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Oscar Taveras Rumors
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.
One of the keys to success for last year's Pirates ballclub was its ability both to generate ground balls and convert them into outs. It all started with a pitching staff that had far and away the highest ground-ball rate (52.5%) in the big leagues. Featuring prominently in the repertoire of several Bucs hurlers, of course, was the sinker. As Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com found when he investigated, those sinkers come in many different varieties. He provides a fascinating breakdown of the pitch from the perspective of Pirates players and coaches (including many staff members and catcher Russell Martin). Here's more from the National League:
- With just two weeks left in camp and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras still working his way back, there is now little chance that he'll come north with the Cardinals for Opening Day, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Of course, that was the likely outcome from the get-go, as St. Louis has a keen interest in delaying his service clock to gain another season of control and minimize the likelihood of a Super Two qualification.
- The Phillies outrighted righty Michael Stutes off of the club's 40-man roster to begin making room for non-roster invites, reports Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Struggling to regain velocity after a series of shoulder issues, Stutes had to clear waivers to be stashed in the minors.
- Though it may yet be a longshot, the Mets have begun working out Wilmer Flores at short, reports Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. With continuing uncertainty as to whether Ruben Tejada can be relied on as an everyday option, DiComo says the team is "overturning every stone on their 40-man roster" to find a solution. Of course, that does not mean that Flores is a serious possibility to man the job for the coming season, but he could be a more attractive big league piece if he could spend some time at short.
- As I recently noted in the club's offseason review, the Diamondbacks have not conclusively addressed their backup catching situation. They are among the teams taking a hard look at Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees, reports George A. King III of the New York Post.
New Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta disclosed at a fundraising event on Saturday that he was targeted by several clubs this offseason who were interested in him as a shortstop, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. However, St. Louis offered the opportunity to play for an annual contender, Peralta said at the team's Winter Warm-Up event. Here's more from the NL Central:
- Top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras says he expects to be fully healthy when he reports early for Spring Training next month, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports. The outfielder, who underwent an ankle procedure to repair torn ligaments and remove loose cartilage, will be in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot.
- Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times hears from multiple sources that the Cubs are a "long shot" to land Masahiro Tanaka (Twitter link). The Cubs were one of many clubs to have made a formal offer to the Japanese star, according to a Nikkan Sports report.
- Speaking at the Cubs Convention today, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the team erred in promoting Brett Jackson to the majors in 2012, commenting that the outfielder may have required more minor league seasoning (via MLB.com's Carrie Muskat). Jackson struggled to a .175/.303/.342 line in 142 plate appearances, and returned to the minors in 2013 to hit just .210/.296/.330. Epstein explained that then-manager Dale Sveum wanted to work on developing Jackson's swing.
- Count Cubs manager Rick Renteria among those excited about the team's stable of prospects. Muskat reports that Renteria called Epstein to express his excitement about the Cubs' young players while interviewing for two other manager openings this offseason, leading to his hiring for the Cubs' job.
4:29pm: Cubs top prospect Javier Baez has also changed agencies and is now represented by KPS Sports, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweeted last week that Baez had joined a small, lesser-known agency without a great deal of experience. He appears to be the most noteworthy player signed with KPS. Baez was formerly represented by B.B. Abbott of Jet Sports Management.
On their midseason Top 50 lists, Baez ranked as the game's No. 9 prospect according to MLB.com, No. 10 according to BA and No. 27 according to Keith Law. The 20-year-old shortstop batted .282/.341/.578 with a highly impressive 37 homers between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee this season.
8:31am: Miguel Sano and Oscar Taveras are consensus top five prospects in the game, and each has recently changed representation. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Sano's agent, Rob Plummer, has been hired by SFX after parting ways with the Beverly Hills Sports Council, and Sano has stuck with his longtime agent. Taveras, meanwhile, is back with former agent Melvin Roman of MDR Sports Management (Twitter links).
Taveras has now changed agencies a remarkable four times since January and, strangely, is back with Roman for the third time in 2013 alone. Taveras left MDR for Plummer back in January but switched back less than a month later. He remained with MDR through mid-August when he joined Greg Genske's Legacy Agency. The Cardinals outfielder ranked second on the Midseason Top 50 Prospect lists of Baseball America, ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription req'd) and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo despite an injury-shortened season. The 21-year-old Taveras hit a solid .306/.361/.462 with five homers in 46 games for Triple-A Memphis but missed most of the season due to ankle surgery.
The 20-year-old Sano mashed his way to a No. 3 ranking on the Midseason Top 50 Prospect lists of Baseball America and MLB.com and a No. 4 ranking on the same list from Law. The powerful Twins prospect batted .280/.382/.610 with a combined 35 homers between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.
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Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras has left MDR Sports and signed with Greg Genske of The Legacy Agency, according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal (subscription required). This marks the third agency change for Taveras in 2013. He left MDR for Rob Plummer in January but switched back less than a month later.
Taveras, 21, hit .306/.361/.462 with five homers in 46 games for Triple-A Memphis in what proved to be an injury-riddled 2013 that will culminate in season-ending ankle surgery this week (as previously reported by MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch). He currently ranks as the No. 2 prospect in baseball according to ESPN's Keith Law, Baseball America and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
Taveras is the second player that Genske has brought to TLA in recent weeks; Tommy Hanson also signed with Genske earlier in the month. TLA also represents high-profile names like Carl Crawford, CC Sabathia, Aaron Hill and Johan Santana.
For additional agency info on nearly 1,900 Major League and Minor League players, check out MLBTR's Agency Database. If you see any omissions or errors within the database, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cardinals' selection of Albert Pujols (13th round, 1999) is the best draft pick in MLB history, says Dan Szymborski of ESPN (Insider-only). Szymborski uses a non-linear model to assess the WAR value of each draft pick, then compares actual picks to their expected value over nine years to create a list of the top 100 picks in draft history. Szymborski notes that the fact that Pujols was so good from the very beginning of his career made him particularly valuable as a draft pick, since the Cards didn't have to wait for a few years after his debut for him to become a superstar. Here are more notes on the Redbirds.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn't certain how long Michael Wacha, who will make his big-league debut on Thursday, will be with the team, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (on Sulia). Also, Mozeliak wants to make sure the Cardinals protect Wacha's health. "We are going to be very cognizant of pitch counts and innings," Mozeliak says. "When we think about total innings we want to make sure we’re careful of his usage. If there are times when we can protect him, we will do so." Wacha, 21, has thrown 52 2/3 innings in nine minor-league starts so far this year.
- Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals tops Keith Law of ESPN's new list of baseball's top 25 prospects (Insider-only). Wacha is also present at No. 24, and Law notes that Wacha's breaking ball has improved. Jurickson Profar of the Rangers' recent promotion removed him from the list. The Twins, with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, are the only team with two players in the top ten; the Pirates, with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco, are the only team with three players in the top 25. Be sure to check out the full list.