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As David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Braves left-hander Jonny Venters, who has spent the entire season rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery, has received the devastating news that he has re-torn his left ulnar collateral ligament and will require a third Tommy John surgery if he is to continue his career. Venters says that he will address reporters Friday to further comment on the unfortunate news. O’Brien lists Jose Rijo and Jason Isringhausen as a rare pair of examples of success following a third Tommy John operation.
More from the National League East…
- The Mets worked out Cuban third baseman Pavel Quesada and shortstop Roberto Carlos, reports Mike Puma of the New York Daily News (Twitter links). Quesada, said to be a third baseman with some pop, was the more impressive of the two, according to Puma’s sources. The 28-year-old Carlos, on the other hand, was described as a “work in progress” that needs to improve the strength of his throwing arm.
- Although the Marlins are hanging on in the playoff race — they’re five and a half games out of a Wild Card spot — president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro that a last-minute trade is unlikely. However, that doesn’t mean that the team will be going young in the month of September. With a postseason berth still a possibility, Hill notes that the team is less inclined to go with young players in order to give them experience when a veteran could give them a better chance at winning in a given situation. For this reason, top prospect Andrew Heaney may not get a September callup, Frisaro notes.
- “He looked like a totally different guy than in Spring Training,” an American League scout told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer when discussing Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. A National League scout told Gelb, “He’s a solid setup guy for me.” The Phillies are very pleased with the progress they’ve seen since Gonzalez’s injuries in Spring Training made the team’s $12MM investment look questionable. Gonzalez, who is likely to receive a September callup, has a 2.36 ERA in 34 innings since shifting to a relief role and has risen to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He’s flashed a 95 to 98 mph fastball and could factor into the bullpen as a setup man coming out of Spring Training next year.
Jon Lester has been scratched from his scheduled start tonight — a clear indicator that the Red Sox are looking to deal their ace. It briefly looked like the Orioles were close to a deal, but while those talks are serious, the deal isn’t close yet. Here’s the latest…
- The Cardinals and Pirates are making the strongest bids for Lester at the moment, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports report (Twitter link). The Dodgers also remain involved.
- In a full article, Heyman writes that the A’s are the mystery team that has stepped into the Lester bidding. Nothing is close between the two sides at the moment, however.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that a mystery team is becoming more involved.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio reports that the Athletics are in on Lester.
- Via WEEI’s Alex Speier (on Twitter), manager John Farrell expects Lester to be in uniform with the Red Sox today.
- The Cardinals‘ acquisition of Justin Masterson doesn’t necessarily take them out of the running for Lester, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The Cards could still acquire Lester, though it may cost them Shelby Miller, Morosi adds in a second tweet.
- The Marlins aren’t entirely out of the Lester sweepstakes, an AL executive familiar with the negotiations tells Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel. However, the Marlins won’t part with top prospect Andrew Heaney in a Lester deal (or a deal for any rental player).
- The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two teams that are most aggressively competing for Lester’s services, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They’re also the most aggressive clubs on David Price, though it’s far from a given that the Rays will move their own left-handed ace. Heyman hears similar things to yesterday’s reports regarding the Brewers and Orioles and says neither is in the mix at this point.
- An NL GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he thinks the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners are the primary suitors for Lester heading into Wednesday (Twitter link).
The Marlins announced that they have designated right-hander Kevin Slowey and left-hander Randy Wolf for assignment as part of a series of roster moves. Additionally, Christian Yelich and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have been placed on the 15-day DL, and Donovan Solano has been optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Miami will recall right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, outfielder Jake Marisnick and first baseman Justin Bour. Most notably, top prospect Andrew Heaney will also be promoted to the Majors for the first time.
Heaney (pictured) was the ninth overall selection in the 2012 draft and entered the season ranked as the game’s No. 30 prospect according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. MLB.com ranked the 23-year-old as the game’s No. 29 prospect, and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 34th entering the season.
Heaney has shredded minor league hitters this season, pitching to a 2.47 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 76 2/3 innings between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans. Should he remain with the team through season’s end, he would accrue 106 days of Major League service time, meaning that he should fall well shy of Super Two status.
The former Oklahoma State ace has a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph regularly, per Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. That plus heater is accompanied by a “wipeout” slider that Mayo and Callis grade as Heaney’s best pitch, as well as a changeup that the duo describes as a “good third pitch.” BA’s scouting reports notes that his fastball can reach 97 mph when he needs the heat, but Heaney has learned that he pitches with better command when throwing in the 91 to 93 mph range. BA also noted that holding runners has been a weakness for Heaney dating back to college (19 of 20 attempted base-stealers were successful against him in 2013), but he’s allowed just six steals in nine attempts in 2014.
The 37-year-old Wolf signed a Major League deal with the Marlins in May after opting out of his minor league deal with the Diamondbacks. He posted a 5.26 ERA with a strong 19-to-6 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings with the Fish, and his 87.7 mph fastball velocity wasn’t too far off his career mark of 88.2 mph. Wolf’s stint with the Marlins was his first Major League work since late 2012, as he missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (4.33), xFIP (3.87) and SIERA (3.99) all feel that he was the victim of some poor luck.
Slowey, 30, posted similar numbers to Wolf, compiling a 5.30 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings. He, too, was the victim of a very lofty batting average on balls in play (.382), which no doubt contributed to his lofty ERA. Slowey has always been a soft-tossing fly-ball pitcher, but he has excellent command and a respectable 4.62 ERA in 662 career innings with the Twins and Marlins.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Marlins have scratched top prospect Andrew Heaney from tonight’s start, but Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes that fans shouldn’t read too much into the move. Marlins VP of player development Marty Scott tells Spencer that the move is just a precaution against having to shut Heaney down in September and isn’t related to a current call-up. Heaney himself told Darrell Williams of the New Orleans Advocate that he feels he’s ready to pitch in the Majors but doesn’t want to be called up as a fill-in, but rather to help the team win: “They’re in first place,” said Heaney. “I don’t want them to bring me up as an experiment.”
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Francisco Rodriguez told Newsday’s Marc Carig that he and the Mets exchanged numbers shortly before New York signed Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde, and following those two moves, he made his decision to return to the Brewers (Twitter link). K-Rod, signed to be a setup man in Milwaukee, has instead turned back the clock with his best season in years, pitching to a 2.01 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 20 saves to this point as the team’s closer.
- The Mets are “caught between the reality of needing patience and the desire to finally start winning again,” writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Kepner spoke with Jon Niese, who said he’s not sure how Mets prospects such as Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Travis d’Arnaud deal with the pressure and expectations placed upon them by fans and media alike. Niese, who didn’t break out until his fifth season with the Mets, added that he’s thankful that the team gave him, Daniel Murphy and Bobby Parnell time to develop, but he’s not sure the newest wave will be afforded the same opportunity.
- James Wagner of the Washington Post examines Nationals prospect Michael Taylor‘s breakout at Double-A Harrisburg. Taylor, not to be confused by the former Top 100 prospect of the same name, has worked with hitting coach Mark Harris to tweak his approach at the plate and is recognizing breaking pitches better and thriving at the plate. His strikeout rate is still a problem, but it dropped from April to May, and if he can continue that trend he could be on a fast track to Washington’s outfield.
The Nationals raised some eyebrows recently by having injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman work out in left field (as noted yesterday by the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore), though many on the coaching staff were quick to tell Kilgore that Zimmerman was merely getting some conditioning work. In a second piece from Kilgore last night, Zimmerman essentially said the same, noting that he cannot take grounders during batting practice at this point and the outfield worked helped him “from going crazy.” Manager Matt Williams, however, wouldn’t rule out using Zimmerman in the outfield, though he sounded more comfortable with the longtime third baseman as an emergency option there: “I think he’s a wonderful athlete and if we have a pinch late in a game where we have nobody left and he’s got to play left field, or right field or center field, he could do it.”
Here’s more from the NL East…
- The next 20 games could determine the Phillies‘ course of action this summer, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. The Phils have a stretch of 20 games in 20 days beginning tonight, and 11 of those contests come against divisional opponents. If the team fares well in this stretch, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. may well push the decision off for a few weeks, but Salisbury implies that a particularly poor showing could push the Phillies into sell mode.
- Salisbury’s colleague, Corey Seidman, points out that fans can’t pin the team’s 19-22 record on the aging core. Ryan Howard is on pace for 28 homers, Chase Utley has played like an MVP candidate thus far, Jimmy Rollins has a career-high .359 OBP, Carlos Ruiz‘s OBP sits at .396 and Marlon Byrd has hit very well. Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Jonathan Papelbon have all turned in solid ERA marks also, he adds. However, the team has received next to no production from Ben Revere and Domonic Brown, the bullpen has struggled and the bench has combined to hit .181 with four homers thus far.
- Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald found the Marlins‘ recent signing of Miguel Tejada a bit puzzling, so he spoke with VP of player development Marty Scott about the deal. Scott said the signing was made for depth purposes and that Tejada impressed both offensively and defensively in private workouts. “I don’t want something to happen at the big-league level where we don’t have someone we know who can come up and do the job,” said Scott before calling Tejada a “safety valve.”
- From that same piece, Spencer reports that the Marlins are currently listing Thursday’s starter at Triple-A as “TBA,” and that spot is very likely to be filled by top prospect Andrew Heaney, who has dominated Double-A Jacksonville. If all goes well, says Spencer, Heaney could be with the Fish in early June.
It's been a tough rebuilding season for the Miami Marlins, but help is on the way.
The club is currently in last place in the National League East and has the worst record in the NL. The Houston Astros are the only team in Major League Baseball with a lower winning percentage.
Miami is one of three teams to have used 19 rookies in 2013. The club has trotted out 11 freshman hitters and eight first-year pitchers. Of those 19 players, 10 have received significant playing time. Despite their inexperience, the Marlins front office is building a club with a strong core of young, high-ceiling players. And, even with the significant wave of talent that's already reached the Majors, Miami has more on the way.
The pitching staff stands to be the most significant beneficiary of the talent infusion. The club already has a number of young hurlers that could settle into the starting rotation in 2014, including Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Nate Eovaldi. Four more names could settle into the big league club's starting rotation next season, and the organization has the Toronto Blue Jays to thank for three of the prospects.
None of the names can match the ace-in-the-making ceiling that Fernandez has, but they certainly have the talent necessary to be impact performers in the coming seasons.
Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, Double-A: DeSclafani has a big-time fastball, but an inconsistent college career caused him to slide to the Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2011 amateur draft. Despite being stuck in the bullpen for much of his collegiate career, the right-hander has thrived as a starter in pro ball.
DeSclafani, 23, was one of the lesser-known names in last year's 12-player trade between the Marlins and the Jays. He's pitched extremely well since joining his new organization, playing at two levels in 2013 — High-A and Double-A. The million dollar question, though, is whether or not he can maintain his success as a starter in the upper levels of the minors and into the Majors.
The Marlins' Director of Player Development, Brian Chattin, said he's not surprised by the young hurler's pro success and added that the organization followed his amateur career closely at the University of Florida: "His slider is an above-average pitch at times and should be a consistent weapon for him as he continues to develop," Chattin said. "His changeup is a work in progress but is showing signs of being a usable third pitch. I am confident he can stick as a starter."
Sam Dyson, RHP, Triple-A: The Marlins more or less stole this talented pitcher from the Jays. Toronto added Dyson to the 40-man roster when he was called up to the Majors last season, but he appeared in just two big league games (both out of the bullpen) before being returned to the minor leagues. In the offseason, the club faced a roster crunch and the former fourth round draft pick was claimed off waivers by the Fish.
With his new club, the 25-year-old Dyson was converted back to a starter after spending much of 2012 in the bullpen. Like DeSclafani, he's had a lot of success in his new role. He's spent the majority of the 2013 season in Double-A but has also pitched well in four starts since being promoted to Triple-A.
According to Chattin, Dyson's ultimate role is still open for discussion: "We are encouraged by his overall development and will consider him for both a rotation and bullpen role if his progress continues," said Chattin. "Our primary focus with Sam this year has been to get him consistent work and establish a usable breaking ball… We like the sinker, as well as the changeup, but want a consistent breaking ball that he will throw with confidence. He used a curveball early but has gone to a slider recently."
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Double-A: The club's first round draft pick in 2012, Heaney has been a fast mover. Despite making just six appearances last season, the southpaw has played at two levels this year: High-A and Double-A. His ERA sits at just 1.41 for the year between the two levels.
Chattin said Heaney's success has come from his ability to throw three average to above-average pitches for strikes. He also has a reliable out-pitch in his slider, and simply needs to add polish. "He needs to log some innings so he can learn the lessons this game naturally teaches through experience," he said. "He also needs to control the running game more effectively."
Justin Nicolino, LHP, Double-A: The third and final former Blue Jays farmhand on this list, Nicolino came over to the organization in last offseason's blockbuster deal involving Jose Reyes. In the Jays organization, he was a member of impressive trio of high-ceiling arms that were all drafted out of high school in 2010: Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard (who was traded to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal). The Jays had a plethora of picks that season, and Nicolino was actually the seventh player selected by Toronto despite being nabbed in the second round (80th overall).
Nicolino's success and rise through the system has mirrored Heaney's in 2013. Chattin said the young lefty will see his success continue into the Majors if he trusts his stuff and continues to attack the strike zone. "He is intelligent, pitches with a plan and purpose, throws three pitches for strikes and changes speeds effectively," Chattin explained.
The 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft will begin later today and the Houston Astros possess the first overall pick for the second year in a row. The draft acts as a cost-effective tool for clubs looking to stockpile young talent. Despite the thousands of hours logged by each club's scouting department while trying to determine the best amateur talents available, the draft remains a bit of a crapshoot and will be full of hits and misses — although it may be years before most teams' outcomes are fully known.
Five players from the 2012 draft — Kevin Gausman (fourth overall, Orioles), Michael Wacha (19th overall, Cardinals), Paco Rodriguez (second round, Dodgers), Alex Wood (second round, Braves) and Michael Roth (ninth round, Angels) — have already made their debuts in The Show. Many others have seen their prospect values soar, while a select few have already taken steps backward. It's generally thought that the best talents of any given draft will be found in the first five to 10 picks but success is never a guarantee. Let's have a look at the early results from the first 10 picks of the 2012 draft and see if that belief has held true.
1. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (Puerto Rico HS): It's been reported that Houston's front office went down to the wire before finally settling on Correa as the first overall pick. While speaking with "someone in the know" during the offseason, I was told that one of the things that made the young Puerto Rican attractive — other than his obvious raw talents — was that he will likely be ready to be an impact talent at the big league level when the rebuilding Astros are ready to legitimately compete in the American League West. Someone like Gausman, Mark Appel, or Mike Zunino are more likely to see their best seasons occur while the club is still finding its competitive footing. Still just 18, Correa has held his own in A-ball while showing the ability to hit for a solid average, an impressive understanding of the strike zone and good power.
2. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Georgia HS): Buxton, a toolsy Georgia native, has made Correa's 2013 numbers look pedestrian. The Twins prospect is currently hitting .348 with a 1.023 OPS and 26 stolen bases in 53 games. At just 19 years of age, the gifted centerfielder looks too advanced for Low-A ball. Robert Emrich of MiLB.com wrote a piece on Buxton last night after the prospect went 5-for-6 with two triples.
3. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (University of Florida): Seattle fans were eager to see the catcher make the big league club out of Spring Training but the organization wisely played it safe and assigned him to Triple-A. After a quick start to the 2013 season, holes in Zunino's game were exposed and his batting average plummeted while his strikeout rate rose. Currently hitting just .228, he's still showing impressive power with 11 home runs in 43 games.
4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (LSU): As mentioned above in the intro, Gausman has already reached the Majors — no doubt a welcome sight for the O's after former top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy succumbed to an elbow injury. Gausman struck out 49 batters with just five walks in eight Double-A starts, though his Major League results have thus far been inconsistent (a 7.20 ERA through three starts).
5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (University of San Francisco): Considered almost on par with Gausman from a talent perspective prior to the draft, Zimmer is currently stuck in High-A ball. He's flashed a heavy, powerful fastball and has struck out 65 batters in 52 innings of work but he's struggled with his command, resulting in seven home runs allowed and a 5.54 ERA.
6. Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Florida HS): Considered a gifted fielder, it was said that Almora's defensive work in center field was almost MLB caliber at the time of the draft. The Florida native got a late start to the 2013 season thanks to a broken hamate bone but he's been on fire since being activated. He's hitting .429 with just six strikeouts in 12 games.
7. Max Fried, LHP, Padres (California HS): Fried got off to a quick start to the year and has shown glimpses of his immense talent but he's also displayed the need for improvements in a number of areas. He's allowed 13 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings of work. On the year, he's issued 22 walks in 44 innings and has struggled against right-handed hitters ( RHHs at .265 vs. LHHs batting .149).
8. Mark Appel, RHP, Pirates (Stanford): Appel was the lone 2012 first-rounder that did not come to terms with the club that selected him. He returned to Stanford for his senior year of college and has improved his draft stock; he's expected to be a top-three pick, going to either the Astros, Cubs or Rockies. That should land him a larger signing bonus than he would have been eligible for with the Pirates in 2012. Had Appel signed with Pittsburgh, he would have given the organization quite an impressive future rotation along with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Tim Keown of ESPN.com recently wrote about Appel's decision to return to college and re-enter the draft in 2013.
9. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (Oklahoma State): Like Almora, Heaney was slowed by injury and did not make his first start of the year until late May. In total, he's made three starts and has an ERA below 2.00 with 18 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. He joins Justin Nicolino, who was acquired from the Blue Jays in the offseason, as a pair of impressive left-handed pitching prospects that look close to ready for the challenge of Double-A.
10. David Dahl, OF, Rockies (Alabama HS): Dahl made a very positive impression during his 67-game pro debut in 2012 and, during the offseason, was touted as one of the steals of the draft as the 10th overall selection. However, some questionable decision making (which reportedly involved missing a flight) got him shipped out to extended Spring Training in April, despite originally earning a roster spot on the Low-A club to begin the season. Dahl has since regained his Low-A spot and produced solid-but-unspectacular results in his first 10 games; he was recently placed on the minor league disabled list.
Supplemental Round Picks of Note
The first round of the MLB amateur draft is not the only place to find high-ceiling talent. Quality prospects can be found littered throughout the 40 rounds. Below are some of the players that were taken in the supplemental first round — picks mainly given as compensation for the loss of key free agents from the previous offseason. A number of the players selected in that round have looked impressive early in their careers and have performed well enough to suggest they should have been true first-round selections.
Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins: Berrios brings a much-needed power arm to the Twins organization. The Puerto Rico native has struck out 44 batters in 39 innings despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Low-A Midwest League; Berrios just recently turned 19 years old.
Zach Eflin, RHP, Padres: Like his fellow Padres prospect Max Fried, Eflin was a promising prep arm acquired in the 2012 draft. Unlike his southpaw teammate, though, the right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and has been a little more consistent.
Daniel Robertson, SS, Athletics: Originally expected to move from shortstop to third base as a pro, Robertson's steady defensive play has convinced the organization to give him a longer look at his natural position. Despite missing much of the first month of the year while rehabbing an injury, the young hitter has shown flashes of above-average potential at the plate.
Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets: High draft picks from the college ranks typically skip over Low-A ball and begin their careers in High-A ball, but the Mets organization has been cautious with Plawecki — possibly to give him an opportunity to polish his defense. The 22-year-old prospect is showing that his bat is more than ready for a promotion with a .341 batting average and 30 extra base hits. MLB.com's Teddy Cahill recently wrote a feature on Plawecki.
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers: After a much-hyped start to his pro career that saw him hit 22 home runs in his first 59 games, the left-handed hitter has come crashing back down to earth. He's slugged another 14 dingers this year but he's also struck out 89 times in 55 games, causing his batting average to dip to .210. He has a lot of adjustments to make to avoid becoming the next Russell Branyan.
Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros: McCullers showed the raw potential to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft but questions about his delivery and potential move to the bullpen caused him to slip into the supplemental round. The young pitcher, though, has temporarily quieted his critics and overpowered the Midwest League with a 1.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies: As with McCullers, Butler was thought to be potentially headed for a pro career out of the bullpen. He's been exceptional as a starter, although the college product did begin the year in Low-A ball where he should have dominated the less-experienced competition. He was recently promoted to High-A ball and has a 3.71 ERA in his first three starts. David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle wrote about Butler's promotion.
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