Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - With every passing day, it seems instant gratification is becoming more of a human necessity rather than a luxury.
From smart phones that possess the ability to consume someone's life to digesting news on Twitter to being able to watch any TV show or movie with a few mouse clicks, patiently waiting for things is so 2012.
Which, believe it or not, should excite you as a fantasy baseball manager. Especially a fantasy baseball manager in June -- a month when a plethora of top prospects are called up by Major League Baseball teams hoping to either boost or reinforce their current rosters.
What's particularly exciting about call-ups now as opposed to a few years ago, however, is that young players consistently display a propensity for making an immediate impact.
Look, for example, at those tabbed by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in their annual Rookie of the Year voting. In the past 10 seasons, there have been a total of 61 players on those lists who finished their rookie season with a WAR (wins above replacement) of 3.0 or greater. In the decade before that (1994-2004), that number drops to 45 players. The names alone of prospects who have been called up or entered the league and immediately risen to fantasy stardom are staggering, including Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, Masahiro Tanaka, Mike Trout and Stephen Strasburg.
An interesting article by Fangraphs.com's Jeff Zimmerman published in 2013 posits the idea that the best statistical season for a hitter coming at 27 years old is a myth. Instead, Zimmerman argues, a player reaches his peak almost immediately after reaching the majors and their performance (which Zimmerman judged on a curve using wRC+) declines steadily thereafter. With that in mind, and with Super Two arbitration deadlines soon to be a non-factor for teams deciding whether to promote their prospects, here's a look at some players who could make some serious noise before season's end.
Keep in mind that this list is comprised of players currently in the minor leagues, so guys like Oscar Taveras, George Springer, Jon Singleton, Marcus Stroman and Eddie Butler won't be included, but should absolutely be owned.
1) Gregory Polanco (OF, Pittsburgh) -- Chances are if you're in a keeper league, someone owns Polanco already. But now's the time to scoop him up in all formats. The multi-talented 22-year-old outfielder is arguably having the best season of any minor leaguer this year, batting .347/.405/.540 with a .945 OPS, seven home runs, 15 steals and 49 RBI in 62 games. He rose quickly through the ranks of Pittsburgh's farm system, playing at all three levels in 2013 before settling in at Triple-A Indianapolis this year. While Polanco's BABIP is unsustainable (.399), his impressive walk rate (8.8 percent) and decent strikeout rate (16.1 percent) suggest that his plate discipline is good enough for the lefty to continue to have massive success at the major league level.
2) Andrew Heaney (SP, Miami) -- If there's one team that has proven it's not afraid to give its young players a chance, it's the Marlins. Between Jose Fernandez's surprising call-up last season and Christian Yelich cementing himself atop the lineup, and even Marcell Ozuna's sneaky solid numbers, the "Fish" give their kids a chance. Heaney very likely will be next. The 6-foot-2 southpaw turned in another stellar outing Saturday at Triple-A New Orleans, throwing six innings of one-run ball while striking out nine and walking one. In four starts for the Zephyrs, he's posted a 2.74 ERA, 2.10 FIP and a whopping 10.57 K/9 ratio. Overall, between Double-A and Triple-A this year, his WHIP is 1.13 and he's struck out 79 batters in 76 2/3 innings while walking 15.
3) Joc Pederson (OF, Lps Angeles Dodgers) -- As if the Dodgers needed things to be more complicated for their already-crowded outfield, they have a former 11th-round pick absolutely obliterating the ball at Triple-A Albuquerque. The 22-year-old is batting .332/.440/.623 with a 1.063 OPS in 59 games. He has 16 home runs, 13 stolen bases and nearly every Dodgers fan clamoring for his promotion. While L.A.'s outfield situation is messy (Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig) things can change in an instant and the Dodgers haven't been a club to shy away from blockbuster moves in recent years. Whether they trade Pederson as a blue-chipper in a summer blockbuster or move one of their current outfielders to make room for the smooth-swinging lefty, he's someone you'll want to stash for when he finally gets the call.
4) Jonathan Gray (SP, Colorado) -- The Rockies already have recalled the other part of their top-prospect pitching duo in Eddie Butler and Gray should be next. The domineering 6-4 right-hander is a power-pitcher with pinpoint command who's been solid in 11 appearances for Double-A Tulsa. He's thrown 59 innings and posted a 3.97 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings. There have been rumblings that given Colorado closer LaTroy Hawkins' struggles, Gray could be given a look at the back end of the bullpen if he's called up. Either way -- whether the Rockies choose to use Gray as a starter or reliever -- he's going to have fantasy value this season and has a very high ceiling for the foreseeable future.
5) Jimmy Nelson (SP, Milwaukee) -- When Yovani Gallardo was out with a sprained ankle late last month, the Brewers called Nelson up for a spot start that went well. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing five hits, striking out six and walking three. Nelson pitched well at the big-league level during his "cup of coffee" last season, too, and has done nothing but dominate at Triple-A Nashville in 2014. In 10 starts, the massive right-hander (6-6, 245 pounds) boasts a 1.51 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 9.5 K/9. While the Brewers' rotation appears firm, there's always a chance things could change if Nelson continues to pitch this way (in his most recent start, he struck out 11 in 7 2/3 innings) or he could always be called up to help in the bullpen.
6) Arismendy Alcantara (2B, Chicago Cubs) -- Not the Cubs' prospect you expected to see here, right? Naturally, we're all aware of the sheer awesomeness of both Javier Baez (eight home runs, 10 doubles) and Kris Bryant (21 home runs, 18 doubles), but they both are likely a bit further away from the bigs that Alcantara, who could make his debut later this month. The struggling Cubs don't have much to lose at this point and desperately need help at second base. Alcantara, a 22-year-old switch hitter, doesn't walk much, but he is putting together a nice season at Triple-A Iowa. He homered twice Friday and now has eight on the season to go along with 14 doubles and an .826 OPS.
7) Matt Wisler (SP, San Diego) -- The 21-year-old Wisler's stock was admittedly higher before his promotion to Triple-A seven starts ago, but it's a given that pitchers in the PCL are going to struggle a bit, so it's not time to panic about his numbers at El Paso just yet (7.11 ERA, 1.70 WHIP). After all, he was excellent in Double-A through six starts (2.10 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.5 K/9) and his stuff (a fastball that sits 93-95 mph and a biting slider) is very polished. If he does get a chance to break into the Padres' rotation (whether through injury or the removal of someone like Tim Stauffer or Eric Stults). the 6-foot-3 right-hander has a very good chance to make an immediate impact and sustain his success.
8) Maikel Franco (3B, Philadelphia) -- Like Wisler, Franco is another player who's struggling in the minors but might be given a shot by the big club anyway. The Phillies' season is heading nowhere fast and with Cody Asche on the disabled list and no other real options at third base, Franco is a clear target for promotion. Last year between Double-A and Triple-A, the 21-year-old righty mashed 31 home runs, knocked in 103 and batted .320/.356/.569. While he hasn't pieced things together at Lehigh Valley this year (.219, five home runs, .625 OPS), he's still shown good plate discipline (40 strikeouts and 19 walks in 232 at-bats) and there's little reason the Phillies shouldn't give him a chance at some point soon.