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The plethora of big name prospects that have already gotten the call and made their impact in the majors basically rendered preseason top prospect ranking lists irrelevant. Seven of Baseball America's top 10 and 14 of the top 20 had already made their way to the majors by July 7, when they released their top-50 midseason update. You would think with so many big talents already getting the call, there wouldn't be much left for teams to use to in the second half of the season.
You'd be wrong. Though many systems are more barren at the higher levels of the minors now than they were at the beginning of the season, there is still some talent worth looking at if or when they get the call. The Yankees, Mariners and Red Sox are looking to prove that, as they each called up a top-50 prospect to the majors this weekend.
Yankees starter Luis Severino is the biggest name of the three called up, ranking 17th in BA's updated list. Despite lingering questions about whether his lack of size will eventually hinder his development, Severino has continued to thrive as he has climbed the prospect ladder. In 11 starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Severino has a 1.91 ERA with a 20.9 percent strikeout rate and solid control. Perhaps most importantly given the park he is heading to, has allowed just two home runs in 99 1/3 innings between two levels this season and only eight homers total in 320 2/3 minor-league innings.
Severino is set to make his debut Wednesday, and he will be followed a day later in Yankee Stadium by the Red Sox's top pitching prospect left in the minors, Henry Owens. Owens isn't quite as polished as Severino and isn't quite the prospect he is as a result, but he also misses a ton of bats and has managed a 3.16 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket this season despite his control issues.
Ketel Marte isn't quite on the level of either Severino or Owens, but his positional eligibility could make him just as valuable for Fantasy if he sticks. He made it all the way to No. 50 in BA's midseason update after a season in which he has hit .314/.359/.410 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. He doesn't have much pop in his bat -- four homers is his career-high for a season -- but he also never strikes out -- 11.1 percent strikeout rate this season, and that approach could lead to very high averages in the majors. With the potential for 40 steals over a full season and a .300 average, Marte could be a very useful shortstop for Fantasy.
If you can only add one of these players, Severino is the one to target. He and Owens have similar outlooks as far as playing time goes -- if they thrive, they'll stick on pitching-needy rosters -- but Severino has more upside and greater polish based on his success in the high minors. Marte's playing time may be dependent on Robinson Cano's abdominal injury, so he might be back down in the majors in a few weeks.
Still, each of these players has enough upside to be worth putting on your radar right now. The year of the rookie continues.
Alex Wilson, Tigers (22 percent owned)
When the Tigers moved Joakim Soria to the Pirates in a pre-deadline deal, they didn't exactly have an obvious closer candidate in waiting. Wilson will get the nod for the time being, manager Brad Ausmus told reporters this weekend, and that should be enough to get Fantasy owners in his corner. He doesn't have the type of elite strikeout rate we've come to expect from a late-inning reliever, with a below-average strikeout rate of just 15.4 percent. However, he walks few batters and rarely allows homers, which is how he has a sub-2.00 ERA for the second season in a row. With his lack of elite swing and miss stuff, the wheels could come off for Wilson, but he's been good enough to be worth a look in most Fantasy formats that value saves at this point.
Aaron Hicks, Twins (35 percent owned)
Hicks was once one of those prospects who made Fantasy owners rush to the waiver wire, but two disappointing seasons in the majors have taken much of the shine off this former sure-thing star. However, he quietly posted a .333/.404/.523 line at Triple-A this season, and has kept on hitting in the majors, since returning in early July -- the longest stretch of sustained success he has ever experienced at this level. Hicks is hitting .322/.396/.529 in 25 games since July 3, and a lot of that can be chalked up to a .348 BABIP that is a huge outlier for his career. However, he has also cut his strikeout rate to 15.8 percent in that span, while walking in 10.9 percent of his trips to the plate in that span. Maybe this is just a good month, and Hicks will turn back into a pumpkin at some point -- he has eight strikeouts in his last five games, which isn't a promising sign. However, with his talent and pedigree, Hicks is at least worth a flier to see if everything is clicking.
Jimmy Nelson, Brewers (69 percent owned)
If Nelson finds some consistency, he can be a very good pitcher in the majors as he's shown for flashes this season. However, his Fantasy appeal seemed to be dying in June, when he struggled mightily to the tune of a 5.56 ERA that brought his season mark to 4.48. In an era dominated by pitching, that isn't enough to justify a spot on anyone's Fantasy roster. Since the calendar turned to July, however, Nelson has looked like a much different pitcher, posting a 1.64 ERA in his last 33 innings, with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks. His strikeout rate has spiked, without sacrificing control or groundball rate, which is going to be the recipe he will need to succeed. The Brewers made some trades that will make finding wins more difficult down the stretch -- not to mention the serious downgrade in outfield defense -- but Nelson is pitching well enough to be worth adding despite those issues.