We’ll keep the introduction short this week, but it’s the perfect time to touch on a very important topic, both when trying to predict which prospects will have both 2014 and long-term value.
Minor league statistics are deceiving. That’s not to say they can’t be informative, because they do tell the story of what has actually happened in professional games, but they don’t come close to explaining the whole picture. Take Eddie Butler for example—he’s been pitching well in Triple-A, but with the lowest strikeout rate of his minor league career. You could read this as a bad sign when you’re flipping through his Baseball Reference page, but the reality is that the stuff is still just as good as 2013 (if not better), and the Rockies are asking him to pitch to contact more.
This is not an uncommon occurrence in the minor leagues—after all, it is part of the developmental process. And so is having players do things that are out of their comfort zone or work heavily on parts of their game that are seen as areas for improvement. This happens more with pitchers, as a minor league coaching staff may dictate how many breaking balls or changeups a pitchers needs to throw over the course of an outing. It happens with hitters too, as they may be asked to focus on an opposite field approach or to not sell out for power as heavily.
This is the crux of why scouting is so important when it comes to evaluating prospects for fantasy baseball. If you’re looking at a player’s stat page, you’re only getting a piece of the puzzle. The more pieces you get, the better you’ll be able to evaluate the next wave of major-league stars.
And speaking of the next wave of major-league stars, let’s dive into The Stash List 3.0:
1) Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous Rank: 3)
2) Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 1)
And we have a new number one. There’s no avoiding Polanco’s continued assault on the minor leagues any more—despite Baez having more upside/value per plate appearance, the feeling here is that Polanco will get more of those in 2014 than the Cubs shortstop will. The Pirates are in an interesting spot here with Polanco. They have Travis Snider who’s performing admirably in the outfield, and being a small market team, they do need to be cognizant of potential Super Two status. However, they are also experienced in locking up young players early (including Starling Marte, who just signed his deal a few months back). In Chicago, the comeback story of Starlin Castro is great for the organization, but if Baez is going to come up soon, he’s likely going to have to start manning the position he’ll eventually play at the major league level in Triple-A. Thus far on the season, he’s played only shortstop.
3) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: 5)
The bat is starting to come alive just at the time the Cardinals appear to be getting a little desperate for offense. The tough part for Taveras is going to be staying healthy until the organization is ready to get him up to the bigs for good. From a pure talent standpoint, Taveras would likely have gotten the call over Randal Grichuk this week, but with service time considerations in play and the Cardinals likely not wanting to yo-yo their best prospect, here we are.
5) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros (Previous Rank: 24)
Singleton. So hot right now. His on-base percentage of .411 is nearly as high as the OPS of the player standing directly in front of him in Houston (Marc Krauss’ .484 mark). His time is coming soon.
6) Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins (Previous Rank: 12)
Heaney had been one of the hottest pitchers in the minor leagues until running into one bad inning against Jacksonville on Friday—which saw three singles, a double, a walk and a batter reach on error before the runners he left on base came around to score off Joel Effertz. He’s still not far from taking his rightful place in the Marlins’ rotation—the Marlins don’t have much history of sending their top prospects to Triple-A.
7) Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous Rank: 22)
With the Blue Jays aligning Stroman’s Triple-A schedule with that of Dustin McGowan’s at the major league level, speculation that the diminutive right-handed will see his major league debut this Sunday is gaining steam. Don’t expect it to happen, but be prepared in case it does. Stroman is likely to battle inconsistency when he gets the call, but the talent is there to miss bats and keep his ratios in check.
8) Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Previous Rank: NR)
9) James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: NR)
10) Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 11)
After a very rough start to the season, Franco has four extra-base hits in his last seven Triple-A games, including his first homer of the season. He’ll be fine and will be the extinguisher to the absolute tire fire that the Phillies’ third basemen have been—collectively, they’ve hit .165/.240/.253.
11) Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous Rank: 10)
Those of you who took chances on Bradley possibly either breaking camp with the team or joining up with them in Arizona continue to be disappointed as he’s passed over for thoroughly uninteresting options like Josh Collmenter and Mike Bolsinger. But when he gets his chance, he’ll miss bats.
12) Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: 15)
13) Carlos Martinez, RHP, St Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: 20)
It appears as though Joe Kelly’s injury isn’t as serious as it could have been, and he’ll be back within another two weeks or so. Meanwhile, Martinez remains the only pitcher in baseball who could be next in line for both the starting rotation (if there’s a long-term need) or the closer role.
14) Derek Holland, LHP, Texas Rangers (Previous Rank: 16)
15) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 9)
This week saw no new bad news for Walker’s ailing shoulder. This now qualifies as a positive step.
16) Josh Willingham, OF, Minnesota Twins (Previous Rank: NR)
17) Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians (Previous Rank: NR)
There’s certainly been enough clamoring for Bauer to be on this list, and with the terribleness that is Carlos Carrasco, he does make his debut this week. However, even with Bauer’s ticked up velocity and increased performance, I’m still not convinced that he’ll either have success at the major-league level or even be the first player called upon to replace Carrasco. Former regression candidate Josh Tomlin has been just as good as Bauer at Triple-A thus far and could factor in here (though he likely wouldn’t be worth owning in mixed leagues).
18) Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics (Previous Rank: 18)
19) Jacob Turner, RHP, Miami Marlins (Previous Rank: NR)
Turner made his second rehab start at High-A Jupiter on Monday night and looked the part—going seven strong innings, allowing just a single homer on the evening. The funny thing is the Turner, at 22 years old, is still younger than the average player in the Florida State League.
20) Robbie Ray, LHP, Detroit Tigers (Previous Rank: NR)
There’s been much made negatively about the Doug Fister trade from the Detroit side, including essentially giving away Steve Lombardozzi for the remains of Alex Gonzalez, but the centerpiece can start to turn some of that frown upside down while filling in for Anibal Sanchez, who is now on the disabled list. Ray has been very good at Triple-A thus far, with a 1.59 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 21 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.
21) Jesse Crain, RHP, Houston Astros (Previous Rank: 14)
A setback in Crain’s recovery looks like it will remove much chance of him coming back in May. However, there’s so little competition in Houston for saves that he still makes the list. Plus, the Astros have incentive to throw him right into the role to see if they can spin him for a minor league piece.
22) Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: HM)
It was almost predetermined that Javier Baez would be the first Cubs farmhand to get called up in 2014, but Alcantara is sneaking his way into the conversation. Through 22 games, the 22-year-old second baseman is hitting .301 with two homers and six steals, but the most surprising number of all might be his .253 Isolated Power—thanks to seven doubles and four triples. That’ll do.
23) Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres (Previous Rank: NR)
Watch out for the underappreciated right-hander this season as a potential injury replacement for a member of the Padres’ rotation (or a performance replacement—I’m looking at you Robbie Erlin). His last start in Double-A was phenomenal, as he struck out 10 batters in seven scoreless. He’s not a frontline starter in the making, but in Petco, he doesn’t have to be.
24) Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox (Previous Rank: 23)
25) Jesus Montero, C/1B, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: NR)
Through 17 games for Tacoma this year, Montero is hitting .318/.356/.667 with six homers and 18 RBI. The Mariners are struggling for offense and have been using an outfield consisting of Abraham Almonte, Michael Saunders and Stefen Romero. Corey Hart can play in a corner. Just saying…