A couple items before we get started: (1) Carlos Martinez is currently on the big league roster, so I can’t really rank him here and break the rules I established to begin the season. Now, I suppose I could always rewrite the rules, but I’m an honorable dude, and that wouldn’t be right. Anyway, Martinez is still an extremely stashable arm as the Cardinals decide on his future role. There’s a good chance he’ll end up in a starter’s role before long, and he’ll be a must-own if that should be the case. (2) George Springer is currently torching Triple-A pitching, and there’s little doubt that he’s ready for Major League Baseball and ready to help your fantasy team. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s not gonna surface this season. The Astros are giving Springer the Wil Myers treatment, and it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll see him in the bigs before next June. Now for the top ten:
1. Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Mariners (Previously Ranked #1): Erasmo drew a tough assignment for his first big league start of the season, and he struggled, but I’m not quitting on the Eraser just yet. He was demoted after the start versus Boston in order to keep him on schedule during the All Star break, and all signs indicate that he’ll be back in the Seattle rotation for as long as they’ll let him stay. I’ve still got him at #1 here, so clearly I think he’ll stick through year’s end.
2. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (N/R): The O’s tried to fit Gausman into a bullpen role, but decided better of it last week, sending him down to Triple-A Norfolk where he’ll pitch as a starter. The 22-year-old tossed 4 scoreless frames on Sunday, whiffing 6 and walking zero. Baltimore still has questions at the back end of their rotation, and Gausman could certainly regain a rotation spot before long. He could be a key piece both for the Orioles and for fantasy owners down the stretch this season.
3. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (#7): Yelich has returned to Double-A Jacksonville after missing a month with an abdominal injury. He’s one of the more advanced hitters in Minor League Baseball and there’s not much blocking him from the big club. If he can string together a few big weeks here, there’s reason to believe we’ll see him in Miami next month.
4. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (#9): Taveras is back from the DL, getting back into game shape in the GCL complex league before he returns to Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals are beginning to show their fragility with Matt Holliday missing plenty of time lately. If Holliday/Beltran/Craig can’t stay healthy for the stretch run, St. Louis might have to turn to Taveras.
5. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (#8): I updated Bogaerts in my minor league report this past Sunday, noting his improved power production at Triple-A. Click here if you want to read that. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of doubt surrounding the Red Sox infield. Boston needs help on the left side of the diamond, specifically, and Bogaerts could be utilized at either short or third. The 20-year-old could make his MLB arrival in pretty much the same way that Manny Machado did a year ago, and he just might be better equipped for immediate success.
6. Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers (#5): Castellanos has struggled over the past couple weeks, posting a .520 OPS through his last 10 games. He’s still a lock to arrive this season, but I’m growing increasingly skeptical regarding his potential fantasy value. He might help out in AVG, and maybe run into a few homers, but he’s only ranked this highly because of the virtual certainty that he’ll be playing ball in Detroit before long.
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, D’Backs (#10): Quite the opposite of Castellanos, Bradley brings enormous fantasy potential, but a 2013 arrival for him is a bit of a long shot. Still, the D’Backs are contenders, and they can’t afford to have the back end of their rotation scuffling down the stretch. They’ll look to guys like Tyler Skaggs (the first name in our Next 5) first, but if Arizona wants to win now, Bradley should get strong consideration.
8. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Astros (N/R): Cosart was fantastic in his big league debut last week, tossing 8 scoreless frames while allowing just two hits. He’s ready for an extended look, and Jeff Luhnow and the Astros have indicated that they’re ready to see what Cosart has to offer. He’ll be back up in the rotation before long, and that’s where he’ll likely finish the year.
9. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds (#6): I think we’ll definitely see Billy Hamilton in Cincinnati this season, but I doubt that he’ll arrive as an MLB regular. The Reds will likely use him as a pinch runner and a late-innings defensive replacement, and there’s just not that much fantasy value in that sort of role. By keeping him in the top ten, I’m leaving some room for the possibility that my gut feeling is wrong in this case, but until he starts hitting the baseball and getting on base at more acceptable levels, he’s not making a strong case to be called-up.
10. Michael Wacha, RHP, Cardinals (#4): The Cardinals have several internal options to fill the final spot in their rotation, and Wacha is certainly one of them. But he seems to be behind a list of dudes that includes Carlos Martinez, Chris Carpenter, Joe Kelly, and Tyler Lyons. He’s not necessarily less capable than those arms, but in terms of development, Wacha is in need of a bit more seasoning — the Cards don’t want to put too many innings on his young arm this season, so for as long as guys like C-Mart, Carp, and Kelly remain in the picture, it seems unlikely that we’ll see Wacha again this year. Even so, he hangs on to a spot in the top ten because we know he’s capable of providing quality fantasy production if the Cardinals do turn his way… also because Tyler Skaggs walked 8 batters in his last start, which kinda pushed him out of the top ten picture.