With the Super-Two deadline come and gone, teams are now free to call up their top young talent based on merit, opportunity and need like the good old days. Done for the year is the service time manipulation that is simultaneously justified and despicable, and while we've already seen a wave of new talent reach the big leagues, history tells us that there will still be more added to the pool.
Lots of players see brief stints in September when the minor league seasons have come to an end and the major league rosters have expanded. Between now and then, however, there will be prospects that get a legitimate shot to start their big league careers, and perhaps even get thrust into the middle of a pennant race and make a contribution.
Helping a Contender
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles: This barely counts, as he's already been in the majors this year for a spot start, but there's little doubt that Gausman will be up and in the Orioles rotation within a month or two, once the Orioles believe they have limited his innings enough to allow him to complete the season without having to be shut down.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins: Heaney is perhaps the prospect on this list closest to his call-up, as he's done nothing but dominate at every step of the minors, including his four starts since being promoted to Triple-A. That he hasn't already been promoted is a testament to the success of the Marlins pitching staff this season, but with the final rotation spot currently unstable, we could see Heaney in the majors by the end of the month.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Twins: Did I really just put the Twins in the contender category? While you can debate the merits of that decision (yes, they're in last place but are only 3.5 games out of first), there's not too much to debate about Meyer, who is putting together a strong season in Triple-A. He's walking more batters than in the past, a concern that hadn't been the issue many believed it would be when he was drafted, but he's missing enough bats that it hasn't slowed him down. If some of the Twins worst pitchers weren't also their highest paid (we're looking at you, Ricky Nolanco), Meyer might already be in the big leagues.
Making the Case for Next Year
Jonathan Gray, RHP, Rockies: No one was terribly surprised when the Rockies early-season success proved unsustainable. Despite an MVP candidate in Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies simply don't have the pitching to stay near the top of the standings. That could be changing soon, as they've already promoted fellow prospect Eddie Butler and Gray, last year's third overall pick, may not be far behind. He's not dominating in Double-A the way some had hoped and expected, but he's still the top pitching prospect in the Rockies organization and is close to being major league ready. Whether he is or not, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get some time down the stretch to gauge his preparedness for next season.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies: Cody Asche has actually turned his season around quite nicely. That, coupled with Franco's struggles in Triple-A, have kept the Phillies top prospect firmly entrenched in the minors this season. Still, with the Phillies hopes crumbling around them and trades looming on the horizon, it wouldn't be surprising to see Franco get the call at some point and get his feet wet in the majors.
Javier Baez, SS, Cubs: There were many who expected Baez to be in the majors already, especially after torching two levels of minor league baseball last year and baseballs all over Arizona this spring. But Triple-A has been a struggle for Baez, who has shown the same flashes of brilliance that made him a top-5 prospect in the game. Those flashes, however, have been more inconsistent than in the past, and have come with tremendous contact issues. Baez is still a tremendous prospect, a significant part of the Cubs future, and will likely get a call-up at some point this year, but it probably won't be the mid-season variety we expected a few months ago.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs: Bryant is perhaps the most anticipated call-up this season, surpassing his teammate above, to the point where people are clamoring for his promotion to Triple-A. It remains a question, however, whether or not Bryant will get called up to the majors this season. Still just 22 and with less than a full professional season under his belt, there's little reason for the hapless Cubs to rush him to the majors, other than the immense fan pressure that has come from three years of preaching patience and toting their farm system.