This week I take a look at four prospects that were all recently promoted to a higher level of the minor leagues.
Joe Ross, RHP, Padres
My infatuation with Joe Ross is already well documented and after finishing last season with a career-high 122.1 innings under his belt, I suspected that 2014 could be his year. So far Ross has struck out 92 batters in 20 games (101.2 innings) between High-A and Double-A, where he was recently promoted. He's already struck out more batters than he did last year in fewer innings while facing tougher competition. His strikeout rate for the season is nearly 20 percent. This bodes especially well for Ross because of his groundball tendencies. While others have overlooked and even dismissed Ross as a fantasy prospect in the past, the projection has always been there due to his size and stuff, and now that he's in Double-A and striking out more batters it's time to invest. Ross could be looking at joining his brother Tyson in the Padres' rotation as early as sometime next season.
Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees
Severino, 20, is now on his third level this season after a recent promotion to Double-A. His electric arm made him virtually untouchable in A-ball. He posted strikeout rates of 25.3 percent (in 14 starts with Charleston) and 35 percent (in four starts with Tampa). and ERAs of 2.79 and 1.31, respectively. On Thursday, he faced the Binghamton Mets for four innings allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out seven batters. Severino threw 79 pitches on the night, 50 of them for strikes and 13 resulted in swings-and-misses. Severino's elite fastball has put him very much on the map after he was a relative unknown just a few months ago. Itís probably more of an indictment on the state of the Yankees' farm system, but heís the top prospect in this system now.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
Lindor hit .278/.352/.389 in 387 plate appearances in Double-A as a 20-year-old this year before his promotion to Triple-A. With Asdrubal Cabrera set to hit free agency, itís not hard to imagine that Lindor could be one of the youngest major league regulars next season. Lindor is an elite defender at a premium defensive position, which is important in fantasy because the offensive baseline at shortstop isn't very high. He wonít have the bat knocked out of his hands in the majors, but he wonít provide much home run power either. It is definitely worth noting that Lindor has stolen 51 bases in his last 195 minor league games. He has 26 steals in 91 games this year while only six shortstops in the majors have at least 15 steals. Itís possible Lindor could be a speed threat right from the start of next season. It will be interesting to watch as the Indians run much outside of Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis.
Albert Almora, OF, Cubs
I was a little surprised when I first learned of Almora's promotion. He wasn't exactly setting High-A on fire with his .283/.306/.406 line, and his 12:46 BB:K left something to be desired. This is definitely an aggressive move for the 20-year-old to go to Double-A where heíll face even better pitching. Itís almost a confusing move as I was under the impression ever since the Cubs drafted Almora in the first round that they would take their time with him and really let him develop at his own pace. Perhaps the recent moves the Cubs have made point to an accelerated timeline for when they believe they can compete, but even with this promotion, Iím not sure I see Almora as ready for the major leagues until late 2015 at the earliest.