at the same time as Maikel Franco," which wouldn't rule out a midseason promotion. I hyped Ben Lively as a potential midseason call-up for the Phillies last week -- and I still think both he and Nola work their way into the starting rotation at some point this season -- but Nola is the better prospect.
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
If you thought the hype for Correa was already high, it's only going to grow with his promotion to Triple-A Fresno on Monday. And general manager Jeff Luhnow isn't doing anything to suppress it, telling MLB.com "he's ahead of schedule" and that his arrival "may be soon." In fact, Luhnow sounds about ready to pencil him in.
"[Triple-A] will be a huge challenge for him," Luhnow said. "One thing I've found so far with Carlos is every time I set an expectation for him, he not only meets it, but he exceeds it. That could happen easily."
Normally, you'd think a 20-year-old on a rebuilding team would have to bide his time, but at 20-13, the Astros are surprise contenders. And while they could just wait for Jed Lowrie to return, his injury is severe enough that they count on it, and Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar are doing a whole lot of nothing in his absence.
Typically, general managers try to combat the hype by keeping a prospect's timetable vague, so just by acknowledging Correa's, Luhnow is throwing Fantasy owners a bone. We may be only a couple weeks away one of the game's top prospects breaking through at the weakest position in Fantasy.
Jose De Leon, SP, Dodgers
The Dodgers have seemingly unlimited resources, a deep farm system, a top-tier front office and, apparently, all the luck, at least if De Leon is any indication. He was known more for his size than his velocity when the Dodgers took him in the 24th round of the 2013 draft, but he has flipped the script since then, losing weight and adding several miles per hour to both his fastball and slider to give him potentially an elite two-pitch offering.
The numbers would suggest so. After breaking out with a 2.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings in the lower levels last year and following it up with a stellar winter league performance, he has a 1.69 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings in six starts at high Class A, striking out 12 over seven innings in back-to-back starts. He's too good for that level, clearly, and the fact he's already pitching deep into games at a fairly advanced age (22) suggests he could move quickly.
With the injuries to the Dodgers starting rotation already this year, it's not outside the realm of possibility that De Leon could get a look in the second half.
Tom Murphy, C, Rockies
Murphy may already be a familiar name to prospect hounds. He was a pretty big deal heading into last year but then became something less than that when he hit .213 at Double-A Tulsa. It was basically a lost season, though. He got only 94 at-bats, missing much of the year with a strained rotator cuff.
But he's healthy now, and it shows. Still at Double-A -- but in a less hitter-friendly environment at New Britain -- he's batting .317 with six homers and a .974 OPS in 101 at-bats. The Rockies need a catcher of the future now that Wilin Rosario is out of that discussion, and because Murphy is also an asset defensively, he would seem to fit the description.
At the rate the Rockies are going, that future could begin sooner than later. Plus, he's already 24. Even though he's just at Double-A, you could argue he's long overdue.
Manny Banuelos, SP, Braves
The Braves have already turned the page on Trevor Cahill, having introduced prospect Mike Foltynewicz to the starting rotation in early May, and now that Mike Minor is set for shoulder surgery, they'll need someone to overtake Eric Stults eventually.
Banuelos is the most likely candidate, which isn't to say his promotion is imminent, but he's showing his first signs of effectiveness since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, turning in his third straight solid outing Wednesday to give him a 2.89 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
He doesn't throw as hard as when he was a top prospect for the Yankees, but according to Marty Reed, his pitching coach at Triple-A Gwinnett, he has greatly improved his secondary offerings -- you know, the whole pitcher vs. thrower cliche -- and still has enough velocity to tap into his once sky-high potential. He's no certainty at this stage of his career, but he should be on your periphery in NL-only leagues.