Astros prospect Alex Bregman, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 Draft, will be promoted from Double-A to Triple-A following this week’s Texas League All-Star Game, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (links to Twitter). Bregman played shortstop at LSU and has played 114 of his 125 career games at short, but he’s seen some work at third base recently (11 games) and is often mentioned as a speculative fit to help the ’Stros at the hot corner. The 22-year-old slashed an outstanding .297/.415/.559 with 14 homers, 16 doubles and a pair of triples in his quick run through Double-A, and it’s certainly reasonable to think he could make an impact on the Major League club in the near future. Houston third baseman have batted a paltry .219/.304/.389 this season.
- Astros pitching prospect David Paulino has been suspended by the club for an undisclosed period of time, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. “We’ve got rules and every once in a while rules are violated and we have to enforce them,” GM Jeff Luhnow said, though he noted that Paulino’s violation “wasn’t anything major” and the 22-year-old righty won’t be out of action for too long. Paulino, ranked on top-100 prospect lists by Baseball America (91st) and MLB.com (98th), has a 1.86 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 6.0 K/9 rate over 58 Double-A innings this season, with eight of his 13 appearances coming as a starter.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow hinted that Double-A shortstop/third baseman Alex Bregman could be on his way to Triple-A Fresno during the upcoming week, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez is also a candidate to receive a promotion to Fresno, per McTaggart. Bregman, the more notable of the two, has hit a phenomenal .295/.403/.555 with 14 home runs and 35 walks against 26 strikeouts in 269 plate appearances. The No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, Bregman could soon be a factor at third for the surging Astros – though Luis Valbuena’s production has risen substantially since a poor April. Hernandez, 23, has seen Double-A action since 2014 and is currently posting his best-ever numbers at that level, batting .302/.383/.434 with six homers and 29 steals across 306 trips to the plate with Corpus Christi.
News on a couple of Houston’s division rivals:
- Athletics right-hander Henderson Alvarez had a platelet-rich plasma injection for his throwing shoulder and will be shut down for three more weeks, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. He had the injection a week ago after an MRI showed no structural damage in his shoulder, per Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area (Twitter link). Alvarez missed most of 2015 because of shoulder troubles and the A’s signed the ex-Marlin in the offseason to a one-year, $4.25MM deal with the hope that he’d reestablish himself in their uniform, but it hasn’t been in the cards yet.
- After exiting in warmups Thursday with “general soreness,” Mariners righty Adrian Sampson will undergo season-ending surgery on his elbow, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. “This isn’t as bad (as Tommy John), but surgery is required,” Sampson, who underwent Tommy John surgery as a high schooler in 2009, told Dutton. “They’re saying it’s a Grade III, which is enough that they have to repair it with surgery. They’re saying I should be good by spring training.” The Mariners acquired Sampson from the Pirates last year for J.A. Happ, and he threw 80 1/3 innings of 3.25 ERA ball – with a 6.83 K/9 and 1.34 BB/9 – for Triple-A Tacoma this season. Sampson, 24, made his major league debut June 18 against the Red Sox, who teed off on him for four earned runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 frames.
- Injured lefty Wade Miley, whom Sampson replaced in the Mariners’ rotation, is close to returning from a sore shoulder, writes Greg Johns of MLB.com. “Pain free. I’m ready to rock and roll,” Miley said Friday after a 55-pitch rehab start for Class-A Everett. The Mariners will hope for better results from Miley when he comes back, as the 29-year-old ran up a 5.28 ERA – far above his career mark of 4.06 – in 76 2/3 innings prior to the injury.
The Astros have designated catcher Alfredo Gonzalez for assignment, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets. The move clears 40-man roster space for first baseman A.J. Reed, whose promotion is now official.
The 23-year-old Gonzalez earned a spot on the Astros’ 40-man with a .321/.409/.378 season split between three levels in 2015, and he has a reputation for having a good arm. He has little power, however, and has batted just .158/.236/.205 in 162 plate appearances at Double-A Corpus Christi this year. He appears to be a good bet to sneak through waivers.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t make clear whether or not his team has interest in Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel, but did say that the organization has taken a good look at him, as Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. “We’ve done our homework and we’re very well aware of the player and what we believe he’s capable of doing,” he said. It’s still anybody’s guess whether Houston will stick with its internal options at third base — including Luis Valbuena, utilityman Marwin Gonzalez, and prospects Colin Moran and Alex Bregman — or instead pursue outside help.
Here’s more from out west:
- The Giants are open to bringing back outfielder Angel Pagan on a short-term arrangement when his current contract is up after the season, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). That could change depending upon what the team does on the trade market, he adds. San Francisco has been rumored to be looking at outfielders, infielders, and both starters and relievers. Needless to say, it’s shaping up to be an interesting deadline for the NL West leaders.
- As for possible outfield additions, the Giants have put in a call to the Reds on Jay Bruce, Schulman reported earlier today, though it seems that the Cincinnati brass has yet to respond on the inquiry. He notes that the preference may well be for a right-handed bat, but with good options potentially scarce the club won’t rule out a left-handed hitter.
- Young Dodgers righty Frankie Montas has been diagnosed with a broken rib, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). He already had rib issues earlier in the year, and Rosenthal suggests the new problem is related. The highly-regarded prospect had been set to receive a big league call-up before the injury cropped up, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times tweets.
- Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman discussed his club’s uneven start to the season with McCullough. He says that the club still “feels good about where we are looking forward,” particularly given the need to weather some early injuries. Friedman suggested that the impressive stock of younger talent in the system could still be used to bolster the big league roster, though it remains unclear whether and when that’ll happen. “Our mindset since I’ve gotten here has been to focus on elite-level players,” Friedman explained. “That being said, we also had to focus on rounding our roster. With where our roster is, where our depth is, and with the quality of our upper-level prospects, it allows us to focus more intently on that.”
- Mariners outfield prospect Boog Powell has been hit with an eighty-game PED suspension, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns was among those to tweet. That’s obviously disappointing for a player who was generally regarded as one of the organization’s best upper-level youngsters. The 23-year-old was struggling at the plate at Triple-A this year, but has put up strong numbers over most of his minor league career. Powell was part of the deal that also brought Nate Karns to the M’s.
Reed, 23, is one of the game’s best-regarded first base prospects. A second round pick out of the University of Kentucky, he has steadily increased his stock with consistently excellent results as he’s climbed the ranks. He has reached base at a steady clip by combining a solid walk rate with a high-average bat that also delivers plenty of pop.
Things started slowly this year for Reed, who reached the Triple-A level for the first time. But he has turned it up of late and now owns a .261/.343/.495 batting line with ten long balls over 248 plate appearances. Reed doesn’t add value on the basepaths or with the glove, but MLB.com’s prospect team notes that his athleticism and big arm should help make him a sturdy option at first.
Entering the year, MLB.com rated Reed the 35th-best prospect in the game, while ESPN.com’s Keith Law placed him 44th. Baseball America, though, was even more optimistic, ranking him just outside the top ten. BA graded his hit tool at 60 and his power at 65, both well above average on the 20-80 scouting chart.
As Jason Martinez of MLBTR and MLBDepthCharts.com recently wrote in his “Knocking Down The Door” series, Reed could provide a boost to a streaking Astros club that has been trotting out utility infielder Marwin Gonzalez at first base. As useful as Gonzalez is, he doesn’t carry the kind of offensive upside that resides in Reed’s bat.
- The Rays have acquired outfielder Eury Perez from the Astros, per an announcement from Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate. Cash considerations will go back to Houston in the deal. Perez, 26, received a career-high 133 plate appearances last year with the Braves, slashing .269/.331/.303 and swiping three bags. The speedy center fielder does bring value with the glove and on the bases, though, so he is at least a useful depth piece. Tampa Bay has dealt with a variety of injuries at the major league level, and was obviously looking to fill out its roster at Durham and ensure that it has options on hand. Perez owns a .267/.298/.385 batting line with nine steals in his 146 plate appearances at Triple-A this year.
The Pirates have underperformed to this point in the season, but general manager Neal Huntington tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that he’s not entertaining the thought of parting with center fielder Andrew McCutchen or any of his other stars. “We hear the narrative,” said Huntington in reference to recent speculation about the possibility of putting McCutchen on the trade block. “We’re aware of the narrative. But it’s not on our radar.” Similarly, FanRag’s Jon Heyman spoke to an anonymous Pirates official about the possibility of a Gerrit Cole trade and was met with a definitive reply of, “No!! Zero chance.” A recent report indicated that the Red Sox inquired on Cole and Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but a rival GM told Heyman that such scenarios are “pipe dreams” and nothing more.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Heyman also spoke to execs from teams that have engaged (or attempted to engage) the Cubs in trade talks and was told that Chicago has shown “no interest” in trading Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras or Javier Baez. One opposing exec said that the Cubs are only open to moving their second-tier prospects, though a different GM opined to Heyman that the Cubs’ second tier of prospects should be rich enough to fill the bulk of their needs on the summer trade market. GMs around the league believe that Albert Almora is more or less off limits as well, Heyman writes, though the belief is that shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres isn’t in that same “untouchable” category.
- The sentencing of former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for his crimes in the breach of the Astros’ proprietary computer network has been pushed back for a third time, reports the Houston Chronicle’s David Barron (via Twitter). The new date for Correa’s sentencing is now July 18. The sentencing had already been pushed to June 6 and then July 5 prior to today’s news. Correa plead guilty to five of the 12 charges filed against him for unauthorized access to a private computer, each of which is punishable by up to five years in a prison and a fine of $250K.
- The Brewers are moving toward an agreement with first-rounder Corey Ray, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. An agreement isn’t yet in place, though one could be as soon as Friday afternoon. Ray’s bonus is expected to land between $4MM and his slot value of $4.382MM, according to McCalvy’s source. Ray, selected fifth overall by the Brewers in the draft, chatted with MLBTR’s Chuck Wasserstrom in a Q&A prior to the draft.
The White Sox have claimed righty Juan Minaya off waivers from the Astros, Chicago announced. He had been designated for assignment last Tuesday.
[Related: Updated White Sox Depth Chart]
The 25-year-old Minaya hasn’t yet reached the majors, and won’t do so immediately for the White Sox — who optioned him to Triple-A. He has scuffled a bit at that level this year, with a 3.91 ERA over 25 1/3 innings, but turned in a strong season at the highest level of the minors in 2015. In 54 2/3 frames last season, Minaya worked to a 2.80 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.
The Astros have announced the signing of first-round draft choice Forrest Whitley, via MLB.com. He’ll receive a $3.148MM bonus, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). Whitley was taken 17th overall, which came with a $2,504,200 slot allocation.
A high school righty hailing from Texas, Whitley was a consensus top-twenty prospect entering the draft. MLB.com had him highest on its board, ranking him 12th on the basis of his outstanding results in a competitive environment and promising set of pitches. The towering hurler brings a mid-nineties fastball, power curve, and improving change-up.
ESPN.com ranked Whitley the 13th-best draft prospect available, while Baseball America was also quite bullish on his outlook in placing him 18th. None of the outlets really expressed any concerns, though the ESPN.com team suggested that there’s less to dream on than may be the case for other top young arms. As they put it, Whitley has “a fourth starter’s arsenal and a workhorse build,” but “there’s no projection here and Whitley has some stiffness and effort to his delivery.”
After several years worth of drafts in which the club was among the first in line and carried deep draft pockets, Houston fell back in the order due to its successful 2015 season. The resultant maneuvering was certainly less interesting as a result, as the team has thus far agreed to at-slot deals with second-rounder Ronnie Dawson and third-round pick Jake Rogers, but the organization also managed to avoid intrigue this time around. None of the team’s other reported signings have skewed too dramatically from the mean, though the ’Stros managed to stash some savings in order to add to the pile of cash headed Whitley’s way.