So far this season, we've seen three major promotions of hitting prospects: George Springer, Oscar Taveras and now Gregory Polanco. But on the pitching side, just one top-30 prospect by Baseball America's rankings, Yordano Ventura, has stuck in the bigs after a promotion this season. That may soon change.
Miami Marlins product Andrew Heaney continues to impress with Triple-A New Orleans. In 23 innings spanning four starts, Heaney is 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA, 2.07 FIP, 1.13 WHIP and 27 strikeouts against only two walks. Of course, he earned the promotion to New Orleans after proving there was nothing more for him to learn at the Double-A level. Heaney started the year with the Marlins' Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville, going 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 1.08 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings. Now that the Super Two deadline has passed, Heaney's call-up to the majors is seemingly imminent.
There is plenty of room for a starter of Heaney's caliber in the Miami rotation right now. Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez have pitched quite well and have helped keep the Marlins relevant after Jose Fernandez's season-ending elbow injury, but Heaney may already be a better option than current starters Tom Koehler, Jacob Turner and Kevin Slowey.
Once he gets the call, he won't be going back down to the minors unless he struggles significantly and unpredictably. Heaney projects as the No. 2 starter of the future behind Fernandez in the Marlins' rotation, and it appears that future is set to begin very soon. Expect a Heaney promotion sometime in June, potentially as early as this weekend or next week. His career high in innings is 95 1/3, so the Marlins could cap his innings, especially if they fall out of the playoff race as the season progresses. Still, he can be a high-impact pitcher in all fantasy leagues. If for some reason he's still available in yours, stash him right now.
• We usually focus our attention in this space on players who could be relevant in fantasy leagues this year, but sometimes a player at the lower levels of the minors forces his way into our consciousness. That's exactly what Rangers' first base prospect Joey Gallo has done this season.
Gallo, the No. 60 prospect according to Baseball America, terrorized the Carolina League in 58 games with High-A Myrtle Beach this season, hitting .323/.463/.735 with 21 homers and 50 RBI. He strikes out too often, but so do a lot of 20-year-old sluggers. The more important thing is that he also draws a ton of walks, earning 51 free passes with Myrtle Beach.
The Rangers finally put Carolina League pitchers out of their misery, promoting Gallo to Double-A Frisco over the weekend. He looked a bit overmatched in his first few plate appearances against Double-A pitching, striking out three times in his first four trips to the plate in his first game on Monday. However, he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at four and blasted a walk-off, three-run homer to give Frisco a 7-4 win over Midland, the Oakland Athletics' Double-A affiliate.
While it's going to take more than just some late-game heroics to get Gallo to the majors this season, it is not totally out of the question. Ankle surgery will keep Mitch Moreland off the field for three months, and the Rangers were already hurting at first and DH with Prince Fielder done for the season. In their loss to the Indians on Monday, the first base-DH combo of Donnie Murphy and Michael Choice went a combined 1-for-8. He likely wouldn't be up until much later in the year, but we could see Gallo in a Rangers uniform at some point in 2014.
• Oakland shortstop prospect Addison Russell returned to the field on Sunday for the first time since tearing his hamstring on April 4. He wasted no time in proving his leg is healthy.
In the first game of what is expected to be a brief rehab stint with High-A Stockton, Russell, Baseball America's No. 14 prospect, laced a line-drive single in his first at-bat, then stole second base. In two games with the Ports, he is 2-for-7 with a walk, though he has fanned four times. The important thing, however, is that the hamstring looks like it is back to 100 percent.
Russell is expected to soon return to Double-A Midland, where he started the season. With the A's among the best, if not the very best, teams in the league, Russell may not factor into their plans this season. Jed Lowrie has struggled at the plate this year, hitting .232/.331/.359 in 258 plate appearances, but he has played strong defense, and that's far more valuable to the A's given their roster makeup. Russell probably won't factor into fantasy leagues this season, but he'll be among the hottest prospects entering 2015.