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Friday 26th May 2017

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Monday was the first round of the Rule-4 or as it is better known, the First-Year Player Draft. The web today is inundated with recaps and reviews of those players. However, for fantasy, 99% of those players will not be relevant for two or more years. Rather than providing a review of those top prospects, I will continue looking at players whose impact will be more immediate. Next week, I’ll cherry pick some of the higher profile names you need to know.

For now, let’s discuss some recent call-ups and potential call-ups.

In weekly leagues, Scott Schebler was sent down before fantasy players had a chance to lay their hands on him. The Dodger outfielder has not been hitting particularly well in Oklahoma City, but he has shown a similar plate approach to his 2014, 28 HR campaign, and power as well with six homers and a .171 ISO. The 24-year-old was a 26th round draft pick in 2010 and surged up the Dodgers radar after two straight seasons of producing 25 or more home runs while also cutting down on his strikeouts and improving his selectivity. It is unclear as to whether the Dodgers view him as their long-term left fielder or more of a fourth outfielder/platoon player. The latter may be his ultimate role, but he has shown enough bat speed and power to possibly make it as a starter, provided he shows he can adjust to Triple-A pitching.

Nationals prospect Joe Ross made his MLB debut on Saturday to mixed results, allowing six hits and four earned runs, but on the other hand, not walking a single batter and striking out four in five frames. The former Padre is in his first season with the Nationals after coming over as part of the three-way trade with Tampa Bay. In nine Triple-A starts, Ross had a 9.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. The righty has two good swing and miss pitches in his plus fastball and slider, but he has good control of his lesser pitches and has a changeup that is at least an average pitch, flashing plus at times. He may get a few more starts, but redraft leaguers should note that both Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister are working towards their returns from the DL, so Ross is not going to be claiming a full-time job just yet. His middle of the rotation potential should at least make him a grab and stash target in NL-only keeper leagues.

A few weeks back, I noted that Lonnie Chisenhall’s struggles might get him in trouble with Giovanny Urshela lying in wait. Well, the Indians shook things up, sending Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez down to the Minors. While Francisco Lindor will stay in Triple-A for the time being, Urshela is getting his opportunity to claim the third base job. Urshela, like Chisenhall, is a modest ceiling player. A plus defender at third, Urshela is an aggressive, contact-oriented hitter with doubles power and his home run power projects to the low to mid-teens. While Urshela is not going to be an impact offensive force, he still has a potentially useful and valuable skill set for AL-only leaguers.

In a continuing theme of aggressive call-ups, the Houston Astros plan to call up Vincent Velasquez in time for making a start this coming Wednesday. The 23-year-old former second-round pick has made five Double-A starts, posting a 12.7 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. His stuff, a lively fastball and plus changeup, has long been raved about by scouts. Staying on the field has been the primary concern. To date, Velasquez has not pitched more than 124.2 innings in any season, his second highest total standing at 64. He has missed time due to Tommy John surgery but also a parade of non-arm related muscle injuries. If Velasquez can improve the consistency of his curve, he has upper end of the rotation potential. It looks like he’ll be receiving an extended look with Roberto Hernandez losing his spot in the Astros rotation, so redraft and keeper leaguers alike should take note of his debut.

The Phillies are not having the greatest of luck with their pitching staff in 2015, so a hard look must be taken at 2014 first-round draft pick and Double-A pitcher Aaron Nola. Nola was someone I expected to move quickly through the Phillies system after being taken 7th overall. While the strikeout totals have not been as high as expected, Nola did make it all the way to Double-A last year. He's beginning his first full season of pro ball there and has at least raised his K/9 a full point from 5.6 to 6.8. Nola is mostly known for his polish and command. He has yet to produce a BB/9 higher than 1.9 and has walked just one batter per nine innings pitched this season. Considering the quality of his repertoire, it is surprising to not see more swings and misses at this point, but they may come in time. A Triple-A promotion may be soon in the making and a call-up, at least by September, seems quite possible.

Next week, as promised, we hit the 2015 Draft.

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