Living on the Gulf Coast requires two attributes that are non-negotiable; an unhealthy love of high school football and the seventh sense (we all have a sixth sense, or so Bruce Willis once told us) for knowing when to hit Interstate 45 North during the not-so-Fantasy friendly hurricane season, which began this week with Tropical Storm Bill, which neared with the hype of a Jason Heyward breakout season only to arrive with more pitiful results.
Let’s focus on this seventh sense and translate it into your benefit as the Year of the Rookie continues to hit top speed. With the arrival of Twins’ OF Byron Buxton and Indians’ SS Francisco Lindor last weekend, six of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects have made their big league debuts, and a seventh (Twins 3B Miguel Sano) possibly making landfall soon. Having the drop on your fellow Fantasy owners on the next impact rookie could present an opportunity to add above-average production. Or would you rather sift through the waiver wires for the likes of Josh Collmenter or Wil Venable?
While my meteorological skills are far lacking compared to Twitter pal and go-to person for high school game day forecasts, Casey Curry (you can find her here), let’s take a look at five rookies on the outer edge of a call-up and whether now is the time to invest a bench spot on your roster for one of them.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (ranked 10th by MLB.com): He’s made the Southern League his personal playground over the last six weeks, as Sano has hit to the slash line tune of .320/.582/.981 (yes, Virginia, .981) with 17 extra base hits (seven homers) and 26 RBIs. The Twins are hanging in the AL Central hunt despite ranking 26th in the majors with 48 homers and a .380 slugging percentage (22nd). Sooner or later, Minnesota will pull the plug on Kennys Vargas’ low-rated show, Wheel Of Whiffs, which would open the DH spot to Sano, whose power rivals that of Rangers’ 3B Joey Gallo, a move that would make sense in that it would keep give Sano further time to rest the right elbow that underwent Tommy John surgery just a year ago. Projection: He’s coming up much sooner than Twins’ manager Paul Molitor has said. He could more intriguing if gets the opportunity to play left field, a position that the Twinkies have gotten all of .228/.272/.355 from thus far. Owned in five percent of polled leagues, Sano (who also qualifies at SS in some leagues) would be a second half weapon that would alter the course of a Fantasy team’s homers, RBIs and slugging percentage. Find a spot. Soon.
Kyle Schwarber, C/DH/OF, Cubs (ranked 41st): Like Sano, Schwarber has mauled Southern League pitching, batting .320/.438/.579 with 13 bombs and 39 RBIs for Double-A Tennessee before being called up on Tuesday. Currently, the plan is to have Schwarber serve as the DH during the Cubbies’ seven-game tour of the American League, yet those plans could be jettisoned if Schwarber wears out the staffs of the Indians and Twins. The secret’s already out on him, as Schwarber’s ownership has increased fivefold to 14 percent in the last 36 hours since word spread of his call up. Like the Twins, the Cubs have received near-useless production in left (.245/.312/.415), which makes the prospect of Schwarber sticking around once NL play resumes appear more likely. Projection: Count me in when it comes to Schwarber remaining on the roster beyond this weekend. Chris Coghlan has hit well of late, but with Schwarber and a returning Jorge Soler, the Cubs would have considerable firepower in their outfield corners, while most Fantasy owners would be able to receive a considerable upgrade at their catcher slot. Regardless of position, Schwarber’s potential makes him a must-add in most mixed league formats.
Aaron Nola, P, Phillies (ranked 31st): Lookie here, an actual Phillies prospect! The seventh overall pick of last year’s draft didn’t need much time to overpower Double-A hitters, thus earning a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley last week. Based on his minor league numbers, Nola isn’t going to offer much in the strikeout department (6.93 K/9 this season), yet he’s shown pinpoint control and the ability to keep the ball in the yard, an absolute must for pitching in Philly, more so after the Orioles were offered eight free gifts courtesy of the Phillies pitching staff on Tuesday night. Projection: My guess on Nola’s arrival is sometime in late July, after the Phils have seen about 8-10 Triple-A starts from him. With 3B Maikel Franco already up, and both SS J.P. Crawford and P Ben Lively expected to be September additions, the overhaul of the Phillies has (finally) gained steam. The potential trade of Cole Hamels could also accelerate Nola’s debut. For now, hold off on Nola, but keep a wary eye on his progress.
Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (ranked fifth): Jimmy Rollins, with his .198 average, is on borrowed time, and while manager Don Mattingly could easily plug either Alex Guerrero or Justin Turner in at short, Seager’s numbers (.322 and nine homers between Double-A and Triple-A) suggest that the Dodgers’ top prospect is ready to arrive. As of now, the team insists that Seager (owned in ten percent of polled leagues) won’t be called up anytime soon. Yet, while the Dodgers can hide Rollins’ leaden bat for now, watch how quickly talk of Seager’s arrival increases if the offense continues to struggle during their current home stand against the Rangers and Giants this week. Projection: It looks like a sprint between Seager and Cuban slugger Hector Olivera for who reaches Chavez Ravine first. While both will be up by mid-August, my play is on Seager, who would give the left side of the Dodgers infield much-needed stability. Deeper league owners can probably afford to stash him, yet I’d suggest that standard 10-12 team league owners should go ahead and grab him. He’s coming up sooner than you think.
Henry Owens, P, Red Sox (ranked 15th): With a team ERA of 4.52, Sox fans have to be wondering why Owens isn’t up. Heck, he can’t be as bad as the rotating Ship of Pitching Fools that John Farrell captains on a daily basis. The big lefty is just 2-5 in Triple-A, yet his record hides the fact Owens sports a respectable 3.45 ERA while holding batters to a paltry .195 average. Only the mediocre state of the AL East has kept Boston sports fans from shifting their focus to the Patriots and how disjointed the Bruins’ offseason plans could develop. Still, with little reason to feel that things will get better with the rotation, one has to believe that it’s not a question of if, but when Owens is summoned from Pawtucket. Projection: My hunch is that he’d be closer to coming up if his record was 5-2, yet I can see Owens making his first start before August 1. He’s probably more of a deeper league play at this point, yet I can see AL-only owners throwing their FAAB money around in need of a fresh young arm like Owens.
While awaiting on the aforementioned four (plus Schwarber), here’s a brief look at some players who could help you now:
Kendall Graverman, P, Athletics: If you focus on his 4.22 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, you’ll miss out on the fact that Graverman has allowed two earned runs while striking out 13 in his last two starts (15 innings). Owned in seven percent of polled leagues, Graverman is on a stretch in which he has recorded quality starts in four of his last five outings while dropping his ERA nearly half of what it was when he returned to the majors late last month (8.27). I’d consider him in deeper leagues, as it appears Graverman has solidified the fifth spot in the A’s rotation.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, Reds: With Zach Cozart out for the remainder of the year, Suarez presents an opportunity for NL-only owners to benefit. Suarez put together a string of solid stints in the Tigers system before being traded to Cincinnati. Considering he’s off to a slow start (.158 entering Wednesday), Suarez is a low-risk, solid-reward play, as he has shown speed and respectable power in his professional career. Owned in one percent of polled leagues, Suarez has the potential to be productive in deeper leagues as well.
Brandon Barnes, OF, Rockies: Like Suarez, Barnes stands the chance to be Fantasy relevant in NL-only leagues due to the absence of the regular starter; in this case, the back-to-the-DL Corey Dickerson. Barnes has always teased with his power-speed potential, and with the Rockies at home for seven games, which began on Wednesday, he’s an intriguing play in daily leagues. If Dickerson stays on the DL longer than expected, Barnes could see his value rise in mixed leagues.