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It’s almost September, when rosters swell with immediate game-changers as the minor-league universe folds into the majors like something out of an episode of Fringe.
Or … not quite.
I’ll just put it out there: Too much is made of September call-ups. They’re a real thing — why wouldn’t a team fortify its roster if given the opportunity to do so? — but generally speaking, a fortification is all it is. The only high-end call-ups are the ones we’ve already seen before, and even they’re only playing supporting roles.
There are exceptions, of course, but they’re mostly limited to non-contenders (which are fewer and farther between these days) who’ve been forced to use an obvious placeholder at the position in question for the last several weeks. The intersection of all those variables is rare and not always predictable.
But we can try, right?
First, understand that no prospect at this point is in any way must-stash. If you need to catch lightning in a bottle, though, you can cross your fingers and hope with these five.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Jose De Leon , SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2015 stats: 6-7, 2.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 114 1/3 IP, 37 BB, 163 K
2016 stats: 7-1, 2.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 86 1/3 IP, 20 BB, 111 K
Apparently, I can’t take a hint. Every time the Dodgers have had an opening in their starting rotation, which is seemingly every other week, I’ve dutifully hyped De Leon as the likely beneficiary, and every time, they’ve chosen to go another, less inspiring route. Fool me this many times, and the shame isn’t just on me anymore. My ancestors will still be apologizing for my gullibility. With each slight, De Leon responds with an outing like Sunday’s, when he struck out 13 in 7 2/3 innings to give him three straight starts with no walks and double-digit strikeouts. Eventually, Julio Urias ‘ innings will run out, right? Still a chance for a spot start or two?
Hunter Renfroe , OF, San Diego Padres
2015 stats: .272 BA (511 AB), 20 HR, .783 OPS, 37 BB, 132 K
2016 stats: .306 BA (510 AB), 28 HR, .894 OPS, 22 BB, 110 K
General manager A.J. Preller did say after trading Melvin Upton and Matt Kemp that the Padres would likely wait until September to call up Renfroe, and the 24-year-old apparently took that as an invitation to coast. He has hit .197 (13 for 66) over his last 20 games but still has terrific numbers overall, and it’s not like Alex Dickerson and Oswaldo Arcia are standing in his way. He may not provide much apart from power, but he’s a good bet to factor in September just because his path is so clear. Same goes for teammate Manuel Margot , frankly.
Yoan Moncada , 2B, Boston Red Sox
2015 stats: .278 BA (306 AB), 8 HR, 49 SB, .817 OPS, 42 BB, 83 K
2016 stats: .298 BA (396 AB), 15 HR, 44 SB, .931 OPS, 71 BB, 121 K
The first question you have to ask is will Moncada even get the call? The second question is what kind of role will he play? Manager John Farrell did his best to answer both Sunday:
“Whether or not he comes up here is yet to be determined,” Farrell said. “He’s obviously been much better as a left-handed hitter this year. If he’s mixed in in that capacity, does he give you a base-stealing threat coming off the bench?”
So … pinch runner, then, who gets “mixed in” against right-handed pitchers? Where exactly? At third base, where he has made three errors in eight professional games, or second base, where Dustin Pedroia is entrenched? I’m thinking neither, at least not enough to factor in standard mixed leagues. If you’re the gambling sort and hurting for steals in a Rotisserie league, Moncada isn’t a terrible stash, but that’s as far as I’d go.
Byron Buxton , OF, Minnesota Twins
2016 majors: .193 BA (197 AB), 1 HR, 9 SB, .561 OPS, 13 BB, 80 K
2016 minors: .315 BA (184 AB), 11 HR, 7 SB, .956 OPS, 14 BB, 56 K
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Byron Buxton is hitting well in the minors. In 18 games since his latest return trip to Triple-A Rochester, he’s batting .279 (19 for 68) with five homers, three steals and an .870 OPS. Of course, he has also struck out in nearly half of those at-bats, which would suggest he’s carrying his major-league habits over to his minor-league contests instead of the other way around. Awesome. But hey, power. Speed. At-bats to be had on a bottom-feeder club. That’s … something. See what I mean about September call-ups?
Lewis Brinson , OF, Milwaukee Brewers
2015 stats: .332 BA (398 AB), 20 HR, 18 SB, 1.004 OPS, 44 BB, 98 K
2016 stats: .265 BA (385 AB), 15 HR, 17 SB, .771 OPS, 21 BB, 79 K
Well, here’s a new one. After taking a big step back in the Texas Rangers system to begin the year, Brinson has been gangbusters since joining the Brewers in the Jonathan Lucroy deal, which he credits to finding his timing. Probably more to it than that, but considering he hit .332 with a 1.004 OPS between three minor-league stops last year, offering power and speed, he’s worth a look in five-outfielder leagues if he indeed gets the call. Of course, even on a rebuilding team, his at-bats may not be assured since they’d come at the expense of Scooter Gennett , Hernan Perez , Orlando Arcia or Keon Broxton .
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Yasiel Puig , OF, Dodgers
2016 majors: .260 BA (277 AB), 7 HR, .706 OPS, 18 BB, 59 K
2016 minors: .369 BA (65 AB), 4 HR, 1.045 OPS, 5 BB, 8 K
This just in: Yasiel Puig is too good for the minor leagues. It’s possible the Dodgers don’t care, though. They did finally put him on revocable waivers Sunday, so they’re at least open to the idea of trading him and may not want to jeopardize his value with another uninspiring major-league stint. There’s of course the “but they could use him” argument, and especially given Josh Reddick ‘s rocky transition, that’s true, but they don’t seem to be missing him either and have maybe decided his lack of production isn’t worth the strain on the clubhouse.
Ozzie Albies , SS, Atlanta Braves
2015 stats: .310 BA (394 AB), 0 HR, 29 SB, .771 OPS, 36 BB, 56 K
2016 stats: .291 BA (529 AB), 4 HR, 28 SB, .765 OPS, 49 BB, 91 K
About the time the Braves committed to making Albies a second baseman, they moved him back down to Double-A so he could get comfortable working with future double-play partner Dansby Swanson . Of course, now Swanson is in the majors and Albies is still at Double-A — where he has been awesome, by the way, with a .322 batting average — but at 19 and with only a .248 batting average to show for his time at Triple-A, that may be for the best.
J.P. Crawford , SS, Philadelphia Phillies
2015 stats: .288 BA (430 AB), 6 HR, 12 SB, .793 OPS, 63 BB, 54 K
2016 stats: .253 BA (446 AB), 6 HR, 12 SB, .696 OPS, 72 BB, 73 K
While Crawford’s pedigree and timetable would seem to suggest he’s in line for a September call-up, he, like Albies, hasn’t done anything to deserve it. The plate discipline is great, but he has regressed in every other facet — and without improving his power, like some scouts forecasted. He’s only 21, so what’s the rush? If you haven’t made a move for Dansby Swanson or Orlando Arcia in your league, you wouldn’t want Crawford even if he gets the call.
Mitch Haniger , OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2016 majors: .322 BA (438 AB), 24 HR, 33 2B, 1.001 OPS, 67 BB, 95 K
2016 minors: .237 BA (38 AB), 1 3B, 2 2B, .644 OPS, 4 BB, 10 K
Remember him? It’s not a ridiculous question. If you blinked, you might have missed the Haniger saga, which saw him go from anonymous minor-leaguer to everyday major-leaguer to superfluous outfielder in about a week and a half. His sudden demotion after starting 10 straight games probably had something to do with September being a week away, and you have to think the Diamondbacks, desperate to salvage something this season, will want another look at him when rosters expand.
Dan Vogelbach , 1B, Seattle Mariners
2015 stats: .279 BA (265 AB), 7 HR, .849 OPS, 63 BB, 62 K
2016 stats: .293 BA (440 AB), 21 HR, .920 OPS, 92 BB, 96 K
The portly Vogelbach probably has a future at DH, but at 23, he’s supposed to be at least playable at first base, where the still-contending Mariners have been suffering through Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee all year. His batting eye alone would probably represent an upgrade, with whatever power he provides being a nice bonus. Of course, why wait until September if the Mariners were thinking along those lines? Yeah, it’s a long shot, but maybe not as long as Joey Gallo , who the Rangers have shown time and time again they have no interest in playing.
Source: CBS Sports / Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: September call-ups edition