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Over the course of this season, I have become obsessed with the idea of post-hype prospects as potential Fantasy difference makers. This season alone, we've seen Rougned Odor and Maikel Franco come back from the minors to dominate after falling off Fantasy players' radars. Franco has 10 home runs in 51 games and an .872 OPS after a disastrous major-league debut last season, while Odor has managed a .357/.405/.557 line since returning in mid-June.
This idea is so appealing to me because it allows you to buy into an exceptionally talented player when his price is at its lowest. Sometimes, as with Odor and Franco, it works out. And then sometimes Jackie Bradley Jr. returns to the majors to do the same underwhelming job as always. Still, there are enough hits here to pique my interest any time a former top prospect gets called back up to the minors. And my latest target is Jesus Montero, the former top catching prospect in baseball, who is set to make his return to the majors for the Mariners this weekend.
It's easy to forget because it has been nearly five years, but Montero was once a Giancarlo Stanton-level prospect who posted a 20-homer season as a 20-year-old in Triple-A. He hasn't lived up to expectations since the Mariners traded Michael Pineda for him, posting a .669 OPS in 170 games over parts of three seasons since. Even his minor-league production has taken a big hit, as he managed just a .723 mark in 2013 before bouncing back to the tune of a .839 OPS in 2014.
However, Montero seems to be showing some signs of growth this season, hitting .332/.370/.529 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI in 84 games. He has cut his strikeout rate to 17.6 percent (19.3 last season) and even has five triples and three stolen bases -- impressive numbers for someone who has received loud criticism for his conditioning.
Montero's time in the majors could be brief, with the All-Star break on the way and a trio of left-handed pitchers on the schedule in the final series. However, this is a Mariners team that ranks second to last in the American League in OPS, so they could use any boost he might be able to provide, even if it isn't clear where he might play. If he hits, he could force the issue for a team that still has postseason aspirations in the second half.
I wouldn't feel comfortable dropping someone I have high expectations for in order to add Montero. However, I snagged Montero on a flier Thursday night, with Steve Pearce finally losing his spot on my roster. He's worth a look, at least.
Ervin Santana, Twins (70 percent owned)
Things are all good with Santana right now. He has made just one start since returning from a suspension, and it saw him fan eight batters over eight innings in a no-decision. It was a dominant first outing to open his campaign, but it doesn't fundamentally change who Santana is as a pitcher. A year ago, he posted a mediocre 3.95 ERA and 1.306 WHIP, so it's not like we have much reason to expect big things. However, his FIP was 3.39 and he boosted his strikeout from 18.7 percent to 21.9, so there might be more upside than we think there. The Twins' defense may not help him much, but Target Field is one of the toughest parks to homer in, so he could outperform expectations here. If it comes down to Santana or someone like Mike Leake or Colby Lewis on your roster, why not see if Santana can built on his impressive first outing.
Brandon Beachy, Dodgers (19 percent owned)
Behind Cy Young candidates Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have been forced to build a rotation mostly out of spare parts, and Beachy should be the latest. He is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and still hasn't been announced as a rotation candidate, but it could happen any day now, as the end of his rehab assignment is set for mid-July. Beachy hasn't been a contributor since 2012, but he showed what kind of upside he has by posting a 2.00 ERA in 81 innings of work. In fact, he boasts a 3.23 ERA in the majors with a 9.2 K/9, numbers that could make him a big difference maker if he can come back successfully from this rehab.
Michael Morse, Marlins (14 percent owned)
It's hard to get too excited about Morse, who has managed an embarrassing .210/.273/.304 line to this point in another injury-riddle season. At least in years past, you could count on Morse to produce when he was on the field; you just didn't know how long he was going to stay on the field before his next trip to the DL. Morse has become one of the most groundball-heavy hitters in baseball this season, which isn't exactly a great transition for a lumbering slugger to make. He is still hitting the ball hard (33.3 percent hard-hit average) and his HR/FB rate of 14.3 percent suggests the raw power is still there, so there is at least some reason for optimism he can turn things around. The Marlins desperately need some run production with Giancarlo Stanton out, so Morse will get every chance to produce if he can put things together. Coming off a 2-for-4 game with just his third home run of the season Wednesday, he might be worth a flier as an injury replacement if you just lost Alex Gordon or Denard Span.