We already have a few high-profile graduates from last week’s first Stash. For a refresher on the four types of players that are eligible for inclusion on this list, please see the first edition of the year.
Grandal returned from the disabled list on Tuesday as expected and pinch-hit in the Dodgers home opener, knocking in a run with a ground out. Grandal is still only owned in 24 percent of ESPN leagues, a number I just don’t understand, but he’s not popular in Yahoo! leagues either, checking in at 32 percent ownership there. A potential top-five catching option should be owned at much closer to the 83 percent rate at which he’s currently owned in CBS leagues.
It certainly didn’t take long for an injury to a Rangers outfielder to give one of their top prospects a chance to produce at the big-league level, as Shin-Soo Choo’s calf injury, which will reportedly keep him out of action for 4-6 weeks, opened the door for Mazara. All he’s done is get hits in six of his first 16 at-bats, walking once while striking out three times and launching his first big league home run in his debut. Joey Gallo memorably started off hot in his debut last season before being demoted after less than 100 plate appearances, but one would think that if Mazara (who provides more defensive value in the outfield than Gallo) continues to produce that the Rangers would fit him into their lineup somewhere, most likely at the expense of Ian Desmond, Mitch Moreland, or Delino DeShields, Jr.—the latter of whom is the only player of the three under contract for next season. Josh Hamilton is slated to “step up” his rehab program today, and his return should paint a much clearer picture of what the team’s plan in continuing Mazara’s development this season and whether or not he sticks around after Choo returns from the disabled list.
Twins skipper Paul Molitor did his best to temper expectations for “Mr. Oktoberfest,” as he indicated that Kepler would likely be deployed primarily as a late-inning defensive replacement after being recalled when Danny Santana hit the disabled list. For more on Kepler and my thoughts on his 2016 fantasy outlook, please check out his Call-Up feature from Monday. As I touched on in the piece, Kepler was the backup plan in center field this spring for the Twins if it appeared Byron Buxton’s bat was not ready for major-league pitching, and with Buxton striking out at a prolific rate to start the year (12 in his first 23 at-bats), the native German could force his way into the 2016 picture sooner rather than later with a good showing while Santana is out.
Mallex Smith, once dubbed a “walking portmanteau” by Prospect Team Editor Craig Goldstein, received the call to the majors earlier than many expected when starting Atlanta center fielder Ender Inciarte was placed on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring on Monday. Smith has started in center field and hit atop the Braves order in each of the three contests in Inciarte’s absence, stealing one base on Wednesday but reaching base in only two of his first 12 career plate appearances. As Mike Gianella pointed out last week when discussing Jose Reyes, this is a fantasy baseball column, so I’ll withhold moral commentary on the Hector Olivera situation, but as it relates to Smith and his future playing time, Olivera’s arrest and subsequent charge with one count of misdemeanor assault and battery likely opens the door for Smith to stick on the roster as a backup outfielder at a minimum. Unless the Braves really want to subject humanity to more Drew Stubbs and Jeff Francoeur, he figures to see regular playing time until Olivera returns—if Olivera returns to Atlanta at all. Semi-regular time is all that Smith needs to make an impact with his wheels, and while I foresee 40-50 steals over the rest of the season, the speed contributions will also likely come with an extended adjustment period with the bat as he acclimates to facing major-league pitching. Smith hit .240/.290/.330 (with 10 SB) last July in his first full month at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2015 before turning it on after the All-Star break, hitting .303/.372/.383 over his final 50 games of the year while adding 27 steals in 33 attempts.
The Dropouts: (None)
Since we now have all of the necessary caveats out of the way regarding sample size and I entrust that everyone is well aware that we’re still in mid-April, here’s the second edition of The Stash:
Baez, whose ownership was no doubt buoyed by his top-ranked appearance on last week’s Stash, now appears on a whopping 16 percent of ESPN rosters, and it looks as though he will return from the disabled list over the weekend. With Kyle Schwarber’s knee blowing up three games into the season, Baez’s 2016 playing-time concerns have been eased a bit, although Jorge Soler figures to be the main beneficiary. In Baez’s three games at Triple-A Iowa, he has appeared at second, third base, shortstop and left field, which is how Joe Maddon will likely move him around the diamond when he returns. Unfortunately, his Instagram account provided no further injury updates, just plenty of well wishes and lots of #JB9.
DeSclafani threw a 45-pitch bullpen session prior to the Reds game on Wednesday in Chicago and appears ready to make a minor-league rehab start before jumping into the Cincinnati rotation.
Skaggs made his first minor-league rehab start since returning from Tommy John on Sunday, pitching three innings, allowing one run on three hits, and striking out two at Triple-A Salt Lake. He’ll likely need three or four more rehab starts before being ready to join the Angels rotation, which should have an opening for him after Andrew Heaney’s strained flexor injury. Matt Shoemaker and Nick Tropeano are safe rotation members for now, but there will likely only be room for one of them when Skaggs is deemed healthy.
Wheeler’s “minor” arm procedure “went smoothly” on Tuesday and the timeline for his return, which is slated for early-July, should not be affected.
Glasnow looked good in his first Triple-A start of the year, striking out six in his five innings of work, allowing three hits and one earned run, although he did issue three free passes. Limiting the walks will be the key for Glasnow at the major-league level in 2016, and if Francisco Liriano’s right hamstring injury causes him to miss more than just yesterday’s start, he could reach the majors prior to the projected Super Two cutoff in June.
Max Kepler was the first of the highly touted Twins prospects to reach the majors in 2016, and while his recall could signal that the Twins might not be as conservative with the promotions of other prospects that are already on the 40-man this season, Berrios, who is not currently on the Minnesota 40-man, could still find himself behind Tyler Duffey if the Twins dip down to the minors for an arm.
Turner has stolen three bases and reached base 12 times in his first 20 plate appearances over five games at Triple-A Syracuse. Danny Espinosa has reached base in eight of his first 26 plate appearances, good for a sparkling .308 OBP to start the year.
Despite giving Gallo over 100 at-bats of major-league experience last year, the Rangers chose to call upon 20-year-old Nomar Mazara to replace the injured Shin-Soo Choo in lieu of the 22-year-old slugger. Gallo struck out in 39.5 percent of his 228 Triple-A plate appearances in 2015, and through his first 27 plate appearances of 2016, his strikeout rate sits at 22 percent with Triple-A Round Rock. The Rangers will presumably need to see much better production than the .195/.289/.450 mark that Gallo posted in 53 games last season in the Pacific Coast League before moving him up this season.
Ryu pitched two 20-pitch simulated games last Thursday and “felt great” as he looks to return in mid-to-late May.
Norris struck out four in two innings of work in his rehab start at High-A Lakeland on Sunday and will ramp up to 55 pitches in his next start tomorrow. Filling in for Norris, Shane Greene struck out seven hitters in six innings against the Pirates on Wednesday in making his first start of the year, and Brad Ausmus said of Greene’s chances to remain in the rotation when Norris returns: “If he pitches well, he’ll stay there.” That could mean that Norris (or Mike Pelfrey) could be headed to the bullpen if Greene continues to pitch well in Norris’ absence.
Peralta had his cast removed from his injured thumb last week as he works his way towards his early-to-mid June return date.
Kela has allowed runs in two of his four appearances to start the year, leaving his ERA at 7.36, which is still less than one-third of closer Shawn Tolleson’s glowing 22.50 mark. I still believe that Kela would be given closing duties if Tolleson loses the job, but this situation remains one to keep a close eye on as neither Kela or Tolleson has pitched well to start the year, which could open the door for Dyson. For more closer talk, check out Matt Collins’ latest Closer Report.
17) Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers (Last week: 18)
The results (.379 OBP, one stolen base) in Profar’s first six games at Triple-A Round Rock aren’t really what’s important, it’s that the former no. 1 overall prospect in the game has been playing in the field, and not just hitting. Profar’s started five of the six games at shortstop, appearing as the designated hitter in the other contest.
18) Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Last week: 21)
19) Cody Reed, LHP, Cincinnati Reds (Last week: 22)
20) Sean Manaea, LHP, Oakland Athletics (Last week: 23)
21) Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Last week: HM)
Reed finally was able to get a start in this season on Wednesday and went 4.2 innings, striking out six and allowing two runs, and was reportedly sitting 94-95 MPH with his fastball in balmy 47-degree weather.
Urias, who will likely face Manaea on Saturday in a stellar PCL matchup, was dominant in his first outing of the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, striking out nine and walking nobody in five scoreless inning—just ridiculous for someone who doesn’t turn 20 until August.
Nick Williams 2016 Walk Watch: Zero walks in his first four games, two in Wednesday’s game against Triple-A Rochester, giving him two on the season in his first five games and an OBP of .250.
Making his first start since 2013, Taillon pitched very well at Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday, walking zero and striking out six in six innings of work, allowing one run on five hits against Max Klinger’s favorite team. Issuing no walks after such a long layoff has to be a viewed as a very encouraging sign for the now 24-year old Taillon.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Homer Bailey, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Aaron Blair, RHP, Atlanta Braves
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ben Gamel, OF, New York Yankees
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Tom Murphy, C, Colorado Rockies
Jose Peraza, UT, Cincinnati Reds
Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Roman Quinn, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Michael Reed, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Richie Shaffer, 1B/3B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Jake Thompson, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies