How do I know my expectations for prospect call-ups have been successfully recalibrated? When I heard Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller would be joining the Dodgers rotation this week, my response was a resounding "meh."
It's true they have upside, both being consensus top-100 prospects coming into the year, and it'll forever be true that upside is a worthy investment in Fantasy. But upside comes in many forms, and roster space is finite. Particularly at starting pitcher, given its sheer abundance of options, you have to play the percentages. And those percentages come down against Stone and Miller making a significant Fantasy impact right now.
We've already gotten a peak at Stone, who debuted on May 3, the same day as Brandon Pfaadt. But while Pfaadt has become a cautionary tale for the dangers in overvaluing prospect call-ups (even though his past two starts have been decent), Stone's debut was the more discouraging of the two. His changeup, which was supposed to be an absolute world-beater and the key to him delivering a 1.48 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 in the minors last year, registered just two swinging strikes on 33 tosses.
Maybe it was nerves. Maybe it was improper sequencing. Maybe it's unfair to judge a pitcher on any one start, which is a standard I can agree to. But it hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows for Stone at Triple-A either. The strikeouts have been there, but he's issued seven walks in 11 innings since returning to that level, also serving up two home runs.
Miller, meanwhile, is a higher-rated prospect than either of the other two Millers (Bryce Miller and Mason Miller) who we've seen come up and have immediate success, but it's been a while since the production has backed up the scouting reports. He put together a 4.25 ERA between Double- and Triple-A last year and has underwhelmed in every respect through four starts at Triple-A this year.
You might argue he turned the corner in his latest start, allowing one run on two hits in six innings, his fastball peaking at 101 mph, but he registered only six swinging strikes on 76 pitches, which is no indicator of dominance. His promotion seems like a rare case of the Dodgers' hand being forced, which is to say they're bringing him up before he's actually ready. It may not be for long either, what with Julio Urias only sidelined by a hamstring strain.
Having said all this, it's worth reminding everyone Bryce Miller had a 6.41 ERA before getting the call -- and at Double-A, no less -- so you can never really know how it's going to play out. But I'd look to add any of the pitchers mentioned below before turning to the Dodgers' latest call-ups.
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SD San Diego • #52 • Age: 32
Wacha's latest start Sunday makes it a four-start stretch with a combined one earned run allowed, his ERA dropping from 6.75 to 3.58. And sure, skepticism is warranted, but this is the same guy who delivered a 3.32 ERA across 23 starts last year. What stands out most during this latest run of success is just how dominant his changeup has been. It alone is responsible for 20 swinging strikes over his last two starts. It's always been his best pitch, but he hasn't found this much consistency with it since he was first breaking into the league, delivering a 3.21 from 2013 through 2015. He's still outperforming most of his ERA estimators, which is why skepticism is warranted, but the hope now is he can be the sort of overachiever Merrill Kelly was last year.
Jorge Soler DH
MIA Miami • #12 • Age: 31
Soler has been a letdown for so long that no one would blame you for expecting his numbers to take a turn for the worse. But they just keep getting better. Following a 4-for-5 performance Sunday, he's now batting .247 for the season and .282 (with seven home runs) in May. He's still underperforming his .256 xBA and .554 xSLG, both reflections of the premium exit velocities he always delivers, but he may not be underperforming them for long. Up next for him is a four-game series at Coors Field, and if that goes the way it so often goes, you may not get another chance at Soler.
TEX Texas • #20 • Age: 24
Duran did such a good job filling in for an injured Corey Seager that the Rangers are finding ways to keep him in the lineup even now that Seager is back, so far by having the two alternate between shortstop and designated hitter. In fact, Duran still has yet to sit out a game for the entire month of May, batting .336 (38 for 113) with seven homers, three steals and a .973 OPS in his past 30 games. Even if the Rangers need to free up their DH spot in the weeks ahead, they showed a willingness to play Duran in the outfield prior to Seager's injury, giving him eligibility there as well as at third base. If you've thus far passed up Duran's versatility and hot hitting, presuming Seager would eventually displace him, you should probably stop now.
James Paxton SP
BOS Boston • #65 • Age: 34
There's of course no guaranteeing Paxton will hold up for the Red Sox given that he's made a combined eight starts since 2019, but that's the only lingering concern at this point. His second start back from Tommy John surgery Friday went about as well as the first, in which he allowed two runs in five innings with nine strikeouts. His fastball averaged 96 mph in both starts, which is a level we haven't seen him sustain since 2016. Clearly, he's healthy, and the stuff is playing. Pitchers are perpetual injury risks, so rather than fixate on the worst-case scenario, you might as well enjoy this while it lasts.
CHW Chi. White Sox • #34 • Age: 27
Though he delivered a 3.54 ERA last year, the consensus among Fantasy Baseball analysts was that Kopech was trending in the wrong direction. The biggest concern was the stuff itself. His fastball had lost some velocity with his move out of the bullpen, and his slider didn't have the same bite either. But so far this year, the fastball at least is looking like a weapon again. Its velocity is back up a bit, and he's been leaning on it more, throwing it 70 percent of the time in Friday's gem against the Royals, in which he allowed one hit in eight innings. He also walked none, and that's likely the key for him moving forward. He's still at 5.0 BB/9 for the year, but he's showing enough bat-missing ability again to justify a speculative add.
MIA Miami • #14 • Age: 26
De La Cruz got some sleeper buzz this offseason thanks to a strong September and some surprisingly good Statcast numbers, including a 96th percentile xBA (.287) and 94th percentile xSLG (.498). A poor spring compromised his job security, upending his sleeper status, but he's back to playing every day and seems to have found a groove again in May, batting .328 (21 for 64) with three homers and a .905 OPS. The season-long strikeout rate is concerning, but he's brought it down below 25 percent for the month. He may not have earned a spot in points leagues yet, given the suspect plate discipline, but in leagues that value batting average (and certainly those that require five outfielders), De La Cruz deserves your attention again.
ATL Atlanta • #65 • Age: 25
Shuster forced his way into the Braves rotation with a dominant spring training but then looked like a different pitcher once the games began to count, quickly getting him sent to the minors. Well, he's back now, and after two starts, he's looking different again. The first one was marred by a three-run rally in one inning, but Shuster basically went untouched in the other four. And then in his second start Sunday, he was literally untouched apart from a solo home run, allowing just the one hit over six innings. He struck out seven and generated 14 whiffs, his slider and changeup both up nearly 2 mph. Clearly, he threw with more conviction, but will he keep throwing strikes? Even in five minor-league starts, he had 5.1 BB/9. His stuff isn't good enough for that.
ARI Arizona • #50 • Age: 28
The Diamondbacks never officially named left-hander Andrew Chafin the closer, so we shouldn't expect his removal to be official either. But three of their past four saves have gone to right-hander Castro instead, and in two of those chances, including the latest Saturday, Chafin was among those who set up for him. Castro hasn't been the bat-misser Chafin has, but he did notch three strikeouts in this one and has been a steadier performer at the back end of games. Maybe the Diamondbacks' intention here is to play the matchups, or maybe one bad outing for Castro would put Chafin back in the driver's seat. But the bottom line is that if saves are scarce in your league, Castro is looking like a decent source of them.