The first-place Astros will promote right-hander Lance McCullers to pitch against the Athletics tomorrow. The 21-year-old will make the jump straight from Double-A to the majors. McCullers was drafted 41st overall out of high school back in 2012 and features two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. That combination should lead to a decent amount of strikeouts if he can command both pitches. McCullers probably tops out as a #3 starter in the majors, but he’s shown improved control this year with a 3.5 BB/9 (down from 5.2 and 4.5 in the two previous seasons). His strikeout rate has also ticked up – posting a 13.3 K/9 in 29 innings at Double-A Corpus Christi. McCullers is a viable fantasy play in most formats right out of the gate. Even in shallower leagues he’s worth a spin as a streamer. Here’s what else is happening around the minor leagues right now…
Correa was promoted to Triple-A, which only fuels the enthusiasm for his arrival in the bigs. He’s in our Power Rankings, and I’m sticking with the July 1-15 window as my best guess for when he comes up. Through his first 21 plate appearances with Fresno, the 20-year-old is hitting .278 with a pair of doubles. It’s obviously time to stash him if you have the room.
Remember this dude? He hit .168 in the majors last year, but he’s doing special things in Fresno. Singleton now has 12 homers and 40 RBIs on the season, including five homers and 23 RBIs in his last five games. He won’t appear on the Power Rankings since he’s not prospect eligible anymore, but don’t sleep on him as a bat to add at some point this season.
Another guy who’s technically not prospect eligible, but this is a good place to mention how he’s faring. After dealing with the loss of his sister, Baez has rejoined the Iowa Cubs. He has two homers and two doubles in 68 plate appearances and he’s hitting…wait for it…311! with a .382 on-base percentage. He’s currenly riding a seven-game hitting streak and is only striking out a quarter of the time (that’s good for him). I preached patience in keepers and dynasties this spring. It could take him the better part of this season in the minors, but there’s still massive fantasy potential in Baez down the road.
After starting the 2015 season on the DL with an ankle injury, Gallo is back with Double-A Frisco and showing off his power again. The 21-year-old has four homers through his first 20 games of the season. He’s also hitting .317/.450/.603 with seven doubles. There’s a chance Gallo could reach Texas by the end of this year, but an early 2016 ETA is more likely.
The Phils promoted Maikel Franco this weekend, but Nola is another top prospect in their system that could see major league time this year. The 21-year-old has only allowed two earned runs in three starts this month and holds a 1.0 BB/9 in 45.2 innings. The Phils’ first-round pick in 2014 looks like the real deal, and his advanced command/control should help him survive his first go in the bigs.
Gallo isn’t the only fantasy stud in the making down in Texas. Williams is hitting over .300 with five homers in his last ten games, including a pair of dongs last night. Texas is loaded with toolsy outfield prospects in Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, and Williams.
De Leon will be knocking on the door of a promotion to Double-A soon thanks to the video game numbers he’s putting up in the hitter-friendly California League. In his first 32 innings pitched, the 22-year-old has allowed just six earned runs. He’s rocking a 14.1 K/9 and a pretty 1.7 BB/9.
Guerrieri is making his way back from Tommy John surgery and he’s set to debut this week for High-A Charlotte. He was a Top 100 prospect on many lists prior to the injury, so keep an eye on him as he progresses this year. Or just keep reading my column and I’ll do it for you because I’m a nice guy like that.
Alford is generating some buzz in the early going. He’s focusing on just baseball now after playing football for Ole Miss, and as you would expect, he’s a very athletic outfielder featuring plus speed and power. While he’s yet to hit a homer this season, Alford is currently riding a 21-game on-base streak. He’s hitting .303/.448/.434 with ten doubles through his first 96 plate appearances in the Midwest League.