The Graduates: Gregory Polanco (1)
Much was made about the contract that Jonathan Singleton signed upon his call up, but his first week has seen ups and downs similar to the opposing sides of the contract discussion. On the plus side, he had two homers and a steal while slugging .480. On the negative side, he hit .200 and struck out in 10 of his 26 plate appearances. Expect a lot more of both the rest of the way. Meanwhile, I had my eyes squarely on Gausman as he made his way back into the Orioles’ rotation (at least for now) and took on the hottest team in baseball in the Oakland Athletics. Those eyes watered with joy as he threw seven strong innings, allowing only one run with five base runners and six strikeouts. He may be the best starting pitcher the Orioles have right now, and if he shows it, he’ll be up for good—despite the Orioles’ best attempts to shoot themselves in the collective feet.
The Departed: none
And the ones who are still left waiting:
1) Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins (Previous Rank: 2)
It only took about six weeks, but we finally have a new no. 1. Heaney has nothing left to prove in the minors, and he’s ready for action. This may be the last week you have to pick him up, as I would not be surprised in the least if he was taking Polanco’s spot in the “Graduates” section a week from now. In 36 minor league starts, Heaney has a 2.31 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 198 strikeouts in 199 innings. He’d be an immediate upgrade over three-fifths of their current rotation (Tom Koehler, Jacob Turner and Randy Wolf). [Note from the future: I wrote this prior to him getting the call, so check out the upcoming Call-Up article for way more Heaney-related information]
2) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 3)
And that is what Walker is supposed to look like. In his latest start at Triple-A Tacoma, Walker threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing only a single hit and striking out seven batters. Unfortunately, Erasmo Ramirez has somehow thrown 9 2/3 scoreless over his last two starts despite accumulating nine walks and nine strikeouts. Even though he’s still likely to see a couple more starts before being recalled, Walker is on track to see Seattle around the end of the month.
3) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Previous Rank: NR)
While it’s sad to see Taveras end up back on this list, I’ll take solace in the fact that I’ll get to talk about how awesome he is on a weekly basis again. The problem right now isn’t with Taveras. Yes, he didn’t set the world on fire in his initial taste of the big leagues, but if you were frustrated with the performance, your expectations were too high. However, since the Cardinals are not comfortable putting him out there in center field, it’s going to take either an injury or a trade again to clear room for him. The upside remains tantalizing, despite the setback.
4) Dillon Gee, RHP, New York Mets (Previous Rank: 4)
Finally some positive news with the right-hander, as a successful mound session has given shape to a real timetable for his return. With a rehab assignment likely to come next week, Gee could be back as soon as the weekend of July 4. Because nothing says America like Dillon Gee.
5) Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Previous Rank: 11)
There aren’t too many pitchers in the upper minors who have improved their long-term outlook more in the first two and a half months of the season than Nelson. The big right-hander has seen his stuff improve and his stat line has followed suit—he’s now struck out 92 batters in 83 1/3 innings to go along with a prestine 1.40 ERA (and 0.92 WHIP) in the PCL. With Marco Estrada turning into Barry Bonds circa 2001, a true opportunity isn’t far away for Nelson. In fact, rumors are swirling that it could come as soon as this weekend.
6) Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous Rank: 5)
With Carl Crawford lost in a bottomless pit somewhere and Matt Kemp being the subject of trade rumors again, Pederson is once again a realistic option to help out fantasy teams in 2014. In fact, you could make the argument that in OBP leagues, he should rank as high as no. 2 on this list.
7) Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Los Angeles Angels (Previous Rank: 8)
Despite how well Hector Santiago pitched until the last inning of his start Sunday against the Braves, Skaggs will slide right back into his rotation spot as soon as this weekend. He’s been better than you think this year, as his ERA of 4.34 is going to move much closer to his FIP of 3.61—the strikeout rate may be down, but when it’s accompanied by a lower walk rate and higher ground-ball rate (52.2 percent), I’ll take it.
8) Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets (Previous Rank: 10)
Now back from his second scare of the season, Thor was not so mighty in his return, allowing four runs in four innings. However, it’s not concerning as his Triple-A stats aren’t particularly important here. What’s important is that he’s healthy and that he’s healthy. That’s it. Everything else will take care of itself in time.
9) Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox (Previous Rank: 13)
It’s getting close to Mookie time, people. Since being promoted to Triple-A at the beginning of the month, he’s hitting .267 with two homers, two steals, eight walks and six strikeouts. It also doesn’t hurt Betts’ cause that the center field position in aggregate for the Red Sox has hit .197/.297/.295.
11) Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 7)
Since the last time we met in this space, Baez had five games in a row without a hit and then followed that up with a homer on Sunday and another 0-fer on Monday. Things are looking worse and worse for the owners who were hoping to get value out of him this summer.
12) Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 14)
In the obvious news is obvious department, Kris Bryant won the Southern League home-run derby this past weekend. In other news, the sun will rise tomorrow.
13) James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 9)
14) Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs (Previous Rank: 12)
Sometimes I wonder if we’ll only see Alcantara this year and the Baez/Bryant show will start in 2015. That wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun though.
15) Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Previous Rank: 15)
16) Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous Rank: 17)
Finally some positive news to report on Bradley this week, as he made his first appearance since being shut down with his flexor strain back in April—he threw three innings for their AZL team on Monday night. He’s certainly not an option to replace Bronson Arroyo now, but he may be in the second half of July.
17) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Previous Rank: 18)
The second rehab start wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but then again, they are rehab starts. The Rays are still targeting June 27 to deploy Hellickson back to the rotation, and if he’s right (which he wasn’t last year), he should be ownable in medium-sized mixed leagues immediately.
18) Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres (Previous Rank: 19)
19) Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 20)
Taylor returned to action on June 10 and is back to being the next shortstop in line behind constant disappointment Brad Miller. He doesn’t have a ton of upside for fantasy, but he can hit for average, knock a couple out and steal 10-15 bags.
20) Miguel Gonzalez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: 25)
Now back on Tuesday after missing a couple of weeks with a strained oblique, Gonzalez joins a temporary six-man rotation in Baltimore. The risk with him is that they’ll decide to send him back to the bullpen if they go with Kevin Gausman as their fifth starter (as they should). However, with the track record of Gonzalez, he shouldn’t be the one to go.
21) Corey Hart, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 21)
22) Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: NR)
Bundy made his 2014 debut on Sunday and was impressive in five innings for the NYPL Aberdeen IronBirds. However, with reports coming in that his fastball was hovering in the 91-93 MPH range, we’ll need to see him build that up a little more before getting too excited. There’s certainly potential for him to contribute in the second half, but this is also the team who may be about to jettison their best starter in Kevin Gausman from the rotation.
23) Josh Reddick, OF, Oakland Athletics (Previous Rank: NR)
Reddick will start a rehab assignment on Tuesday, and looking at a potential return a week from now from his hyperextended knee. There’s still plenty of potential for Reddick to outperform where he’s been at this year.
24) Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 16)
Franco continues to not tear it up at Triple-A and Cody Asche nears his return to the lineup. It looks like the window for any real 2014 value is closing up quickly.
25) Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (Previous Rank: 22)
With Asdrubal Cabrera holding down the fort well enough, Lindor looks like he’s going to need an injury in the near term to get a chance to show he’s more than just a sexy glove.