There’s a chance Astros shortstop prospect Alex Bregman, the second pick in last year’s draft, will make his major league debut sometime this season. “I wouldn’t rule out him getting [to the Majors] this year, but we have to see how the rest of the season goes for him and if there’s an opening for him at the big leagues,” general manager Jeff Luhnow told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. If the ex-LSU standout does break in with the Astros this season, it’s unlikely to come at short, where the team already has young star Carlos Correa firmly entrenched. Given Correa’s presence, the Astros had Bregman play third base for the first time Friday with their Double-A team. “I feel like I’ll be very comfortable here really soon — really, really soon,” Bregman stated. Proficiency at the hot corner from the 22-year-old Bregman would bode well for the Astros, whose third basemen have hit a weak .221/.302/.358 this season.
- Astros righty Riley Ferrell, a third-round pick in last year’s draft, is likely to miss the rest of the season after undergoing a procedure to “repair an aneurysm in his throwing shoulder area,” GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters including Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. It’s expected that Ferrell will be ready to go for a full 2017, however, and this doesn’t appear to be the kind of traditional shoulder issue that would send up red flags. The 22-year-old had been off to a nice start to his career. He threw well at the Class A level last year and opened the current season with ten innings in which he allowed just two earned runs while racking up 14 strikeouts against a pair of walks.
Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around the majors:
- The Padres announced that they have placed second baseman Jemile Weeks on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain and recalled Jose Pirela. Prior to suffering the injury Saturday, Weeks collected 57 PAs and hit just .140/.204/.200. Pirela, also a second baseman, has slashed .306/.352/.447 at the Triple-A level in 2016. He was with the Padres earlier this season and appeared in four games, racking up five PAs and a double.
- Catcher Adam Moore, whom the Indians designated for assignment earlier this week, will stay in the organization after accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus, tweets Tribeinsider.
- The Astros reinstated catcher Max Stassi from the DL and optioned him to Triple-A Fresno, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle was among those to report (Twitter link). Prior to undergoing surgery on the hamate bone in his left wrist in mid-March, Stassi was expected to team with Jason Castro to form the Astros’ catching tandem. The club is now preparing Evan Gattis for a role behind the plate, however, lessening the need for Stassi – whom Baseball America ranked as Houston’s 19th-best prospect entering the season.
- The Cubs have activated right-hander Neil Ramirez from the bereavement list and optioned righty Spencer Patton to Triple-A Iowa, the team announced. Ramirez has amassed six innings of three-run ball this year (seven strikeouts, four walks), while Patton made his sole big league appearance of the year Saturday and faced two batters – one of whom walked, the other of whom doubled.
- The Athletics have optioned right-hander Jesse Hahn to Triple-A Nashville and recalled righty J.B. Wendelken, per a team announcement. Hahn threw 17 2/3 innings in the minors this year before the A’s recalled him at the end of last month. He made two starts with Oakland, allowing four earned runs in 12 innings while walking six and striking out four. Hahn had a rough start Saturday, surrendering eight hits, four earned runs and four walks in 5 1/3 innings of work in a loss to Baltimore. Wendelken, 23, is now in position to make his major league debut after racking up 315 2/3 innings in the minors, where he has posted a 4.08 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9.
- The Reds announced that they have sent outfielder Scott Schebler to Triple-A Louisville and recalled outfielder/first baseman Kyle Waldrop. Schebler’s demotion is the result of the Reds wanting to give him playing time, which he hadn’t been receiving enough of in the majors lately because of the success of left fielder Adam Duvall. Schebler hit just .188/.246/.344 with a home run in 69 plate appearances prior to his demotion. Waldrop, not to be confused with the former major league reliever of the same name, has hit .276/.322/.437 in 2,445 career minor league PAs. The 24-year-old got his first taste of big league action last season, though he accrued only one at-bat.
- Astros right-hander Lance McCullers could finally be nearing his 2016 major league debut, which has been delayed because of a shoulder injury. The flame-throwing 22-year-old logged five innings (64 pitches) in a Triple-A rehab start Saturday and struck out seven, according to Angel Verdejo Jr. of the Houston Chronicle. That might end up as McCullers’ only start at that level if his body responds well in the coming days, per Verdejo. McCullers’ return will be a significant development for the Astros, whose rotation – like the team itself – has regressed from one of the league’s best last year to among its worst this season.
The Astros have optioned Evan Gattis to Double-A, where he’ll get comfortable behind the plate, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports (links to Twitter). Houston has yet to utilize the 29-year-old as a catcher, but he broke into the league in that position. With the organization one of several struggling with receiving depth, it seems he’ll have a chance to don the tools of ignorance once again. Gattis, who’s off to a rough start at the plate (.213/.269/.328), says that he’s excited at the development. Kaplan suggests that Gattis is unlikely to spend more than the requisite ten days on optional assignment.
- The Twins got a first-hand look at Luke Gregerson as he closed out an Astros win over them last night, but Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Minnesota wasn’t far off from seeing quite a bit more of Gregerson. The right-hander tells Berardino that the Twins pursued him heavily as a free agent in the 2014-15 offseason prior to his signing with Houston. Gregerson, of course, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Minnesota’s offer, but he did tell Berardino that the Twins came “pretty close” to Houston’s offer of $18.5MM over a three-year term. The tipping point for Gregerson, it would seem, may have been Houston’s willingness to let him serve as the team’s closer, which he said made their offer “hard to pass up.” Said Gregerson: “I think if the situation was a little different, I think it would have definitely been able to work out. I’m happy where I ended up.”
We learned recently that free agent righty Tim Lincecum is preparing for a long-awaited showcase on Friday. Once one of the best pitchers in the game, Lincecum has been slowed by a variety of injury and performance issues more recently — including, particularly, hip surgery this past September — and is looking to show that he’s back to full health before signing.
Here’s the latest, with links to the Twitter account of MLB Network’s Jon Heyman unless otherwise noted:
- The showcase will be held at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants’ spring home, per Heyman. While Lincecum has availed himself of his long-time team’s facilities during his ramp-up, it shouldn’t be supposed that a return to San Francisco is particularly likely. As we’ve covered before, the Giants are said to be interested in Lincecum as a bullpen option, while he’s hoping to find a shot as a starter.
- This particular event was always going to draw more fanfare than a typical bullpen session for a free agent who hasn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2011, but it appears that it could be made into a bigger spectacle than anyone would have foreseen. ESPN may be on hand to broadcast the outing, Heyman tweets, which would certainly lend an interesting combine-esque quality to the proceedings.
- Beyond the Giants, we heard previously that the Orioles, Padres, and Athletics plan to have a scouting presence on hand. The White Sox, too, will be there, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), as will the Angels, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter). And the Blue Jays will also take a look, John Lott tweets.
- Heyman also adds several more clubs that plant to send eyes (links: 1; 2; 3; 4). The Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, and Marlins will be there from the National League side of things. And American League teams with at least one scout in the stands will include the Rangers and Astros.
- The Astros turned down a trade offer from the Orioles in 2013 that would’ve brought Jake Arrieta to Houston, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports. It’s unknown what the O’s wanted back in the deal, though given how Arrieta has emerged as arguably the game’s best pitcher, the Astros may well be kicking themselves over not accepting the deal. The Padres, Twins and Nationals were among the other teams also known to have been interested back when Baltimore was shopping the talented but erratic young righty, and the list is probably a lot longer given how Arrieta was widely known to have excellent stuff. The O’s ended up swapping Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs in July 2013 for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
- Hard-throwing reliever Ken Giles hasn’t come as advertised this year after the Astros gave up a Vincent Velasquez-headlined haul for the ex-Phillie during the offseason, and he told Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle that his issues are related to mechanics. “I’m not the guy I was the past two seasons. I’m somebody completely different on the mound, and I don’t feel comfortable up there. It’s just mechanical work,” he said. Giles was an elite reliever for the Phillies from 2014-15, combining for a 1.56 ERA with an 11.75 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 2/3 innings, but this season has been a nightmare for the 25-year-old. Though Giles’ strikeout and walk rates look fine (12.6 and 3.6, respectively), as does his velocity, he has already surrendered four home runs and 10 earned runs in 10 innings. Giles yielded a combined three homers and 20 earned runs during the previous two seasons. Thanks to his struggles, the Astros will “ease the burden of the eighth inning off of him a little bit,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
After giving Sean Manaea his first start tonight, the Athletics will recall right-hander Jesse Hahn from Triple-A Nashville to start tomorrow’s game against the Astros, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 26-year-old spent much of the 2015 season in Oakland’s rotation after coming over from the Padres in the Derek Norris trade, but his season was cut short by an injured right flexor tendon and a woeful Spring Training landed him in Triple-A. Hahn has recorded a 2.04 ERA in four starts with Nashville this season, though he hasn’t been as dominant as that mark might initially suggest. Hahn has lasted a total of 17 2/3 innings in those four outings with a 13-to-9 K/BB ratio.
- The Astros and Dodgers had the most notable scouting entourages on hand to watch Cuban righty Vladimir Gutierrez in what will likely be his final showcase, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. There were plenty of other organizations with eyes on Gutierrez, of course, so one shouldn’t read too much into that. Generally, says Badler, the interesting youngster showed a mid-90s fastball and impressive breaking ball, though his fastball command and other offerings still need work.
- Astros righty Lance McCullers Jr. is ready for a sixty to seventy-five pitch outing in his next extended spring work, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. That certainly seems to indicate that he could be nearing a rehab stint, which would be good news for a Houston club that badly misses his high-octane arm in the rotation.