Farm Futures: The Best of Who's Left

Farm Futures: The Best of Who's Left

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

It has not just been happening over the past two weeks -- elite prospects have been getting promoted to the big leagues at a rapid rate all season long, but everything culminated over the past four days, starting Saturday night when Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor joined the fray and things got even more interesting with Kyle Schwarber getting called up Tuesday. All told, the top-6 prospects from my preseason top-200 (Kris Bryant, Buxton, Addison Russell, Carlos Correa, Noah Syndergaard and Joey Gallo) have already debuted in the majors this year, and another 13 from the top-50 have seen at least some time in the majors this season.

Grantland's Ben Lindbergh did a good job putting this season into perspective in terms of how many top prospects have debuted this early relative to other seasons. According to his findings, since 1990, only two other seasons (1995 and 2007) compare to 2015 in terms of quantity and quality of prospects debuting this early. The first of these, 1995, makes tons of sense, as there was a backlog of prospects from the strike-shortened 1994 season. Lindbergh also asserts that 2007, just like 2015, was largely impacted by the extreme parity in the standings at this point in the season. There may not be a legitimately good team in the American League this season, but there is also a lack of truly bad teams, at least based on wins and losses.

The National League Wild Card race should

It has not just been happening over the past two weeks -- elite prospects have been getting promoted to the big leagues at a rapid rate all season long, but everything culminated over the past four days, starting Saturday night when Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor joined the fray and things got even more interesting with Kyle Schwarber getting called up Tuesday. All told, the top-6 prospects from my preseason top-200 (Kris Bryant, Buxton, Addison Russell, Carlos Correa, Noah Syndergaard and Joey Gallo) have already debuted in the majors this year, and another 13 from the top-50 have seen at least some time in the majors this season.

Grantland's Ben Lindbergh did a good job putting this season into perspective in terms of how many top prospects have debuted this early relative to other seasons. According to his findings, since 1990, only two other seasons (1995 and 2007) compare to 2015 in terms of quantity and quality of prospects debuting this early. The first of these, 1995, makes tons of sense, as there was a backlog of prospects from the strike-shortened 1994 season. Lindbergh also asserts that 2007, just like 2015, was largely impacted by the extreme parity in the standings at this point in the season. There may not be a legitimately good team in the American League this season, but there is also a lack of truly bad teams, at least based on wins and losses.

The National League Wild Card race should also prove to be very competitive, so there are a lot of teams that find themselves in position to compete that may not have been projected to be super competitive before the season. For instance, I did not expect Buxton, Correa or Gallo to be up until possibly September because I did not expect their respective teams to be competitive.

Now that the Super Two deadline has surely passed, it becomes tricky to predict exactly when more fantasy-relevant prospects will get the call this season. Most RotoWire readers were probably able to snatch up at least one of these top prospects, either before the season or when a call-up seemed imminent. But for those who did not get a big share of the youth movement, there are still some prospects in the minor leagues who could reasonably be called up sometime this summer and add enough production to be useful in most formats.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (last top-200 prospect rank: 3rd overall)

Seager was otherworldly in 20 games at Double-A to start the season, and while his numbers are not quite as eye-popping at Triple-A, it does seem like he could offer an upgrade over Jimmy Rollins. In addition to being the lowest mark of his career, Rollins' .265 wOBA ranks 10th worst in the majors among qualified hitters. The Dodgers are probably good enough to win the division while getting nothing from the shortstop position, but if Seager has the potential to represent an upgrade in the playoffs, it would make sense to give him a trial run sometime this summer. Seager is the top prospect to stash who is still currently in the minor leagues.

Miguel Sano, 3B/DH, Twins (last top-200 prospect rank: 7th overall)

It was not difficult to see a scenario where Sano would reach the big leagues ahead of Buxton prior to the start of the season. Of course, the Twins' incompetency in center field at the major league level dictated that it was Buxton who got the call first, but Sano might not be far behind. It would stand to reason that if the Twins are willing to call up one top prospect, Sano could play his way to the majors as well. After posting a .684 OPS in April, Sano has hit his stride, and had a .929 OPS in May and his OPS currently sits at .983 in June. An injury to one of Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe or Kennys Vargas would probably result in Sano getting called up, but there's also a chance that Sano just gets called up to take most of Vargas's at-bats anyway.

Hector Olivera, 2B/3B, Dodgers (last top-200 prospect rank: 21st overall)

Olivera was not expected to need more than three or four weeks in the upper levels of the minors to get ready for the big leagues, and so far he is hitting .382 with one home run and six RBI in nine games between Double-A and High-A. Like Seager, Olivera's promotion hinges on him replacing an established major leaguer. Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick have been much better than Rollins, but the Dodgers are extremely high on Olivera, and at 30 years old, there's no point in holding him down, even if he would only be playing four or five days per week.

Micah Johnson, 2B, White Sox (last top-200 prospect rank: 98th overall)

Johnson doesn't have the pedigree or upside to warrant holding him in most formats after he was sent to Triple-A in May, but so far his production after being sent down deserves the attention of owners looking for an upgrade at second base. He is hitting .330 with a .402 on-base percentage and seven steals in 24 games at Triple-A. Carlos Sanchez, meanwhile, has zero home runs, zero steals and a .211 on-base percentage in almost 100 plate appearances since taking over for Johnson. There's only so much offensive futility the White Sox brass will tolerate in return for the defensive upgrade Sanchez offers at the keystone. Look for Johnson to be recalled sometime this summer, when he could offer solid contributions in batting average and steals.

Top prospects who could be called up via an injury at the big-level:

Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers (last top-200 prospect rank: 11th overall)
Wilmer Difo, SS/2B, Nationals (last top-200 prospect rank: 20th overall)
Michael Conforto, OF, Mets (last top-200 prospect rank: 27th overall)
Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates (last top-200 prospect rank: 39th overall)
Stephen Piscotty, OF, Cardinals (last top-200 prospect rank: 61st overall)

Pitchers

Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins (last top-200 prospect rank: 23rd overall)

Like with Sano, the conventional wisdom suggests that if the Twins are willing to improve their center field position by calling up a top prospect, they would also be willing to improve their pitching staff by calling up perhaps the most talented pitcher in the entire organization. However, it would also be easy to envision the Twins opting to send the 21-year-old to Triple-A Rochester or the big league bullpen before sending him straight to the big league rotation. Ervin Santana and maybe even Ricky Nolasco could return to the rotation before Berrios gets his shot. Still, he gets listed here just because he as the most pure fantasy upside of anyone on this list if he does get the call.

Steven Matz, LHP, Mets (last top-200 prospect rank: 29th overall)

Matz will not unseat anyone currently in the Mets' rotation. He will need to be added as a sixth member, or he would need a trade or an injury, otherwise a call-up to the bullpen is just as likely for the 24-year-old lefty. Still, there seems like a better than 50 percent chance at this point that one of those first three scenarios happens over the next month or two, so Matz is worth a stash in most mid-sized and deeper formats.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays (last top-200 prospect rank: 36th overall)

Norris has been good, not great, recently at Triple-A, otherwise he would probably already be back in the Blue Jays' starting rotation. Still, after R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle there are a lot of question marks among Toronto's starters. Drew Hutchison has been incredibly inconsistent, Aaron Sanchez is battling a lat strain, and while Marco Estrada has been somewhat serviceable, he has still given up six home runs over his last six starts. Norris has been notching a strikeout per inning at Triple-A Buffalo, and while his 1.58 WHIP is obviously not ideal, he has been consistent in that he has allowed three or fewer runs in all eight of his starts.

Luis Severino, RHP, Yankees (last top-200 prospect rank: 38th overall)

If Adam Warren was pitching like CC Sabathia, Severino would probably already be in the Yankees' rotation. Unfortunately, Sabathia has been easily their worst starter but it would be tough to see them removing him from the mix, given the fact that he is owed $25 million next season. Nathan Eovaldi is also an option to be removed, but he has probably been just good enough to hold onto his spot. Throw in the fact that Ivan Nova appears close to a return, and Severino will probably need an injury to be recalled. Still, he has the electric stuff to be very useful in fantasy, even if he only makes eight or 10 starts. He is not quite worth rostering in most formats, but he could be a FAAB target in the coming weeks.

Matt Wisler, RHP, Braves (last top-200 prospect rank: 68th overall)

Wisler got roughed up in his last outing, but he has a splendid 49:13 K:BB ratio in 65 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett this season, so his control appears to be big-league ready. The 22-year-old righty lacks the upside of some of the other pitchers on this list, but considering how bad Mike Foltynewicz has been lately, he could be the first one to get the call. Manny Banuelos and Wisler are fairly interchangeable on this list in terms of upside, but Wisler's schedule lines up better to be the option the Braves go to if they choose to pull the plug on Foltynewicz.

Brian Johnson, LHP, Red Sox (last top-200 prospect rank: 129th overall)

Henry Owens is probably the name most people would expect to see here among pitchers in Boston's farm system, but Johnson has just been flat out better than Owens, and he is older.

Pitcher AgeDraftedThrowsERAFIPWHIPStrikeouts
Johnson 24 31st overall in 2012 Left 2.51 3.27 1.06 66
Owens 22 36th overall in 2011 Left 3.45 4.21 1.29 58

Both Johnson and Owens have the potential to be called up to join the rotation this summer and succeed or fail, but the smart money on the first guy to get the call is Johnson, and there seems to be a strong case to be made that he has a better chance to succeed in the short term as well.

Just Missed

Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies (last top-200 prospect rank: 42nd overall)
Frankie Montas, RHP, White Sox (last top-200 prospect rank: 81st overall)
Sean Nolin, LHP, A's (last top-200 prospect rank: 99th overall)
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Braves (last top-200 prospect rank: 131st overall)
Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers (last top-200 prospect rank: 196th overall)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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