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Oscar Taveras Rumors
In the midst of a 26-28 season, Royals GM Dayton Moore expresses support for manager Ned Yost, Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City writes. “I have faith in Ned,” says Moore. “He is doing what he can.” Instead, Moore takes the blame for the team’s performance. “It’s my job to give the managers and the coaching staff the right players to succeed. I have to be able to give them the tools to win. So if we’re not succeeding, ultimately the responsibility comes back to me,” he says. The Royals fired hitting coach Pedro Grifol on Thursday, replacing him with Dale Sveum. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The Twins are interested in Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay, 1500ESPN.com’s Darren Wolfson tweets. The Cardinals have more outfielders than they need (so much so that their surplus may have delayed the promotion of top prospect Oscar Taveras), and could trade from their stockpile. Meanwhile, the Twins’ outfielders have struggled this season.
- Taveras’ promotion is a big moment for the Cardinals organization, writes Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals ought to make sure they play Taveras regularly, since not doing so would merely waste service time. If Taveras hits well, the Cardinals could move Matt Adams into a “super-sub role” when he’s available to return from the disabled list.
The Cardinals have informed top prospect Oscar Taveras that he will be elevated to the big league club for the first time, reports Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes (Twitter links). Taveras, 21, has risen steadily through the organization’s system since being signed as an international free agent in 2008.
Taveras, who hits and throws from the left side, has been a consensus top-five prospect league-wide entering each of the last two seasons. Entering 2014, MLB.com has him in the second slot, Baseball America ranked him third, and ESPN.com’s Keith Law placed him in the fifth slot to open the year, but just bumped him up to fourth. Regardless of precisely where he falls on that list, all agree that Taveras has impact talent who projects to hit for average and power at the MLB level.
Indeed, the minor league results have generally been there for the 6’2″ Dominican. Taveras entered 2013 after shredding the High-A and Double-A levels over consecutive seasons (at age 19 and 20, respectively). But he missed much of last season due to ankle issues, which slowed his start and may have delayed his ascension to the bigs. Nevertheless, through 395 Triple-A plate appearances over this year and last, he has posted a .316/.358/.495 triple-slash. While adding 12 home runs and six steals over that stretch, Taveras has struck out just 47 times (good for a strong 11.9% strikeout rate).
We just looked at the Cardinals’ glut of outfielding options (courtesy of Bernie Miklasz). GM John Mozeliak made clear that he was not interested in burning service time for his prized prospect unless he was going to play regularly. If that is to be the case, the obvious question becomes where that playing time will come from. Though Taveras has spent much of his minor league career at center field, most evaluators agree that he is better suited for right field, where he brings a big arm to the table. Currently, St. Louis runs out two highly-paid veterans — Matt Holliday and Allen Craig — to its corner outfield spots.
One solution, of course, would be to open a spot for Taveras by shifting Craig to first, which is currently manned by Matt Adams. Indeed, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that Adams may be headed for a DL stint. If that proves to be the case, it could be that this promotion does not represent a plan to integrate Taveras into the lineup permanently.
On the other hand, of course, he clearly has the talent to play himself into a regular role. Having entered the year with no service time, Taveras could still pick up enough days on the MLB roster to position himself for Super Two status. Assuming that he is officially added to the active roster tomorrow, Taveras could accrue as many as 121 days of service in 2014. Over the last five seasons, the Super Two cutoff has never fallen below 2.122 days of service. Whether or not Taveras is able to earn a fourth year of arbitration, the Cardinals will control his rights through at least 2020.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Photos.
The Cardinals are currently determining how to find big-league playing time for top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I actually think from a baseball standpoint he could play in the big leagues,” says GM John Mozeliak. “But we’ve got to determine playing time up here with the current roster. Are we at a point where we’re willing to take away at-bats from the current roster and give them to somebody else?” If the Cardinals were to promote Taveras to play regularly, they would have less playing time for some combination of Allen Craig, Matt Adams, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay. Taveras is currently hitting .319/.369/.527 in 198 plate appearances for Triple-A Memphis. Here are more notes from the National League.
- While the Cardinals don’t have playing time for their Triple-A outfield talent right now, Strauss writes that they simply don’t have as much Triple-A pitching talent as they’ve had in recent years. Of course, that’s mostly because they’ve graduated so many talented pitchers in the past few seasons, including Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness. If the Cardinals want to add another strong pitching option this season, Strauss argues, they’ll have to do it via a trade.
- There are rumors that the Padres could fire manager Bud Black, but Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests that it might be worth remembering GM Josh Byrnes’ history firing his manager when he was the GM of the Diamondbacks. In 2009, Byrnes fired Bob Melvin and replaced him with A.J. Hinch. Melvin had a terrific third act as manager of the Athletics, and both Byrnes and Hinch were fired a little more than a year later. Like Byrnes, Hinch is now in the Padres’ front office.
- Now that first baseman Ike Davis is hitting, life with the Pirates is different than it was with the Mets, MLB.com’s Tim Healey reports. “Going to get coffee, I don’t get hitting tips,” says Davis. “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. But I don’t need to think about my stance at 9 in the morning.” Davis is back in New York as the Pirates play at Citi Field this week.
The Royals announced today that they have optioned struggling third baseman Mike Moustakas to Triple-A Omaha. The move marks a significant fall for the former top prospect, who has yet to show any sort of consistency at the Major League level. Royals fans were optimistic when “Moose” hit .269/.314/.425 over his final 78 games last season and posted strong numbers in Spring Training, but the 25-year-old hit just .152/.223/.320 in 40 games this season despite being platooned for much of the year. Moustakas has turned in elite defensive numbers throughout his career, but he’ll need to show more at the plate to ever deliver on his lofty prospect status.
Here are some more items pertaining to baseball’s Central divisions…
- The Tigers today optioned left-hander Robbie Ray to Triple-A Toledo and announced that they will purchase the contract of right-hander Corey Knebel prior to tomorrow’s game. Knebel, a right-handed reliever, will become the second player from the 2013 draft to reach the Major Leagues (Cleveland’s Kyle Crockett debuted on May 16). He’s posted a brilliant 0.90 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 50 innings across three levels since being selected 39th overall less than one year ago.
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that playing time for Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras could present itself shortly in the Majors, as the team begins a stretch of seven games in AL parks in early June. However, the Cardinals could also recall Randal Grichuk, who has been on an otherwordly tear since being sent back to Triple-A, having slashed .347/.418/.776 with six homers in 12 games. GM John Mozeliak wouldn’t rule out the possibility of either player being promoted when asked by Goold.
- Grantland’s Jonah Keri spoke with Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, ace Adam Wainwright and former Redbird Kyle Lohse about the intricacies of former pitching coach Dave Duncan’s philosophy and approach to the game. Keri writes that Duncan’s influence still runs through the veins of the Cardinals’ organization, which is a driving force behind the team’s extended success. Wainwright said Duncan was “borderline maniacal” in terms of advance scouting and analytics. Keri notes that Duncan never cared much for pitcher-versus-batter data, as such small samples led to misguided decisions.
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will submit a revised proposal for renovations to Wrigley Field, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. If approved, they are prepared to move forward with the plans, which include additional seating in the Budweiser Bleachers, new outfield lights to reduce shadows, four additional LED signs of up to 650 square feet and a 2400 square foot video board in right field. Ricketts says negotiations with rooftop business owners have gone nowhere, so “It has to end. It’s time to move forward.” He hopes they can avoid going to court with the rooftop owners.
Speculation has heightened as to when the Cardinals will call up top prospect Oscar Taveras. He is part of a special trio of Triple-A outfielders, along with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, a scout tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). That same scout said that Taveras needs a new challenge at this point. “He’s on cruise control,” he said. “Gives away at-bats. Needs to play with more urgency. He’ll get a wake-up call but it will take [the] big leagues to do it.” Of course, whatever his level of motivation and effort, Taveras has played well; he entered the day with a .304/.354/.509 line through 175 plate appearances.
Here are some more stray notes to round out the evening:
- While he remains winless, Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija continues to drive up his stock with an outstanding start to the season. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the club should shop him this summer at peak value; as a GM tells Heyman, Chicago will “want top, top guys” in return. Heyman lists the ten clubs that could possibly match up on Samardzija, topped by the three northernmost A.L. East clubs.
- While Heyman puts the Yankees first among possible Samardzija suitors, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post says that fellow Cubs starter Jason Hammel may make more sense for New York. Samardzija may price himself out of the Yanks’ reach in terms of a prospect package, says Davidoff. While Cliff Lee of the Phillies would also be of interest — and, presumably, be more achievable for the Yankees given his hefty contract — he now has significant arm issues for the first time in his career.
- The early-agreement trend on the July 2 international market has not only changed the dynamics of the market itself, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, but has made it more difficult for prospect watchers to scout players. When players reach terms, they tend to steer clear of showcases and tryouts. As Badler notes, increasingly aggressive signing tactics also “elevate the risk and uncertainty” for teams, because young players can change so much in a short period of time.
- Now a decade in the past, the 2004 amateur draft understandably looks quite different in retrospect. ESPN.com’s Keith Law takes a look back in two Insider pieces (subscription required). There were many misses, of course, headlined by first overall pick Matt Bush. If teams had perfect foresight at the time, says Law, the first three choices would have brought Justin Verlander to the Padres, Dustin Pedroia to the Tigers, and Jered Weaver to the Mets.
With Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales still unsigned with less than a month to go before the amateur draft, it is looking increasingly plausible that the pair will wait to shed their accompanying draft pick compensation before finding a new club. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter, teams will be able to ink either of the two free agents without giving up a pick as soon as the first day of the draft is completed on June 5. Of course, that is also the point at which their former clubs — the Red Sox and Mariners, respectively — would no longer stand to gain a compensatory choice should they sign elsewhere after declining qualifying offers.
Here’s more from around the league …
- Reds third baseman Chris Nelson will not exercise the opt-out clause in his contract that came due today, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will continue on with Triple-A Louisville for the time being, though his deal includes another opt-out date a month from now.
- A rival talent evaluator tells ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider link) that the Cardinals‘ decision on the promotion of star prospect Oscar Taveras is complicated by the team’s defensive issues. In that source’s estimation, Taveras is better suited to the corner outfield than center. The team’s best method of creating space, he opines, would be to deal first baseman Matt Adams and put Allen Craig back in the infield. As Olney notes, Adams would figure to draw plenty of trade interest given his solid bat (career .803 OPS) and lengthy team control (through 2018).
- 17-year-old high-school hurler Jacob Bukauskas, a potential first-round choice in the upcoming draft, has notified scouts that he plans to attend the University of North Carolina, according to John Manuel of Baseball America. The hard-throwing righty had pitched himself into consideration for selection in the late first or early second round, though some scouts believe he may not be able to stick as a starter. As Manuel notes, the Stone Bridge High School product will not be eligible for the draft again until 2017 if he matriculates at UNC.
Here are a few notes out of the game’s central divisions:
- Twins right-hander Matt Guerrier has a May 8 opt-out clause in his minor league contract and isn’t willing to push that date back to wait for a future opportunity, agent Joe Bick tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Guerrier has thrown well in the minors as he rehabs from flexor mass repair surgery last August, allowing just one earned run on eight hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings between Double-A and Triple-A (four at each level). Guerrier, who is earning $90K in the minors, would earn a $1MM base salary and earn an additional $250K for reaching 45, 50, 55 and 60 appearances, Berardino writes.
- John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press breaks down the challenges behind the Tigers potentially jettisoning left-hander Phil Coke. For starters, the 31-year-old Coke is earning $1.9MM this season, all of which is guaranteed after he broke camp with the club. Additionally, there are no left-handed relievers in the minors who have stood out in a meaningful way. Detroit would like to keep two lefty relievers if possible, and Lowe wonders if Robbie Ray could take Coke’s bullpen spot when Anibal Sanchez returns from the DL. The team has already cleared a roster spot for Ray by outrighting Jordan Lennerton off the 40-man roster.
- While plenty have argued that the time is now for the Cardinals to call up top prospect Oscar Taveras, GM John Mozeliak plans to keep him in the minors for the time being, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I know a lot’s being made out of Oscar … coming to St. Louis,” Mozeliak said, “but right now I don’t even think it’s a logical thing to do. There are a lot of question marks going on in the outfield to begin with, and I think that would muddy it up.” Looking ahead, Mozeliak said that if Taveras continues at his present level of play, “that will make it a very difficult decision at some point.” As I documented a few weeks back, Taveras is one of those prospects with no MLB service time for whom Super Two status has now become the primary consideration (apart from development and team need, of course).
- Also in that piece, Hummel provides injury updates on two once-key cogs of the St. Louis pitching corps. Former closer Jason Motte has upped his heater into the mid-90s, while starter Jaime Garcia is still battling through injury issues but is nevertheless progressing through a rehab assignment. Needless to say, either or both of these two arms could give a real boost to a Cardinals club that is off to a somewhat sluggish start. While the team’s issues have generally not been on the pitching side of the ledger, added depth always opens up new possibilities.
The Astros should take NC State’s Carlos Rodon with the top overall pick in the June draft even though Rodon’s stock has fallen, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo writes. There’s a decent chance that the worry over Rodon’s less-than-dominant performances this year are “much ado about nothing,” Mayo says. Rodon has gotten great results in his last two starts, and he has a long track record — Mayo notes that some scouts believe he could have been the first overall pick even in 2012 if he had been eligible then. Here are more notes on prospects.
- The best left-handed pitcher available isn’t Rodon, it’s California high-schooler Brady Aiken, writes MLB.com’s Jim Callis. Aiken’s velocity has increased this year, and so has his command. “I’d probably take Aiken No. 1, and I think if you asked 30 teams, 15-20 would say Aiken,” says a scouting official from an NL team. “He has taken a real step up. He’s more consistent, he has a good body, good arm action, three plus pitches at times.”
- Oscar Taveras is “checking off all the boxes” necessary for promotion to the big leagues, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Matheny says the timeline for Taveras’ promotion has more to do with the picture at the big-league level than with Taveras’ performance. “They’re just trying to keep him going not knowing what it would look like up here,” Matheny says. “Knowing there probably wouldn’t be an extended amount of playing time as far as everyday goes. For him, just keep going.” The Cardinals recently promoted outfielder Randal Grichuk to help what had been a struggling big-league outfield. Unlike Taveras, however, Grichuk isn’t a top prospect, which might mean that the Cardinals weren’t as concerned about carving out regular playing time for him. Taveras is currently hitting .316/.370/.515 for Triple-A Memphis.
Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras has changed agencies yet again, according to a report from Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via Twitter). Taveras will now be represented by Dan Lozano and Brian Mejia of MVP Sports Group.
Taveras, 21, has moved between agencies quite a bit for a player who has yet to see his first MLB action. The outfielder has consistently been rated as among the game’s very best prospects over the last few seasons, but injuries and the lack of need at the big league level have kept him in the upper minors. Taveras has produced at every level of the minors, and is off to a .297/.348/.500 start in his second stint at Triple-A (after a shortened season there in 2013).
Baseball America's Matt Eddy's latest piece is a fascinating look back at the history of platoon usage in Major League Baseball and the increasing role of specialized relievers in Major League bullpens. Last season, more pure left-handed relievers (i.e. lefties who made zero starts) appeared in a season than any year in Major League history. Eddy's piece is rife with tables and charts to provide the breakdown on the numbers behind left-on-left matchups as opposed to right-on-right matchups (not surprisingly, the former leans more heavily in the pitcher's favor) and is well worth the read. Here are some more links from around the league for some late-night Thursday reading…
- The Cardinals optioned top prospect Oscar Taveras to Triple-A today, putting an early end to a Spring Training that didn't allow him to fully showcase his talents, writes MLB.com's Jen Langosch. Taveras received just six plate appearances in a pair of games after sitting out the first week due to what Langosch calls "hesitancy to fully trust his surgically repaired right ankle." He also left his second and final Spring Training game with a minor hamstring injury.
- Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley is well ahead of schedule in his rehab from Tommy John surgery and could be ready to pitch in the Majors as soon as late April, reports ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon. Billingsley will face live hitters next week and begin a minor league rehab assignment on April 3. Billingsley's return further crowds the competition for the team's fifth starter. Josh Beckett or Paul Maholm figures to occupy that role to open the season.
- Right-hander Todd Coffey has drawn interest from as many as nine to 10 teams and expects to sign right around Opening Day, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). Coffey is currently throwing 91 to 92 mph in bullpen sessions, he adds. Coffey last pitched in the Majors for the Dodgers in 2012.
- Cotillo also tweets that free agent catcher Kelly Shoppach is looking to play in 2014 "if the right situation/opportunity presents itself." The 33-year-old isn't close to a deal at this time. He slashed just .199/.288/.339 in 127 PAs between the Mariners and Indians last season.
- Lastly, Cotillo tweets that former AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, now 34, is seeking a minor league deal to return to affiliated baseball. Berroa spent 2012 playing independent ball and was in the Mexican League last season, where he slashed .293/.362/.462 in 460 trips to the plate.