Delino DeShields Jr. Rumors

AL Notes: Navarro, Doolittle, DeShields

Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro is starting a rehab assignment at Triple-A Buffalo, John Lott of the National Post reports on Twitter. The club will have some roster decisions to make when he’s ready to return, particularly with Jose Bautista still limited to DH duties. Navarro has long seemed like a trade candidate, of course, and he could be the most appealing available receiver now that Welington Castillo has changed hands.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • Today, the Athletics finally welcome back closer Sean Doolittle after a prolonged DL stint to open the year, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Doolittle says he is not concerned that he was only just able to crack 90 mph with his fastball, saying that he still believes that hitters are having trouble picking up the pitch. Of course, his velocity has been trending upward and he will have a long leash as he looks to regain his outstanding form from a year ago. Doolittle, whose return will be most welcome for a struggling A’s pen, is playing in the second year of the $10.5MM extension he inked early in the 2014 season.
  • Josh Hamilton‘s return to the Rangers will not move Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. out of the regular playing time rotation, manager Jeff Banister tells Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram“This is the first real challenge in the middle of a positive performance,” said Banister. “I’ve thought about that. We’re going to continue to have Delino engaged, as long as he’s playing well, in as many games was we can.” The 22-year-old has hit an impressive .278/.394/.392 over his first 94 big league plate appearances, adding 11 steals in the process. Banister rejected the idea of moving DeShields to second, at least at this point, indicating that the’ll likely share time in center with Leonys Martin while also spelling Hamilton and Shin-soo Choo in the corners. Regardless of when and how he plays, it seems that Texas has every intention of keeping DeShields on the active roster to secure his rights from the Astros for the future.

Roster Moves: Hernandez, Enright, Robinson, Uggla, Ciriaco, Stults, Petit

Here’s a roundup of some 40-man roster news as teams decide who will break camp for Opening Day….

  • The Diamondbacks have announced (via Twitter) that Archie Bradley, Gerald Laird, and Jordan Pacheco have made the roster. Bradley, a top prospect, will join the rotation. Laird will serve as the backup catcher while Pacheco will probably take on a super utility role that includes some catching.
  • The Astros have selected the contract of Roberto Hernandez, per the MLB transactions page. The right-handed sinker specialist has a 4.60 ERA in 1,264 innings. He split the 2014 season between the Phillies and Dodgers.
  • The Dodgers have released right-handed pitcher Barry Enright, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Enright is a veteran of four major league seasons, although he struggled at the top level. He owns a 5.57 ERA, 4.60 K/9, and 3.15 BB/9 in 148 innings.
  • The Nationals will select the contract of outfielder Clint Robinson, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Times. Robinson, 30, is a career minor leaguer with just 14 major league plate appearances. In 1,771 Triple-A plate appearances, he’s hit .303/.392/.494. Janes also notes that the club is almost certain to retain second baseman Dan Uggla. He’s one of just five healthy infielders with the club.
  • The Blue Jays have opted to roster eight relievers for the start of the season with Liam Hendriks making the cut, writes Sean Farrell of MLB.com. The righty appeared for the Jays and Royals last season. He has a career 5.92 ERA in 188 innings. Second baseman Ryan Goins was optioned in a corresponding move.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that utility man Pedro Ciriaco and pitcher Cody Martin will probably make the team. Ciriaco is a career .270/.299/.372 hitter over 498 plate appearances split over five seasons. The pair were added at the expense of outfielder Todd Cunningham and pitcher Michael Foltynewicz.
  • Also making the Atlanta roster is pitcher Eric Stults, writes Bowman. The soft-tossing lefty has a solid big league career with a 4.12 ERA, 5.69 K/9, and 2.53 BB/9. His best season came with the Padres in 2013 when he pitched 203 innings with a 3.93 ERA.
  • The Yankees have selected the contract of infielder Gregorio Petit, reports Chad Jennings of LoHud. Petit, 30, is a career .278/.301/.391 hitter in 156 plate appearances.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels says Anthony Bass will travel with the club to Oakland, reports Stefan Stevenson (via Twitter). He’ll make the team barring a last minute acquisition. The 27-year-old reliever struggled with the Astros last season. In 27 innings, he allowed a 6.33 ERA with 2.33 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9.
  • The Phillies have selected the contracts of right-handed reliever Jeanmar Gomez and left-handed reliever Cesar Jimenez, the team announced on Twitter. Gomez owns a career 4.41 ERA with 5.23 K/9 and 3.14 BB/9. He pitched well this spring in 12 and two-thirds innings, allowing a 0.71 ERA with nine strikeouts and one walk. Jimenez is familiar with the Phillies as he’s bounced between Philadelphia and Triple-A over the past two seasons. In 81 innings, he has a career 4.32 ERA with 6.09 K/9 and 3.09 BB/9.

(more…)


Rule 5 Update: J.R. Graham, Delino DeShields

Earlier today the Braves claimed Rule 5 left-hander Andrew McKirahan off waivers from the Marlins — the second Rule 5 player to be claimed off waivers in the past week (the Padres also claimed Rule 5 righty Jandel Gustave of waivers from the Royals). As teams are setting their 25-man rosters, here are the most recent updates on the players selected in this year’s Rule 5 Draft

  • Right-hander J.R. Graham, selected by the Twins out of the Braves organization, has made Minnesota’s 25-man roster, according to Twins director of baseball communications Dustin Morse (on Twitter). The 25-year-old Graham rated as one of the game’s Top 100 prospects two offseasons ago, per Baseball America (No. 93) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 63) but has been slowed by injuries in recent years. This spring with the Twins, he allowed just three runs in 12 2/3 innings, though he also recorded a rather unsightly 7-to-6 K/BB ratio.
  • Second baseman/outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. has beaten out Carlos Peguero for a spot on the Rangers‘ 25-man roster, tweets Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. DeShields is currently 1-for-3 in today’s game, having boosted his average to .268. DeShields, the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft, spent last season with the Astros’ Double-A affiliate, batting .236/.346/.360 with 54 steals. The speedster swiped an incredible 101 bases in 135 games across two Class-A levels in 2012. MLB.com rated DeShields as the game’s No. 66 prospect as recently as last offseason.


West Notes: DeShields, Aiken, Lopez

Here are some notes out of the game’s western divisions:

  • Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. appears to have a place on the Rangers roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Taken from the Astros this winter, DeShields could be a force on the basepaths and would otherwise represent a backup center field and second base option.
  • The AstrosBrady Aiken fallout remains too clouded in uncertainty for final judgment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. While Aiken’s Tommy John procedure has led some to claim that Houston was justified in seeking to drop the price tag on the first overall pick last year, Drellich explains that it is more complicated than just looking at that result. There’s a lot of ground covered in the article, and it is worth a full read for those interested in understanding this complicated situation.
  • New Diamondbacks righty Yoan Lopez has shown steady improvement in spite of an unsightly ERA in his first professional action, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Rival scouts have raised some questions about his upside, but D’backs pitching coach Mike Harkey says that he fully expects the 22-year-old to become “a really good pitcher.” Lopez has not brought quite the level of velocity that led the team to sign him, but manager Chip Hale explains that velo isn’t everything: “I think the fastball hasn’t been quite the velocity that we thought, but 92 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can make it move and control it, spot it,” said Hale. “The electricity has been in the breaking ball, especially, and the change-up. But I think we do expect a little tick up in the velocity eventually.”

AL West Notes: Angels, Rangers, DeShields, Montero

The Angels employ a young quartet of analysts in their baseball operations department, and the four young executives took some time to talk about the work they do with the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura. Jeremy Zoll, Jonathan Strangio, Nate Horowitz and Mike LaCassa (whose ages range from 24 to 28) discuss their efforts, which include seeing if trends translate from college to minor league ball and grouping players by swing path and testing splits for trends. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Moura as well regarding the team’s increased usage of information: “As we’ve organized and analyzed numbers better, it’s helped us, primarily on the defensive front. It’s also helped with some lineup issues or determinations. I think our decisiveness was noticeable last year.” GM Jerry Dipoto said that each of Zoll, Strangio, Horowitz and LaCassa is future GM material and offered high praise for his young lieutenants.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • New Rangers special assistant Michael Young sat down with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss his new role with the team. Among the topics they discussed were Young’s involvement in the hiring of manager Jeff Banister — Young particularly praised Banister’s communication prowess — and the problems with the 2014 club. Young said that in addition to injuries, the Rangers lacked leadership with their best players out, which sometimes led to a poor collective approach to the daily grind of a 162-game season.
  • In a piece for Baseball America, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Jeff Wilson writes that Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. will be given an opportunity to make the Rangers‘ Opening Day roster as a backup center field option. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that he likes “the combination of now and the future” with DeShields, whom he can envision getting some time in left field in addition to backing up Leonys Martin. DeShields’ work ethic has been questioned in the past, but Wilson writes that the Rangers feel the environment fostered by Banister will help turn that around.
  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters today, including the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton, that he isn’t concerned about adding a backup first baseman to serve as a safety net in the event that Logan Morrison is again injured in 2015. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not. That’s going to be up to him, and we’ll see what happens.” Dutton also mentions Brad Miller as a backup possibility at first, although Zduriencik didn’t list Miller specifically.

Rule 5 Rumors: Mets, Verrett, D’Backs, Pena

The Rule 5 draft goes down tomorrow and we’ll keep track of the latest rumblings here..

  • The Blue Jays are unlikely to pick anyone in the Rule 5 draft and are worried about losing two or three of their guys, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (on Twitter).
  • Some names being talked about in advance of the Rule 5 draft are Jarlin Garcia of the Marlins, Carlos Melo of the Indians, and J.R. Graham of the Braves, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com (via Twitter).
  • The industry expectation is that the Mets will lose right-hander Logan Verrett in tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).  Clubs see Verrett working as a back end starter or a seventh-inning reliever.
  • There’s talk that the Diamondbacks might select Astros catcher Roberto Pena with the top pick, according to Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter).
  • Meanwhile, Callis (Twitter link) says it’s very possible that someone will take a chance on Delino DeShields Jr. and pluck him from the Astros.  Yesterday, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, that he did not anticipate a team taking the former No. 8 overall pick.

Astros’ Trade Discussion Notes Leaked

4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:

“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs.  The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year.  The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions.  According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.

A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken.  At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control.  The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world.  The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes.  It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution.  Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.

The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.

  • On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.”  It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston.  That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining.  UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
  • Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors.  The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams.  Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
  • Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013.  The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline.  The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon.  For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates.  The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down.  In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
  • When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
    Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
  • “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives.  White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia.  Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits.  Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal.  In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
  • More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.

AL West Notes: DeShields, Mariners, Saunders

Over the weekend, the Astros locked up second baseman Jose Altuve to a low-risk four-year, $12.5MM extension that carries a pair of club options at $6MM and $6.5MM. All told, Altuve can be controlled through the 2019 season if the Astros choose, and those six years would cost a total of $25MM. Here's more out of the AL West…

  • In light of Altuve's extension, Brian T. Smith and Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle note that a position change is a possibility for top prospect Delino DeShields Jr., whose path to the Majors as a second baseman is now blocked. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields is hitting .290/.388/.399 with 30 steals in 71 games this season at high Class A. Last season, he swiped 101 bases in 135 games. General manager Jeff Luhnow said for the time being, DeShields would finish the season as a second baseman.
  • The Rays are believed to have checked in on Mariners bats such as Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in the most recent edition of his Stock Watch column. He speculates that the Yankees and Rangers would also make sense as potential trade partners for Seattle.
  • From that same piece, Heyman adds that Joe Saunders is likely more available than either Morales or Ibanez. After a brutal start to the season, Saunders has a 2.37 ERA over his past nine starts. The Mariners are currently deciding when to begin a sale, says Heyman.

Prospect Rumor Roundup: Astros First Rounders

If not for the hapless Miami Marlins, the Astros would be in line for the worst record in baseball for the third straight season. Clearly, it's been a rough stretch for the Houston fan base. The good news is that a strong group of reinforcements is on the way to The Show. The fans will have to take a leap of faith while the high-ceiling, minor-league talent rises to the surface.

The last two-plus years of mediocrity in Houston have allowed the organization to receive the first overall draft picks in both 2012 and 2013. An astute group of talent evaluators and baseball minds in the scouting department has helped to ensure the organization not only made the most of its first overall selections, but also made some clever trades for young talent while shedding players that did not figure into the rebuilding vision.

General Manager Jeff Luhnow has worked to ensure the club is pointed in the right direction as it moves to recapture some of the organization's past successes. But, truth be told, the club's front office and scouting department began to find its footing in 2010 — almost two years before Luhnow was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals to replace ousted GM Ed Wade.

From 2000 to 2009 the Astros' drafting efforts bordered on brutal — especially when focusing on the club's first choice each season. Current Astros catcher Jason Castro (2008) stands out as the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary decade. It certainly didn't help that the club's free agent exploits cost the scouting department three first round selections (2003, 2004, 2007) and resulted in the selection of forgettable prospects such as Robert Stiehl, Derick Grigsby, and Max Sapp.

As mentioned above, the 2010 season began the major shift for the Astros and the past five first round draft picks are among the 10 best prospects in the system. Let's have a closer look at them:

2010 — Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Georgia HS: Reds prospect Billy Hamilton received a ton of hype last year for breaking the century mark in steals, but DeShields also swiped more than 100 bags in a much quieter fashion. It's been a slower go for the 20-year-old Astros prospect in 2013 as he's managed just 15 steals in 24 attempts. He's holding his own at the plate with a .280 batting average but has yet to have a true breakout to solidify himself as one of the top prospects in the game.

2010 — Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Illinois HS: Foltynewicz flew under the radar for a few seasons but the hype is starting to build — and it's easy to see why. The right-hander's velocity has crept up in the past year and he's been clocked as high as 98-100 mph in recent starts. Only 21, he opened the 2013 season in the offense-padding launching pad in Lancaster (High-A) and held his own before a promotion to Double-A in early May. Since that time, hitters have batted just .157 against him, and he has a 1.41 ERA in nine appearances. Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle recently took a look at Foltynewicz and highlighted both his talent and his drive to succeed. "Everybody knows what kind of power and strength he's got… But the encouraging part is since he's been here we're starting to get better down location, OK, and his breaking stuff and changeup (are) really coming along really nice… you won't find much better talent than he's got."

2011 — George Springer, CF, University of Connecticut: It took a couple of years but Springer has officially sprung. The young outfielder is tapping into his raw power on a more consistent basis (18 homers, .618 slugging percentage) while treading water with his contact rates. Springer still strikes out a lot (77 strikeouts in 61 games) but the tradeoff for the power output is worth it. He could be ready to patrol the outfield in Houston before the 2014 All-Star break. In another piece for the Chronicle, Smith featured Springer, and the prospect said he's not trying to put too much pressure on himself: "It's just kind of one of those things where I'm not too concerned about the results. I just try to go out and compete and play hard and develop as a player," Springer said. "It's one of those things where I was told to just let the results happen… For me, it's all about slowing myself down, having a lot of fun…"

2012 — Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico HS: One of the youngest hitters in A-ball at 18, Correa has started to heat up and has become more consistent while flashing the tools that caused him to go first overall in 2012. After hitting .221 in April, the young Puerto Rican's batting average is now up to .292, and he's walked 30 times in 50 games. Correa is still at least two years away from adding stability to the Astros' big league shortstop position but the wait could be well worth it. Brandon Simes of MiLB.com recently spoke to the young infielder and Correa gave his thoughts on what Mark Appel should look to do now that he's been drafted by the Astros. "Just focus on making the organization proud, keep working hard and try to get to the big leagues as fast as possible," Correa said. "I saw him getting called. I'm very excited to have him here with us in the organization. I'm looking forward to meeting him and being able to play together."

2013 — Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University:  Appel is not property of the Astros just yet — and something could still go terribly wrong — but there is a very good chance that the college senior will eventually come to terms with his hometown club. After turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates as the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft, the right-handed pitcher's gamble paid off as he has become an even better player, will earn a larger signing bonus, and appears ready to develop into one of the top pitching prospects in the game.

As the saying goes, things are always darkest before the dawn, and – if the minor league system is any indication – Houston fans are in for a bright future.


Astros Notes: Luhnow, DeShields Jr., Altuve

Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow wrote the club's season ticket holders this afternoon to encourage them to stay on board as they look to build for future seasons.  Houston is dead last in the standings but Luhnow pointed to the club's commitment to building through the draft, international free agents, and the trade market as evidence of better things to come.  More on the Astros..

  • While the Astros weren't expecting to contend this year, new owner Jim Crane told the Associated Press that he wasn't expecting the team to be struggling this much.  "We made a lot of trades and once we made that decision — Jeff started moving some of the talent — we knew we might slide back a little bit, but we didn’t think it would be this bad," Crane said.
  • Prospect Delino DeShields Jr. is on a path to reach the majors in the near future, but Luhnow says that the club isn't yet concerned about what to do with him and All-Star Jose Altuve, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.  "If we get to the point we have two guys up here and they're blocked, or one guy here and one guy [at Triple-A], maybe then you make an adjustment. That's how we're going to approach it," the GM explained.
  • The Astros' rebuilding project is a gift to the rest of the contending teams that are scheduled to face them in the coming weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Of the seven teams in the hunt for the Wild Card (including the division-leading Reds), five have games remaining against Houston.