Every time it seems like all the potential impact talent has come up, some team calls up another intriguing rookie who could shift the balance of your fantasy league. Carlos Correa was up in early-June which seemed to cap off a significant wave of call-ups. Once we began catching our breath from that, we saw Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor on consecutive days. And then we got Kyle Schwarber's surprise six-day call-up (during which he admirably lobbied for more with elite play: .982 OPS, 1 HR, 6 R & RBI in 23 PA).
After all of it, Steven Matz was left standing as that one shining prospect for whom everyone wanted to save their FAAB. He made his scintillating debut on Sunday and that really felt like a cutoff point for impact minor league talent. I mean, who else could come up? Corey Seager is awesome, but where is he going to play? Joc Pederson put up a 30-30 season in Triple-A last year (albeit under different management) so maybe they're comfortable letting Seager marinate a bit.
Sticking with the Dodgers, Julio Urias continues to absolutely dazzle as an 18-year old cutting through Double-A competition, but the new regime is notorious for slow-roasting their pitchers into perfection (OK, maybe not perfection, but they almost never rushed starters in Tampa Bay). There is some need, but Urias has peaked at 88 innings as a professional and he's already at 36, so he doesn't seem like someone who would be given the latitude to make a big fantasy impact even if he was called up. (Edit: Urias actually underwent eye surgery recently to repair a lazy eyelid stemming from a childhood tumor surgery so he's got a built-in month off. He wasn't coming up anyway, but this all-but-guarantees it.)
Lucas Giolito is pitching capably in High-A, but they don't have the need for rotation help in Washington and even if they did, they have solid backups available who might not have the upside of Giolito, but also don't carry the same risk. There are other names within the industry top 20s that haven't come up yet, but the point is that Matz kinda represented the cutoff of prospects where we expect a useful contribution, at least on some level.
There will be other prospects up from here on out that make an impact, but it'll be more surprising than if Correa is a top 5 SS the rest of the way. That leads us to the call-up of Miguel Sano by the Minnesota Twins. I'm trying to decide which side of Matz he should be on. Should Sano be included with those prospects from whom we expect* some production?
*Expect is probably too strong a term as you should never be banking on a prospect to turn your fortunes, not even someone who felt no-doubt like Kris Bryant (feels even more no doubt now since he panned out, but it wouldn't have been surprising if he was toting a .240 AVG with some pop and a 30%+ K rate).
So for Matz we're probably thinking there is what, a 40% chance he's impact talent (let's just say mixed league worthy is "impact talent")? Even with the excellent Triple-A numbers in a remarkably difficult environment, there is still a pretty substantial chance that he isn't ready. That's just pitching in the bigs. There was buzz when Vincent Velasquez came up, but he was jumping from Double-A after just 26 innings. I think he's closer to a 15-20% chance at being impact talent.
For reference, I'd have said Bryant was a 65-70% chance coming into the season. That still leaves a lot of wiggle room for failure even for a no-doubt guy, especially since that "no-doubt" tag is a long-term outlook, not necessarily saying he'll be great immediately.
Sano is jumping from Double-A after 286 PA of a .918 OPS which included 15 HRs and 48 RBIs plus five stolen bases. He brings top-flight power without the rampant swing-and-miss seen from Bryant and Joey Gallo. Sano missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery, but it doesn't seem to have impacted him so far. Though he is making the jump directly from Double-A, he did have a sample nearly equal to this year's in Double-A back in 2013, too. He has a .916 OPS, 34 HRs, and 103 RBIs in his 562 PA of work at that level. It's basically a full season and an elite one at that.
I think the fact that we are talking about 80-grade raw power means he has to fall on the side of Matz and the others before him as potentially impact talent right away. Even with the holes in Gallo's swing, he was probably a 35-40% proposition to pay off. The strikeouts proved too much. He clubbed four homers in his first 11 games, but also fanned 16 times (35% K rate). The league promptly began exposing him and he hit just one more homer in his last 14 games with 52% strikeout rate which ultimately led to his demotion.
I'd be surprised to see that kind of swing-and-miss from Sano. There will be some because he's a young power hitter, but he should avoid one of those obscene Gallo/Baez-level rates. That increases his chances for immediate success, though I'm curious to see how they use him. He's DHing in his debut and I hope that isn't the long-term (meaning rest of season) plan for him. DHing is actually pretty tough and putting that on a rookie seems to be setting him up for some struggles.
Trevor Plouffe has been solid, if unspectacular, so I don't think there's a strong case to take him off the field to get Sano at third, but why not let Sano play first and shift Joe Mauer to DH? Maybe that's the plan, it's just one game after all, but keep an eye out for how often Sano gets on the field. There is a penalty for DHing and while the exact percentage is being debated, factoring it in for someone who you already expect to have a learning curve really dims the outlook. But again, we don't know that Minnesota will use him there full-time.
For now, Sano is an all-formats play because of that power. That kind of power turns into production quickly if he's even somewhat ready to stick, let alone the upside to do Bryant-type things that he also possesses. It might not work out, but you have to take the shot. Lindor is a huge prospect and his coming up was exciting, but he wasn't an all-formats must-have because the reasonable upside even if he's ready just isn't that high, even accounting for how awful shortstop has been this year.
Even with a rotten June, Marcus Semien is on pace for a 15-15 kind of season, but I'd have cut him for Correa if I just didn't have anyone else to cut. Easy to say now because Correa clicked, but I felt this way at the time, too. Lindor wasn't that kind of guy. Matt Duffy is having a solid season as are Josh Harrison (he's rebounded big time) and Yasmany Tomas, but I'd cut all three for Sano if that was my only option.
First off, this scenario only takes place in a shallower league (10 or 12 tm mixer) so I'm comfortable giving up my bird in the hand for what could be as many as three or even four in the bush (it's a big bush). Solid players are nice, but stars win leagues. Sano probably won't be a star right out of the gate because so few are, but he has enough of a chance to embrace the risk.