The worst thing for a player who is performing at a high level in the minor leagues is to have a player (or players) ahead of him who is also getting the job done. This goes triple for position players, as a starting pitching prospect will force his way in there if his performance dictates that he deserves a job. If you look at the top names on this list (specifically the first five prospects), part of the reason why they are so prominently ranked is that they are significantly better from a talent perspective than what is ahead of them on the depth chart. Those five players, who are potentially going to be phased out, are (roughly) Travis Snider, Jon Jay, Luis Valbuena, Marc Krauss, and Cody Asche. Those are not impediments, they are placeholders.
The waters get much more murky when you have a player like Alexander Guerrero, who from a talent and performance standpoint should probably get a shot at major league playing time, but is behind Dee Gordon on the depth chart. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge obstacle, but Gordon (and his .385 on-base percentage) has been one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball this season. So while Guerrero ends up in the Honorable Mention section again because he would likely get the call in the event of a Gordon injury, that’s a much less likely outcome than a near replacement player playing like a near replacement level player.
Adding to the potential drama, Los Angeles also has Joc Pederson, who would be getting a ton of hype (and possibly a top-five spot on this list) if he weren’t behind a full outfield in Los Angeles. Of course, that didn’t stop Yasiel Puig in 2013, but with the money owed that collective bunch, the likely outcome of this scenario is Pederson getting a September cup of coffee before the Dodgers are forced to fix their glut of outfielders in the off-season. Sure, an Andre Ethier trade would help, but it would have to happen in congress with a Carl Crawford injury for it to even matter to Pederson—making it a two-step process. And the odds of a player just getting to the majors in that situation, let alone performing at a level worth owning in mixed leagues, is just not attractive enough yet.
So without any further ado, here is The Stash List 4.0:
1) Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous Rank: 1)
Nothing much has changed here, Polanco is still raking in Triple-A and he still is extremely likely to have to wait until June to start showing what he can do at the major league level. On a nice note, Polanco is now 5-for-6 in his last half-dozen stolen-base attempts after starting the season successful just 1-for-4.
2) Jurickson Profar, 2B, Texas Rangers (Previous Rank: NR)
Finally Profar’s ownership level has dropped to the point where I get to talk about him again in this space. As of right now, he’s ahead of schedule in his return to the Rangers—and this could happen as soon as the first week of June. Between the poor performance in 2013 and the current injury, Profar represents a great buying opportunity for the second half if you have a weak middle infield.
3) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: 3)
The best thing possible for Taveras’ fantasy value in 2014, besides his own health, is that the Cardinals have seemed to almost completely move on from playing Peter Bourjos in center field. Bourjos’ defense was a real hurdle to clear for the stud prospect, but with that out of the way, he just has to hit better than Jon Jay and Randal Grichuk (which he can do in his sleep). Taveras can hold his own in center in the near term, and after not playing there at all in the first three weeks of the Triple-A season, he’s now manned the position four times in his last 10 games.
4) Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 2)
The story of Baez’s strengths and biggest challenges has been told over and over again as his star has grown. Yes, the bat speed is incredible, but being able to pull a 95-plus-MPH fastball is going to make Baez see a lot of junk. You know where there’s a ton of junk (and not much velocity to take advantage of)? Yes, Triple-A. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Baez is struggling to start the season, but it will be more of a surprise to see these struggles continue much longer.
5) Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets (Previous Rank: 4)
6) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros (Previous Rank: 5)
Singleton’s bat has cooled down a little as of late, but his 10 homers are proof that even a “cooled down” version of Singleton is still awfully dangerous. At a first glance, his strikeout numbers may be troubling, but it’s skewed by whiffing 11 times in his first six games. In the 23 games since then, he has 21 strikeouts—not a great rate by any means, but a 20 percent strikeout clip is certainly not the end of the world.
7) Marcus Stroman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Previous Rank: 7)
He may already be in the majors, but because he’s starting in a bullpen role, he doesn’t lose his eligibility for the list. The plan is actually a clever one by the Blue Jays (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming it is their plan), as having Stroman adjust to the majors in the ‘pen while keeping his innings down is actually a smart move. That said, keeping him in the bullpen for an extended period of time behind J.A. Happ and Dustin McGowan is just all kinds of wrong.
8) Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins (Previous Rank: 6)
9) Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Previous Rank: 8)
10) Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 10)
For the first three weeks of the minor league season, it was a good thing the Phillies’ third base situation was an abomination, as Franco was scuffling to say the least. However, in his last five games, he’s nearly matched the number of extra-base hits from his first 22, and appears to be in lockstep with the temperature. The job should be his at some point in the next 4-6 weeks.
11) Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians (Previous Rank: 17)
If Trevor Bauer’s fantasy value were a video game, it would not only be an underground classic, but the shocking twist to consumers would reveal a new final boss after it appeared the game had ended. With Carlos Carrasco now relegated to the bullpen, Bauer was (not surprisingly) passed over for a spot in the Indians’ rotation by Josh Tomlin. “Josh (expletive) Tomlin!” shouted the angry mob from behind their worn keyboards.
12) James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 9)
First it was the elbow injuries in San Diego, and recently it’s been the shoulder injuries in Seattle. It’s like someone out there doesn’t want fantasy owners to be able to take advantage of pitchers’ parks the way we should. With Paxton’s rehab moving slowly, an early June return seems likely at this point.
13) Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: 12)
It’s rarely a good thing when you get pneumonia, but when the alternative is an intercostal strain (and potentially a month of playing time lost), it’s okay to exhale a bit. This likely doesn’t depress Gausman’s value at all, as he would have been shut down early had he forced his way into the Orioles’ rotation in May. With a few turns off here, the Orioles can now keep him going through September once they give him the opportunity.
14) Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics (Previous Rank: 18)
It almost feels cheap to keep including Norris on this list when he’s been so good this season, but the reality is that he’s still not the full-time catcher for the A’s. If he plays himself into that designation, which you could argue he should have already with a TKTKTKTKTK line, he’ll become a top-12 catcher overnight and worth starting in almost all formats.
15) Nick Franklin, SS/2B, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: NR)
Back to the minors and back to the waiting game. With Brad Miller really struggling this year, Franklin has another path to fantasy value, but his most likely outcome is still a trade. There’s still time for him to move on and reach double-digits in homers and steals.
16) Derek Holland, LHP, Texas Rangers (Previous Rank: 14)
17) Carlos Martinez, RHP, St Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: 13)
One naturally has to wonder whether the Cardinals would be more comfortable moving Martinez to the rotation with a healthy Jason Motte in a set up role—conveniently, he started his rehab stint on Sunday and struck out the side in his inning of work. There’s the whole pesky issue of room, but he is a better option than either Joe Kelly or Tyler Lyons right now.
18) Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Previous Rank: NR)
Meyer finally makes his long awaited debut on this list, but he certainly doesn’t come without caveats. First, the control. Even on Meyer’s impressive run of late (with 11 strikeouts twice in a row to close out April), he’s walked at least three batters per game. Finally, coming off a season in which he threw fewer than 80 innings, Meyer’s impact is going to have to come from mid-June to mid-August, as the Twins are likely to be very cautious with his innings. That also means pitch counts (and fewer wins/strikeouts as a by-product). So keep your 2014 expectations in check and you won’t be disappointed.
19) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 15)
20) Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres (Previous Rank: 23)
With Wisler being promoted to Triple-A this past week, his path the majors just got a little clearer. Fortunately for him, the Padres are still throwing Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin out there every five days. The former won’t stand in the way of a top prospect ready for major league action and the latter can be optioned down to hone his craft. Early June seems more and more realistic now.
21) Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 22)
The worse things look for Javier Baez, the better things look for Alcantara. Mostly because there’s a better chance the Cubs have a coconut crab with Darwin Barney’s glove playing second base than Darwin Barney himself in August.
23) Jaime Garcia, LHP, St Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: HM)
As if Garcia hasn’t had enough to overcome in the last two years, he was hit by a pitch on the elbow in his first rehab start of the year. It looks like this will only set him back a couple of days, but then again, who knows.
25) Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Minnesota Twins (Previous Rank: NR)
Arcia is due back this week, but the wrist injury combined with his already low-ish expectations, makes him a tough sell in anything but deep mixed leagues. Still love the bat long-term though.