Fantasy Baseball: Jesus Montero and Prospects Who Will Splash into MLB This Year
June is a fun time to follow Major League Baseball for a couple reasons: Team expectations are almost solidified, fantasy teams ditto and the next generation of talent starts trickling up to the major leagues.
Because of player service rules, MLB teams usually keep their prized prospects stashed in AAA until a specific day in June, when the prospects lose some rights and remain under team control for longer.
Lots of midseason call-ups have major impact on your fantasy teams. The players that you drafted with so much hope reward your patience by coming through on the promise of their talent after being called up.
Last year, Giants C Buster Posey did it. So did Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez. Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg and AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz, anyone?
This year, there are plenty of top prospects just waiting for that call to the big club and your fantasy team. Here is the cream of the 2011 call-up crop.
Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays LF
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 11
2011 stats: .280 BA, six HR, 19 RBI, nine SB in 42 games for AAA Durham Bulls
Called up when rosters expanded last September, the Rays' top fielding prospect had four hits in just 21 at-bats. Carl Crawford was firmly entrenched in left field, though the Rays knew his days were numbered as free agency arrived.
Now, Jennings is primed for a call-up to that empty left field spot. Sam Fuld came out of nowhere and started incredibly hot while filling in, but he's not an everyday player like Jennings will be.
The Rays are back on top of the AL East after a terrible start and are biding time until Jennings is ready. They have said all along that it doesn't matter how long Fuld and Johnny Damon hit well; Jennings will get the call when he shows that he's ready.
The five-tool player has most recently added the long ball to his repertoire and will be a great source of steals, on-base percentage and runs once he gets called up.
ETA: three weeks
Dustin Ackley, Seattle Mariners 2B
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 5
2011 Stats: .264 BA, seven HR, 23 RBI, six SB in 44 games for AAA Tacoma Rainiers
The 23-year-old middle infielder was the second pick in the 2009 draft and has been on the fast track to the major leagues ever since.
The Seattle Mariners' top prospect is graduating to a position of need for the team, with journeyman Adam Kennedy and Jack Wilson manning second base. There's not a lot of motivation to keep him in AAA Tacoma for very long after he loses Super Two eligibility, so he should surface soon.
Ackley has struggled every time he's moved up a level, so he won't be a superstar right away. Mentally, he is ready for his promotion to the AL West, so his immediate 15-HR potential could be very useful in the Mariners' anemic lineup. He will also be a great source of on-base percentage with his superb plate vision (33 BB in 218 plate appearances so far).
ETA: 10 days
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants 1B
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 26
2011 Stats: .192 BA, HR, four RBI, two SB in 17 games for San Francisco Giants
.352 BA, four HR, 20 RBI, three SB in 28 games for AAA Fresno Grizzlies
Brandon Belt, who began the season on the Giants' roster, was sent down to AAA in the wake of a slow start. Manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean concluded that it might be better to take their time with Belt, especially since he never got much time in AAA.
According to Will Brinson of NBC Bay Area, Belt could get the call in the next couple days to help the struggling Giants offense.
What makes the Giants think that Belt is ready to help? Well, the first baseman has been mashing since returning to AAA Fresno and has reportedly ironed out what was making him struggle.
ETA: This week?
Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves SP
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 21
2011 Stats: 2-2, 2.56 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 52.2 IP, 54 K in eight starts for AAA Gwinnett Braves
Mike Minor, the Braves' promising 23-year-old left-hander, is throwing well for AAA Gwinnett and will make a spot start for the injured Tim Hudson on Wednesday.
This is not his official call-up, though that will come soon enough. The Braves have struggled with keeping a healthy rotation and were forced to summon their other top pitcher, Julio Teheran, to fill a rotation spot about two weeks ago.
Minor will continue to be manager Fredi Gonzalez's go-to guy for spot starts until he gets a permanent spot in the rotation. He has pitched well enough and looks ready at Gwinnett, so it's a matter of the Braves not being ready for him, not vice versa.
Possessing a nasty slider to accompany his low 90s fastball, Minor is a potential source of strikeouts, averaging over one per inning at AAA this year.
His start against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, if strong, could force the Braves to hasten to keep him on the active roster.
ETA: mid to late June
Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies LF
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 4
2011 Stats: .341 BA, two HR, 10 RBI in 11 games for AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs
There's really no discussion here. The Phillies' top prospect, 23-year-old left fielder Domonic Brown, has been recalled and is ready to contribute to the NL East leaders and your fantasy team.
The five-tool outfielder could split time with Ben Francisco and John Mayberry, but eventually he will seize control of left field as the hot prospect.
Brown will be a source of batting average, stolen bases and runs initially and power later as he develops at the major-league level.
He might play sparingly this season, but going forward he will be someone you want to keep on your fantasy team if you were lucky enough to draft him.
Jesus Montero, New York Yankees C
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 9
2011 Stats: .315 BA, three HR, 17 RBI in 35 games for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees
The New York Yankees' prized prospect is 21-year-old Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero. The frequency of a catching prospect as talented as Montero is very low, which is why he's been a constant pillar of trade and promotion speculation for the last two years.
Now, it's nearly his time to take over the full-time Yankee catching job. Jorge Posada, the longtime backstop, is unhappy as he moves further and further from the Yankees' plans. The writing is on the wall for the 39-year-old, who is batting under .200.
There is some doubt as to whether Montero is ready to catch big-league pitching, but the time has never been better to promote him while Russell Martin and Posada are struggling and Francisco Cervelli is, well, Francisco Cervelli.
With Boston and Tampa righting their ships and humming along, the Yankees might need to shake things up. Montero, whether by trade or promotion, will likely be a big part of that shake-up.
ETA: 10-14 days
Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers SP
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 15
2011 Stats: 1-1, 2.53 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 53.1 IP, 44 K, 12 BB in eight starts for AA Erie SeaWolves
Though he is the youngest of the promising Detroit Tiger pitching prospects and hasn't topped AA, 20-year-old Jacob Turner is the one who is projected to reach the majors before all the rest.
The Tigers are proud of their 2009 No. 1 pick and have no qualms about accelerating him through their minor-league system on his way to Detroit. They consider him advanced beyond his years with great control and command of his pitches.
The one thing they'd love to see him learn soon is how to effectively use his mid 90s fastball, slider and changeup against professional hitters. He didn't grasp this fully last season, which led to some struggles at A Lakeland.
If any of the Tiger pitchers falter or injure, Turner could be the one who gets the surprise call from AA.
After all, the Tigers never planned on adding a frontline starter to go with Justin Verlander last year. Instead, they're looking to complement Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello with their young prospects.
ETA: six weeks to two months
Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals 3B
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 7
2011 Stats: .265 BA, eight HR, 34 RBI in 39 games for AAA Omaha Storm Chasers
Another headliner of Kansas City's rich farm system, the 22-year-old Mike Moustakas has struggled with his contact this year in AAA, leading to a subpar .265 average.
Close friend and former teammate Eric Hosmer got his call up to the Royals about three weeks ago. Moustakas can't help but wonder when he'll get his call.
Wilson Betemit is filling the gap at third pretty well for now, but he's not the long-term solution in KC, because the Royals are excited for Moustakas.
The Royals, who are still in the AL Central race at the quarter-mark of the season, have a lot to lose in bringing up a player who isn't ready. They'll likely wait until Moustakas has his next hot streak and then make the move.
ETA: one month
Mat Gamel, Milwaukee Brewers 3B/1B
MLB.com Prospect Rank: Not Ranked
2011 Stats: .319 BA, five HR, 30 R, 25 RBI in 43 games for AAA Nashville Sounds
The 25-year-old Mat Gamel can hardly be categorized as a prospect anymore. He's had two stints with the Brewers but has never stuck with the team.
The last few years have been frustrating for the former top Milwaukee prospect. Just last week the Brewers called up a right-handed bat instead of Gamel, which is the latest in a long line of disappointments for the power hitter.
Hope looms for Gamel, though. Many think that if the Brewers trade Prince Fielder, who will walk as a free agent otherwise, Gamel could be the one to benefit by being called on to play first base full-time.
He's shown that he can hit minor-league pitching and has been at AAA for four seasons. It might be now or never for Mat Gamel if the Brewers trade Fielder.
ETA: two months
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians 3B
MLB.com Prospect Rank: 36
2011 Stats: .272 BA, four HR, 24 RBI in 41 games for AAA Columbus Clippers
The Cleveland Indians' No. 1 prospect, 22-year-old 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, was close to making the major-league roster out of spring training.
Cleveland, though, sent him back to Columbus after deciding that he needed more time in the minors to learn to hit. Many think that the Indians were just being cheap and only wanted to keep him from Super Two status, but his struggles in Columbus have shown that the big club might have been right.
With Jack Hannahan and Adam Everett manning third base for the Indians, the impetus might be on to pull the trigger on Chisenhall.
ETA: three weeks