Top Prospect Promotions Rumors

NL Notes: Taylor, Cuddyer, Hanley, Alvarez

The Nationals will promote top prospect Michael Taylor today, a source tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. The 23-year-old, previously known more for his bat than his glove, has risen quickly through Double-A and Triple-A this season, hitting .315/.401/.547 with 22 homers and 35 stolen bases along the way. Outfielder Steven Souza was placed on the disabled list with a left shoulder contusion to make room for Taylor. MLB.com ranked Taylor 72nd on the midseason edition of its Top 200 prospects list. Washington will have control of him through at least the 2019 season if he is in the Majors to stay.

Here are some more Sunday morning links from around the senior circuit…

  • Michael Cuddyer is focused on getting healthy rather than proving himself to potential free agent suitors or to the Rockies in the season’s final weeks, writes Nick Groke of the Denver Post. The 35-year-old, who is finishing up a three-year, $31.5MM contract, has been out since April with a broken bone in his left shoulder. Cuddyer elected to rehab at the lower levels of the minor leagues to strengthen his legs and to once again experience the camaraderie of that environment, he explains. His decision has not been taken for granted by the young players he’s encountered thus far, as Rockies 2014 first-rounder Forrest Wall has already picked Cuddyer’s brain about preparation for games and his approach at the plate. The Rockies would like to retain Cuddyer, though they aren’t sure at what price they’d be comfortable, Groke notes.
  • The Dodgers seem resigned to the fact that Hanley Ramirez will be placed on the disabled list with an oblique injury, writes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Ramirez has been determined to stay off the DL in his contract year, says Gurnick, but he’s still missed 25 starts with various injuries to this point. Ramirez ranked third on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, with his lack of durability being a primary reason for his fall from the top spot. A stint on the DL — which would be his fifth since the onset of the 2011 season — certainly won’t help his free agent stock.
  • Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke to Pedro Alvarez and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle about the possibility of Alvarez moving across the diamond to first base. Alvarez, whom Hurdle recently said had lost his starting job at third base, is open to the idea and called it a “no-brainer” rather than offer any negative comments about the move. It’d present the Bucs with an interesting logjam at first, however, as Alvarez ($4.25MM), Ike Davis ($3.5MM) and Gaby Sanchez ($2.3MM) are all due raises on their 2014 salaries via arbitration this winter. Price notes that Sanchez has begun working out over at third base.

Cubs To Promote Javier Baez

The Cubs will promote star prospect Javier Baez in time for tomorrow’s game against the Rockies at Coors Field, Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com reports (Twitter link).  Corresponding moves still need to be made to make room for the Puerto Rico native on both the Cubs’ 25- and 40-man rosters.  Baez is a client of the Wasserman Media Group, as he just hired his new representation last week.

javier_baezBaez is a consensus top-10 prospect in the game, as detailed in recent midseason minor league rankings by Baseball Prospectus (which puts him at #5), MLB.com (#6), Baseball America (#7) and ESPN’s Keith Law (#8).  The 21-year-old impressed many with a big Spring Training performance but then got off to a slow start in his first couple of months at Triple-A.  After 434 plate appearances for Iowa, however, Baez is hitting .260/.323/.510 with 23 home runs, so it seems his power swing is ready for the big league spotlight.

Originally selected ninth overall in the 2011 draft, Baez has a .278/.336/.545 slash line in 1350 minor league PA, cranking 76 homers and stealing 62 bases (out of 79 attempts) over his four minor league seasons.  The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook says that Baez could stand to slow down some of the natural aggressiveness in his game, yet raved about his “special bat speed” and baseball instincts.  The Handbook gave Baez’s power a 75 scouting grade (out of 80) and said “he profiles as an all-star-caliber, 30-homer infielder wherever he lands.”

It seems likely that Baez will land at second base for his Major League debut, with Starlin Castro entrenched at shortstop at Arismendy Alcantara (another well-regarded prospect) capable of shifting to center field.  Baez is a natural shortstop but has seen playing time at the keystone at Triple-A in preparation for both playing alongside Castro and because there is some concern that he might be better suited for second or third base over the long term.  With Castro locked into a relatively expensive contract through at least 2019 and a wealth of strong infield prospects (Baez, Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell) in Chicago’s system, it will be interesting to see how the Cubs juggle all these young talents in the coming years.

Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images


Top Prospect Promotions: Foltynewicz, Ranaudo

Two well-regarded young arms both got the call for their respective teams. At this point, even if both players stay on the MLB roster the rest of the way, they will of course not be able to accrue enough service time to set them up for eventual Super Two qualification. On the other hand, they’ll bank plenty of service days now and begin moving towards arbitration eligibility. Let’s take a look:

  • Righty Mike Foltynewicz will get his call-up for a relief role with the Astros, reports Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). The 22-year-old with a big fastball currently ranks 65th on MLB.com’s list of the game’s top 100 prospects, with Baseball America ranking him 59th coming into the year. With Foltynewicz, the big question is whether he can develop his secondary offerings to the point that he will stick in a rotation, but Houston will plan to use him in relief this season and give him a chance at earning a starting role in the spring (according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart).
  • Meanwhile, Anthony Ranaudo will take the bump today for the Red Sox after previously scheduled starter John Lackey was dealt away, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets. Ranking 82nd among the game’s prospects per MLB.com, the 24-year-old righty has put up excellent results in each of the last two seasons as he climbed through the minor league ranks. This year, he owns a 2.41 ERA through 119 1/3 innings at Triple-A, with 7.5 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9. MLB.com praises his sinker and sharp curve, though says he still was work to do refining his change.


Blue Jays To Promote Aaron Sanchez

The Blue Jays will promote top prospect Aaron Sanchez to join their bullpen today, sources tell Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. The right-handed starter had been moved to the bullpen at Triple-A recently to prepare him for the role in the Majors, though he made just two relief appearances before this promotion.

Aaron  Sanchez

Sanchez, 22, ranked as the game’s No. 32 prospect on Baseball America’s pre-season Top 100. He ranked 31st on Baseball Prospectus’ version of the same list and 23rd on MLB.com’s Top 100. Sanchez has had a bit of a down season, causing him to fall off of the midseason edition of BA’s Top 50 prospects. However, BP wasn’t as swayed by his regression and upped his ranking to No. 29 on their midseason list (though as they note, given the number of prospects that have been promoted ahead of him, the ranking is actually a bit of a step back).

In 100 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Sanchez has a 3.95 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. As BP’s Chris Mellen notes in his write-up of Sanchez on BP’s midseason list (subscription required and recommended), he consistently teases the Blue Jays by showing front-of-the-rotation stuff but with heavily inconsistent fastball command. As a result, the “clear-headed line of sight” points to a mid-rotation role for Sanchez, Mellen writes. Prior to the season BA praised his ability to induce grounders with his fastball as well as the tilt and depth of his potentially plus curveball. They did note, however, that when pitching from the stretch in 2013, he walked more hitters than he struck out. Sanchez’s changeup has potential to be a third average-or-better offering as well, per MLB.com’s scouting report.

If Sanchez is at the Major League level to stay, he would accumulate 70 days of service time through season’s end, which would leave him well shy of attaining Super Two status. Recent reports have indicated that the Blue Jays are looking for bullpen help, but if Sanchez can solidify a relief role, he could be an alternative to making a trade.

Sanchez has also seen his name mentioned in trade rumors pertaining to starting pitching additions, but GM Alex Anthopoulos has shown a strong resistance to moving Sanchez’s lofty ceiling. Sanchez’s name was frequently brought up in possible Jeff Samardzija trades — alongside lefty Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey — before “Shark” was ultimately dealt to Oakland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Red Sox To Promote Mookie Betts

4:00pm: The Red Sox have officially announced the move. To clear space on their active roster, they’ve optioned pitcher Rubby De La Rosa to Triple-A Pawtucket.

9:13am: The Red Sox are set to promote top prospect Mookie Betts, John Tomase of the Boston Herald tweets. There’s no word yet on a corresponding roster move.

The Red Sox drafted Betts in the fifth round in 2011, and beginning in 2013, he quickly cut his way through the minors, hitting well at each level. The 21-year-old second baseman and outfielder hit .345/.437/.520 in 359 plate appearances in 2014 split between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Betts is ranked the No. 51 prospect in the game by MLB.com, No. 61 by ESPN’s Keith Law and No. 75 by Baseball America. BA’s Prospect Handbook 2014 ranked Betts the Red Sox’ seventh-best prospect, praising his speed, athleticism and ability to control the strike zone. With Dustin Pedroia at second base, the Red Sox will likely find playing time for Betts in the outfield, where the team has struggled this season.


Marlins Promote Heaney; Slowey, Wolf Designated For Assignment

The Marlins announced that they have designated right-hander Kevin Slowey and left-hander Randy Wolf for assignment as part of a series of roster moves. Additionally, Christian Yelich and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have been placed on the 15-day DL, and Donovan Solano has been optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Miami will recall right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, outfielder Jake Marisnick and first baseman Justin Bour. Most notably, top prospect Andrew Heaney will also be promoted to the Majors for the first time.

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins

Heaney (pictured) was the ninth overall selection in the 2012 draft and entered the season ranked as the game’s No. 30 prospect according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. MLB.com ranked the 23-year-old as the game’s No. 29 prospect, and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 34th entering the season.

Heaney has shredded minor league hitters this season, pitching to a 2.47 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 76 2/3 innings between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans. Should he remain with the team through season’s end, he would accrue 106 days of Major League service time, meaning that he should fall well shy of Super Two status.

The former Oklahoma State ace has a fastball that sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph regularly, per Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com. That plus heater is accompanied by a “wipeout” slider that Mayo and Callis grade as Heaney’s best pitch, as well as a changeup that the duo describes as a “good third pitch.” BA’s scouting reports notes that his fastball can reach 97 mph when he needs the heat, but Heaney has learned that he pitches with better command when throwing in the 91 to 93 mph range. BA also noted that holding runners has been a weakness for Heaney dating back to college (19 of 20 attempted base-stealers were successful against him in 2013), but he’s allowed just six steals in nine attempts in 2014.

The 37-year-old Wolf signed a Major League deal with the Marlins in May after opting out of his minor league deal with the Diamondbacks. He posted a 5.26 ERA with a strong 19-to-6 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings with the Fish, and his 87.7 mph fastball velocity wasn’t too far off his career mark of 88.2 mph. Wolf’s stint with the Marlins was his first Major League work since late 2012, as he missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Sabermetric ERA estimators such as FIP (4.33), xFIP (3.87) and SIERA (3.99) all feel that he was the victim of some poor luck.

Slowey, 30, posted similar numbers to Wolf, compiling a 5.30 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings. He, too, was the victim of a very lofty batting average on balls in play (.382), which no doubt contributed to his lofty ERA. Slowey has always been a soft-tossing fly-ball pitcher, but he has excellent command and a respectable 4.62 ERA in 662 career innings with the Twins and Marlins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pirates Promote Gregory Polanco

June 10: The Pirates have officially announced Polanco’s promotion via press release.

June 9: The Pirates have announced that Polanco will be called up prior to tomorrow’s game. A roster opening will be created with Neil Walker going to the 15-day DL after undergoing an appendectomy this evening.

Polanco also tweeted the news from his personal Twitter account. If he is activated tomorrow, Polanco could reach 111 days of MLB service this year, which would make him an unlikely Super Two candidate down the line.

June 4, 7:17pm: A Pirates official says that Polanco will not be called up Friday, specifying that sources saying otherwise are incorrect, according to Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (via Twitter; hat tip to Biertempfel).

6:20pm: Two high-ranking club officials say there are no plans to promote Polanco for Friday, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (via Twitter).

5:46pm: The Pirates will make the much-anticipated promotion of top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco in time to activate him for Friday’s game, reports Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports that Polanco is set to join the Pirates on Friday, via Twitter.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees

Polanco, 22, entered the season as a consensus top-25 prospect league-wide — if not better. Baseball America pushed the toolsy Dominican into the top ten, while ESPN.com’s Keith Law and MLB.com both rated him inside of the top 15. Of course, that was before Polanco went on a rampage in his first real stint Triple-A this year, putting up a .351/.410/.547 line with 6 home runs and 14 steals and leading Law to move him up to the 3rd overall slot among current prospects.

Polanco is far from a bat-first prospect. Indeed, Law says that he features plus-plus defense at the center field position and gets a 70 grade on the basepaths. That is especially notable given that Polanco checks in at a robust 6’4 tall and 220 pounds.

Of course, Polanco is not likely to get a chance to play center in Pittsburgh, which already features a solid defender in Andrew McCutchen at that spot. Instead, like fellow outstanding youngster Starling Marte, he figures to slot in as one of the best corner outfield defenders in the game, combining with McCutchen for perhaps the game’s most exciting trio. The hope is that Polanco can provide an immediate upgrade in right for a team that has received precisely replacement-level production from the spot this year, even taking into account the unexpected outburst from Josh Harrison.

The call-up brings to an end the somewhat controversial stretch of time that Polanco spent at the highest minor league level this year. Many called for an earlier promotion, citing the Bucs’ struggles in right field and the fact that Pittsburgh reportedly offered Polanco a seven-year, $25MM contract extension before he even suited up for the big club. While it would be foolish to deny that Super Two considerations played a role, of course, it is worth bearing in mind that Polanco had taken all of nine plate appearances at the Triple-A level prior to this season, and had only posted a .762 OPS through 286 trips to the plate at Double-A.

Assuming that Polanco is officially added to the active MLB roster on Friday, he would stand to accumulate as many as 115 days of service this year. That is not likely to put him line for Super Two status, which has required anywhere from 2.122 to 2.146 days of service in recent years.

Pittsburgh stands to control Polanco through the 2020 season, and will likely not have to go through arbitration with him until 2018. The rest of the above-mentioned outfielders are controlled long-term as well: McCutchen has had his salary guaranteed through 2017 with a club option for another year, while Marte is under contract through 2019 with two more team options to follow. Given the team’s already-aggressive stance with regard to Polanco, and successful negotiations with his outfield mates, it would not be surprising to see the team look for another chance at a deal in the future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rockies To Promote Eddie Butler

The Rockies will promote one of their two top pitching prospects, righty Eddie Butler, reports MLB.com’s Thomas Harding (via Twitter). Butler will take the ball against the Dodgers on Friday.

MLB: Colorado Rockies-Photo Day

Butler is a 23-year-old who was taken 46th overall in the 2012 draft out of Radford. Though he is perhaps less widely known (and much smaller physically) than fellow high-end righty Jonathan Gray, Butler is every bit the prospect. Keith Law of ESPN.com is most bullish (Insider links), ranking Butler among the game’s twenty best prospects entering the season and keeping him there in a recent update. A big sinker and hard slider were his calling cards entering the draft, says Law, but an excellent, more recently developed change has advanced his value significantly.

As Law noted, Butler has not generated the strikeout numbers that might have been expected this season. Indeed, he is only striking out 5.2 batters per nine (against 2.5 BB/9) to support his 2.49 ERA in 68 2/3 Triple-A innings on the year, though Law notes that Butler’s stuff is likely to produce strong groundball results. Baseball America listed him as the game’s 24th-best pre-MLB talent, echoing Law’s assessment. MLB.com, meanwhile, places Butler at the 33rd overall slot, noting that Butler had answered some concerns with his lack of size and command.

If Butler’s service clock starts on Friday and he remains in the bigs for the rest of the season, he would stand to tally 115 days on his clock this year. That would not be enough to set him up for Super Two qualification in most years; the cutoff has hovered between 2.122 and 2.146 days of service in recent years.

It appears that Butler will take the rotation spot of the struggling Franklin Morales, who had initially stepped in for the injured Brett Anderson. With the Rockies standing at an even .500, Butler’s performance could have an important role in determining the club’s fate — and, relatedly, shaping how the team views its chances this year and in the future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Astros To Promote Jon Singleton

The Astros have told slugging first baseman Jon Singleton that he will be promoted to the Major Leagues for tomorrow’s game, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter).  MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier today that “all indications” were that Singleton would be promoted as early as this week.

Singleton, universally ranked as a Top 100 prospect, has enjoyed a monster season thus far for Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting .267/.397/.544 with 14 homers through his first 54 games. While service time considerations are often a factor in the timing of promotions — and likely were part of the reason that Singleton remained in Triple-A as long as he did — the Astros won’t be fretting over the amount of team control or the price to retain him through his arbitration years; Houston has reportedly agreed to a five-year, $10MM extension with Singleton that contains three club options, allowing the deal top out at $35MM.

Houston originally acquired Singleton along with Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later (Domingo Santana) in exchange for Hunter Pence back in 2011.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Cardinals To Promote Oscar Taveras

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.

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals

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.