Top Prospect Promotions Rumors

Mets Promote Michael Conforto, Place Michael Cuddyer On DL

The Mets announced this morning that they have placed Michael Cuddyer on the disabled list and selected the contract of top outfield prospect Michael Conforto.

Michael Conforto

Mets fans have been clamoring for a Conforto promotion for quite some time as they’ve watched the big league offense struggle tremendously to score runs in support of an excellent young pitching staff. Conforto, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been moved through the minor leagues at a very cautious rate — perhaps unnecessarily cautious in the eyes of many. He started out in short-season Class-A despite being one of the top college hitters in the 2014 draft, and he’s only reached Double-A as a result of the slow-paced track on which he has been placed.

Conforto has, however, hit at every level and should provide a boost to the Mets’ lineup. He’s currently batting .312/.396/.503 with five homers, 12 doubles and three triples in 197 plate appearances at Double-A Binghmaton. Baseball America rated him as the game’s No. 14 prospect in the game on their midseason update, while ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Conforto 12th, writing that he has a chance to be the type of hitter who posts .400 OBPs and hits 20-plus homers in the Majors.

The 53 runs scored by the Mets this month is tied for 29th in all of Major League Baseball, and outfield production has been a problem for the team all season. The Mets have seen their offensive output hindered by injuries to David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Daniel Murphy, as those three hitters — three of the team’s most potent bats — have spent large amounts of time on the disabled list. Murphy has been limited to 73 games, while d’Arnaud and Wright have barely played at all. Lucas Duda, expected to be one of the team’s most productive bats, has seen his offense tank since early June.

The result has been a collective .233/.298/.357 batting line for the Mets on the season. That translates to a wRC+ of 85, which ranks 28th in all of baseball. Conforto, then, doesn’t need to hit like a superstar in order to bolster the lineup; producing even like an average or above-average regular, as teammate Curtis Granderson has done, would be a notable boost to the team’s postseason chances.

The Mets remain on the hunt for offensive upgrades via the trade market, with recent reports indicating that adding an outfield bat that is controlled beyond the 2015 season is a priority for the team. A fast start for Conforto could shift that focus elsewhere, but for the time being, the promotion was the quickest fix available.

If Conforto’s in the Majors to stay, he’ll accrue 74 days of big league service time this year, leaving him well short of Super Two designation. That would place him on pace to be eligible for arbitration following the 2018 season and eligible for free agency upon completion of the 2021 campaign.

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Cardinals To Promote Stephen Piscotty

The Cardinals will promote top outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty to join the team in Chicago on Tuesday, reports Rob Rains of StlSportsPage.com (Twitter link).

Stephen Piscotty

The 24-year-old Piscotty entered the season ranked as the No. 32 prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus. ESPN’s Keith Law (62), Baseball America (79), Fangraphs (81) and MLB.com (90) all included the former No. 36 overall pick in their Top 100 prospects as well. He’s performed well with Triple-A Memphis on the heels of those strong rankings, batting .272/.366/.475 with 11 homers in 372 plate appearances.

Piscotty was drafted as a third baseman in 2012 but moved to the corner outfield in his first full season of pro ball in 2013. This season, he’s appeared primarily right field (61 games) but also has 10 games in left field and eight games at first base. BP praised Piscotty’s hit tool and ability to barrel the ball, as well as good balance at the plate and a general comfort/good approach in the batter’s box. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel noted that he had the potential for 20-homer power, though it had yet to manifest entering the season. BA notes that while there’s some question about his power, it’s very likely that he’ll hit for average and display strong on-base skills to go with a plus arm in right field.

The Cardinals don’t currently have a spot for Piscotty in the outfield — at least not a regular spot — as the three positions are occupied by Matt Holliday (left), Randal Grichuk (center) and Jason Heyward (right). Peter Bourjos‘ elite glove makes him a logical fit as a fourth outfielder, if not more. Tommy Pham is in the role of fifth outfielder at this time. Piscotty could perhaps fit as an option at first base, where the Cardinals have received little in the way of offensive production from Mark Reynolds over the past six weeks (.213/.280/.383 dating back to June 1).

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Phillies To Promote Aaron Nola

The Phillies will promote right-hander Aaron Nola to start against the Rays next Tuesday, July 21, in Philadelphia, according to a team release. Nola, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft, is considered the Phillies’ top pitching prospect and one of the 50 best prospects in all of baseball.

Aaron Nola

On their recent midseason top prospect lists, Baseball America and Keith Law of ESPN ranked Nola 12th and 38th, respectively. The former Louisiana State hurler has excelled in the minors every step of the way, totaling a 2.57 ERA with 7.5 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9 in 164 2/3 professional innings. BA calls him a “very safe” big-league-ready starting pitcher, and Law praises Nola’s “uncanny” fastball command. Most scouting reports peg the 6’1″, 195-pound Nola as an excellent bet to hold down a spot in the middle of the Phillies’ rotation for years to come, likely as a No. 3 type starter.

Assuming Nola is called up on Tuesday (not sooner) and is not sent back down to Triple-A, he’ll accumulate 76 days of big league service in 2015, which will leave him well shy of Super Two designation and make him controllable through the 2021 season.

Phillies fans have been waiting for months to see Nola pitching for a big league club that has had little in the way to cheer for. Philadelphia is widely expected to clean house over the coming two weeks, trading the likes of Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere and likely a few other veterans as it continues a lengthy rebuilding process that began with offseason trades of Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo. Those trades netted pitchers Ben Lively, Zach Eflin and Tom Windle, but Nola is considered a significantly superior prospect to each of that grouping.

Nola has spoken with MLBTR’s Zach Links on a pair of occasions — once heading into the draft and once in Spring Training this season as he looked ahead to his first full year of pro ball.

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AL Central Notes: Montas, Twins, Tigers, Almonte

The White Sox will promote highly touted right-hander Frankie Montas as the 26th man in Friday’s double-header, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan first reported (via Twitter). Acquired along with Avisail Garcia in the three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston and Jose Iglesias to Detroit two years ago, Montas’ stock has soared over the past 24 months. MLB.com ranked him as the game’s No. 91 prospect heading into the season, and the hard-throwing Dominican hurler hasn’t disappointed at the Double-A level. He’s posted a 2.47 ERA in 15 starts at the level at the age of 22, averaging 7.6 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. That performance comes on the heels of a 1.44 ERA across three levels in 2014. Montas tossed a seven-inning no-hitter earlier this season and appeared in the Futures Game in Cincinnati during this year’s All-Star festivities. Though his promotion looks to be brief, he’ll give ChiSox fans a glimpse of what the team hopes is a long-term contributor.

More from the AL Central…

  • Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press runs down the Twins‘ three biggest problems as the trade deadline approaches and looks at some possible solutions for the club. Setup relief, catching and shortstop have been the club’s most glaring weaknesses in 2015, writes Berardino. In looking at catchers, he notes that the Twins made contract offers to both A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro before signing Kurt Suzuki in the 2013-14 offseason, so either backstop could again become a consideration. Both the Braves and Blue Jays figure to be open to dealing their veteran catcher.
  • Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN also examines the Twins‘ needs and speculates that rolling the dice on a Jimmy Rollins acquisition could be worthwhile for Minnesota. Neither Danny Santana nor Eduardo Escobar has played well enough to hold a firm grasp on the club’s starting shortstop role, and the Dodgers may want to clear the way for Corey Seager to jump to the Majors at short. Mackey, of course, notes that Rollins hasn’t played well in 2015. He’s hitting only .213/.266/.338 on the season and is expensive — owed about $4.48MM through year’s end. But, that price tag and those struggles mean he won’t cost much in a trade. Rollins’ track record as a productive player and 2015 BABIP woes make him an intriguing low-risk gamble that could rebound in the second half, Mackey concludes.
  • The next 10 days or so are critical to the Tigers‘ direction at the trade deadline, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Beck writes that the Tigers realize the division crown is a long shot at this point, so the question for Detroit becomes whether or not they feel pursuing a Wild Card berth “as more than a crapshoot.” Contending clubs continue to ask the Tigers what their plan is going to be, Beck writes, but Detroit’s minor league clubs are also still being scouted by potential sellers like the Reds and Padres in the event that they move to add big league help. Even if the Tigers decide to buy at the deadline, payroll will be a factor, according to Beck. He also reminds that while David Price can net a compensatory draft pick this offseason if he signs elsewhere, Yoenis Cespedes cannot, due to a contractual stipulation.
  • The Royals have promoted right-hander Miguel Almonte from Double-A to Triple-A and hope that the top prospect can emerge as a bullpen option in September, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. The 22-year-old Almonte entered the season ranked 84th among prospects by MLB.com and 56th by Baseball Prospectus. His production in the Double-A rotation was a bit underwhelming, as he worked to a 4.03 ERA with 7.4 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9. McCullough notes that part of the reason for Almonte’s declined strikeout rate (he averaged 8.7 K/9 from 2013-14) is that he’s been tasked with focusing on improved fastball command and is thus using his above-average changeup less. A lot will change between now and September, but Almonte’s not on the 40-man roster, so the team would need to make a corresponding roster move if he proves worthy of another promotion.

Red Sox Promote Brian Johnson

The Red Sox have lefty pitching prospect Brian Johnson, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports (Twitter links). Johnson’s role this weekend is uncertain, MacPherson writes, although he’s likely to join the Red Sox’ rotation after the All-Star break. Eduardo Rodriguez and Wade Miley are scheduled to start Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Clay Buchholz left last night’s start with an elbow injury. Whether or not Buchholz needs to be placed on the disabled list, Johnson appears to be a reasonable choice to try to stabilize a shaky Sox rotation.

Baseball America ranked Johnson the No. 82 prospect in baseball heading into the season. MLB.com, meanwhile, currently ranks Johnson the No. 90 prospect in the game, noting that Johnson throws 88-94 MPH but with good sinking action, strong secondary pitches and a good feel for pitching.

Johnson, 24, excelled at Double-A Portland last season and has continued to make progress this year at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.73 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 85 2/3 innings. He was the No. 31 overall pick in the draft out of the University of Florida in 2012.


Twins To Promote Miguel Sano

The Twins will promote top prospect Miguel Sano prior to tomorrow’s contest, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link). It would seem, then, that Sano will be recalled to replace DH Kennys Vargas, who was optioned to Double-A Chattanooga earlier today.

Miguel Sano

Sano, 22, is considered the best right-handed power prospect in the game and draw scouting grades for his raw power that are parallel to those of Joey Gallo. He entered the season ranked as the game’s No. 11 prospect by MLB.com and placed 12th and 13th on the respective lists of Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America. Fangraphs ranked the Dominican third baseman 15th among all prospects, as did ESPN’s Keith Law. Baseball America’s Ben Badler tweets that in eight seasons covering the July 2 international prospect market, Sano is, to this day, the best position-player prospect that he’s covered.

As mentioned, Sano’s calling card is what most scouts rank as 80-grade power (on the 20-80 scale). MLB.com’s scouting report notes that Sano has “as much power as anyone in the minor leagues,” adding that his 2013 output of 35 homers between Class-A and Double-A could become an annual occurrence. Defensively speaking, Sano was signed as a shortstop but quickly outgrew the position and moved to third base, where the 6’4″, 260-pounder is said by most to be below average.

Third base is presently occupied by Trevor Plouffe for the Twins, and while Plouffe isn’t necessarily a star-level player, he’s quietly developed into a solid regular at the position. It seems possible, especially since he’s taking Vargas’ spot on the roster, that Sano will cut his teeth in the Majors primarily as a designated hitter, though he could certainly spell Plouffe at the hot corner on occasion.

Sano missed the entire 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery and opened the 2015 campaign at Double-A for a second stint as he reacclimated himself to the rigors of playing every day. He started the season slow, but since the beginning of May, Sano has been an absolute juggernaut for the Lookouts. In that time, he’s batted .315/.400/.601 with 11 homers in 210 plate appearances.

If Sano is to stick in the Majors from this point forth, he’ll accrue 97 days of big league service, leaving him well shy of Super Two designation. As such, he’d be arbitration-eligible the standard three times before qualifying for free agency following the 2021 season.

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Mets To Promote Steven Matz

The Mets will promote top prospect Steven Matz, who will be utilized as part of a six-man rotation, Adam Rubin of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links) first reported that the move was likely in the works.

"MarThe 24-year-old Matz entered the season ranked 33rd on the Top 100 lists of Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. He placed 65th on Fangraphs’ Top 200 and 66th on MLB.com’s Top 100.

Thus far in 2015, he has worked to a stellar 2.19 ERA with 94 strikeouts against 31 walks in 90 1/3 innings. Those numbers are all the more impressive when considering that Matz’s home park in Las Vegas is among the most hitter-friendly environments in all of minor league baseball.

Matz is said to throw 91 to 95 mph with his fastball and feature a sometimes-plus changeup and an above-average curveball. He’s the latest to emerge from an exceptionally talented crop of young Mets pitchers. The organization undoubtedly hopes that Matz will team with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard to form an excellent rotation for the next few years.

Rumors of a Matz promotion began circulating earlier this month, with most indicators  signaling that he’d be with the club by July. The team recently whittled its rotation from six members to five by designating Dillon Gee for assignment and eventually outrighting him to Las Vegas. For now, at least, it appears that Matz will work alongside Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Jon Niese, and Bartolo Colon to form a six-man unit.

The preliminary reports led to some confusion, as Rubin tweeted that the Mets were being so tight-lipped that a trade seemed possible. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman, though, tweeted that no trade was brewing. And Mike Puma of the New York Post added ton Twitter that he was told the Mets have “absolutely nothing going on in trade talks at the moment.” Indeed, that seems to be the case.

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Twins Promote Alex Meyer

The Twins will promote right-hander Alex Meyer from Triple-A Rochester for tomorrow’s game, according to a team press release. The Twins’ long-term hope for the towering righty is that he can work out of the rotation, but he’ll presumably join the bullpen for the time being. Fellow righty Michael Tonkin was optioned to Triple-A yesterday.

Alex Meyer

Acquired from the Nationals in a straight-up swap for Denard Span, Meyer is a 6’9″ power arm that was selected with the 23rd pick of the 2011 draft. Entering the season, the Kentucky alum ranked as the No. 14 prospect in baseball on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101. Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com ranked Meyer 29th, and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 30th. Baseball America and Fangraphs were a bit less optimistic, ranking him 62nd and 71st, respectively.

Scouts have been split on Meyer for years, with some feeling that he’s a future closer and others feeling that he can end up at or near the front of a Major League rotation. Meyer can hit triple digits with his fastball and features what many describe as a “wipeout slider” as well, but he’s battled control problems at times in his career and has had some shoulder injuries that have slowed his development.

For all of Meyer’s acclaim, he got off to a dreadful start at Triple-A Rochester this season. In 39 1/3 innings over his first eight starts, Meyer posted a 7.09 ERA with 41 strikeouts against 24 walks. The Twins shifted him to the bullpen in hopes of getting him back on track, and the results have been nothing short of excellent. Since a shift to the ‘pen, Meyer has pitched 17 innings and yielded just one earned run with a 20-to-6 K/BB ratio. That promise, coupled with a lack of reliable arms in the Minnesota ‘pen, likely means that Meyer will work as a reliever with Minnesota in 2015, if he’s able to stay with the club long-term. A move back to the rotation later down the road, of course, probably shouldn’t be ruled out.

Because it’s late June, Meyer would only be able accumulate 102 days of big league service even if he stays in the Majors through season’s end. That will leave him well shy of Super Two designation and place him on track to reach free agency following the 2021 season (again, that is in the event that he remains at the big league level).

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Braves Promote Matt Wisler

The Braves announced tonight that top right-handed pitching prospect Matt Wisler will be promoted tomorrow and make his big league debut against the Mets. Righty Sugar Ray Marimon will be sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett to clear room on the 25-man roster, and the team has an open spot on its 40-man roster. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien tweeted earlier this afternoon that he expected Wisler to get the call for tomorrow’s start.

Acquired from the Padres in the blockbuster trade that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to San Diego, Wisler entered the 2015 season ranked as the No. 34 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. Baseball Prospectus ranked Wisler 53rd, while Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com ranked him 69th. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel pegged Wisler 41st overall.

Wisler has pitched reasonably well at Triple-A this season, although his numbers don’t line up with the type of production one might expect from such a highly touted prospect. In 65 innings thus far, he’s worked to a 4.29 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. He’s been plagued by a 64 percent strand rate, which helps to explain why FIP credits Wisler with a much more favorable 3.33 mark.

Per BA, Wisler sits in the 92-94 mph range and tops out at 96 with a two-seam fastball that features above-average sink. He also has a lively four-seamer and control of his entire arsenal — a trait that has manifested itself in his stellar BB/9 rate. McDaniel notes that his slider is a plus pitch, while his changeup is average or better at times, and he can command the ball on both sides of the plate. BA noted that most scouts see Wisler as a No. 3 type of starter on a contending club, and all of the aforementioned scouting reports agreed heading into the season that he could be ready to join the rotation midway through this year.

Wisler will step into the rotation spot that was recently vacated when Atlanta optioned fellow promising righty Mike Foltynewicz to Triple-A. He’ll join Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Williams Perez for the time being. Atlanta has experienced quite a bit of change in its rotation through the first portion of the season, with the jettisoning of struggling veterans Eric Stults and Trevor Cahill, the decision to option Foltynewicz, and a shoulder injury that ended Mike Minor‘s season before it began. Given all of that turnover, it would seem that Wisler may have an opportunity to carve out a long-term spot in the Braves’ starting five from this point forth.

If Wisler is indeed here to stay following Friday’s promotion, he’ll accrue 109 days of Major League service time in 2015, which should leave him comfortably shy of Super Two status as he works through the arbitration process. He’d be controllable through the 2021 season in the event that he remained at the big league level from this point forth.


Cubs To Promote Kyle Schwarber

The Cubs will promote catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber for his first big league action, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com reports on Twitter. Schwarber is expected to spend six games as the club’s DH for interleague play, and will thereafter receive his first taste of the Triple-A level.

Mar 2, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber poses for a portrait during photo day at the training center at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Schwarber, 22, was taken with the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft. Coming into the year, prospect evaluators agreed that he was a top-100 pick, though varied widely in placement. Baseball America placed Schwarber inside the top twenty prospects (19th), while Baseball Prospectus rated him 77th in the game.

Certainly, the Indiana University product has done nothing but enhance his value as a professional. He has destroyed pitching throughout the minors, putting up a composite .333/.432/.610 line over 549 plate appearances. At Double-A this year, Schwarber has slashed .318/.439/.578 while banging 13 long balls in 238 turns at bat.

Of course, the question with Schwarber was never his bat, but whether he would stick behind the plate. He’d likely only need to be an adequate defender to provide value as a catcher, though a move to the outfield or first base could also be possible in the long term. For now, of course, Chicago is giving him every chance to work as a backstop.

It appears that this is nothing more than a brief showcase for Schwarber, who really does not have an obvious roster spot to play in the big leagues. The club is set at catcher, with Miguel Montero and David Ross on hand. And while adding a power bat to the corner outfield would certainly hold appeal, Schwarber has spent just 36 games in left over his young professional career.

A huge showing at the plate or a well-timed injury could always change plans, of course. From a service time perspective, Schwarber can rack up no more than 111 days at this point, meaning he would not line up for Super Two status even if he stuck this year and never returned to the minors. Of course, every day added in 2015 will count for future years, making it harder for the Cubs to hold him back when he seems fully ready to play an everyday role in the majors.

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