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Francisco Lindor Rumors
Miguel Cabrera spoke with MLB.com’s Jason Beck about what has been perhaps his most difficult season as a member of the Tigers. Despite great personal success — Cabrera is hitting .335/.438/.540 even after 20 straight hitless at-bats — Cabrera hasn’t experienced a losing season since his first as a Tiger in 2008. The two-time AL MVP told Beck that had everyone been healthy from Opening Day, he feels the talent was there to make a postseason run, but injuries led to the tough decisions to have to trade David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria. Those same injuries (to himself, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and others) led Cabrera to defend manager Brad Ausmus. “…[I]t’s not his fault,” said Cabrera. “…Why do people say you’ve got to fire him? … I always say, man, if we’re healthy, we can push harder. But this year, we got a lot of key players out for one month, two months. With that, there’s no way you’re going to win, because we need everybody here. It’s not about one player.”
More from the AL Central to kick off Friday morning…
- On a similar note, White Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera praised skipper Robin Ventura when speaking to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “I found what I expected here,” said Cabrera, who has enjoyed his first season in spite of the team’s losing record. “I think that Robin is a great manager. I like to play for him. We have the core players that we can compete in the future.” Cabrera and Ventura both spoke about the slow starts for a number of White Sox players (Cabrera included) and the difficulty in overcoming the early hole dug by those struggles. Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Alexei Ramirez and Adam LaRoche all struggled a great deal early on. Eaton came to life in early May, whereas Cabrera turned it on in June and Ramirez has been hitting quite well since July 1. LaRoche, on the other hand, has seen his struggles continue all season.
- Did the Indians wait too long to promote Francisco Lindor this season? Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer examines the question from both sides, noting that there was a case to be made for Lindor to break camp with the club and one that says it made both business and baseball sense for the team to keep him in Triple-A until mid-June. The Indians gained an extra year of club control and likely prevented Lindor from reaching Super Two designation by keeping him at Triple-A until June 14, though as Hoynes notes, the four-game gap they’re facing in the Wild Card standings may well have been smaller with a full season of the potential Rookie of the Year winner. (From my vantage point — Lindor didn’t hit much at Triple-A in 2014 and started the 2015 season quite slowly in Triple-A as well. Had he come firing out of the gates, there would’ve been a definite case to bring him up late April, but he didn’t begin hitting until late May anyhow.)
- Even Twins GM Terry Ryan admitted to being surprised by just how impressive Miguel Sano has been at the plate since his promotion, he said in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link). Ryan noted that Sano looked “rusty” early in the season in his first action back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for all of 2014. “He really struggled in the first month of April down there, and his at-bats were not good,” said Ryan. “…When he came up here in July, he was putting tremendous, quality, professional at-bats together. He wasn’t chasing, and when he got a strike, he did something with it. And he’s given us that power presence in the middle of the lineup that we desperately needed.”
- Host Todd Hollandsworth also asked Ryan about the progression of Aaron Hicks, noting that the Twins deserve some praise for sticking with the former first-round pick through his early struggles in his career. Said Ryan of Hicks: “He reminds me a lot of Torii Hunter back in the day, when Torii struggled through the system in the minor leagues and came up and went back a couple times, then finally solidified himself as a great player.” Hicks’ breakout hasn’t garnered the attention of Sano’s performance, but the 25-year-old is hitting .262/.323/.412 with 11 homers, 12 steals and strong outfield defense after a batting a woeful .201/.293/.314 from 2013-14.
The 21-year-old is widely viewed as a top 10 prospect. He’s ranked fourth by Baseball Prospectus, sixth by ESPN’s Kieth Law, and ninth by Baseball America. FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel is the sole guru to rank him outside the top 10 (14th). Lindor was the eighth overall pick of the 2011 Rule 4 draft.
The switch-hitter slashed .279/.346/.398 in 259 Triple-A plate appearances. Unlike other notable prospect promotions like Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Carlos Correa, or Byron Buxton, Lindor’s bat isn’t expected to be special in the near future (he could certainly develop). He’s viewed as a high contact, gap-to-gap hitter, but it’s his speed and defense that ooze potential.
The decision to promote the youngster is not surprising. The team recently demoted Jose Ramirez after he hit just .180/.247/.240. Cleveland would probably like to move Mike Aviles (.284/.344/.405) back into a reserve role. He’s viewed as a modest defensive liability at shortstop and can also be used to spell Giovanny Urshela and Jason Kipnis. Lindor should add stability to a sometimes shaky Indians defense.
Like the promotion of Buxton by the Twins earlier today, Lindor is unlikely to qualify as a Super Two. He’ll remain club controlled through 2021 at the very least. Lindor is reportedly battling some minor injuries. Expect the club to handle their top prospect carefully.
If the Super Two threshold was ever a factor keeping top Indians prospect Francisco Lindor out of the big leagues, it does not seem to be anymore, Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group writes. The threshold has likely passed, and teams have promoted top prospects like Carlos Correa and Joey Gallo in recent weeks, but Lindor remains with Triple-A Columbus. Lindor is hitting .279/.346/.398, including .400/.429/.600 in June. The Indians, meanwhile, have undergone upheaval at the shortstop position, with Mike Aviles replacing the struggling Jose Ramirez. Here are more quick notes from the Central divisions.
- David Price and the Cubs will be great fits for one another when Price becomes a free agent next winter, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago writes. Price’s former manager Joe Maddon is now in Chicago, and Price says he finds a young team like the Cubs appealing. “They have a lot of guys they can control for a long time,” he says. “It’s very similar to when I first came up in Tampa. Just a bunch of young guys out there having fun. That’s what it’s about. You have to be able to have fun. I don’t want to win and not have fun.”
- Cardinals starter Lance Lynn has headed to the disabled list with a forearm strain, and the team has promoted Tyler Lyons to take his place, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. GM John Mozeliak says Lynn should be able to return after the minimum 15 days, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “A little forearm strain, as it looks right now, should be a normal 15 days and make sure we get everything calmed down — make sure it’s not something that flares up as the year goes on and I don’t try to pitch through something and make it worse,” Lynn says. Lynn’s injury is, however, another blow to a franchise that also has Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and Jordan Walden on the disabled list.
In an interview with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (video link), Tigers ace David Price discussed his lasting connection with the Vanderbilt baseball program, the absence of Victor Martinez in his team’s lineup, his early picks for the AL Cy Young and, perhaps most interestingly to MLBTR readers, his upcoming free agency. Price says that free agency hasn’t been on his mind very often throughout the year to this point, as he tries to focus on the season at hand. Price adds that winning “takes precedent over everything else” when thinking about where he will play after 2015, but he feels the culture of the team will be important as well. “I want to have fun,” said Price. “There are some teams that are just a no-fun zone. I don’t care how much money I’m making. To me, I couldn’t imagine waking up and [not wanting to go to the field]. I couldn’t handle that. I’ll quit before that happens.” The 2012 Cy Young winner also reiterated that he wants a chance to win both immediately and long-term.
More from the AL Central…
- Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com looks at the Indians’ recent decision to option Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez in favor of Zach Walters and Giovanny Urshela. Ramirez’s demotion was long overdue, says Meisel, but a lack of alternatives in the Majors delayed the decision. Meisel notes that the clock is ticking on a promotion for top prospect Francisco Lindor, and he also wonders if Chisenhall might’ve “burned through his last chance” with the Indians after another demotion.
- Via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link), Indians GM Chris Antonetti said that Lindor was, in fact, a consideration to join the big league roster. However, Lindor has been bothered by some minor hand and core issues and is not currently at 100 percent. As Meisel noted in his piece, Lindor is slashing .295/.363/.446 over the past month after a slow start, so it’s fair to wonder just how much longer it will be before the consensus Top 10 prospect joins Cleveland’s big league roster. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that he gets the sense that the team wants to see Lindor consistently perform at the Triple-A level before a promotion.
- The Twins have optioned struggling shortstop Danny Santana to Triple-A Rochester and recalled DH Kennys Vargas in his place. Both switch-hitters were in Minnesota’s Opening Day lineup, but each endured struggles. Santana received a longer leash than Vargas, who was optioned in early May, but the team seems to have run out of patience for the time being. Santana batted just .218/.235/.291 just one year after hitting .319/.353/.472 as a rookie. He’ll work on rediscovering his stroke and also cutting down on the errors at shortstop, but I’d imagine that with Jorge Polanco performing well at Double-A and being a more well-regarded defender, there’s a chance that Polanco could leapfrog Santana. As for Vargas, the hulking slugger hit .308/.403/.519 with three homers in 16 Triple-A games. He should get another chance to hold down Minnesota’s DH spot for the duration of the season. However, Twins DHs are hitting just .249/.308/.328, so if Vargas struggles, that may be an area they consider short-term upgrades this summer. In fact, I could envision the Twins looking for help at either of those positions in July, if they hang in near the top of the division.
When Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that the Indians had demoted Jose Ramirez earlier today, there was immediate speculation that the Tribe might call up top prospect Francisco Lindor. Instead, Zach Walters and Giovanny Urshela will join the Cleveland roster while Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall have been optioned to Triple-A, the Indians officially announced. Lindor, a consensus top-nine prospect in baseball, is hitting .269/.342/.393 over 231 Triple-A plate appearances this season. The Tribe might feel he needs a bit more seasoning, though many pundits feel it’s just a matter of time before Lindor is at Progressive Field. Here’s some more from around the majors…
- The Pirates‘ offseason signings have already proven to be a bargain, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. A.J. Burnett, Francisco Cervelli, Jung Ho Kang and Francisco Liriano will earn $28.5MM this season, and the quartet had already combined for 5.3 WAR over the Bucs’ first 54 games. Under the general estimate that one WAR costs $7MM, the four Pirates have provided $37.1MM of value with two-thirds of the season still left to play.
- In another piece from Sawchik, he notes that Corey Hart‘s roster spot seems tenuous since the veteran is receiving so little playing time. Hart has just 42 plate appearances this season, in part because the Pirates have faced surprisingly few left-handed opposing starters but also because of Hart’s struggles at the plate over the last two seasons.
- Since taking Mark Teixeira fifth overall in 2001, the Rangers have had very little luck with their first round picks, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes (though Texas was able to trade some of those prospects for meaningful stars like Cliff Lee). This trend could be changing, however, now that Chi Chi Gonzalez and Joey Gallo are in the bigs and playing well early in their young careers.
- It’s time for the Reds to begin a rebuild, Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines. While club owner Bob Castellini is very competitive and is loath to move on from this generation of Reds stars, Daugherty notes that with a thin minor league system, Cincinnati needs to reload on young talent sooner rather than later.
Here’s the latest from around the league.
- The Indians aren’t likely to option Jose Ramirez or call up Francisco Lindor, writes Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. As Hoynes puts it, Ramirez often does something to help the team win despite a .184/.252/.245 slash. The club would like to see more from Lindor before considering a promotion. He’s currently hitting .265/.341/.383 at Triple-A. Mike Aviles is stretched thin covering for both Ramirez and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. The team could promote utility infield Zach Walters, but there’s no guarantee he would be an upgrade. As such, Ramirez will probably continue to play with regularity.
- Astros top prospect Carlos Correa could be promoted as soon as their upcoming series against the White Sox, writes Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. Manager A.J. Hinch spoke with reporters about the importance of being mentally and physically prepared for the majors. With Jed Lowrie sidelined, the club has turned to a combination of Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar. The pair have not performed well. Given Houston’s place atop the AL West, there is some pressure to summon Correa. Since his promotion to Triple-A, he’s hitting a restrained .253/.324/.429 in 102 plate appearances.
- The Astros have the highest bonus pool for the upcoming draft, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Houston can spend $17,289,200 because they have the second and fifth overall picks. GM Jeff Luhnow aims to have the “best yield” of any club. In the past, the Astros signed Correa to an under-slot contract in order to go over-slot for Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz. They attempted to do the same last year with Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix, but Aiken’s failed physical ruined that plan.
- The Mets have scrapped their six-man rotation, and Dillon Gee will move to the bullpen, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN. Gee is unhappy with the move. He believes he’ll have less value to the team and on the trade market as a reliever. He’s owed $5.3MM in 2015 and is club controlled through 2016. The club was using a six-man rotation to limit the workloads of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. New York may also promote Steven Matz at some point. He has a 1.94 ERA with 9.08 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9 in the hitter friendly PCL.
- The next few weeks will decide if the Reds are deadline sellers, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The team is currently 23-31 and seven games back from the second Wild Card slot. If the club continues to scuffle, players like Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jay Bruce could be shopped. Cueto and Leake are free agents at the end of the season.
The White Sox yesterday made the decision to option second baseman Micah Johnson to Triple-A, recalling fellow infielder Carlos Sanchez to fill his spot on the roster and on the diamond. The 22-year-old Sanchez hit .344/.368/.466 in 137 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, whereas Johnson slashed a mere .270/.333/.297 in the Majors. Johnson is the more highly regarded prospect of the two, but as MLB.com’s Scott Merkin writes, GM Rick Hahn said he considers the demotion a “minor setback on the path to what we believe will be a successful big league career.” Second base has been one of many weak spots for the White Sox this season — a subject that Jeff Todd and I discussed in running through a surprising AL Central division on the latest MLBTR Podcast.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Thoughts and prayers go out to Indians utility man Mike Aviles who, as Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel writes, learned last week that his four-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia. Manager Terry Francona said that it’s possible Aviles will join the team this weekend. However, he could also be placed on the restricted list, thereby allowing him to take as much time as he needs to be with his family. That move would allow the club to add another player to the 25-man roster in Aviles’ place. We at MLBTR wish Aviles and his family the best in an unfathomably difficult time.
- In a second article, Meisel breaks down the Indians‘ shortstop situation, noting that the team is in a difficult place. Cleveland had hoped that the issue of when to promote top prospect Francisco Lindor would be a challenge due to the strong play of Jose Ramirez. Instead, however, it’s a challenge because Ramirez is struggling so badly. As Meisel notes, the Indians almost certainly would like to keep Lindor in Triple-A until mid-to-late June in order to minimize the chance of him achieving Super Two status. However, the present roster is lacking alternatives. Aviles could replace him once he is ready to rejoin the roster, but the other primary alternative, Zach Walters has struggled quite a bit at the plate since being acquired by Cleveland.
- Tigers catcher Alex Avila is opting not to undergo surgery to repair the knee injury that has landed him on the disabled list, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. According to Avila, multiple doctors suggested that he could potentially use a rest and rehab program to avoid surgery and get back on the field sooner than the expected 4-6 weeks he’d have missed with arthroscopic surgery. Avila is on the disabled list with a “loose body” in his knee, but doctors now believe that the abnormality in his knee is not actually loose. “They’re not convinced that it’s a loose body,” said manager Brad Ausmus. “There’s something in there, but they’re not convinced that it’s loose.” Avila is due to hit free agency following the 2015 season.
Explaining his presence in Oakland during a tough stretch for his club, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington offered some words of general wisdom for the sometimes overly-eager interpretation of his movement outside of Boston. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Cherington says that he flew out to join the team as part of a previously-planned, monthly effort. “If something is going I need to be there for I’ll go,” said Cherington, “but 99 percent of the time it’s just what is scheduled. As GM, I don’t remember ever being with the team on the road where it just hasn’t been part of the schedule.” The same, often, holds true of top execs being present to see amateur talent. “Somebody will make a deal of me being somewhere to see an amateur player. It’s almost never about seeing that player, but rather that’s the opportunity to go spend some time with your scouts and connect with them,” Cherington explaned. “I’m not sitting in the draft room and saying, ‘I saw this guy on May 13 and this is what he did.’ I’m just not doing that.” Of course, the Kremlinologists among us will note that Cherington’s words provide perfect cover for more surreptitious missions.
- Royals righty Joe Blanton has an opt-out opportunity tomorrow, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. Kansas City hopes to keep Blanton, with Flanagan writing that the expectation is the veteran will be “patient” in assessing his options. Certainly, given the state of the K.C. rotation, Blanton can reasonably expect to earn a shot at some big league innings at some point this year. The Royals staff is just one of many subjects touched upon by Steve Adams and myself in today’s AL Central-centric podcast (check back at about noon central for that).
- The “timing isn’t now” for Francisco Lindor to reach the Indians roster, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter links). That assessment is “not at all” due to an effort to avoid Super Two status, says Antonetti. Instead, the club believes that Lindor — who has not forced his way up with his play at Triple-A — simply needs more time. Cleveland is hurting for production at shortstop at present, though it is not clear that Lindor would be an immediate upgrade over the scuffling Jose Ramirez.
- Last night, Huston Street inked a two-year, $18MM extension with the Angels. As MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter, Street was motivated in part by a desire to play for a competitor. “It’s multiple years where I have a chance to really matter,” he explained. On the financial side of the ledger, my own opinion is that Street could and would have earned more on the open market — which is generally the case, of course, but is especially true given the somewhat less top-loaded relief market expected next winter. Then again, the decision to pass on some future earning opportunity to lock down a guarantee in a situation he favors is eminently understandable; such is the tradeoff that must be made to avoid the risk of a full season’s workload, especially for a low-velocity reliever.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law ranked the top 25 big leaguers (non-rookies) who have yet to begin playing their age-25 season (Insider piece). I won’t bore you with the obvious top choice, and many of the names are obviously to be expected. Only one pitcher (Gerrit Cole) made it into Law’s top ten, though plenty more appear further down the line. Perhaps the most interesting slot is #6, which features the increasingly hard-to-ignore Nolan Arenado.
Which of the next crop of prospects will similarly make that leap from tearing up the minors to producing at the big league level? That remains to be seen, of course, but some may soon get a chance to begin proving themselves. Here’s the latest on promotion timelines for some of the game’s top prospects:
- The Indians are happy with how young shortstop Francisco Lindor has progressed at Triple-A but are not planning to be aggressive with moving him up, T.J. Zuppe of 92.3 The Fan reported recently. GM Chris Antonetti says that Lindor’s timeline “hasn’t changed from what we talked about in Spring Training,” and also noted that the club still believes in Jose Ramirez. MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince recently advocated for a move up for Lindor, citing the struggles of Ramirez and the club as a whole, but it should be remembered that he is just 21 years old and has yet to dominate (offensively, anyway) at any minor league level.
- Another highly-touted shortstop, Carlos Correa of the Astros, now has a clear path to the big leagues after a significant injury to major league starter Jed Lowrie. But as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports, the 20-year-old’s incredible start at Double-A is probably not enough to force a promotion at this point. Things may have been different had Correa not missed significant time last season with a broken leg, but GM Jeff Luhnow indicated that the club does not want to rush him through the upper minors. “He’s definitely a special player, so his time will come faster than it would for other guys,” said Luhnow. “But having —he’s got 70 at-bats above Class A, and we feel like he needs some more. But how many more, I don’t know. And it’ll be a different number for him than it would be for someone else.”
- We’ve heard recently that the Phillies are in no rush to move up top prospect Maikel Franco. But the team just began working out incumbent third baseman Cody Asche in the outfield, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports, which could be an indication that preparations are being made for Franco to slot in at the hot corner. The 22-year-old had a rough introduction to the big leagues last year — which not only showed the need for further development, but means that a promotion before May 15 (per Salisbury’s calculation) would cost the club a season of control. Franco is off to a strong .333/.371/.512 start in his first 89 plate appearances at Triple-A this year.
Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would like to manage in the Major Leagues again and has hired agent John Boggs to represent him, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Gardenhire told Rosenthal that he isn’t actively pursuing anything because he has too much respect for MLB’s current 30 managers to campaign for something specific, but he’ll listen “to just about anything.” Rosenthal speculates that the Marlins and Brewers may eventually be looking for new skippers, though he adds that Mike Redmond took some pressure off himself in Miami with a pair of convincing wins over the Phillies. As for the Brewers, Rosenthal hears that they won’t act on manager Ron Roenicke anytime soon.
A few notes from Gardenhire’s former division, where the Twins are off to a 6-9 start under new manager Paul Molitor…
- Questions on the Tigers‘ bullpen were the common theme throughout MLive.com’s Chris Iott’s latest Twitter Talk column. Iott fielded questions on Rafael Soriano, noting that he finds a signing doubtful, and he also noted that trading a prospect such as Dixon Machado seems unlikely to happen early in the season. Yesterday, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd looked at ways in which the Tigers could address the ‘pen, and 38 percent of MLBTR readers weighed in saying that Detroit needs to add a quality late-inning reliever ASAP.
- Joe Nathan‘s tenure with the Tigers just never clicked, Tom Gage writes for FOX Sports Detroit. Money does tend to complicate things, of course, and that was surely true in this case. Unfortunately, Nathan will never have a chance to atone for a sub-par 2014 on the hill in Detroit.
- MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian expects the Indians to deploy Jose Ramirez at shortstop for most, if not all of the season’s first half while Francisco Lindor develops, he writes in his latest Inbox column. Bastian points out that Lindor has gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A, which doesn’t help his case for a call-up, in spite of Ramirez’s offensive woes. Bastian also looks at the upcoming roster crunch when Nick Swisher will be activated from the DL. Cleveland plans to use Swisher in right field and at DH, but not at first base. The club already has a number of similar options on the roster in the form of David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Jerry Sands. The latter of those three options strikes me as the likeliest to go, though Sands has hit well in his limited time with the club (thanks to being shielded from right-handed pitchers in a platoon role).