Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Hottest Names to Watch for on the Waiver Wire
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Last week, we highlighted 15 prospects who could be fantasy steals as late-season call-ups, kicking off a new column that will keep the focus on prospects from here on out in the 2013 season.
Now that it's mid-August, teams are more aggressively promoting their young players from the minors to see what they can do. On top of that, rosters will expand in September, meaning the recent run of prospects getting the call will turn into a full-on flood.
While young players, even the elite ones, tend to be inconsistent due to their lack of experience, they can still make an impact for your team, especially in deeper formats or single-leagues (AL-/NL-only), so here is where we'll keep tabs on the ones to pick up or at least watch for.
This spot will include prospects who already have been called up ("Already Up"), as well as others who are in the minors but considered major league-ready and on the verge of getting the call ("Next in Line").
To allow for more turnover from week to week, the list below does not include young players who have exhausted their prospect eligibility by exceeding 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched.
So you won't see the likes of Brad Miller of the Seattle Mariners, Robbie Grossman of the Houston Astros or Tyler Skaggs of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They still may be worth adding to your roster (or at least your watch list), but they're no longer technically prospects.
Before we get into this week's batch, it's worth pointing out a few names who came up just shy.
In just the past few days, top prospects like St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha and second baseman Kolten Wong as well as Arizona Diamondbacks' third baseman Matt Davidson were brought up.
While none of the trio made the "Already Up" section below, they have the talent to be useful pieces—eventually. For now, though, Wacha is expected to pitch out of the pen, Wong will be a bat off the bench who gets the occasional spot start and Davidson will remain in a backup role for the time being.
Of course, things can change quickly, but their fantasy potential is minimal at the moment because of limited opportunity.
Opportunity is a key component with prospects, which is why it's important to monitor not just the tippy-top ones but also those who have a clearer path to playing time.
Like Andrew Lambo of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kevin Pillar of the Toronto Blue Jays, two lesser-known prospects who recently made their MLB debuts.
Lambo is the more intriguing of the two, given that he was once a big-time prospect with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was leading the minor leagues with 31 homers at the time of his promotion.
Meanwhile, with both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera on the disabled list, the Jays should give some run to Pillar, who was hitting .307 with 39 doubles and 23 steals in the minors.
Now for this week's group...
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (26.9 Percent Owned)
The 21-year-old lefty hitter has shown how big league-ready his sweet swing is by batting .286 with five extra-base hits through his first 91 at-bats. He's also chipped in two steals and continues to play every day for the Fish.
Alex Wood, LHP, Braves (37.7 Percent Owned)
Wood, 22, has been under-the-radar great since debuting at the end of May in the bullpen. Now that he's in a starting role (3.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.2 K/9), his value has spiked. He'll likely be ineligible for this list after his next start, as he's already thrown 45.1 innings.
Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians (10.8 Percent Owned)
If you need a boost in strikeouts, this 23-year-old is your man. Salazar whiffed 129 in 93 minor-league innings this year (12.5 K/9) and has carried over that strikeout stuff to the bigs, where he's K'd 22 in 17.2 frames (11.2 K/9) over his first three starts.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics (14.4 Percent Owned)
After an impressive bounce-back year at Triple-A, where he struck out a batter per over 118 innings, the 23-year-old pitched admirably in his first start in the majors over the weekend (6 IP, 2 ER, 5:3 K:BB) and then flat-out dominated the Astros over eight scoreless frames with nine strikeouts Thursday.
Jarred Cosart, RHP, Astros (5.8 Percent Owned)
With his 18:18 K:BB ratio, Cosart, 23, may be a blowup waiting to happen, but he keeps limiting the damage and sports a hard-to-ignore 1.15 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through six outings.
Jonathan Villar, SS, Astros (21.1 Percent Owned)
See Danny Salazar's write-up above, and replace "strikeouts" with "steals." Villar, 22, has attempted 15 steals—with 11 successes—in his inaugural 20 games in the bigs. As long as he can get on base even 30 percent of the time, there's no reason why he won't keep running wild.
Junior Lake, SS/OF, Cubs (88.2 Percent Owned)
The 23-year-old Lake is way over-owned, but chalk that up to his red-hot start (.323-4-7 line in his first 15 games) and shortstop eligibility. He's never been the patient type, though, as his 27:4 K:BB ratio indicates, which is why he's been cooling off.
Chia-Jen Lo, RHP, Astros (6.2 Percent Owned)
Who? This 27-year-old reliever has been a major injury risk for much of his career, but he also has quality stuff (10.0 K/9 in minors) when healthy. Oh yeah, he just might be the Astros' closer after getting the save on Tuesday.
Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies (0.4 Percent Owned)
Carlos Gonzalez's DL stint has opened the door for Dickerson, a 24-year-old lefty batter with good pop and solid contact ability who was hitting .371/.414/.632 in the offense-inflated Pacific Coast League at the Triple-A level. He's been especially hot this month: 14-for-36 (.389) with seven extra-base hits.
Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers (3.3 Percent Owned)
One doesn't expect a player standing 5'10" and nicknamed "Scooter" to hit for much power, but Gennett has smacked three homers in his past four starts, including a pair on Tuesday. He'll be handling the keystone most days for Milwaukee now that Rickie Weeks is out for the season.
Honorable Mentions: Cody Asche, 3B, Phillies; Taylor Jordan, RHP, Nationals; Wilmer Flores, 3B, Mets; Andre Rienzo, RHP, White Sox; Andrew Albers, LHP, Twins
Next in Line
Xander Bogaerts, SS/3B, Red Sox (0.7 Percent Owned)
The fact that Boston nearly called up a 20-year-old to play the hot corner amid a playoff race in the tightly-packed AL East shows just what the organization thinks of Bogaerts. Entering Thursday, arguably the top prospect in the sport had played exactly 56 games at both Double-A (.311 BA, 6 HR, 12 2B, 35 RBI) and Triple-A (.297 BA, 9 HR, 11 2B, 32 RBI), and his stats are eerily similar at each stop.
George Springer, OF, Astros (0.1 Percent Owned)
One of the toolsiest prospects around, this past week Springer hit his 30th homer (then his 31st and 32nd to take over the minor league lead from Lambo), making him the first 30-30 player in the minors since Grant Desme did it for the Athletics in 2009.
Assuming the Astros promote him in September to prepare him for the starting center field job in 2014, Springer could binge for five home runs and steals apiece.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds (0.6 Percent Owned)
Speaking of binges, Hamilton, whose 69 steals this year aren't even halfway to his 2012 record-breaking total of 155, has the wheels to nab 10-plus bases in September, regardless of whether he's used only in a pinch-runner/defensive replacement role.
Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers (0.0 Percent Owned)
At the tender age of 21, Castellanos has more than held his own despite an aggressive assignment to Triple-A. For the year, he's batting .278 with a career-high 13 homers and has improved his plate discipline dramatically. If he's given a shot to improve Detroit's lackluster left field production, Castellanos could benefit from being a part of MLB's highest-scoring lineup.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (0.1 Percent Owned)
After a dominating season across Double- and Triple-A (2.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.8 K/9), Walker will enter 2014 with a chance to crack the M's Opening Day rotation. It behooves the club to give him a handful of starts to see if a guy who just turned 21 this month is ready to hang with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma from the get-go next year.
Honorable Mentions: Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets; Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks; Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles; Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox; Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays
Players who have exhausted prospect eligibility since last week: Avisail Garcia, White Sox
All ownership percentages come from ESPN Fantasy Baseball.
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