We’ve reached the point in the season where a slew of minor leaguers make their debuts because
enough time has passed to guarantee their teams an extra year of control they all successfully demonstrated that they developed that one aspect of their game that needed work. That means lots of new names in the free agent pool alongside the ones that have been there all season without attracting any attention. Prospects are never a sure thing, especially in their first exposure to the majors, but in deep leagues, prospect pickups can move the needle a lot more than most of the thoroughly mediocre options available. In deep keeper leagues, the right pickup could provide value at a bargain price for years to come. You have to hit on a few gambles to win a deep league against stiff competition, and June prospect promotions offer some of the best odds you’ll get all season.
AL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
The prime beneficiary of Marlon Byrd’s PED suspension appears to be Tyler Naquin. He’s on a hot streak right now, homering in three straight games last weekend and hitting over .400 over the last week. He’ll come back to earth at some point, but once he does, he’ll be part of a four-man rotation in Cleveland’s outfield along with Rajai Davis, Jose Ramirez, and Lonnie Chisenhall. He offers a modest power-speed combination and might even contribute in batting average as long as he’s getting regular plate appearances, and he should get regular playing time for the foreseeable future.
The injury to Mark Teixeira prompted the Yankees to call up Chris Parmelee from Triple-A. With Dustin Ackley out for the year, Parmelee’s primary competitors for playing time seem to be Robert Refsnyder and Brian McCann on days when he isn’t playing behind the plate. He doesn’t have the home run power traditionally associated with first baseman, but Parmelee has demonstrated the ability to get on base in the high minors over the last five seasons. However, he has spent parts of each of the last five seasons in the high minors because he hasn’t hit well enough to secure regular plate appearances at the major league level since his MLB debut in 2011. Considering the other options, it wouldn’t take much over the next couple of weeks for Parmelee to win the first base job in the Bronx until Teixeira returns. That doesn’t mean he’ll be able to do it, though.
Reymond Fuentes is splitting time with Paulo Orlando in left field and filling in for Jarrod Dyson occasionally in right field. Like Orlando and Dyson, Fuentes doesn’t have much home run power but he does have speed. The Royals love to run, so Fuentes should be able to provide stolen bases for roto owners while Alex Gordon and Brett Eibner are on the DL.
Going into the season, Edwin Diaz was the Mariners’ top pitching prospect. Seattle sfifted him to the bullpen this spring when they assigned him to Double-A Jackson, hoping that the move would help him make it to the big league team more quickly. It worked. Diaz got the call on Saturday after posting a 2.21 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 40 2/3 innings with 54 strikeouts and only seven walks. The strikeouts aren’t unusual for a flame-throwing young reliever, but the low walk rate is. He’s a non-closing reliever, which limits his value, but he could put up near-elite rate stats and strikeout totals immediately. If he does that, he could rocket up the depth chart and put himself in line for saves should Steve Cishek falter.
The Astros are employing a closer-by-committee alignment for the time being according to manager A.J. Hinch. Harris received the first (and so far only) save opportunity since that decision and pitched a clean inning. So far, so good. He figures to be the head of the committee and could easily claim the position for himself outright if he can continue to post numbers close to the 0.34 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and 9.79 K/9 he has posted so far in 2016.
James Paxton was called up from Triple-A to fill Felix Hernandez’s spot in the rotation as long as the King remains sidelined. Paxton was hit hard in his first start against San Diego but looked good in his second start against Cleveland, especially since it looked like the tall lefty added a mile per hour or two to his already impressive fastball. His strikeout stuff and spot in the rotation of a contending Mariners team makes Paxton a must-own for as long as he stays in the majors. If he pitches well, he could finally stay up for good.
NL-ONLY POSITION PLAYERS
I saw Jimmy Paredes hit a long home run in person at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon but resisted the impulse to spend all of my FAAB on him Sunday night. The Phillies acquired him last week by the Phillies after the Blue Jays designated him for assignment. Two weeks before that, Toronto picked him up after the Orioles waived him. Paredes has a shot at regular plate appearances with the Phillies, something he didn’t have with the contending Blue Jays or Orioles. His ability to play 2B, 3B, or either outfield corner will help him get playing time with the Phils and give him positional flexibility on your roto roster.
He stole bases at a decent clip in the minor leagues through the 2014 season, but he didn’t run much last year and he hasn’t attempted a stolen base yet this year, so he’s risky as a steals play. His home run power is legitimate, but he hasn’t made enough contact to get to that power consistently at the major league level. He’s not a bad lottery ticket.
Albert Almora is probably not available in deep dynasty leagues but likely to be available in deep redraft leagues. He has appeared on prospect lists for years, but between his middling performances in the minor leagues and the depth of the major league roster, his chances of winning a regular spot in the major league lineup seemed to decrease each season. The injury to Jorge Soler and the fact that Jason Heyward has been banged up all season left the Cubs looking for outfield depth, leading to the Almora call-up.
Defense has been Almora’s calling card throughout his career, and that defensive ability should get him more playing time than his bat would earn on its own. At Triple-A, Almora was hitting .318, but that batting average was fairly empty alongside a 3.1 percent walk rate and three home runs in 226 plate appearances. He did, however, steal ten bases in Iowa in 55 games, surpassing his previous career high for a season in only two months. He should play most days against lefties while Soler is on the DL, and he offers potential in batting average and stolen bases when he plays. His approach makes him a risky proposition, though.
Yasiel Puig landed on the DL right as Scott Van Slyke was activated from the DL himself. He was dreadful prior to his stint on the DL, allowing Howie Kendrick and Trayce Thompson to move themselves ahead of him on the depth chart. Still, Andy’s kid is a proven commodity, able to provide value in deep leagues even in limited playing time. Just be ready to cut him loose if he looks as bad as he did in April.
I don’t think there’s a standard for how much time has elapsed since a player was a top prospect before they can legitimately be called a post-hype sleeper. Archie Bradley’s prospect hype came fairly recently, probably too recently to properly be called post-hype. Bradley’s injury problems and poor performance last season dropped him quite a bit on most people’s lists, including mine. He started the year in Triple-A and was terrific there, earning a second shot at locking down a spot in Arizona’s rotation. Since his call-up at the end of May, his performance has been a mixed bag. Unlike his stint in the majors last year, he has been striking out batters this year, raising his K/9 from 5.80 to 9.51. Walks remain a problem, though. His 4.18 BB/9 this season is an improvement on last season’s 5.55 mark, but it’s still subpar for roto purposes. He has the pedigree to break out, but his control issues make him a risk to your rate stats.
Going into the season, Will Smith was slated to be the left-handed side of a closing tandem in Milwaukee along with Jeremy Jeffress. Smith’s spring training knee injury gave Jeffress sole possession of the closer’s job on opening day, and Jeffress has done well in the role. Despite that performance, Brewers manager Craig Counsell has stated that once Smith has fully returned to form, he will share the saves with Jeffress. Smith will probably only get saves in games where the Brewers are facing a lot of lefties in the ninth inning, but that’s better than nothing. Beyond saves, Smith offers a well above average strikeout rate and good rate stats.
The numbers being posted by Nationals reliever Sammy Solis are getting too good to ignore. He has a 1.59 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP with twenty strikeouts in seventeen innings, although his nine walks are a bit worrisome. He is a Tommy John survivor and he had shoulder issues last season, so he’s far from a sure thing, but his mid-90s heat from the left side and his performance over the last two seasons make him a viable option in deep leagues.
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