Here is a list of prospects (currently in the minor leagues) with the potential to make the biggest fantasy impact in the second half of the season. Some of them may just be limited to September call-ups, while others could make an impact much, much sooner. Still, they all could prove usable in all fantasy formats before the season comes to an end.
- Justin Smoak – 1B – Texas Rangers - Chris Davis’ demotion, nearly simultaneous to Smoak’s promotion to Triple-A, certainly had people talking. He has a great eye at the plate, posted a 35-to-39 strikeout-to-walk rate at Double-A this season. He’s more disciplined of a hitter then Davis, though his power is not even close to developed. He has struggled at Triple-A thus far, hitting just .103 with 1 HR and 2 RBI over 9 games, but that’s a very small sample size and you need to give him time to adjust.
- Alcides Escobar – SS – Milwaukee Brewers – He has the potential to be the lightning on the top of the Brewers line-up for the next several years. He has 30 SB this season, to go along with a .296 average and 61 runs scored. With Craig Counsell sitting atop the line-up right now, would you blame the Brewers from making the move? J.J. Hardy suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the line-up Sunday. While it is unknown if he is going to miss any significant time or not, Escobar’s time may come sooner then you think.
- Matt LaPorta – OF – Cleveland Indians - I know he struggled early on this season, but he’s raking again in the minor leagues and should certainly get another chance to impress in 2009. Over his past nine games he’s gone .412 with 2 HR, 10 RBI and 7 R. You just can’t ignore numbers like that.
- Madison Bumgarner – SP – San Francisco Giants - At just 19-years old (he turns 20 on August 1), he is making quick work of the minor leagues. In 53 Double-A innings he’s posted a 1.70 ERA while striking out 43. He may be the best pitching prospect in baseball right now and with Randy Johnson hurt and Jonathan Sanchez (despite his recent no-hitter) a ticking time bomb (you can throw in Ryan Sadowksi and his potential regression), it could be just a matter of time before he hits the ground running. He could easily be the top performer of this group, but young pitchers are inconsistent, making it tough to rank him above the bats.
- Chris Tillman/Jake Arrieta/Brian Matusz – SP – Baltimore Orioles - The team has numerous pitching options, it is just a matter of the order the team is going to give them an opportunity. Don’t be mistaken, at least one of these three will get a chance this season and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities that all three get a look. For now, only since he’s at Double-A, Matusz seems to be the furthest away, but considering he’s 4-0 with a 0.34 ERA in his 4 starts for the Bowie Baysox, he may not be as far as we’d think.
- Jonathan Niese – SP – New York Mets - He was terrible early on this season, but he has really turned things around over his last six starts, posting a 1.04 ERA while going 5-0. That included a complete game, 10-strikeout performance his last time out. The Mets have talked about shaking things up, with a struggling Livan Hernandez possibly being pulled from the rotation, making Niese the likely candidate to step right in. He’s had a taste in the majors before (not a positive one at that), but if he does get a full-time chance could prove usable for those in need.
- Brett Wallace – 3B – St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals acquired Mark DeRosa to help fill the void created by Troy Glaus’ injury only to see him get injured only three games into his tenure with the team. The team could turn to last year’s first round draft choice, who has already spent over 50 games at Triple-A this season, hitting .303. He’s been on fire over his last 10 games to the tune of a .351 average.
- Wade Davis – SP – Tampa Bay Rays – In many organizations, he may already be up and pitching in the big league rotation. In Tampa Bay, however, with their never-ending supply of arms, he’s a depth option at Triple-A, at least for now. In 18 starts he’s posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. It’s only a matter of time before he is given an opportunity to perform.
- Neftali Feliz – SP/RP – Texas Rangers – He was recently moved to the bullpen, with the Rangers eyeing a potential contribution from him in 2009. Obviously, his value will be limited coming out of the ‘pen, but he will be a solid option for Ks, ERA and WHIP in formats that value middle relievers.
- Gaby Sanchez – 1B – Florida Marlins – Would it surprise anyone if the Marlins made a move, as they are right there with the Phillies, battling it out for the division? Emilio Bonifacio is not the player he was early in the season. Jorge Cantu could potentially be shipped out of town. If either one loses his job, Sanchez, and his .307 average at Triple-A will get the opportunity to play. Don’t look for much power, considering his 8 HR over 205 AB in the Pacific Coast League, limiting his potential fantasy value.
- Lars Anderson – 1B – Boston Red Sox - With Mike Lowell hurting, Kevin Youkilis has shifted to 3B with Mark Kotsay being the primary option at 1B. Just how long is that going to last? Anderson is one of the Red Sox top prospects, hitting .269 with 8 HR and 41 RBI at Double-A (after hitting .316 over 133 AB at Double-A in ’08). If Lowell ends up missing any length of time, it would not surprise me to see Anderson get a chance.
- Eric Young Jr. – 2B – Colorado Rockies - There have been rumors that the Pirates are looking to acquire him, which would give him value instantly. Even if he’s not dealt, he’s 47 for 56 in stolen base attempts at Triple-A while hitting .290 and scoring 71 runs. That’s a spark any team could use atop their line-up.
- Mat Latos – SP – San Diego Padres - The Padres are a team who are clearly going no where, so there’s a chance they look down to the farm to try and find out exactly what they have. Latos has been amazing this season, going 8-1 with a 1.37 ERA between Single & Double-A. An innings limit could be what ultimately costs him, but if he gets the opportunity, he’ll have the chance to be real impressive.
- Jarrod Parker – SP – Arizona Diamondbacks – Last season it was Max Scherzer, this year it may be Parker. After starting the season in Single-A, Parker was promoted to Double-A where he has gone 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 61 K over 63.1 innings.
- Carlos Carrasco – SP – Philadelphia Phillies – Make no mistake about it, the Phillies are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation. That is evidenced by their apparent signing of Pedro Martinez. Carrasco has been up and down all season long, which does diminishes the hope all fantasy owners should have about his potential upside. After giving up 3 earned runs over three starts (20.1 innings) from 6/20-7/2, he got bombed in his last start, allowing 6 earned runs in 4 innings.
- Bud Norris – SP – Houston Astros - He finished the first half at 3-8, despite a 2.46 ERA and 107 K over 106 IP. The biggest issue is the walks, with 49, helping him to a WHIP of 1.29 at Triple-A. That could translate into trouble in the major leagues, but with the strikeout potential he is worth keeping an eye on.
- Yorman Bazardo – SP – Houston Astros - He’s been solid in the PCL, at 7-4 with a 3.03 ERA. He does a great job at keeping the walks down (21), but he also doesn’t strikeout many, with 63 in 107 innings. He has benefited this season from a BABIP of .258, so I would be wary of him upon his recall.
- Drew Stubbs – OF – Cincinnati Reds - The injury to Jay Bruce potentially opens a door, and with his speed he could make a significant impact. He had 33 SB in 39 attempts, though he is hitting just .274. That tells me that he could struggle in the average department, much like Carlos Gomez, if he does get an opportunity.
- Carlos Santana – C – Cleveland Indians - Given the current make-up of the Indians, there is little chance that he gets an opportunity in 2009. However, there have been rumblings of teams trying to acquire Victor Martinez. As unlikely as that is to happen, if it does, the Indians could easily bring Santana to the majors as a September call-up. The 23-year old is hitting .266 with 14 HR and 58 RBI, but the most impressive number, however, is his 59 walks vs. 47 strikeouts.
- Jhoulys Chacin – SP – Colorado Rockies – At 7-6 with a 3.43 ERA at Double-A, he has the potential to get a late season call-up. At just 21-years old, it is also possible that the Rockies are more cautious, not wanting to repeat their mistakes of the past. The tried pushing Franklin Morales last season and he ended up sporting a 6.39 ERA.
What do you think? Which of these prospects will make the biggest impact in the second half? Who was omitted? Who belongs?
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