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It's hard to remember a past season in which so many high-end prospects were thrust upon us so quickly in Fantasy. It's also making us a little spoiled. Now that Kyle Schwarber is set to debut for the Cubs on Wednesday, and Steven Matz's entry into the Mets' rotation appears to be a foregone conclusion, what will there to be to look forward to once we enter the second half of the season?
For one, we can anticipate Schwarber's return, as the Cubs intend to send him down after this weekend. But it may not be long before we see Miguel Sano making his big league debut. It's not likely that Trevor Plouffe will give way to the Twins' top remaining prospect, but manager Paul Molitor told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that Sano could wind up patrolling left field.
The 22-year-old was slow to rebound from Tommy John surgery, but since May 7 he has been on a tear. Over 33 games, Sano has batted .320 with seven home runs, nine doubles and three stolen bases, as he has ratcheted down his strikeout rate. Because he is an extreme pull hitter, Sano could be a liability for batting average, but as we have seen with fellow third baseman Joey Gallo, with enough hard contact, he won't necessarily hurt owners in that category. With Sano's call-up possibly coming soon, now is the time to pick him up in all formats, while he is still owned in only 30 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.
Eventually, though, we will have to get used to a world in which there isn't a top prospect being recalled every single day. There is no time like the present to turn our attention towards some lower-profile talents. How about a trio of young pitchers who have been achieving beyond our most optimistic expectations?
Williams Perez, SP, Braves (27 percent owned)
Perez's tenure in the Braves' rotation is now up to six starts long, and only once has he turned in a sub-quality start. As a starter, Perez is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA, and given the lack of prospect hype that accompanied him, you may wonder exactly how he has achieved this. You won't find clues in some of the usual places. Perez has been extremely contact-prone, getting whiffs on only five percent of his pitches. He is no control hound either, having walked 15 batters over 36 innings as a starter, and having thrown 59 percent of his pitches for strikes (per StatCorner).
One key to Perez's success has been a 54 percent ground ball rate as a starter, though that wouldn't seem to fully explain how he has allowed a total of four extra-base hits over six starts. A less-than-impressive 1.28 WHIP while in the Braves' rotation also suggests that something with his ERA might be amiss. Of starters who have pitched at least 30 innings, only Chi Chi Gonzalez has a higher strand rate in his starts than Perez, and it is extremely unlikely that Perez can continue to strand more than seven out of every eight baserunners. Despite his apparent consistency, Perez is already owned at an appropriate rate and does not need to be picked up.
Erasmo Ramirez, SP, Rays (22 percent owned)
Ramirez's 2012 rookie season was a promising one, as he posted a 3.36 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 59 innings for the Mariners, but his career his been in freefall ever since. After back-to-back seasons in which he failed to establish himself in the M's rotation, he was shuttled to the Rays in exchange for pitching prospect Mike Montgomery in a deal that has worked out so far for both sides. Initially, though, it appeared that Ramirez was primed to flop yet again, as he scuffled through his first 12 appearances, including five starts, with a 6.62 ERA.
His last four starts have been quite the turnaround. Ramirez has gone 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA, and most impressive of all, he has induced whiffs on 16 percent of his pitches. A change of arsenal may be playing an important role in Ramirez's apparent breakout, as his spike in swinging strikes coincides with him all but ditching his sinker. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Ramirez has been relying more on his four-seamer and slider, the latter of which has been a much better whiff pitch for him than his sinker.
Strangely, Ramirez hasn't seen his K-rate budge since his hot streak started, as hitters have not been taking many called strikes. Given his high whiff rate, the strikeout potential is enticing, and he should continue to be a far better hit and run preventer than he has been for most of his career. It's not a stretch to pick Ramirez up in standard mixed leagues, and he is now a must-own in any format deeper than that.
Robbie Ray, SP, Diamondbacks (14 percent owned)
Up to this point, Ray's career path resembles that of Ramirez much more than Perez. He has been a highly-touted prospect who has changed organizations (twice, actually) and been largely disappointing in his forays into major league pitching. This season, which began at Triple-A Reno, started off promising enough, as he rediscovered his swing-and-miss ways. Since getting the call from the Diamondbacks, Ray has been throwing his fastball more than 2 mph harder than he did a year ago, yet the strikeouts and whiffs haven't followed. Over 24 2/3 innings, he has registered a 5.8 K/9 ratio and a 6 percent whiff rate.
Still, Ray has been successful, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in each of his four starts and compiling a 1.09 ERA. He has been nearly as adept as Perez as limiting extra-base hits (six in 24 2/3 innings), but without the benefit of a high ground ball rate. Not only does Ray look to be due for more extra-base hits, but with highly favorable BABIP (.229) and strand rates (91 percent), he is probably about to counter some serious regression. Even in deeper mixed leagues, there are likely better ways to use your waiver claims and FAAB dollars.