Well, we’ve finally made it to the home stretch of the 2017 season. We’ve seen numerous teams come out of nowhere to give their respective divisions, and Wild Cards, a race to the finish. There have been numerous hitters, especially rookies, that have taken Major League Baseball by storm and they’ve paid huge dividends to not only their ball clubs, but fantasy owners who have rostered them. With a month and a half left to the season, fantasy owners are eagerly awaiting the next wave of superstars in the form of September call-ups. Yes, it’s only a preview of what’s to come, but we’ve seen a handful of players, most notable Gary Sanchez of 2016, get their “cup of coffee” and make immediate impacts in a small amount of time. This week, I bring you one of the last 2017 installments in “That’s Amore!” September Call-Ups Hitter Preview.
Ronald Acuna, OF – Atlanta Braves
2017 has been a down year for the Braves. As they continue their rebuilding process, they still field players that make the team competitive. Injuries, and bad play have hampered the team, but they possess minor league talent that will eventually blossom into everyday players. As the Bobby Cox regime went, so did the Braves continual bid or the National League East division. This season, we’ve already seen the Braves call-up top infield prospect Ozzie Albies, and outfielder Ronald Acuna looks primed for a call in September. The five-tool player has excelled through three minor league stops (A+, AA, AAA) and has slashed .328/.400/.560 with five home runs and 15 RBI through 125 at-bats at Triple-A Gwinnett. It’s only a matter of time before he’s getting Major League at-bats and he should be on the radar of all owners. Assuming he gets his call in September, I’d suspect him to come out swinging and bring a combination of average, power, and speed. Pay close attention as Acuna will be owned in all fantasy formats in the near future. If you’re looking for a young outfielder with high upside, Acuna is arguably one of the best prospects available at the position.
Brendan Rodgers, SS – Colorado Rockies
Even though Trevor Story busted onto the scene in 2016, an injury ended his season prematurely, and Story has not performed at the same level in 2017. Regardless, it’s only a matter of time before Brendan Rodgers arrives in Denver as the shortstop of the future. The third pick in the 2015 draft has produced as expected and the power is real. 2017 has seen him play at the A and AA levels combining to slash .348/.384/.592 with 18 HR and 63 RBI. While he doesn’t walk a lot (13 walks in 353 at-bats) he has been able to keep strikeouts in check at a 17.56% clip. This is an encouraging statistic for a hitter primed for big-time power numbers. Rodgers has been on dynasty owners’ radars since the 2015 draft, and now is the time for all owners to start paying attention. Assuming he produces after getting the call, I’d wouldn’t be surprised if he takes over as the everyday shortstop after the 2018 Super II deadline passes. I’d love to see Rodgers win the starting position out of Spring Training, but it’s a business and the Rockies will follow suit in making sure they get the extra year of control out of their young slugger. Regardless, I’d look to target Rodgers in the later rounds of 2018 fantasy drafts. If not, be sure to add him to your watch list and keep tabs. If you’re not first to the waiver wire, you may be short on luck if you’re in any type of keeper/dynasty league.
Nick Senzel, 3B – Cincinnati Reds
Senzel has a 50/50 chance of getting a September call-up. We’ve seen numerous college hitters move quickly throughout the minor leagues and Senzel isn’t any different. He’s had a solid 2017 campaign slashing a combined .321/.383/.507 with 11 HR and 59 RBI. He’s been able to keep his strikeouts in check accumulating only 91 in 420 at-bats. With a combination of bat speed and strength, Senzel should benefit from hitting at Great American Ball Park. Assuming he does get the call in September, I feel he could be the player fantasy owners are awaiting in terms of immediate production in the power department. Similar to Brendan Rodgers, I believe the Reds will get a long look at him during September, and next spring, ultimately giving him the first few months in Triple-A before bringing him up for good. If you’re looking for production from the hot corner, Senzel will fit the need perfectly. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’d be shocked if Senzel isn’t one of the first September call-ups in the Majors.
Lewis Brinson, OF – Milwaukee Brewers
Brinson has been outmatched by Major League pitching by getting behind in the count and swinging at pitches in the dirt. This is the case for numerous young hitters, and Brinson has the time to make the necessary adjustments. With the Brewers making a push for the NL Central they will be looking to unload all of the talent they possess. When rosters expand, I expect Brinson to get the call and give the Brewers depth in the outfield. There’s no question Brinson possesses both speed and pop, but he’ll need to stay ahead in the count, and layoff wasted pitches. The most talented outfielder in the Brewers minor leagues, the fact that he possesses 30/30 potential makes him an intriguing target for owners. Even if he has a mediocre September, pay attention to his at-bats and you’ll see the tools he produces. He should be a late-round target in 2018, and I’m hoping he starts to blossom and not lean towards the production we’ve seen out of the once highly-touted Byron Buxton.
Francisco Mejia, C – Cleveland Indians
With Cleveland a clear 4.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins, they could look to get Mejia a few games behind the plate in September. Not only will this give them a look at how he handles catching Major League pitching, but it could give breathers to catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. I believe it would be wise to help both catchers have fresh legs entering the post-season. Mejia has had a successful season at Double-A Akron slashing .307/.358/.505 with 12 HR and 45 RBI. The switch-hitting catcher generates solid bat speed from both sides, and if you’re looking for a young catcher in dynasty/keeper leagues, Mejia should be towards the top of your list. We’ve seen the Indians produce solid catchers in Victor Martinez and Carlos Santana. Mejia should easily be the next in line.
Willy Adames, SS – Tampa Bay Rays
With Adames becoming more and more ready to get his call, Brad Miller and Tim Beckham became expendable. With the latter being dealt to the Orioles, it’s only a matter of time before Adames steps in as the Rays starting shortstop. Adames has spent the entire season at AAA Durham and has slashed .267/.362/.401. While he’s had issues with the striking accumulating 105 in 416 at-bats, Adames possesses solid power that could allow him to develop into a perennial 20+ HR hitter. He’s excellent defensively, and in the top-five among shortstop prospects. 2017 saw him earn his third-straight All-Star appearance and I assure you Adames will be added off waivers immediately following his call-up. Assuming he gets the call, Adames could help in Tampa’s pursuit of a Wild Card spot. They’re only 8.5 games behind in the division, and two games out of a Wild Card spot. If you’re a dynasty or keeper league owner looking for young shortstop prospects I encourage you to target Adames along with fellow shortstop prospects Franklin Barreto, Gleyber Torres, and Amed Rosario.
Franklin Barreto, SS – Oakland A’s
After a brief stint with Oakland earlier in the season, Barreto finds himself anxiously awaiting his September call-up. We saw signs of power, but he succumbed to the strikeout in nearly 43% of his at-bats. That being said, Barreto has had a solid 2017 season at Triple-A Nashville .278/.326/.440 accompanied by 13 HR, 42 RBI, and a total of 36 extra-base hits in 407 at-bats. The extra time in the minors isn’t all that bad. With Marcus Semien currently holding down shotstop, Barreto should see plenty of time at second base to polish his defense and more than likely feature there, with the A’s, in September. I’ve raved about Barreto since this past Spring Training, and the small sample size was encouraging. Again, he’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts, but the power was impressive and fantasy owners could get a boost this September. Franklin Barreto should be one of your late-round targets in redraft leagues entering the 2018 season.
Scott Kingery, 2B – Philadelphia Phillies
Kingery and Rhys Hoskins were two players I’ve anxiously awaited to get their call. Hoskins has since been called, and it looks like Kingery should get his shot within the next few weeks. Ranked third out of the Phillies prospects, Kingery has slashed a combined .308/.361/.552 with 24 home runs and 60 RBI during his stints at AA and AAA. The 2015 second-round pick out of the University of Arizona has added great power to his ability to spray line drives all over the field. I stated Senzel could have the biggest power impact if he gets his September call, but Kingery could be the player that many fantasy owners haven’t heard of that makes a huge impact. While many prospects are waiting out of the outfield, shortstop, and corner-infield position, Kingery can be that sneaky addition from the second base position. Assuming he does get the call, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t feature at second base headed into the start of the 2018 season. Kingery is another collegiate bat that has moved fast through the minor leagues. The power has been a great addition, and now the question remains if it can translate into the Majors.
Willie Calhoun, 2B – Texas Rangers
Part of the return, from Los Angeles, in the Yu Darvish trade, Calhoun has had a monster 2017 season slashing .298/.355/.584 with 27 HR and 76 RBI. Prior to the start of the season, Calhoun was ranked amongst the top second base prospects in baseball. The Rangers, like many other teams, are still in the race for a Wild Card spot (3.5 games out), and Calhoun could be a September call-up to give them immediate power production. Even if he doesn’t stick at second, Calhoun has spent time at third base and the outfield, and talk suggest the Rangers would like to have him play as much as possible in the outfield. Assuming Calhoun is one of the first prospects to get the September call, I could see an immediate impact in terms of power. One of the top statistics I’ve liked in 2017 is the fact that Calhoun has kept his strikeouts down to a 12.6% clip. The is the ideal production everyone would love to see from a power-hitter. I’d suggest keeping Calhoun on your radar throughout the offseason and into 2018 fantasy drafts. The power is real, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s one of the better power-hitting options from a younger hitter.
Mitch Garver, C – Minnesota Twins
I get it, he’s 26 years-old. However, Garver is having one of his best minor league seasons at Triple-A Rochester slashing .286/.384/.537 with 17 HR and 44 RBI. Drafted in 2013, Garver has worked diligently to become an everyday catcher. At 26, he’s probably not going to get everyday starts, but who knows what could happen once he gets his call-up. The Twins are another team in the playoff hunt, only 0.5 games behind the second Wild Card spot. Assuming Castro and Gimenez need a day of rest, Garver could give the Twins a breath of fresh air. There’s no questioning he’s been hot, and while many young call-ups have nerves set it, I have a feeling Garver will be the complete opposite having waited nearly all of his 20s to get his call to the Majors. I’ll admit I’m an owner that has pulled, and plugged, a variety of catchers this season. I also own Willson Contreras in one of my leagues. While I’m searching for a replacement, through the bottom of the waiver wire barrel, to give me positive production until Contreras is back, Garver could be the diamond in a rough for a position that is about as thin as it comes.