Aw man! What happened to all my savvy rookie pick-ups on Draft Day?
Every year, the fantasy baseball community goes bonkers over the minor league hopefuls and potential rookie impact players. We talk about them all winter long, citing skill set and potential path to the majors, and once spring training opens, the prospect hounds of dynasty leagues, keeper leagues and even those in re-draft leagues with an eye on the second half begin salivating with every successful at-bat. Unfortunately though, the path to the majors isn’t always clear and most clubs are unwilling to start a youngster’s arbitration clock too soon. For every one Jonathan Schoop getting an opportunity in April, there are dozens of other highly-touted prospects who we won’t see until late-May at the earliest. Most, we probably won’t even see until the second half.
But injuries happens, veterans decline and pitchers implode, so there are definitely some prospects who we will actually see sooner than later. They’re being watched very closely by the organization and will need to perform well in the minors, but their chances of being called up are definitely greater than most. Here’s a look at who should be making a big-league impact soon enough:
George Springer, OF HOU – I’d say that he’s so close you can taste him, but that would just be gross, so let’s just say he’s close. If you wisely grabbed Springer in your draft, sure, you’re disappointed that he didn’t break camp with the team, but you had to know it was coming given the ways of the arbitration clock. The Astros would be doing a disservice to themselves by starting it too early and even the most impatient of fantasy owners can respect that. But there was a lot to love about his spring which is what gives us the most hope. He posted a 10:11 BB:K in 46 plate appearances, posted a .413 OBP and had five stolen bases. The Astros will be happy to let Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes hold down the fort in the outfield corners knowing that a talent such as Springer is on the horizon. If he can rein in the whiffs and continue to produce well at Triple-A, he could get the call once the calendar flips to May.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B HOU – Mugshot notwithstanding, he’s a huge talent in the power game. He knows it, we know it and the higher-ups in Houston know it. But posting a .154 spring average with nine strikeouts in 26 at-bats isn’t going to win anyone a first base job, even if three of your four hits went for extra-bases. The arbitration clock is obviously a factor as well, but Singleton also needs to adjust from this sink-or-swim mentality at the plate and has to start do more in the batter’s box than swing for the fences. He did walk nine times as well this spring so the batter’s eye is improving, but he needs to show some consistency on the farm first before they consider bringing him up and displacing Jesus Guzman. I like him for a second-half appearance this season, but maybe not until late if his plate discipline and contact rates don’t improve.
Gregory Polanco, OF PIT – Patience, grasshopper. Patience. While Travis Snider and Jose Tabata are holding down the fort, everyone, including them, knows that they are just keeping the spot warm for Polanco. Given the fact that he’s only seen nine plate appearances above the Double-A level, the Pirates felt that starting him at Triple-A Indianapolis would help him adjust better to big league pitching with the number of off-speed pitches he will see. There’s so much to love about this 22-year-old’s power/speed game that you can’t help but get excited for his impending arrival. Just be patient, leave him stashed and simply wait.
Jameson Taillon, SP PIT – Troubled waters ahead, folks, as the Pirates sent Taillon to Dr. Neal El Attrache, one of the most prominent Tommy John surgeons out there, for a second opinion on his elbow. The first exam, which happened just prior to the start of the MLB regular season, revealed that the ligament was intact, but obviously there is still major concern here. What’s worse is that it’s been two days since Taillon’s visit and the Pirates have been very tight-lipped about the injury. If he’s good to go with rest and rehab, we might see him in the second half, but even then it would be tough to trust him. If surgery is required, we won’t see him until the latter half of the 2015 season. Re-draft league owners can probably drop him and dynasty league owners should get comfortable with him on the bench for a long time.
Didi Gregorius, SS ARI – If you couldn’t see the handwriting on the wall late last season, then I don’t know what to tell you. Get some glasses. Some big, thick Coke-bottle lens glasses. Chris Owings out-produced Gregorius over the final month and a half of the year in 2013 and while it took Kirk Gibson a little longer to make the decision than he should have, he made the right call. Gregorius is a spectacular fielder; there’s no denying his skill with the glove. But his deficiencies with the bat are more than prevalent and while he’s shown decent plate discipline, his contact rates have been weak and there’s very limited power of which to speak. With Owings locked in and Cliff Pennington as the back-up, there is little reason to believe that Gregorius will be needed at the big league level. But injuries do happen, so the club will be comfortable with bringing him up, if needed. Fantasy owners, though, can bypass him for now.
Archie Bradley, SP ARI – He looked great to open the spring, but as soon as Patrick Corbin went down and the media frenzy ensued, Bradley lost his command. He struggled mightily at the tail-end of spring training and the club simply couldn’t justify opening the season with him on the 25-man roster. The good news for him, though, is that the path to return isn’t all that troublesome. The Diamondbacks have an array of veterans on the hill, but Brandon McCarthy isn’t all that reliable and there are obviously a number of question marks surrounding Randall Delgado as well. Bradley simply needs to regain that command and confidence he opened spring training with and show that he can be consistent with it even under the tough scrutiny of the media and fan base. A potential June recall seems reasonable, but you may have to wait until the second half, depending on how things break for Arizona.
Oscar Taveras, OF STL – It all comes down to the ankle again as the Cardinals’ top prospect still isn’t 100-percent. There was concern over the winter as to how well it healed and that concern grew even more when Taveras said that he just didn’t feel comfortable on it. That was all the team needed to hear and they shut him down once again. It seems fair to say that Taveras’ stay in the minors will be a lengthy one as the Cardinals have their outfield and first base situations locked down. Is it possible that he gets a call should Allen Craig make his annual jaunt to the DL? Of course, but with both Jon Jay and Shane Robinson holding onto the reserve outfielder spots, there is little need for Taveras. Of course, he could come back and start raking immediately, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Continue to stash in dynasty/keeper leagues but re-draft league owners can free up that spot if they haven’t already.
Javier Baez, SS CHC – Another sooner than later call here probably, although the early-season play of Emilio Bonifacio might have Baez owners a little nervous now. Just kidding! It’s Bonifacio! How long could it last, right? Well, you never know. Baez headed back to Triple-A Iowa for arbitration clock purposes, so it’s going to come down to how well he plays in the minors and how well Bonifacio and Darwin Barney play at the big-league level. Given the fact that the Cubs aren’t expected to compete this year, the club has nothing to lose once the calendar flips to May, but they also have no reason to rush Baez. He’s going to continue learning the nuances of playing second base and will also have to continue to produce at the plate. Should all of that be in order, then perhaps we’ll see him at some point in June.