A week ago it was the “Hosmer Watch”: Fantasy players and Royals fans everywhere wondering how long before Kansas City would choke on Kila Ka'aihue’s lack of production while top prospect Eric Hosmer was hitting over .400 at AAA. Then the Royals management surprised everyone by actually making the move, demoting Ka’aihue to Omaha to see if he can find his stroke and installing Hosmer at first base, likely for the next ten-plus years.
Almost immediately the question on our message boards and in fantasy baseball conversations became: Who will be the next top prospect to be called to stay in a major league lineup?
Of course this is really asking for guesswork, but at least to a very slight degree, I think it can be educated prognostications. Certainly we can’t pretend to know what will happen injury wise to any major or minor leaguers and that could be a deciding factor. But we do know who the top prospects are and how they are doing at AA or more likely AAA, and we can see glaring holes in major league lineups.
The other thing working in favor of making such a list in May is that we are less than a month from the floating date for “Super Twos” which would cost the MLB team an extra year of service and more money.
If you follow Jason Grey’s blog on minor leaguers at ESPN, he updates a list of the top ten or so minor leaguers ready for a callup. And if you follow the exploits of the two major fantasy leagues for fantasy baseball writers and analysts – TOUT and LABR – you can see which minor leaguers have been added recently as well as those rostered in their auction drafts in March. Hosmer in fact was owned in both those AL competitions, as I bought him in the LABR auction (rather than hoping for him as a reserve pick), and Ron Shandler added him in an early FAAB bid for $1.
So who is next? (note – I am excluding players who have already played at the major league level like Brandon Belt (who would be first on this list) or Mike Minor, Ben Revere a speedy Twins outfielder recently called up, and Boston’s shortstop of the future, Jose Iglesias, who was called up Sunday when Marco Scutaro went on the DL)
- Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners – I thought all along that Ackley (teammate of the Indian’s Alex White at UNC) would be the first minor leaguer brought up in late May/early June and even though he is struggling at AAA, the Mariners have nothing blocking him on the major league team and should reward their loyal fan base with a look at the future
- Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals – I thought before the season that this would be organizational mate Mike Montgomery, but Duffy has pitched extremely well this year and seems to have the edge. Certainly the Royals could use some help in their rotation (although in fairness you have to admit it has been much better than was thought before the season started). In fact in AL TOUT a week ago there was a very humorous mini bidding war on Duffy. Matthew Berry with several disabled pitchers, looking for a prayer, decided that rather than just bid the minimum $1 on a minor league pitcher; he would bid $2 for Duffy and be very smart. Unfortunately Grey bid $4 and rostered Duffy.
- Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies – Brown might have been higher on the list given how well he is hitting since joining AAA after his rehab, but Ben Francisco is still playing very well for the Phillies and Raul Ibanez has suddenly started hitting very well. Still I expect Brown up very soon
- Andrew Oliver, SP, Detroit Tigers – While the entire Tigers team has been a major disappointment for its fans, the starting pitching has been the main culprit and surely the Phil Coke experiment is ready for the drain. Oliver has been pitching very well at AAA while awaiting the call
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, San Diego Padres – Rizzo, part of the return in the Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Red Sox has been flirting with .400 at AAA and has better than a home run per week. Brad Hawpe recently had a couple of good days but is still hitting under .200 and is not as good a defensive first baseman as Rizzo
- Brett Lawrie, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays – Lawrie has been hammering the ball at AAA Las Vegas (admittedly a great hitting park) and EE is not the answer for Toronto
- Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals – “Moose Tacos” would have been my co-favorite for the first major promotion of the year with Ackley if you asked me in March, but Hosmer got the call on positional need and really the combo of Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit has been better than projected for the Royals. Still I can’t see any reason Moustakas is not in KC by the middle of the season
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians – Chisenhall and that sweet left handed line drive stroke should have been IMO the starting third baseman for the Indians out of spring training where he was terrific. Even financial concerns for a poor franchise should not have put Jack Hannahan in Chisenhall’s way but again nobody thought Hannahan would be this productive
- Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays – Surely higher on most lists in March, I have to believe that the Rays don’t want to bring Jennings up until they are sure he will play every day and Sam Fuld even with the current slump at the plate (the defense is still outstanding), has been a revelation and the solid pitching and hitting surprisingly has the Rays tied for first in the AL Beast with the Yankees
- Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees – While Montero is certainly a top AL minor leaguer, I never thought he would be an early callup, but Jorge Posada has been as disappointing as Russell Martin has been surprisingly good. Either the Yankees will need the bat or they will need to trade for pitching, and Montero would be great in either role.