The latest installment of “Knocking Down the Door” includes three players who were part of high-profile trades within the last 11 months, a pitcher trying to become the next in a long line of great homegrown Giants to reach the majors, and MiLB.com’s 2015 Offensive Player of the Year.
Carlos Asuaje, 2B, San Diego Padres (Triple-A El Paso): Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra were the key pieces in the offseason trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox. Some experts, however, considered Asuaje as an underrated prospect who could make an impact in the Majors in 2016.
With second baseman Cory Spangenberg not expected back anytime soon—he’s been on the disabled list since April with a strained quad and his recovery has been slow—the Padres’ best opportunity to find out if the 24-year-old Asuaje is capable of becoming a big league regular could be now.
The left-handed batter, who has played primarily at second base this season, has 15 hits in his last 41 at-bats to boost his batting average to .329. His 26-to-33 walk-to-strikeout ratio should also be intriguing for a Padres offense that is third in the Majors in strikeouts and 26th in walks.
Jeff Hoffman, SP, Colorado Rockies (Triple-A Albuquerque): This may not be the year that the Colorado Rockies will contend for a playoff spot. But they’re a team on the rise with Jon Gray starting to pitch like a top-of-the-rotation starter, third baseman Nolan Arenado looking like a perennial MVP candidate and rookie shortstop Trevor Story on pace for 40 homers.
The farm system also has several young pitching prospects who are moving up the ladder quickly. None is closer, or probably as good, as Hoffman, a former first-round draft pick who was the centerpiece of last season’s Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays.
In yesterday’s start, the 23-year-old right-hander showed why he is so highly regarded, allowing two earned runs over seven innings while striking out 11 without issuing a walk. It was the sixth time he’s completed seven innings this season, which is quite a feat in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Adalberto Mejia, SP, San Francisco Giants (Triple-A Sacramento): In a span of five seasons from 2005-09, the Giants’ farm system produced three frontline starting pitchers—Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner—who went on to help the team win three World Championships.
None have arrived since. Adalberto Mejia was making a case, reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2014. But a less-than-stellar season (4.67 ERA) followed by a 50-game PED suspension knocked the left-hander off the prospect radar.
Since returning last June, however, Mejia has been better than ever with only 86 hits and 34 walks allowed while striking out 96 batters in 116 1/3 Double-A innings. He was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A last week and responded by pitching four-hit ball over seven shutout innings in his debut.
With Cain on the disabled list for a second time this season after re-aggravating a hamstring injury and journeyman Albert Suarez currently filling in, Mejia is putting himself in a position to be next in line.
Daniel Norris, SP, Detroit Tigers (Triple-A Toledo): With an opening in the big league rotation after Matt Boyd was sent to the minors yesterday, Norris’ path to the Majors just became a lot clearer. But his seven shutout innings on Friday likely played just as big a factor as Boyd’s back-to-back poor outings.
While it was expected that the 23-year-old lefty would be in the Majors from the onset of the 2016 season, Norris was placed on the disabled list due to a back injury. Upon activation in late April, he was sent to Triple-A where he struggled over his first two starts. Since, he’s found his groove with a 2.77 ERA over his last seven starts (42.1 IP, 40 H, 14 BB, 44 K.) His next should come in the Majors sometime this week.
A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno): A second-round draft pick in 2014, Reed has passed every test with flying colors up until now, putting up big numbers at five different levels over a two-year period. His recent hot streak with Triple-A Fresno (11-for-32, HR, 5 2B) now has him on the doorstep to the big leagues.
At the moment, the only player seemingly standing between the 23-year-old Reed and a starting job with the Astros is Marwin Gonzalez, a valuable super-utility man who is out of place as the team’s starting first baseman. Despite a 16-8 run to put them two games under .500, the Astros still have a ways to go to get back into the playoff race. Inserting the left-handed-hitting Reed into the middle of the order could help.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.