Robbie Ray Rumors

Central Notes: Moustakas, Knebel, Taveras, Cubs

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.

Quick Hits: Jocketty, Uehara, Kolek, Mets

The Redsquiet offseason included few depth signings, and now that lack of roster depth is being tested given the number of key players currently on the team’s disabled list.  Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that “there weren’t a lot of moves to make” and warned against too much roster turnover, though finances also played a part in the Reds’ uneventful winter.  “It wasn’t just [will we have money later], it was also ‘Do we have enough money now?,’ Jockett said.  “We’d have loved to have [Shin-Soo] Choo back, but we couldn’t afford him. And there really wasn’t anything else we felt we could do — that we felt we could financially do. Once your club is set, it’s pretty hard to make changes.”

Here are some more items from around baseball…

  • Also from Laurila’s piece, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara wasn’t sure he was ready to pitch in North America when he was first eligible at age 24, though he would’ve liked to have arrived sooner than his age-34 season.  The issue for Uehara was that his Japanese club, the Yomiuri Giants, didn’t post their players and instead required them to fulfill the entirety of their contacts.
  • Right-hander Tyler Kolek regularly hits the 100-mph plateau and “is the hardest-throwing high schooler of the draft era,” scouts tells Baseball America’s John Manuel.  Kolek has been widely predicted to be at least a top-three selection in this year’s amateur draft.
  • As pitchers like Kolek are throwing faster and harder at increasingly young ages, evaluating these young arms has become “a convergence of fascination and fear,” for scouts, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes.  Teams are as interested in ever with hard-throwers, yet are also concerned with the injury risk attached with regularly throwing at such high velocities.
  • Mets fans are losing patience with the team’s rebuilding plan and Sandy Alderson’s front office has seemed either unwilling or unable to spend to make the Amazins more competitive, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin opines.  Even the low-cost moves that were supposed to be Alderson’s forte have backfired, Rubin notes in regards to the club’s struggling bullpen.
  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler (BA subscription required) profiles five international prospects who have drawn the attention of the Yankees and Astros in the lead-up to the July 2 deadline.  New York has been linked to catcher Miguel Flames, shortstop Diego Castillo and outfielder Jonathan Amundaray, while Houston is interested in outfielder Ronny Rafael and shortstop Miguel Angel Sierra.
  • Should the Tigers use Robbie Ray as a much-needed southpaw reliever or send him back to the minors to get regular work as a starter?  Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press argues the former point while MLive.com’s Chris Iott argues the latter.
  • The revamped draft and free agent rules haven’t helped parity or benefited smaller-market teams, Peter Gammons writes for GammonsDaily.com.  Tying the draft directly to the free agent compensation system (in regards to qualifying offers) has created flaws in both areas, Gammons argues, and the real purpose of the new rules was “to lessen the power of agents and limit the money paid to amateur prospects.”

AL Notes: Angels, Tigers, Baker

The Angels, who have reportedly run into difficulties in their negotiations for a new deal to extend the team’s lease in Anaheim, are discussing potential alternative sites in two other California locations, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: Tustin and, most recently, Irvine. A 2016 opt-out of the team’s current lease is looming in the near future.

  • In his podcast today (audio link), ESPN.com’s Buster Olney touched on several topics relating to the Tigers. Club GM Dave Dombrowski, joining for an interview, said that he is still looking internally first for bullpen solutions, calling it “a little early for clubs to be making trades at this time.”
  • Dombrowski also talked about Robbie Ray, the key piece acquired in the Doug Fister trade. He indicated that Detroit’s evaluators seemingly placed a higher value on Ray than did other teams around the league, saying that Ray “projects to be at least a number-three starter.” Though the club does not expect him to reach that level (let alone his potential ceiling) during his first call-up, Dombrowski said that Ray has thrown well enough at Triple-A to earn a chance to fill in at the big league level.
  • Discussing the Tigers’ reported $144MM extension offer that Max Scherzer declined with fellow ESPN analyst Keith Law, Olney noted that many players and agents he has spoken with felt they would have taken the deal. But the calculating Scherzer — who, in Olney’s opinion, may be the “pitcher’s version of Joey Votto” in terms of his incorporation of statistical analysis into his game — apparently determined that he will hold a good enough hand to warrant the risk of waiting for free agency.
  • Starter Scott Baker has not elected his opt-out clause with the Rangers, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com, after apparently not finding a major league opportunity elsewhere. If he finds such a chance, however, Baker will be able to opt out at that time, Cotillo adds.


Tigers To Promote Robbie Ray

The Tigers have announced that left-handed starter Robbie Ray will be recalled and make his Major League debut against the Astros next Tuesday.

"<strong

The 23-year-old Ray ranked 91st on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 prospects prior to the season and was the centerpiece to the trade that sent right-hander Doug Fister from the Tigers to the Nationals this offseason (Detroit also received utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi lefty reliever Ian Krol). He’s gotten off to an excellent start to the year in Triple-A, posting a 1.59 ERA with a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings of work (five starts). In their free scouting report, Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com offered the following take on Ray:

“Ray throws his fastball in the low-90s and can reach back for a tick more velocity when he needs it. His slider can look slurvy at times, but the best ones have good depth. He has a good feel for his changeup, which is a more consistent offering. His command has improved, but he would benefit from further refinement. Ray is a good athlete and has proven to be durable. He relies more on pitchability than overpowering stuff to get outs, but he has what it takes to succeed as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.”

Ray’s promotion was necessitated by an injury to Anibal Sanchez, but should he impress to the point where he sticks on the roster, his promotion likely will lead him to Super Two status. If his official promotion is delayed until next Tuesday, he would accrue 148 days of Major League service time through season’s end, which would almost certainly place him within the top 22 percent of the two-to-three year service class following the 2016 campaign. That would make Ray eligible for arbitration four times, beginning after the ’16 season, and also setting him to hit free agency in the 2019-20 offseason. Of course, that schedule would change were Ray to be sent back down when Sanchez returns, which should be sometime in mid-May.

Somewhat ironically, Ray is making his Major League debut before the injured Fister has thrown a single Major League pitch for the Nationals. The trade was widely panned in the media at the time, as many felt that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski received too little for Fister, and it’s been compounded by his decision to trade Lombardozzi for Alex Gonzalez, who has already been released. Ray’s development into a reliable starting option for the Tigers would greatly change that perception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.