It's not surprising to see a rash of prospect call-ups inside 45 days to go in the regular season. Per last year's CBA, there are draft pick incentives for preserving a call-up's rookie status for the following year, and 45 days on the active roster is a notable cutoff.
What's surprising are the actual prospects being called up. Masyn Winn's promotion was long rumored -- and fully justified, given his performance at Triple-A -- but Noelvi Marte and Kyle Harrison both seem like they had things left to accomplish in the minors. And Nolan Schanuel, the Angels' first-round pick just this year, couldn't have been less expected.
Throw in Logan O'Hoppe and Ryan Pepiot, two injury returnees who still qualify as prospects themselves, and we're left to sort which of these unprovens has the most offer in Fantasy Baseball right now. The short answer is Winn, but let's address them all (along with a couple other potential pickups) one by one.
Masyn Winn SS
STL St. Louis • Age: 21
Of all the prospect call-ups from the weekend, Winn feels the most "right." He took a conventional path to the majors, without cutting any stop short, and arrives at his absolute hottest, having homered 10 times in his final 28 games before getting the call. That power surge was basically the last piece of the puzzle, rounding out a skill set that already included a good contact rate, base-stealing ability and highlight-reel defense (mostly because of his arm). The Cardinals will be careful not to let him exceed 130 at-bats, wanting to preserve his rookie status for next year, but he should get the majority of the starts at shortstop moving forward. At his peak, he could offer something like Randy Arozarena production, only at shortstop.
LAA L.A. Angels • #14 • Age: 24
O'Hoppe has gone 0 for 9 in two games since returning from a four-month absence for a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, bringing his season stat line down to size, but you should know he was batting .283 with an .886 OPS before then. That's because he was one of the only rookies to give us anything worthwhile in April, and seeing as it was at a weak position, his roster rate might not have dipped far below its 76 percent peak if we had any inkling he was returning. At the time, the injury was presumed to be a season-ender, but now that we know it's not, he has a chance to pick up where he left off. Again, the injury was to his non-throwing shoulder, meaning the one that doesn't supply his power. Meanwhile, he hit .375 (9 for 24) with three doubles on his rehab assignment.
Noelvi Marte 3B
CIN Cincinnati • #16 • Age: 22
It made sense for the Reds to bring Elly De La Cruz and Christian Encarnacion-Strand into a crowded situation, given their production at Triple-A, but Marte was merely holding his own there as a 21-year-old and, in fact, was batting just .204 (11 for 54) in 16 August games. He's been much buzzed-about from the time he was 17 years old, but his minor-league production would be better described as good than great. Meanwhile, the only way to get him in the lineup at third base is to confine De La Cruz to shortstop, Matt McLain to second and Spencer Steer to left field -- and that's without factoring in Jonathan India's and Jake Fraley's eventual return from the IL. It's never a bad idea to take a shot on upside, but between the developmental and playing time concerns, Marte is better left for leagues that roster more than 300 players.
SF San Francisco • #45 • Age: 22
Harrison is coming up to make his major-league debut Tuesday, and no matter what rank list you're looking at, he's one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, having recorded 14.6 K/9 over three minor-league seasons. So why aren't I more enthusiastic about his arrival? Because his 6.4 BB/9 rate this year is simply untenable. Of course, he didn't issue a single walk and threw 73 percent of his pitches for strikes in his last two starts, spanning 7 1/3 innings. "The last couple of outings, I think he's [taken] some real steps forward," manager Gabe Kapler said. I'm never one to put much stock in a small sample, but in player development, sometimes that's all you get. The other concern is that Harrison has only once gone even five innings this year, so the Giants may use him more like a bulk reliever than a true starter, as is their way. Picking up Harrison is a gamble on upside, but it's indeed a gamble.
LAA L.A. Angels • #18 • Age: 22
The Angels continue to push the envelope when it comes to call-ups, promoting their top pick from last month's draft (11th overall) Friday and immediately installing him as their first baseman and leadoff hitter. Schanuel has the skill set for it, having reached base at a .510 clip during his brief time in the minors, with more than twice as many walks (21) as strikeouts (10). He had 71 walks to just 14 strikeouts for Florida Atlantic University earlier this year. The big question is whether he has enough thump for Fantasy. Though he's built for power at 6-feet-4, he makes weak contact, rarely lifts the ball, and had only one home run in 96 minor-league plate appearances. There's also no telling if he'll play against lefties. Schanuel is interesting, particularly in points leagues, but the Yandy Diaz profile is a difficult needle to thread.
Ryan Pepiot RP
TB Tampa Bay • #44 • Age: 26
One name that had been notably absent from the Dodgers' youth movement this year was Pepiot, a right-hander with big strikeout ability who got a couple stints in the majors last year. Turns out he was sidelined by an oblique injury suffered in spring training, but he's back at just the right time, with Tony Gonsolin having suffered what sounds like a season-ending forearm injury. Pepiot's audition for the opening Saturday saw him go five strong innings as a bulk reliever against the Marlins. "Certainly, the way he threw the baseball speaks to him getting another opportunity," manager Dave Roberts said. And how would he describe the Pepiot he saw then to the one he saw last year? "Completely different," Roberts said. Pepiot issued 4.4 BB/9 between the majors and minors last year, but so far this year, in 27 2/3 innings, he's at 2.0 BB/9.
WAS Washington • #36 • Age: 28
One under-the-radar move that caught my attention this offseason was Garrett latching on with the Nationals. He seemed like exactly the sort of no-name player who could thrive in the void offered by a rebuilding club. It took until mid-August, but it may finally be happening. He's started nine straight games and is batting .438 (14 for 32) with two homers and five doubles during that time. The hits haven't been cheapies either. Four of his batted balls in a 3-for-4 performance Friday were hit 103 mph or better. He's 81st percentile for both average and max exit velocity on the season, and the same is true for sprint speed. Garrett broke through as a 25-homer, 17-steal guy in the Diamondbacks' minor-league system last year, so as long as he can stay in the lineup and keep the strikeouts under control, he can be of some help in five-outfielder leagues.
Allan Winans SP
ATL Atlanta • #59 • Age: 28
The Braves have struggled to fill the final spot in their rotation basically from the jump, but they may have finally settled on Winans, a 28-year-old of basically no prospect stature who has nonetheless performed with every opportunity he's gotten this season. When last we saw him, he was striking out nine Mets over seven shutout innings in Game 1 of a doubleheader Aug. 12, and he's been pitching that way at Triple-A Gwinnett all year, putting together a 2.79 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 8.0 K/9. None of his four pitches is particularly impressive, with his fastball barely averaging 90 mph, but he mixes them well and generally keeps the ball on the ground, limiting damage. Nobody's expecting him to be the staff ace, but if he can gut out six innings at a time, the Braves offense can take care of the rest. He's expected to rejoin the rotation Monday and lines up for two starts right away.