You might have enjoyed Zack Wheeler's Mets debut Tuesday (six shutout innings), but here's a bold prediction for fantasy owners still scouring the minor leagues for a shot in the arm: The Rangers' Martin Perez is going to outpitch him the rest of the season.
Perez, who already has some unsuccessful stints in the majors, is being recalled to start Saturday. Judging by recent Triple-A performances, he is going to stay there and be a boon to fantasy owners in mixed formats. Waiting to see how he fares Saturday against the Cardinals might be too late.
Perez, 22, was expected to make the Rangers rotation out of spring training, but broke his arm in March and only recently has started making good on the potential that once made him one of the most highly regarded prospects.
"I've never felt more comfortable than this year," Perez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I'm going to keep my same approach as I have in Triple-A. It's the same ball, same game."
If the approach and numbers match what he did in Triple-A, we are in for an impact fantasy starter. Perez has gone 5-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his six starts for Round Rock in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League -- yes, the league where Wheeler's numbers look pedestrian. Perez has been particularly hot after getting hammered with the Rangers in a doubleheader spot start May 27. He is 4-0 with a 1.13 ERA and a .216 batting-average against in four June starts.
"We want to get him while he's hot," Rangers manager Ron Washington told the Dallas Morning News.
If you're thinking waiting for Wheeler has been tough, think about what Perez's wistful keeper-league owners have endured. They have been anticipating a fantasy impact since he was a teenager three years ago. Here's a bet the wait will be worth it, particularly since the Rangers are a contender due to get hot and make him a winner for owners.
"I come in more strong in my mind," Perez told MLB.com. "That's good, because when that happens, you become stronger and work harder."
Now that Wil Myers and Wheeler are in the majors -- Wheeler's coming back for his next turn in the rotation, no worries -- fantasy owners are already thirsty for who's next down on the farm. Outside of Perez's Saturday callup, it figures to be a wait for the fantasy prospects who project to be more than mere fill-ins.
To round out this week's Prospects Watch, we break down the top 10 stashes for the second half:
1. OF Christian Yelich, Marlins (28 percent owned in CBSSports.com leagues) -- When we listed the top five June callups, we led with the hot streak of Yelich. He cooled off, and an abdominal strain landed him on the Double-A DL. He should be back slugging around July 1 and can position himself for a sneaky second half with the Marlins. A long-term outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Yelich doesn't look so bad.
2. SP Trevor Bauer, Indians (27 percent) -- Bauer is in the Perez boat: He was highly rated, disappointed some and still struggles with walks in the minors. Still, Bauer has good stuff and should get a more permanent look in the Indians rotation soon. The walk totals are going to run his pitch counts up and make him a five-inning pitcher, but he can strike out a batter per inning and be a useful mixed-league starter when the matchups are right.
3. OF Nick Castellanos, Tigers (18 percent) -- We have to admit, we haven't been too big of a Castellanos fan in this space. It is time to change the tune. The 21-year-old converted third baseman -- beating out Miguel Cabrera is kind of tough, right? -- is hitting .382 in June (29-for-76) with a .455 on-base percentage and a .605 slugging percentage. It's led to speculation the Tigers are nearing a callup. He is a better immediate flier than Yelich because he is healthy and hot.
4. SP Kyle Gibson, Twins (12 percent) -- He is low in the ownership rankings among minor leaguers because he projects to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he is pitching well, and the immediate opportunity is certainly there with the rebuilding Twins. Gibson is 7-5 with a 3.01 ERA, .229 BAA and 79 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings. He has been particularly hot in June, going 3-0 with 2.08 ERA. Gibson deserves a shot soon, and you might find him useful in fantasy.
5. SP Dylan Bundy, Orioles (29 percent) -- We still are not convinced Bundy is going to skirt further elbow issues, if not surgery, but he is working his way through a throwing program, so we have to take notice. If he can prove strong enough to start appearing in games, the Orioles might be inclined to move him up to the major leagues so they can manage him first-hand. Even that optimistic projection keeps him from impacting any leagues until late July.
6. SP Anthony Ranaudo, Red Sox (4 percent) -- The beast-like Ranaudo doesn't have huge ownership numbers, but the 6-foot-7, 230-pound righthander has a sterling Double-A ledger. He is 7-1 with a 2.34 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 73 innings. Those numbers include a start June 4 where he allowed eight hits, four walks and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. He came back to strike out 13 in his next start. He deserves more attention.
7. C Travis d'Arnaud, Mets (29 percent) -- He is recovering from a broken foot but has been cleared to begin a running program. This puts him on track for a potential July return and possibly an August look with the Mets. Arguably the best fantasy catching prospect just might salvage some value this season after all.
8. OF Oscar Taveras, Cardinals (45 percent) -- The minors' most-owned hitting prospect isn't setting Triple-A on fire, but his high ceiling keeps him among the most intriguing fliers. After hitting .362 in May, Taveras has slumped to .225 (9-for-40) in June. He also has just five homers and five steals through 43 games. Those numbers would be marginal in a Triple-A fantasy league. Watch him for a hot streak. He could have a Yasiel Puig-like week at some point.
9. SP Michael Wacha, Cardinals (48 percent) -- Wacha suffered the Tony Cingrani fate: Being a victim of numbers. The Cardinals don't need Wacha in their rotation right now, but odds are they will eventually. Failing that, Wacha can wind up pitching important setup innings down the stretch, like Cingrani is for the Reds right now.
10. OF Billy Hamilton, Reds (36 percent) -- Exactly a year ago, Hamilton looked like the most intriguing prospect in fantasy. He was supposed to be fantasy's one hope for getting back to the 100-steal days. Now, we have to question if he is going to be anything more than a minor-league steals record-holder. Hamilton is holding up his steals pace in Triple-A (46), but he is hitting a mere .243 with a .301 on-base percentage and 60 strikeouts in 69 games. Those numbers just don't give him much of a chance to help anyone but deeper rotisserie owners in the second half. He has work to do.
Best of the retreads: 1B Ike Davis, NYM; SP Kevin Gausman, BAL; SP Tyler Skaggs, ARI; SP Ricky Romero, TOR; OF Jackie Bradley, BOS; 2B/OF Dustin Ackley, SEA; 2B Danny Espinosa, WAS.
Missing the cut: SS Xander Bogaerts, BOS; SP Taijuan Walker, SEA; 3B Miguel Sano, MIN; SP Jameson Taillon, PIT; SP Danny Hultzen, SEA; OF Byron Buxton, MIN; 1B Jonathan Singleton, HOU.