Billy Hamilton Rumors
Check here for today's promotions of top prospects around baseball....
- The Mariners have called up left-hander James Paxton, Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Paxton, 24, was ranked before the season as one of the game's top prospects by MLB.com (57th) and Baseball America (#87) and he has posted a 4.45 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.26 K/BB rate over 145 2/3 innings in his first taste of Triple-A this year. The southpaw is the second top M's pitching prospect this week to receive a promotion, after Taijuan Walker. Paxton is under team control through the 2019 campaign and he'll have to be added to Seattle's 40-man roster.
- The Brewers have called up right-hander Jimmy Nelson, manager Ron Roenicke told reporters (including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy). Nelson, a second-rounder from the 2010 draft, has been a starter for the last three seasons but the Crew will use him as a reliever. MLB.com ranked Nelson as the top prospect in the Brewers system and the 88th-best prospect overall, saying that the 24-year-old has "a heavy fastball that elicits ground balls and sits in the low 90s." Nelson posted a 3.25 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.51 K/BB rate in 27 starts at Double-A and Triple-A this season, though he didn't perform quite as well at Triple-A. Since he's being called up at this late date in the season, Nelson won't gain Super Two status and will be under team control through 2019.
- The Orioles have called up middle infielder Jonathan Schoop, according to David Hall of the Virginian Pilot (Twitter link). Schoop was ranked as the 50th-best prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN insider subscription required) before the season and MLB.com ranks him as the fourth-best prospect in the Baltimore organization. Schoop, 21, hails from Curacao and has gradually evolved from a shortstop to a second baseman over his five minor league seasons could possibly be Brian Roberts' replacement at the position in the Major Leagues. Schoop was limited to 285 PA at Triple-A Norfolk this season due to a stress fracture in his back, and he hit .255/.298/.397 with nine homers for the Tides. He will be under team control through 2019, as Schoop's late callup won't give him Super Two status. Besides Schoop, the O's have also called up Henry Urrutia and right-hander Josh Stinson.
- As expected, the Reds have purchased the contract of outfielder Billy Hamilton, according to a tweet from his now-former club, the Triple-A Louisville Bats. Hamilton currently stands as the 17th-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The 22-year-old burner has scuffled somewhat in his first season at Triple-A, seeing his on-base percentage drop to a career-low .308 mark and carrying a .651 OPS. Nevertheless, he has swiped 75 bases in 90 attempts, added some pop (he has a career-best six home runs), and transitioned from shortstop to center field. Baseball Prospectus has a full scouting report on Hamilton (subscription required) as he reaches the bigs for the first time.
- The White Sox have brought up two of the organization's top prospects, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. In addition to well-regarded youngster Marcus Semien, the club has purchased the contract of righty Erik Johnson, who John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranks as the 76th-best prospect in the game. Though he missed the top-100 list of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Johnson did appear at the number two slot among White Sox prospects, with Mayo explaining that he has the repertoire to become a mid-rotation starter. The 23-year-old has an excellent 1.57 ERA over 57 1/3 innings since reaching Triple-A, where he maintains a 8.9 K/9 ratio against 3.0 BB/9.
Twins GM Terry Ryan says he has no qualms about blocking potential August trades by making waiver claims, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes (via Twitter). Ryan says he was surprised that Marlon Byrd -- who's having a strong season and makes a paltry $700K -- made it all the way through waivers until the Pirates claimed him. The Reds, for example, had waiver priority on the Pirates and might well have chosen to claim Byrd, both because Byrd would have cheaply improved their own team and also to prevent the rival Pirates from getting him. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Cardinals are the first big-league team that will have to figure out how to stop Billy Hamilton of the Reds, Max Schmetzer of MLB.com writes. Of course, that means that the basestealing phenom will have to battle against Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. "We have film on [Hamilton]," says Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "We're not going to ask the pitchers to be quicker on him or the catchers to throw quicker." Before the season, Hamilton was ranked the No. 20 prospect in baseball by Baseball America and No. 30 by ESPN's Keith Law. Even in a disappointing 2013 season, Hamilton managed to swipe 75 bases for Triple-A Louisville.
- Reliever Michael Blazek spent several days in "limbo" before being shipped from the Cardinals to the Brewers in the John Axford deal, Adam McCalvy and Kevin Massoth of MLB.com write. The Cards technically optioned Blazek to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday, but he was actually just waiting in his hotel in St. Louis, presumably to be called up when rosters expanded on Sunday. Instead, in his third day away from the team, he learned he was headed to Milwaukee.
- Daniel Bard was recently designated for assignment by the Red Sox, but claiming him on waivers could be a tricky proposition, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. That's because the claiming team would have to decide by early December whether to take Bard to arbitration, where he would receive a minimum of about $1.5MM next year. That might be a lot to pay a player who appears to be nowhere near the pitcher he was in 2009 through 2011, when he was a solid relief option.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
We're just past the halfway mark of the 2013 Major League Baseball season and well past the midway point of the Minor League Baseball season. While taking stock of the top prospects from around baseball, a number of names appear in the "disappointment column," which is not surprising given the general volatility of young players. Below, we take a look at some of the prospects having disappointing seasons, as well as some educated guesses as to what might be ailing them.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox: Barnes' season hasn't been as bad as some of the other players on this list but it's still been a disappointing 2013 for the right-handed hurler. The former first-round pick was expected to zoom through the minor leagues and possibly even help the big league club this season, but he currently has a 5.32 ERA with 78 hits allowed in 67 2/3 innings at the Double-A level. As the Boston Globe's Julian Benbow explained, Barnes has been working on fleshing out his secondary pitches this season so he doesn't have to rely so heavily on his low-to-mid-90s fastball.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians: Bauer is the perfect example of the volatility of prospects. Selected third overall in the 2011 amateur draft, the right-hander out of UCLA dominated competition during his first taste of pro ball but the wheels fell off the wagon towards the end of 2012. Bauer's issues -- both on and off the field -- lead to an offseason trade and continued into 2013. His results at Triple-A have been less than ideal. After his most recent disastrous big league start, the young pitcher was returned to the minors and -- according to a piece by Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal -- he may focus on pitching exclusively from the stretch as a starter.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels: Los Angeles doesn't have a very deep minor league system whatsoever so when their top prospects stumble, it hurts them more than most organizations. The young third baseman is hitting just .215/.280/.309 at Double-A this season and some adjustments he made during the springtime could be to blame for his slow start. As Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com explained, the switch-hitting Cowart quieted his stance and eliminated the leg kick from the left side of the plate. He's still hitting just .198/.261/.275 versus right-handed pitching so clearly there are more wrinkles to iron out.
David Dahl, OF, Rockies: Like Bauer, Dahl's value is down as a result of well-documented off-the-field actions and maturity concerns. But those aren't the only things that have gone wrong for the outfielder in 2013. In early May, Dahl suffered what was expected to be a pulled hamstring while running the bases. About a week later, though, the prospect revealed on Twitter that his hamstring had been torn and was much more serious than first reported. That halted his season after 10 games (He got off to a late start because of the maturity issues mentioned above) and he hasn't appeared in a game since that time. His timetable for a return to the game is still up in the air.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds: Hamilton, 22, hasn't had a terrible year but he has yet to build off of the momentum he created last season when he hit .323/.413/.439 in High-A ball and stole 155 bases between two minor league clubs. Promoted to Triple-A to begin 2013 after spending just 50 games at the Double-A level, the speedy Hamilton has struggled to find his footing at the plate. On the plus side, the shortstop-turned-outfielder has nabbed 50 bases in just 80 games. His stolen base total could become much higher once he improves upon his .300 on-base percentage.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox: Hawkins has experienced a lot of struggles in his first full professional season. After hitting a combined .284 between three levels during last season's debut, he's batting just .191/.273/.485 with 95 strikeouts in 55 games during 2013. Scott Merkin of MLB.com talked to Hawkins regarding the learning curve he's experienced in High-A ball and how he plans to come out ahead.
Bubba Starling, OF, Royals: Starling opened 2013 with huge expectations surrounding him, but he hit just .195/.263/.379 with a massive strikeout rate in April. As Danny Wild of MiLB.com explained, things got so bad that Starling was sent to have his eyes examined for possible LASIK surgery in May -- similar to what the Rangers did with third base prospect Mike Olt. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com later updated the story to report that the outfield prospect underwent the procedure on May 16. In June, after the eye surgery, Starling improved to hit .250/.327/.369 for the month, but he continued to strike out at a similar rate. He also hit jut one home run in 24 games. Clearly, there is more work to be done.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals: During the first three months of the year, Zimmer posted an ERA of more than 5.00 despite showing the same strong repertoire that caused him to be chosen fifth overall during the 2012 amateur draft. Thankfully, the right-hander may have finally turned a corner in July. He's posted a 2.77 ERA with no walks and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings. On the season, he's now whiffed 103 batters in 84 2/3 innings of work. Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com spoke to Zimmer, who stated that he's finally becoming comfortable with his pitching mechanics, which is in turn allowing him to provide more consistent command.
A number of prospects have also suffered significant loss in value due to serious injuries. The list of walking wounded include: Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles; Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets; Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners; Casey Kelly, RHP, Padres; Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays; and Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Cubs.
Chris Corrigan of the High-A ball Palm Beach Cardinals made history tonight by throwing a perfect game in his start against the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Corrigan, 24, was a 30th-round selection for the Cardinals in the 2009 amateur draft and carried a career 4.04 ERA in 102 minor league games (25 starts) entering tonight. Corrigan's gem was the first minor league perfect game since Jeanmar Gomez threw a perfecto for Double-A Akron in 2009. As for the Stone Crabs, they're an affiliate of (who else?) the Rays, who have been perfecto'd three times in the last four years at the Major League level.
Some news and notes from around the baseball world...
- “Every team needs a guy like [Nick] Swisher,” an AL executive tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. “You watch him play every day and you can see how much he cares. I wish every player cared that much.” Feinsand suggests that the Yankees could re-sign Swisher and move Brett Gardner to center field, thus creating room to trade the more expensive Curtis Granderson. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently looked at Swisher's free agent stock.
- Chase Utley took some groundballs at third base before today's game and he told reporters (including MLB.com's Todd Zolecki) that he had approached the Phillies about getting some reps at third in order to "create some more flexibility as far as the organization is concerned." Utley spent a season playing third in 2002 in Triple-A before but hasn't played at the hot corner since.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. commented on Utley's trial, noting that "in a perfect scenario," Utley could hold down third base until prospect Cody Asche is ready, theoretically for the 2014 season. Amaro cautioned reporters (including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer) that it's hypothetical since Asche has yet to play above Double-A.
- Billy Hamilton will "probably not" be called up for September, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Jocketty noted that the decision wasn't finalized yet, however, and that he was going to watch Hamilton play in person this weekend.
- Mets outfielder Scott Hairston believes the Diamondbacks claimed him off waivers, he tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link). The Giants were known to be interested in outfield help and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports speculated earlier this month that the D'Backs would likely try to block Hairston or Juan Pierre from getting to their NL West rivals. Rosenthal also reported that the team that claimed Hairston did so as a blocking maneuver.
- Roger Clemens is planning to start again for the Sugar Land Skeeters on September 7, according to a text the pitcher sent Mark Berman, sports director of FOX 26 KRIV (Twitter link). Clemens, 50, threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his first start with the Skeeters on August 25.
- Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston suggests a few moves the Red Sox should make this offseason, including re-signing David Ortiz and Cody Ross and trying to add Justin Upton and a top-tier starting pitcher.
- Major League Baseball is investigating whether agents Sam and Seth Levinson arranged for former client Paul Lo Duca to meet with PED distributor Kirk Radomski, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Yesterday, Reds GM Walt Jocketty explained to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, "There are guys I will not trade. I will not give you names. But they’re are certainly guys I will not trade." Today Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has two of those prospects' names: catcher Devin Mesoraco, and shortstop Billy Hamilton (Twitter link).
Fay is under the reasonable belief that Aroldis Chapman is also off-limits. Would the Reds still have enough to pull off a deal for Ubaldo Jimenez? They could assemble an offer around prospects Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal, plus pitchers Homer Bailey and Travis Wood.