The best way to close out the debut season of “Knocking Down The Door” here at MLBTradeRumors is to recognize those players who did everything possible to earn a big league call-up without actually getting called up. Here is the 2016 Knocking Down The Door: All-Snub Team …
Note: A few players on this list, who are currently playing in the Triple-A playoffs, could still be promoted in the near future. However, I’ll still consider them as snubs since there will be little time left in the regular season.
Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres
If I told you before the season started that Renfroe would be one of the most productive hitters in Triple-A, the Padres would be able to trade both Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. by the end of July and Jon Jay would miss significant time with an injury, is there any way you’d believe that Renfroe would still be in the minors on September 13th?
To be fair to the Padres’ decision-makers, Travis Jankowski and Alex Dickerson have done more than enough to continue occupying two of the starting spots. But giving at-bats to Jabari Blash, Patrick Kivlehan and Oswaldo Arcia while Renfroe continued his assault on Triple-A pitching—he finished the regular season with an .893 OPS and 34 homers—is a lot more difficult to explain.
While it doesn’t affect Renfroe’s chances to make the Opening Day roster in 2017—he’ll likely enter Spring Training as the favorite to land the starting right field job—an early jump on facing big league pitching in a low-pressure environment could’ve been valuable.
Ben Lively, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson each knocked down the door to the Major Leagues in 2016, leaving behind their very deserving rotation-mate in Triple-A. Lively, a 24-year-old right-hander, continued to pitch well, however, and was still going strong when he tossed six nearly perfect innings—one batter reached on an error—while striking out 10 in his final regular season start for Lehigh Valley.
It’s hard to find a pitcher who was more impressive in the upper minors without receiving a big league call-up than Lively (2.69 ERA, 6.2 H/9, 2.2 BB/9, 7.3 K/9 in 28 starts between Double-A and Triple-A). He should have a decent chance to win a big league job in 2017 with only Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff penciled into the Phillies’ rotation and Aaron Nola’s status up in the air after he was shut down with an elbow injury.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
In 2015, Hedges used up nearly a full year of Major League service time while playing sparingly behind starting catcher Derek Norris, who had a good season overall but slumped badly over a six-week span (.453 OPS) in the middle of Hedges’ stint. Many would argue that Hedges’ time would’ve been best served in the minors, where he could play regularly.
It’s been a completely different story in 2016. Hedges, a defensive whiz, has put up huge numbers in Triple-A (.951 OPS, 21 HR), including an amazing power display when he homered 12 times in 14 starts. Norris, aside from one mid-season hot streak, has struggled at the plate.
Ironically, Norris’ struggles are likely what has kept him in San Diego and Hedges in El Paso. Without much trade value due to his poor season, Padres general manager A.J. Preller could not get a decent offer for his starting catcher. The 18 days that Hedges needs to accumulate a full season of service time is also likely part of the motivation, although that is not something the organization can admit. If Hedges were to reach that total in 2016 and never return to the minors, he’d be a free agent after the 2021 season as opposed to 2022.
Yandy Diaz, 3B/OF, Cleveland Indians
The 25-year-old Diaz, who finished the season with an .854 OPS and an impressive 71-to-86 BB-to-K rate between Double-A and Triple-A while splitting his time between third base, left field and right field, appeared well on his way to a role with the division-leading Indians once they cut ties with Juan Uribe in early August. But the surprise contributions from Abraham Almonte, once he returned from an 80-game suspension, and the acquisition of Coco Crisp allowed Jose Ramirez to play third base on a permanent basis, which pretty much ended Diaz’s chances of reaching the majors in 2016.
Manuel Margot, CF, San Diego Padres
At just 21 years of age, Margot posted solid numbers across the board for Triple-A El Paso (.777 OPS, 39 extra base hits, 30 stolen bases). No matter how well he played in 2016, though, the Padres weren’t likely to call him up. Finding out which “non-prospects” were going to be part of the team’s future appeared to be a priority for the rebuilding Padres. If it wasn’t already the case, Margot established that he would be a big part of that future whether he debuted in 2016 or not.
Joe Jimenez, RP, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are relying heavily on staff ace Justin Verlander and a powerful offense while a shaky bullpen could once again be the primary reason that they fail to advance very far in the playoffs or make it to the playoffs at all. And we’ll never know if Jimenez, one of the best relief prospects in baseball, could’ve been a solution since the Tigers have chosen to keep him in the minors for the entire season. The 21-year-old has a 1.51 ERA, 30 saves, 4.4 H/9, 2.9 BB/9 and 13.1 K/9 between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, numbers that arguably should’ve been at least worthy of a brief audition on a team with a clear bullpen weakness.
Amir Garrett, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Two young lefties, Cody Reed and John Lamb, struggled badly for the Reds in 2016, and a third, Brandon Finnegan, leads the National League in walks and homers allowed. That trio is still very talented, though, and should improve after taking their lumps in the big leagues this season. Amir Garrett might turn out to be the best lefty starter of the bunch, but the Reds weren’t willing to throw him into the mix in 2016.
After dominating in Double-A over 77 innings (1.75 ERA, 6.0 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 9.1 K/9), the 24-year-old took his talents to Triple-A Louisville and more than held his own in 67.2 innings (3.46 ERA, 6.4 H/9, 4.1 BB/9, 7.2 K/9). Garrett will be one of several candidates vying to join Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey in the Reds’ rotation next April.
Josh Hader, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
After Hader’s 11-start stint in Double-A to begin the season (0.95 ERA, 57 IP, 38 H, 19 BB, 73 K), it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if the Brewers promoted him directly to the big league rotation. Instead, they opted to give the 22-year-old lefty some time in Triple-A. The results weren’t as pretty (5.48 ERA, 8.2 H/9, 4.7 BB/9), which was to be expected in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but he maintained an 11.5 K/9 and allowed three runs or less in 10 of his 14 starts.
Carlos Asuaje, 2B, San Diego Padres
It’s unique that four of the ten players on the “All-Snub” list play for a Padres team that has never showed signs of being a serious playoff contender and is on pace to lose more than 90 games. But Asuaje’s path to the majors has narrowed with every Ryan Schimpf extra-base hit (15 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR in 73 games). Still, the 24-year-old Asuaje has proven himself worthy of a big league roster spot after slashing .321/.378/.473 in his first Triple-A season and should get his opportunity early in the 2017 season.
Chance Adams, SP, New York Yankees
Despite their late-season youth movement, which has played a part in the team’s surprising run into Wild Card contention, the Yankees have not dipped too far into the minors for starting pitching help. If they did, Adams could’ve been first on the list of reinforcements. A 5th Round pick in the 2015 draft, the 22-year-old Adams is on the fast track after posting a 2.69 ERA with a 5.4 H/9, 2.8 BB/9 and 10.2 K/9 in 127.1 innings between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.