Top Prospect Promotions Rumors

Nationals Promote Trea Turner

The Nationals announced that they have selected the contract of top shortstop prospect Trea Turner to the Majors.In order to clear a spot on the active roster, the Nationals have placed Tyler Moore on the disabled list. Meanwhile, righty Aaron Barrett will hit the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot.

With the move, Washington has added its best position-player prospect for the stretch run. The team previously called up fellow middle infielder Wilmer Difo, but used him only sparingly and decided this time to give the nod to Turner.

This move seems more significant than the Difo call-up, because Turner did not need to be added to the 40-man after the season. Giving him a roster spot now means that the club has one less opening to protect other assets from the Rule 5 draft. It’s certainly possible that Washington decided it could get by without the extra space, but the move might also suggest that the club feels Turner can contribute down the stretch and/or make a viable challenge to take over for pending free agent Ian Desmond to open the 2016 season (in which case it might be valuable to give Turner a look at the bigs this year).

Turner came to the Nats along with right-hander Joe Ross in the three-team trade that sent Steven Souza to the Rays and Wil Myers to the Padres. He now joins Ross as part of the organization’s 25-man roster, a fact which reflects better on the trade than it does the team’s overall performance this year.

Since the deal, Turner has done nothing but enhance his value. He’s now a consensus top-20 prospect leaguewide, if not better, after dominating at Double-A and putting up a strong .314/.353/.431 slash with 14 steals in his first 205 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors.

While his first-round draft status and rising stock have elevated Turner’s profile, he is probably still best known for being dealt as the player to be named later in the aforementioned trade. The two sides used a loophole in a since-changed rule that stated a player could not be traded until one year after he is drafted. San Diego took Turner 13th overall in the 2014 draft, and they took advantage of the fact that teams can take up to six months to determine a PTBNL to trade him in December. Of course, that meant that Turner, who had been widely reported as the PTBNL, spent Spring Training and the first three months of the season with the Padres despite the fact that everyone knew he’d been traded to the Nationals. This was far from the first occurrence of PTBNL manipulation, but it was perhaps the most public example, and it spurred the league to take action and amend the rules so that players can be traded upon completion of the World Series in the year they are drafted.


Brewers Promote Domingo Santana

The Brewers announced that they’ve recalled top prospect Domingo Santana from Triple-A Colorado Springs. (MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy had tweeted prior to the announcement that Santana could be on his way to the bigs.) Acquired last month from the Astros as part of the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers blockbuster, Santana ranks 83rd on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 prospects.

This will not be the 23-year-old Santana’s first taste of Major League action, as he tallied 20 games with the Astros over the past two seasons before coming over to Milwaukee in the trade. Santana hit .256/.310/.462 in 14 games with Houston earlier this season and has delivered excellent production at the Triple-A level all season between both organizations. Though his numbers come with the usual Pacific Coast League caveat (the league is an exceptionally hitter-friendly environment), Santana’s .333/.426/.573 batting line is nonetheless impressive.

Santana will take the roster spot of injured right-hander Tyler Cravy, though he seemingly will also be auditioning to lock down a long-term role in a Brewers outfield that is at least somewhat in transition following the departure of Gomez. Though Santana has played primarily in the corner outfield as a minor leaguer, and his future is likely to be in right or left field, he does have experience in center field as well, where Milwaukee has a more immediate need.

From a long-term perspective, the Brewers seem to have three big-league-ready assets for two corner outfield spots. Ryan Braun is, of course, under contract through the 2020 season at an average of $19MM per year. And while Khris Davis has had his struggles this season, he’s homered nine times in his past 35 games (29 starts), albeit with low batting average (.224) and OBP (.306) marks. The team’s corner outfield situation though, will seemingly be one of many situations that the Brewers’ new general manager will have to sort out this winter. A move from the outfield to first base for Braun has been discussed in the past, but neither he nor Davis has ever played a professional game at first base.

Looking more toward the short-term, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes that the Brewers do have an interleague series against the Indians coming up that will be played in Cleveland, giving manager Craig Counsell the opportunity to work all three right-handed bats into his lineup by adding a DH possibility. And, with rosters expanding on Sept. 1, Counsell and the Brewers won’t have to worry about keeping too many corner options on the active roster for long.


Dodgers Promote Jose Peraza

The Dodgers have promoted top infield prospect Jose Peraza, who will make his big-league debut while starting at second base tonight, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Regular Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick left Sunday’s game after injuring himself while running the bases. He had an MRI on his hamstring today, and the team has announced that it has placed him on the 15-day DL. Manager Don Mattingly said yesterday that he expected Kendrick to miss significant time.

The 21-year-old Peraza only recently joined the Dodgers organization, having arrived from the Braves in the massive three-team Mat Latos / Hector Olivera deal. He was hitting .302/.327/.398 in 469 Triple-A plate appearances this year.

MLB.com ranks Peraza the No. 29 prospect in the game, praising his excellent speed — Peraza has little power and doesn’t walk much but has been an effective offensive player in the minors thanks largely to his ability to run out hits and to his baserunning. He has 204 stolen bases in the equivalent of about three full seasons’ worth of minor league plate appearances. Baseball America ranked Peraza the No. 54 prospect in baseball heading into the season.



Rockies To Promote Jon Gray

The Rockies will promote top pitching prospect Jon Gray to the majors on Tuesday, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports (Twitter link).  Gray, a 23-year-old right-hander, will make his Major League debut that evening at Coors Field in a start against the Mariners.

Rockies GM Jeff Bridich expressed some caution over Gray’s timeline to the Show earlier this month, saying that he wanted Gray to be fully prepared before coming to Denver, possibly influenced by how Eddie Butler, another Rockies prospect, has struggled since coming to the majors.  Given how the Rockies have long been lacking in reliable starting pitching, it’s hard to fault Bridich for being careful with such a vaunted homegrown prospect, though it remains to be seen how Gray will adjust to the unique challenge of Coors Field.

Gray’s impressive performance in July may have swayed Bridich’s mind, as the righty has posted a 2.70 ERA and 43 strikeouts (against just 13 walks) over his last 30 innings for Triple-A Albuquerque.  For the season as a whole, Gray has a 4.33 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 2.68 K/BB rate over 114 1/3 innings; respectable numbers considering it’s his first taste of Triple-A action and the Pacific Coast League is notoriously hitter-friendly.

Colorado selected Gray with the third overall pick of the 2013 amateur draft, and he’ll join Kris Bryant, Marco Gonzales, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Michael LorenzenCorey Knebel and Matt Marksberry as 2013 draftees to reach the Major Leagues.  A University of Oklahoma product, Gray is a 6’4″, 235-pound righty who the 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook projected as a possible No. 2 starter at the big league level.  According to the BA Handbook, Gray owns an above-average changeup, a slider that could also become an above-average out pitch and a booming fastball that touched the 102mph plateau as recently as 2013, though he was working in the 94mph range last season.

Gray entered 2015 ranked highly top-100 prospects lists from MLB.com (#16th), ESPN’s Keith Law (#22), Baseball America (#24) and Fangraphs (#28).  The midseason BA top-50 prospects list bumped Gray down to 35th, noting that “scouts who have seen Gray wish they saw dominant outings on a more consistent basis.”  It’s worth mentioning that this list was released on July 7, prior to much of Gray’s recent strong work.


Red Sox To Promote Henry Owens

Red Sox pitching prospect Henry Owens will be called up to make his Major League debut on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, Sox manager John Farrell told reporters (including the Providence Journal’s Brian MacPherson).  Owens gets the call to replace Rick Porcello, who was placed on the 15-day DL today with a right triceps strain.  By coincidence, Owens will pitch a day before Yankees prospect Luis Severino makes his own much-anticipated debut.

Owens, 23, was chosen with the 36th overall pick of the 2011 draft and the lefty has since become not only Boston’s top pitching prospect, but one of the more well-regarded young arms in baseball.  Owens rated highly on preseason top-100 prospect lists from MLB.com (19th), ESPN’s Keith Law (20th) and Baseball America (44th).  The 2015 Baseball America Prospect Handbook described Owens as showing “an advanced feel for pitching that exceeds his age” in terms of reading and adapting to hitters’ swings.  Owens can touch 94mph on his fastball through he usually works in the 89-92mph range, with an “excellent” changeup and a promising curve that needs some more development.

Despite this praise, however, Baseball America actually downgraded Owens on their midseason prospect list, slotting him at #47.  The list, published on July 7, may have reflected Owens’ somewhat rocky start to his Triple-A season, though he has an overall 3.16 ERA in 122 1/3 innings.  Owens only has a 7.6 K/9 rate, a notable drop from his K/9 over his first three pro seasons, and he has continued to have some control issues.  He has a 4.1 BB/9 this season, in line with the 4.0 BB/9 he has posted over 518 career innings.


Mariners Promote Ketel Marte

The Mariners (on Twitter) announced that they have promoted infielder Ketel Marte to the majors. Marte, 21, was rated No. 50 on Baseball America’s midseason top 50 prospects list.

Marte signed for just $100K in the Mariners’ ~$6MM 2010 int’l class, but he has proven to be that group’s best prospect, as BA writes.  Marte’s arm limits him at shortstop and he doesn’t boast a ton of power, but scouts project that he can become an above-average defender at second base.

The youngster has spent the bulk of the 2015 season at Triple-A Tacoma.  In 287 plate appearances, Marte has hit .314/.359/.410 with three homers.


Yankees To Promote Luis Severino

Luis Severino‘s next start will be in the majors, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters, including Sweeny Murti of WFAN (on Twitter). Severino’s name came up in trade rumors in recent days – unsurprising given his upside – but the Bombers did not part with him.

While there were no true untouchables in the Yankees’ farm system this summer, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino came “close” to earning that label, George A. King III of the New York Post recently wrote.  Heading into the season, Baseball America ranked Severino as the No. 35 prospect in the country.  The right-hander got the bump up to Triple-A this season, pitching to a 1.91 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 11 starts.


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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


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).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.