AL Playoff Push Prospects: Mining the Minors

Spinning off of the Baltimore Orioles’ surprising promotion of Manny Machado to the majors last week as they try to hang onto a playoff spot, it seems fitting to do a rundown of all the American League contenders and their prospects who might be in line for a call-up down the stretch, especially once rosters expand in September. Some of these players are on the verge of getting a shot, while others appear to be another half-season or so away — but then, so did Machado, and look how that’s turned out so far.

As for fantasy implications, the focus remains on 2012 impact, but this also will help any keeper and dynasty league owners whose settings require a player to debut in the majors before they can be acquired in fantasy.

Next time, we’ll examine the National League.

Teams are listed in order of their place in the standings, while prospects are listed in rough order of where they rank in the team’s system. The player’s current level is in parentheses.

Brett Marshall, SP (AA): Not a strikeout artist (6.9/9 career) and probably still a year away from really being ready, but the 22-year-old has climbed the ladder and is sporting a 2.91 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, showing he could be a viable back-of-the-rotation option at some point. If CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte remain out, Marshall could be used as bullpen depth in September.

Mark Montgomery, RP (AA): Like Marshall, Montgomery needs more time, but his performance since being an 11th-rounder in 2011 — 1.76 ERA, 81.2 IPs, 51 hits, 32 BBs, 132 Ks, 30 SVs — make him a legit arm with setup man upside. In another org, he would be in line to see time this season.

Dellin Betances, SP (AA): After a semi-breakout 2011 campaign that ended with a September look in the Yanks bullpen, Betances was so awful this season at Triple-A — most notably a (gasp) 8.3 BB/9 — that he was demoted a level. He’s been only slightly better since. In short: Ain’t happnin’ this year. And maybe not ever.

Note: If you’re wondering about Manny Banuelos, he’s hardly pitched all season and has already been shut down for the year due to an elbow injury.

Jurickson Profar, SS (AA): Considered baseball’s best position prospect, if not the best overall, Profar has been dynamite (.285/.363/.470) despite an aggressive assignment in the Texas League … as a 19-year-old. Unlikely to be called up given the Rangers infield depth — remember, Mike Olt’s getting a shot in a platoon/bench role — it still really wouldn’t be shocking if Profar gets a September cup to expose him to baseball at its peak. And if that makes him obtainable in your dynasty league, then you best pounce.

Leonys Martin, OF (AAA): With a 1.027 OPS, Martin, 24, is ready to contribute in the bigs on a regular basis and would be nice outfield depth for Texas heading into the postseason. One caveat: The speed is still above-average, but with 7 SBs against 9 CSs, Martin might not steal as much as initially expected once he’s up. Keeper leaguers: Next year should be his time, so you might still be able to grab a 2013 starter ahead of the curve.

Martin Perez, SP (AAA): The 21-year-old lefty held his own in a trial run earlier this season (4.05 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10 Ks in 20 IPs) and the Rangers have had an unfair amount of injuries to their rotation, but Perez’s whiff rate has plummeted from 9.1/9 to 7.9 to 4.9 over the past three years, so the impact isn’t going to be that great until he starts getting more swings and misses.

Simon Castro, SP (AAA): Once a top ‘spect in the Padres org, Castro has had serious issues handling the minors’ highest level (7.38 ERA, 1.89 WHIP) over parts of three seasons. It would save everyone time if the Sox just made him a reliever so his fastball-slider combo could play up some. That way, they could even consider pushing him up by September.

Charlie Leesman, SP (AAA): Just off the minor league DL, Leesman could help out if the Sox need someone to eat some innings or cover an injury over the final six weeks. He’s already 25 and he gives up a hit per inning against just 6.4 K/9, though, so the southpaw is closer to being suspect than prospect.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS (AA): Look, the Rays almost never rush their prospects, and Lee needs a full season at Triple-A, but the shortstop duo in St. Pete — Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez — owns a .242/.301/.337 triple slash and neither is a particularly great defender. Lee wouldn’t hit much better right now (a .696 OPS is dragged down by his .589 mark through May), but his glove would aide Rays pitchers, and he’s already swiped a career-best 37 bags. Eventually, he could be Elvis Andrus lite.

Chris Archer, SP (AAA): Archer, 23, looked good in his first two big league starts filling in earlier this season (11.2 IPs, 8 hits, 14:2 K:BB). Thanks to mid-90s heat and a wicked slider, he’s shown enough to be a potential No. 3 starter, if he can continue to work on his control (4.6 BB/9 this year), but he’d be a great option out of the pen now — and still a target in keeper formats.

Alex Colome, SP (AAA): Another big-armed right-hander with command/control struggles, Colome has lots of upside, but the Rays staff is already crazy-deep, and he wouldn’t get a shot over Archer.

Alex Torres, SP (AAA): Looking like a reliever now, at best, thanks to his control going from poor to gawdawful: 9.0 BB/9 this year! Oh and he’s on a rehab assignment in the rookie Gulf Coast League at the moment, so no thanks.

Dylan Bundy, SP (AA): Promoted to Double-A the same day Machado went to The Show, Bundy could be another x-factor in the final weeks if the O’s are still in the hunt. He’s only 19 and approaching his innings limit for the year, though, so Bundy might not have a shot to make a major impact in fantasy, even if he is the game’s best pitching prospect. Arguably the top keeper among players not yet in the major leagues.

L.J. Hoes, OF (AAA): The 22-year-old Hoes has made some nice improvements over the past year or two, but his main strengths are his athleticism and an ability to make contact (14.8% K rate), so his upside is limited. Hoes and the next player may well fight it out to be the O’s backup outfielder come 2013.

Xavier Avery, OF (AAA): Also 22, Avery wasn’t terrible in his first taste of the bigs earlier this year (.233/.317 /.356 with six SBs and 11 BBs in 90 ABs), but he’s really a fourth outfielder whose speed might make him an intriguing play in deeper AL-only leagues next season.

Brad Peacock, SP (AAA): The breakout pitching prospect of 2011, Peacock’s follow-up has been hugely disappointing (5.92 ERA, 1.59 WHIP), especially considering he was a potential rotation candidate in spring. Still, he’s not the first pitching prospect to struggle in the PCL, and his K rate (9.4/9) remains strong. Oakland arms are getting health soon, so Peacock probably doesn’t get much of a look until next season. Might just be a good reliever in the end, so even his keeper potential is iffy.

Grant Green, 2B/3B/OF (AAA): The A’s first-round pick in 2009, Green has been moved all around the field since starting out as a shortstop, and he’s seen time at second, third short and outfield this season. The upside isn’t what it once was, but the versatility — and solid enough stick (.294/.337/.459) — makes the 24-year-old a prime utility type who could pitch in everywhere right now.

Michael Taylor, OF (AAA): Not really a prospect anymore at his age (27 in December), and the A’s seem to have it out for him for some reason, so don’t expect much of anything, even if they give him a pity recall.

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF (AA): The Tigers love pushing (rushing?) their top prospects through the system, and in Castellanos’ case, they’ve done so by moving him — temporarily, it seems — from third base to the outfield. The org would be risking his development and future by force feeding the 20-year-old to big league arms this season — to wit, his OPS at High-A: 1.014. And at Double-A: .758 — but it wouldn’t shock anyone if they did. A keeper and dynasty target, to be sure.

Bruce Rondon, RP (AAA): Rushing a relief prospect isn’t as detrimental, so this very, very large right-hander was just jumped a level — his third of the year — and now that his control is, well, under control (3.8 BB/9 in 2012 versus 7.6 in 2011), it’s easy to see his triple-digit fastball (11.5 K/9) getting a shot before September, making Rondon eligible for the postseason roster. Remember how things played out with Bobby Jenks and the White Sox in 2005?

Casey Crosby, SP (AAA): There are things to like here, like a better whiff rate (8.6) than hit rate (7.7) for his career, but Crosby hasn’t looked much better than average since his dynamite first pro season…three years ago.

Adam Wilk, SP (AAA): Nothing sexy about Wilk, but he has elite control (1.3 BB/9 career) and at least looks like he could handle being a fifth starter in the majors. If the Tigers need someone to scrounge up some innings — in the five-man or pen — between now and September, he might be the guy.

Andrew Oliver, SP (AAA): Like Crosby, another big-time lefty arm with control issues, and in Oliver’s case, the stats are going the wrong way: 6.6 BB/9 in 2012. Best bet to salvage a big league career would be to convert him to relief while there’s still a chance.

Luis Jimenez, 3B (AAA): At 24, Jimenez might be having his best campaign in full-season ball, hitting 319/.345/.517 with 14 HRs and 69 RBIs. He’s a doubles machine — 2012 should be his third straight with 40-plus — who puts barrel to ball, but he doesn’t walk much at all (4.5% BB career). The Angels have had a hole at third for years, and while Jimenez is not the long-term answer (that’d be Kaleb Cowart), he could help out Alberto Callaspo now.

Kole Calhoun, OF (AAA): A candidate to be a solid fourth outfielder, Calhoun has seen some PT with the Angels this year in between slashing .303/.368/.522 in the PCL. There’s some pop and speed here and not many holes in his game, just not much ceiling either. And LA does still have a ton of other outfield options. You know, especially know that Vernon Wells is back and all.


If you have any other names to share, bring them up for discussion in the comments.

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Jason Catania is an MLB Lead Writer for Bleacher Report who also contributes to ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Insider and MLB Rumor Central, focusing on baseball and fantasy content. When he was first introduced to fantasy baseball, Derek Jeter had 195 career hits, Jamie Moyer had 72 wins and Matt Stairs was on team No. 3. You can follow him on Twitter: @JayCat11

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Nelson S.
Nelson S.

No Red Sox? I approve!