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Top Prospect Promotions Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
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.
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.
MONDAY: The Mets have officially announced that Montero will be promoted and start on Wednesday in place of Mejia, who will be shifted to the bullpen. Montero would accrue 138 days of Major League service time this season, were he to stick in the Majors, making Super Two status very likely.
Of Montero, GM Sandy Alderson said to reporters (Twitter links to Newsday’s Marc Carig), “We think he’s ready now,” and “We understand it’s a debut on a big stage.” He will slot into what has been a solid Mets rotation behind Zack Wheeler, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Additionally, as the Record’s Matt Ehalt tweets, Jacob deGrom has been pulled from his upcoming Triple-A start and will be on standby for the next few days should the team need additional bullpen depth.
For Mejia, the move to the bullpen could prove to be highly beneficial. He’s held opponents to a sparkling .193/.258/.246 batting line when facing them the first time in a game this season. That line, however, jumps to .245/.365/.415 when facing an opponent for the second time and a whopping .405/.500/.595 when facing opponents for a third time. That trend has been the case throughout his young career to this point, but it won’t be much of a concern in the bullpen.
SATURDAY: The Mets could have top prospect Rafael Montero start on Wednesday, tweets ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, citing Danny Knobler, also of ESPN New York. Jenrry Mejia, Wednesday’s scheduled starter, has struggled so far this season, and Montero pitched on Friday for Triple-A Las Vegas and therefore would be ready to start on Wednesday.
ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider-only) ranks Montero as the No. 60 prospect in baseball. Baseball America lists Montero at No. 68, and MLB.com ranks him No. 78, praising his low-90s fastball and good command. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 lists Montero as the Mets’ third-best prospect (behind Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud), noting that he could become a good mid-rotation starter. Montero currently has a 3.67 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings for Las Vegas, which is known as a tough environment for pitchers.
If Montero is promoted and sticks with the team, he would likely be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player following the 2016 season. He would become eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Rangers will execute a series of roster moves, the club announced. Texas will designate righty Scott Baker and infielder Josh Wilson to help create roster space for the call-up of top prospects Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor.
In the aggregate, the moves represent a fairly substantial re-working of the club’s roster as the injuries continue to mount. Also involved in today’s moves were infielder Donnie Murphy, who was placed on the DL, and righty Justin Germano, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A.
Baker, 32, made just one appearance for Texas, throwing 5 1/3 innings and allowing just two earned runs. The veteran had decided not to exercise his opt-out clause with the team, and was rewarded at the time with a call-up. The 33-year-old Wilson had taken 72 plate appearances with the team, putting up a .224/.257/.269 triple-slash.
Both Odor and Sardinas are 20-year-old middle infielders out of Venezuela — though the latter is actually nearly a year older — who have consistently been ranked among the team’s top prospects by evaluators. Baseball America put Odor at 42nd on its top 100 list, while predicting a 2015 arrival. Other observers, such as ESPN.com’s Keith Law (64th) and MLB.com (54th) roughly concurred with that placement. Sardinas, who already received a cup of coffee in 2014, landed at the 70th overall slot on MLB.com’s rankings, though he did not appear it the top 100 of either of the other two.
Before the season, BA called Odor the club’s top prospect. In that publication’s view, while he is somewhat undersized, Odor’s raw tools play up due to an outstanding swing and approach, strong baserunning instincts, and overall positive intangibles. While Odor is heralded mostly for his bat, Sardinas is a glove-first prospect. Speed, range, arm strength, and contact at the dish are the calling cards for the youngster.
The pair of middle infielders entered the year without any MLB service time. Were they to stick on the active roster from this point forward, both players would stand to pick up 143 days of service and position themselves as fairly sure bets to achieve Super Two status. (As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently noted with respect to the call-up of Marcus Stroman, the highest level of service required for Super Two status in recent years has been two years and 146 days. This year, it projects to land at just 2.128.) On the other hand, given their youth and the presumptive return of Jurickson Profar and Murphy, this call-up may not be permanent.
The Blue Jays will call up right-handed pitching prospect Marcus Stroman, the team told reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca) after tonight’s loss to the Pirates. Stroman will pitch out of the bullpen for the Jays, at least at first, though he has pitched exclusively as a starter for the last two minor league seasons and there had been rumors that he was on pace to join the rotation. A corresponding move will come tomorrow, as Stroman isn’t on Toronto’s 40-man roster.
Stroman, who just turned 23 years old on Thursday, was taken by the Jays with the 22nd overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft. He began his pro career in ignominious fashion by serving a 50-game suspension for a PED violation, but returned to post a 3.30 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 4.78 K/BB rate over 20 Double-A starts in 2013. The righty has been even better in five Triple-A starts this season, posting a 1.69 ERA, 12.2 K/9 and 5.14 K/BB rate over 26 2/3 IP.
This performance earned Stroman a place on several preseason prospect lists. MLB.com ranked Stroman 52nd on its list of the top 100 prospects in the game, while Baseball America ranked the righty 55th and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him 58th. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Stroman as the second-best prospect in Toronto’s farm system (behind only Aaron Sanchez) and praised his 92-95 mph “heavy fastball…with above-average movement” also counted his slider and cutter as plus pitches. The knock on Stroman is his 5’9″ height, as the BA Handbook noted that “if Stroman does not defy the odds and become at least a No. 3 starter, then he could be a high-end late-game reliever.”
While the Blue Jays obviously hope Stroman becomes a quality starter in the long term, late-game relief help of any sort would be a boon for a struggling Jays bullpen. Toronto relievers have a 7.45 ERA over their last 48 1/3 IP, which includes the five runs allowed by Aaron Loup and Todd Redmond over 1 2/3 IP in tonight’s loss.
Stroman’s minor league starts had been lined up with Dustin McGowan‘s starts for the Jays, leading to speculation that Stroman would take his spot in the rotation and McGowan would be moved back to the pen. The Blue Jays were also planning to go to a six-man rotation (with J.A. Happ starting) to keep their starters fresh during their current stretch of 20 consecutive games, though Brandon Morrow‘s injury may have shelved that plan for the time being.
If Stroman remains on the Major League roster for the remainder of the season, he will accrue 148 days of service time and be virtually assured of reaching Super Two status. (Two years and 146 days of service time has been the highest Super Two cutoff point of the last six years.) This will earn Stroman an extra year of arbitration eligibility, though Toronto still controls his rights through the 2020 season.