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RotoAuthority Unscripted: Prospect Paradise

Well, September has arrived, bringing with it new beginnings that are really endings: school begins for millions of children (mostly out on the West Coast); the carefree days of summer come to an end. In popular imagination, fall begins; the oppressive heat in my apartment comes to a blessed end (or not). The real pennant race steps up throughout baseball; the mad hopes of teams like the White Sox and Rays come to an end (or should).

But what does this have to do with your fantasy team? Well, September is the beginning of Major League rosters expanding: prospects will be promoted to the big leagues, ending…well, ending their minor league careers, I guess. Well, for now. Anyway, sometimes these prospects end up spending a lot of time on the bench learning little more than how to collect paychecks and how to form lifelong chewing tobacco habits from their baseball elders.

And sometimes they pop up and a superstar is born. Whether it’s a stud outfielder who shows up and rakes for a month or a future ace who pitches like one for six starts or so during your fantasy playoffs (or stretch drive), this is the time when rookies make the biggest impact.

So who’s coming up? And will they be any good? (‘Cause I can totally predict accurately a single month of baseball involving established big leaguers, let alone guys who just showed up….) 

Actually Promoted

Joc Pederson, OF, LAD

Joc just got the call and is already owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues…and 33% of CBS leagues. I did my part to move that needle in Yahoo! formats, picking him up on three of my four teams from that provider. (I don’t think he’ll last to me in CBS this week.) This is a speculative investment: the Dodgers have a notoriously crowded outfield, and while Pederson might be one of their top three outfielders by talent, he certainly isn’t by paycheck; Los Angeles might feel compelled to let Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier “earn” their money.

But maybe not. Either the Dodgers will lose some games and start to feel the pressure to win in order to make the playoffs, in which case other considerations might matter less. Or they might get off to a great start in September and coast into a playoff berth (they’ve got just a two game lead on the Giants as I write). In that case, maybe they’ll want to really see what they have in the person of Pederson. It could happen. It might not, but Pederson’s minor league stats make me excited to take the risk: in case you didn’t click the link above yet, he batted .303/.435/.582 in the minors (hitters’ park and league, yes…still the best in the PCL, yes—he won the league MVP) with 33 homers and 30 stolen bases. Now that is some upside. 

Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI

News is that Franco is getting the call today for Philadelphia. Franco can’t lay claim to a monster season in the minors like Pederson can (seriously, his batting line is .257/.298/.427 with 16 homers, which is not excused by park or league effects) but he’s got some things going in his favor too. First of all, his hitting has picked up recently, batting .338 since June, so that’s good.

Perhaps more importantly, the hideously-bad-at-hitting Phillies have no reason whatsoever not to let Franco start all month and see what the 22-year-old can do. Their games don’t mean a thing (at 15 games back in September, even Ruben Amaro knows they aren’t winning the division) and I actually had to go to the Philadelphia depth chart to see who Franco’s competition is at third. Apparently, it’s Cody Asche. Franco is owned in just 3% of Yahoo! leagues and 26% of CBS leagues. 

Daniel Norris, P, TOR

Norris might be a top prospect, but that probably won’t stop him from pitching out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen this month. He’s certainly someone interesting to watch for next year, and keep an eye out for any suggestion that he’ll get starts in September. For now, though, he probably doesn’t have any fantasy value in redraft leagues.

Dalton Pompey, OF, TOR

Pompey (the Toronto outfielder, not the Roman general, relation unknown) was also called up and could eat into the playing time of Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus as the Blue Jays have fallen from contention. Still, it’s a crowded outfield and Pompey isn’t the only guy Toronto has called up. So keep his name in mind, but don’t rush to the waiver wire just yet.

Some More Guys to Watch:

Kris Bryant, 3B, CHC

Apparently, Bryant isn’t getting the call so that the Cubs can delay his service clock. After hitting 43 homers in the minors, you’d think there was no place to go but up…but I guess the Cubs are content to wait till next year….

Francisco Lindor, SS, CLE

I picked up Lindor in a keeper league with NA slots as soon as Asdrubal Cabrera was traded, but it’s starting to look like he won’t be making a splash this season any more than Bryant will. With the service clock looming, the whole “nothing to play for” narrative could be keeping Lindor down as long as Cleveland gets adequate play from Mike Aviles and Jose Ramirez.

Noah Syndergaard, P, NYM

Word is that Syndergaard could get a call up…if the Mets can figure things out with their roster. So at least he’s more “maybe” than “no,” though that doesn’t tell us if he’d get starts and fantasy value, or scattered innings out of the bullpen. He’s one to keep a really close eye one, though, since he could have serious value for a Mets team that gets to pitch in friendly parks this month.

Archie Bradley, P, ARZ

Bradley—who I thought had been eliminated as a September call up candidate—still might make it to the Show this year after all. He will be playing in the Arizona Fall League, but I guess it’s still up in the air whether or not he pitches for the Diamondbacks. I’m inclined to think not, but I’ll still be keeping tabs on the top prospect.

Andrew Heaney, P, MIA

Heaney already came up this year, so it wouldn’t be a classic cup of coffee if he returned to the Majors for September. With the Marlins perhaps retaining a Quixotic hope in making up 5.5 games and slipping into a Wild Card berth, they might lean on Heaney to improve their staff. Or not. They’re not one of the most predictable organizations, so keep checking in on Heaney, I guess.



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