It’s never too early to start planning for the future of your fantasy baseball team.
For some, the future arrived this week when the Rays promoted baseball’s top prospect, shortstop Wander Franco.
Franco immediately made a splash, hitting a game-tying, three-run home run for his first career hit (the Rays lost, but the moment was still spectacular). He entered Friday hitting .182 with a homer, three RBIs, a stolen base, three runs, a .357 on-base percentage and .903 OPS in his first three games.
It’s a very small sample size, but the 20-year-old has been a top-five prospect since 2019, and he backed that status up by hitting .332 with 27 homers, 145 RBIs, 158 runs, 27 stolen bases and a .933 OPS over three seasons in the minors.
Before we go any further, do yourself a favor and check if you’re in the 10 percent of ESPN leagues that doesn’t have Franco rostered. If you are, add him right now. Seriously, right now.
If you’re among the other 90 percent, now is a good time to get a jump on your competitors and stash up-and-coming prospects who should make an impact upon arrival:
Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox
Over three seasons in the minors, Duran has hit .318 with 21 homers, 99 RBIs, 78 stolen bases (46 in 2019), 172 runs and a .850 OPS. That includes hitting .298 with 13 homers, 26 RBIs, 30 runs, eight stolen bases, a .381 on-base percentage and 1.007 OPS for Triple-A Worcester this year. He is striking out in 23.8 percent of his at-bats while drawing a free pass 10.6 percent of the time, and was 21-for-67 (.313) with six homers, 14 RBIs, four stolen bases, 16 runs and a 1.024 OPS in his first 15 games this month. Though the Sawx have said there are no plans to rush Duran to the majors, his bat and speed could force their hand, with center field and the leadoff spot being weaknesses. Now is a good time to get ahead of the fantasy mob that may be looking to add him later.
Hunter Greene, SP, Reds
After dominating in Double-A (5-0, 1.98 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 13.2 K/9) over seven starts, the flame-throwing 21-year-old was promoted to Triple-A. He is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA over his first two starts, but is striking out 14.0 per nine innings and hitting 104 mph — yes, 104 mph — on the radar gun. After allowing four homers in his Triple-A debut (despite striking out eight), he allowed just two hits over five scoreless innings while striking out six (and walking three) in his second start. This guy is Roto Rage’s favorite pitcher to stash, and he will be in demand when he gets the call.
Jo Adell, OF, Angels
Though the 22-year-old’s introduction to The Show last year was horrific — he hit .161 with three homers, seven RBIs, nine runs, a .478 OPS and 41.7 percent strikeout rate — he is crushing it at Triple-A this season. Over his first 41 games, he is hitting .269 with 16 homers, 37 RBIs, 34 runs, three stolen bases and a .932 OPS. The drawbacks: He still is striking out in 32.1 percent of his at-bats and walking just 4.6 percent of the time. Adell has been playing center field lately, which could be a sign that a promotion is on the Angels’ mind. Juan Lagares entered Friday hitting .226 while occupying center.
Cal Raleigh, C, Mariners
Raleigh entered Friday hitting .354 with eight homers, 32 RBIs, 30 runs, three stolen bases and a 1.079 OPS over his first 35 games for Triple-A Tacoma. That included a 23-game hit streak, which was snapped last Friday, in which he was 38-for-96 (.396) with six homers, 22 RBIs, 22 runs, six walks, just 11 strikeouts and a 1.169 OPS. He had a new four-game hit streak entering the weekend.
Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners
Kelenic’s first taste of The Show didn’t quite go as expected. He hit .096 over his first 23 big league games, including an 11-game stretch in which he was 0-for-37 with 17 strikeouts, before being sent back to Triple-A. In his first 13 games since rejoining Triple-A, he is 12-for-52 (.231) with five homers, 14 RBIs, three stolen bases, 13 runs and a .869 OPS. These numbers aren’t exactly anything to get excited about, but he is a top-five prospect for a reason.
Nick Lodolo, SP, Reds
Lodolo, the top pitcher taken in the 2019 draft (seventh overall), is absolutely dominating his Double-A opponents this year with some ridiculous numbers. Over six starts, the 23-year-old is 2-0 with 0.90 ERA, 0.833 WHIP, 13.5 strikeouts per nine, 1.8 walks per nine and a .181 opponent average. It should only be a matter of time until he joins Greene at Triple-A Louisville.
Kyle Schwarber OF, Nationals
Had an 11-game hit streak entering Friday, going 16-for-43 (.372) with 11 homers, 22 RBIs and a 1.568 OPS in that span. He has hit 12 homers since June 12.
Charlie Morton SP, Braves
Picked up two consecutive wins, allowing four hits over his past 14 ²/₃ scoreless innings. Had a 18-2 strikeout-walk rate and .085 opponent average in that span. He is 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA over his past seven starts.
Jake Cronenworth 1B/2B/SS, Padres
Entered Friday on a nine-game hit streak, going 12-for-31 (.387) with five homers, 10 RBIs, 11 runs, four walks and a 1.457 OPS in that span.
Jose Urquidy SP, Astros
Has allowed more than three earned runs in a start once since April 26, going 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA and .188 opponent average over his past nine starts.
Carlos Martinez SP, Cardinals
Has lost five consecutive starts, allowing 30 earned runs over his past 19 ²/₃ innings (13.73 ERA). He has walked 17, struck out 19 and allowed opponents to hit a healthy .352 against him in those starts.
Patrick Wisdom 1B/3B, Cubs
Struck out 16 times in his past 13 games, going 6-for-34 (.176) with a .616 OPS in that stretch. He has struck out in 37.8 percent of his at-bats.
Garrett Richards SP, Red Sox
No wins since May 19, going 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA, 21 strikeouts, 17 walks, four homers allowed and a .331 opponent average over his past six starts.
Kris Bryant 1B/3B/OF, Cubs
Had just three hits in his previous 37 at-bats (.081) entering Friday. Struck out 11 times and owned a .407 OPS in his past 12 games.
- Though he entered Friday having issued the third-most walks in the majors, the Rockies’ German Marquez is 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA, .176 opponent average and just 12 walks over his past 45 innings (seven starts).
- Despite being the third-oldest player in the majors, the Twins’ Nelson Cruz just continues to produce solid numbers. Over his first 18 games this month, he hit .375 with six homers, 13 RBIs, 10 walks, a .461 OBP and 1.179 OPS. He also has the third-highest exit velo (93.3) and the eighth-highest maximum exit velo (116.6) in the majors.
- Over his first 34 games this season, Houston’s Carlos Correa was hitting .239 with five homers, 16 RBIs, 26 strikeouts, just nine walks, 18 runs and a .693 OPS. He entered Friday hitting .305 on the season after going 49-for-132 (.371) with nine homers, 30 RBIs, 36 runs, 24 strikeouts, 32 walks and a 1.164 OPS over his past 36 games.
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