Top Prospect Promotions Rumors

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


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).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Astros To Promote Vincent Velasquez

The Astros will promote right-handed pitching prospect Vincent Velasquez today, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. He will start Wednesday’s game against the White Sox, according to McTaggart.

Vincent Velasquez

Velasquez entered the season ranked No. 56 on the Top 100 prospect list of ESPN’s Keith Law. He currently ranks 74th on MLB.com’s list, and he also ranked 75th according to both Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs and to Baseball Prospectus prior to Opening Day. Suffice it to say, the 2010 second-round pick is regarded as one of the most promising young arms in all of baseball.

Law says that Velasquez has the aresenal of No. 2 starter, including a 93-96 mph fastball, a plus changeup and a slider that sits 82-84 mph but still needs work, as it tends to flatten out. The consensus on Velasquez is that he may rank higher on all of these lists with a better track record of health. He missed the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery and had a pair of non-arm-related injuries in 2014 that limited him to 63 2/3 innings. McDaniel adds that his arm troubles date back even to his high school days, where he had a stress fracture in his elbow and a ligament strain during his junior year. His 2015 season didn’t begin until May 8, but in five starts at the Double-A, Velasquez has worked to a 1.37 ERA with 37 strikeouts against nine walks in 26 1/3 innings.

For the Astros, Velasquez will be the second highly touted young arm to join their rotation in the past month or so. Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., a 2012 first-rounder and Velasquez’s Double-A teammate as recently as four weeks ago, has made a nearly seamless transition to the Majors by tossing 24 innings of 1.88 ERA ball.

The need for reinforcements in Houston’s rotation is palpable. Despite the brilliant season of ace Dallas Keuchel (1.85 ERA in a league-leading 87 2/3 innings) and that excellent effort from McCullers, the Astros have a collective 4.14 ERA from their rotation, which ranks 17th in the Majors. Collin McHugh has yet to rediscover his 2014 breakout form, Scott Feldman had an ERA of 4.80 before going down for about six weeks with knee surgery, and Roberto Hernandez has a 5.18 ERA to show for his 66 innings of work. Brett Oberholtzer, Sam Deduno, Brad Peacock and Asher Wojciechowski have all made starts as well but have produced a mix of ineffective performances and injuries to this point.

McTaggart writes that Velasquez will be taking Hernandez’s spot in the rotation, so it would seem that the 23-year-old Velasquez (he turned 23 yesterday) has a chance to nail down a permanent rotation spot with an impressive performance. Presently, he’ll join Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers and Oberholtzer in the rotation, though Feldman will be back in about five weeks and presumably step back into the rotation.


Astros Promote Carlos Correa

The Astros have promoted top prospect Carlos Correa, according to a team press release.  Correa will join the team tomorrow in Chicago for the start of a three-game series against the White Sox.  Righty Jake Buchanan is being optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding move, and another move is coming tomorrow to open up a 40-man roster spot.

Carlos has performed extremely well at every level of our minor league system,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said in the release. “We feel he has earned this promotion and look forward to him joining our ballclub. Since he is just 20 years old, we do not have unrealistic expectations of Carlos. However, his performance on the field and his maturity indicate that he is ready to contribute on the Major League level.”

"FebCorrea was the first overall pick of the 2012 draft, a slightly controversial pick at the time given that Byron Buxton and Mark Appel were generally considered to be better picks.  Houston took Correa in part due to signability reasons, as he inked a below-slot contract and freed up more money for the Astros to spend on other prospects later in the draft.  In four pro seasons, however, Correa has made the Astros’ strategy look doubly wise, as he has hit .313/.392/.491 with 28 homers and 54 steals (out of 70 chances) over 1256 minor league plate appearances.  Preseason prospect lists saw the 6’4″, 190-pounder ranked as the third-best prospect in the sport by MLB.com and ESPN’s Keith Law, while Baseball America ranked him fourth.

The 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook describes Correa as “a plus hitter with plus raw power” who 30-homer potential in the big leagues, though he has yet to fully develop enough loft in his swing to fully unleash that pop.  One rival evaluator cited by BA compared Correa’s opposite-field hitting ability to that of Albert Pujols, though with less power.  Defensively, Correa was praised for almost everything (only his ability to turn double plays was considered average), particularly his “double-plus” throwing arm.  Off the field, Correa’s “makeup is off the charts, with a natural ability to lead and a goal-oriented mindset unseen in a player who just turned 20.”

Correa hadn’t even played above the high-A ball level before this season, yet a 1.185 OPS in 133 PA in Double-A quickly earned him another promotion to Triple-A, where he posted a .266/.336/.447 line over 107 PA.  While this Triple-A production isn’t quite dominant, Correa still projects as an upgrade for the Astros at shortstop.  Jed Lowrie will be out until after the All-Star break following thumb surgery, and Jonathan Villar and Marwin Gonzalez have combined for -0.2 fWAR this season.

Many predicted Correa would reach the majors at some point in 2015, though the Astros’ unexpected stint atop the AL West adds a different dimension to the promotion.  Correa will be expected to step in and contribute to a playoff hopeful, rather than the expected scenario of getting his feet wet in the bigs for a team most felt was still at least a season away from contending.  As Luhnow noted, the Astros aren’t expecting Correa to immediately become a superstar.  In fact, there’s not necessarily any guarantee that Correa will even spend the rest of the season in the majors, should he struggle and Lowrie returns as scheduled.  This is just my speculation, but if Correa is playing well when Lowrie gets back, Lowrie could replace Luis Valbuena at third base — Lowrie has appeared in 83 MLB games at third, though he hasn’t played the position since 2011.

From a service time perspective, Correa is likely to fall short of eventually earning Super Two status even if he spends the rest of the year in the majors, based on recent Super Two cutoff points.  Houston hasn’t been shy in calling up some of their top minor league prospects, as Lance McCullers, Preston Tucker and Michael Feliz have all made their MLB debuts in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports


Nationals Promote Joe Ross

SATURDAY: The Nationals have officially announced the move. To clear space for Ross on their active roster, they’ve optioned fellow pitcher A.J. Cole to Triple-A Syracuse. The clear space on the 40-man, they moved righty Craig Stammen to the 60-day disabled list.

FRIDAY: The Nationals will promote right-handed pitching prospect Joe Ross (the younger brother of San Diego’s Tyson Ross) on Saturday prior to their game versus the Cubs, according to a tweet from NorCal Baseball — Ross’ baseball league from his teenage years. Nationals manager Matt Williams has since told reporters, including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (Twitter link) that Ross will indeed be starting against the Cubs tomorrow.

One of two key players acquired in the three-team trade that sent Wil Myers to the Padres and Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays (the other being Trea Turner, who is still with San Diego due to PTBNL status), Ross entered the season ranked as the No. 63 prospect in baseball, according to ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required). Baseball America and also considered him a Top 100 prospect, although they were a bit less bullish, ranking him 96th.

Ross has made pitching at Double-A Harrisburg look easy in his first year with the Nationals organization, compiling a 2.81 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 51 1/3 innings. The former 25th-overall draft pick is said by BA to possess a fastball that sits 91-93 mph but can be ramped up to 96 mph when needed. BA also calls his low- to mid-80s slider a plus pitch and notes that his changeup made a significant amount of improvement in 2014, giving Ross a chance to pan out as a No. 3 type starter in the Majors.

The Nationals have incurred a pair of notable injuries in their rotation, with both Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister on the shelf at the moment. Perhaps more troubling is the fact that neither pitched particularly well when healthy. Strasburg’s velocity and K/BB numbers remained strong, giving the team some hope, but Fister’s velocity was down around 85 mph, and his strikeouts have all but vanished. Tanner Roark has slotted into the rotation in their absence, and the highly regarded Cole has made a start as well. But Roark has not matched his 2014 success either; despite a 2.59 ERA, Roark has just 11 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings this year and a woeful 5.35 FIP.

None of this is to say that Ross is guaranteed to receive a prolonged look in the Major Leagues. Given his complete lack of experience at the Triple-A level, he could very well find himself back in the minors for more seasoning. Were Ross to remain with the Nationals for the duration of the season, however, he’d accumulate 122 days of Major League service time, which would, in all likelihood, leave him short of attaining Super Two status down the line.


Rangers To Promote Joey Gallo

The Rangers will promote power-hitting third base prospect Joey Gallo to the big league roster tomorrow, GM Jon Daniels tells the Ben & Skin Show on CBS Dallas Fort-Worth (h/t Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Twitter links).

Mar 2, 2015; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo (70) poses for a portrait during Photo Day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Daniels stressed in his comments that the move is designed only to be a short-term patch. In announcing the move, executive VP of communications noted that Gallo will occupy an active roster spot created by placing Adrian Beltre on the 15-day DL with a sprain and laceration on his left thumb.

Gallo was on the prospect map prior last year, owing to his unmatched raw power, but show up the charts when he put it into action with a monster age-20 season. He hit 21 home runs apiece at High-A and Double-A, splitting his time about evenly between those levels. Of course, Gallo’s overall batting line was far superior at the lower level, and he struck out a troubling 115 times in his 291 plate appearances for Frisco.

While injury delayed his start to 2015, he’s only delivered more promise since healing. Gallo continues to deliver plenty of pop after starting the year back at Double-A, and has improved his plate discipline rather markedly (16.4% BB vs. 33.6% K, as opposed to the 12.4% BB vs. 39.5% K he put up in the last half of 2014).

Contact and strikeout rates are still a significant concern for Gallo’s long-term outlook, of course, but he as things stand he is walking at a healthy rate and squaring up enough balls to provide plenty of value. Whether he can stick at third is also something of a question: he is said to have an outstanding arm, but sub-par range.

He’s far from a sure thing, the upside is tremendous. Indeed, Gallo is a consensus top-ten prospect leaguewide. While Texas appears inclined only to give him a taste of the big leagues, a hot start would make it hard to drop him back to the minors (though his left-handed bat doesn’t have an obvious role with Mitch Moreland performing and Josh Hamilton now in the fold).

Given their plans, the Rangers are probably not terribly concerned with Gallo’s service time status. Even if he does stay on the active roster all year, he probably would not be set up to qualify for Super Two status. And while all service accumulated this year will force Texas to wait longer next year in order to preserve an additional season of club control, the Rangers have other corner options (particularly, left-handed hitting ones) — and good reason to allow Gallo to further develop.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rangers To Promote Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez

The Rangers will bring up top pitching prospect Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez to make his first big league start on Saturday, the club announced. Gonzalez came to Texas as the 23rd overall pick in the 2013 draft.

Gonzalez is a consensus top-100 pitching prospect, though most outlets have placed him near the back of that list. But Baseball Prospectus is particularly bullish on him, rating him inside the thirty best pre-MLB players in the game before the season.

Most view Gonzalez as a mid-rotation starter, with his upside limiting his value. Indeed, the 23-year-old has slowed somewhat in his first run at Triple-A, striking out 5.4 and walking 3.9 batters per nine innings while working to a 4.15 ERA over 43 1/3 innings.

Texas apparently intends to give Gonzalez every chance of entrenching himself in the rotation. GM Jon Daniels says that a regular starting job is “his spot to lose,” as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. That would make him an unlikely Super Two candidate: the cutoff was most recently projected at 2.140 years of service, while Gonzalez can accrue as many as 128 days on the active roster this year.