Top Prospect Promotions Rumors

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.



Mets To Promote Rafael Montero

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.

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at New York Mets

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.


Rangers Promote Sardinas, Odor; Designate Baker, Wilson

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.


Blue Jays To Promote Marcus Stroman

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.


Tigers To Promote Robbie Ray

The Tigers have announced that left-handed starter Robbie Ray will be recalled and make his Major League debut against the Astros next Tuesday.

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The 23-year-old Ray ranked 91st on MLB.com’s list of Top 100 prospects prior to the season and was the centerpiece to the trade that sent right-hander Doug Fister from the Tigers to the Nationals this offseason (Detroit also received utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi lefty reliever Ian Krol). He’s gotten off to an excellent start to the year in Triple-A, posting a 1.59 ERA with a 21-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 1/3 innings of work (five starts). In their free scouting report, Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com offered the following take on Ray:

“Ray throws his fastball in the low-90s and can reach back for a tick more velocity when he needs it. His slider can look slurvy at times, but the best ones have good depth. He has a good feel for his changeup, which is a more consistent offering. His command has improved, but he would benefit from further refinement. Ray is a good athlete and has proven to be durable. He relies more on pitchability than overpowering stuff to get outs, but he has what it takes to succeed as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.”

Ray’s promotion was necessitated by an injury to Anibal Sanchez, but should he impress to the point where he sticks on the roster, his promotion likely will lead him to Super Two status. If his official promotion is delayed until next Tuesday, he would accrue 148 days of Major League service time through season’s end, which would almost certainly place him within the top 22 percent of the two-to-three year service class following the 2016 campaign. That would make Ray eligible for arbitration four times, beginning after the ’16 season, and also setting him to hit free agency in the 2019-20 offseason. Of course, that schedule would change were Ray to be sent back down when Sanchez returns, which should be sometime in mid-May.

Somewhat ironically, Ray is making his Major League debut before the injured Fister has thrown a single Major League pitch for the Nationals. The trade was widely panned in the media at the time, as many felt that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski received too little for Fister, and it’s been compounded by his decision to trade Lombardozzi for Alex Gonzalez, who has already been released. Ray’s development into a reliable starting option for the Tigers would greatly change that perception.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Astros To Promote George Springer

Top outfield prospect George Springer will join the Astros tomorrow, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. The 24-year-old entered the season as a consensus top-25 prospect.

Springer

As I recently discussed, Springer is among the game’s near-MLB-ready prospects who has yet to see any MLB time. If he sticks on the big club for the remainder of the year, Springer would accrue 166 days of service — short of a full season, but more than enough to set himself up to qualify for Super Two status. That means that the Astros will still stand to control him through the 2020 season.

Springer climbed up prospect rating boards after a monster 2013 campaign in which he hit a combined .303/.411/.600, and posted 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases, in 589 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A. Entering the 2014 season, analysts rated Springer between 18th (Baseball America) to 21st (MLB.com) among all MLB prospects. The 2011 first-round pick looked well on his way to a repeat of that performance in the season’s early going.

Looking ahead, Baseball America says that Springer possesses outstanding bat speed but can be beaten with offspeed offerings given his aggressive approach. With plus or better arm, speed, power, and defense tools, BA says that Springer should be a productive big leaguer even if he struggles somewhat (as many expect he will) to make contact at the MLB level.

Though he is a tall and powerful ballplayer, Springer profiles as a center fielder. But with that position occupied in Houston by offseason acquisition Dexter Fowler, Springer will presumably take over in left field for the optioned Robbie Grossman.


Royals To Call Up Yordano Ventura

The Royals will bring up one of the club's top prospects, righty Yordano Ventura, to start tomorrow night, the team announced via Twitter. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star first reported yesterday (on Twitter) that Ventura could be in line for his big league debut.

Ventura continues to climb the latest top prospect lists. According to Baseball America, he rates as the game's 26th overall prospect, with his secondary offerings improving to complement a three-digit heater. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo listed the 22-year-old at number 34 after he checked in at 60th before the season. This puts him in the same realm as other young righties like Alex Meyer, Jonathan Gray, Trevor Bauer, and Jake Odorizzi, and just behind fellow KC farmhand Kyle Zimmer. As Mayo noted, the real question with Ventura is whether his change will develop enough to make him a starter, or whether he will occupy a late-inning role with his fastball and curve offerings. ESPN's Keith Law is somewhat less bullish: he left Ventura out of his pre-season top-100, though he did note him as an honorable mention on his mid-season top-50 list. 

The Dominican signed with Kansas City back in 2008 for a meager $28k bonus, as the 5'11 hurler was not yet touching the 90's with his fastball and had some mechanical issues. As Baseball America's Ben Badler has explained, Ventura gained weight and cleaned up his delivery, with stellar results. Advancing quickly through the low minors, Ventura reached Double-A last year. After posting a 2.34 ERA in 57 2/3 innings at the penultimate minor league level in 2013, including 11.5 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9, Ventura earned a promotion. Over 77 innings at Triple-A, he has registered a 3.74 ERA on the back of 9.5 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. In addition to the downgrade in his K/BB ratio, Ventura also allowed significantly more hits (9.4 H/9 vs. 6.1 H/9) after moving up to Omaha.

Though Ventura was somewhat less outstanding later in the year, Kansas City apparently felt the time was right with starter Danny Duffy struggling with an injury. As Dutton explains, the team could instead have turned to Luis Mendoza or Will Smith, who have started in the past but are currently working out of the pen. As a result of the decision, the Royals will need to make a 40-man roster move to clear space. Ventura will take the hill for a crucial test against the division-rival Indians, who are among the teams that Kansas City is chasing for a Wild Card slot. 


Top Prospect Promotions: Paxton, Nelson, Schoop

Check here for today's promotions of top prospects around baseball….

  • The Mariners have called up left-hander James Paxton, Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune reports.  Paxton, 24, was ranked before the season as one of the game's top prospects by MLB.com (57th) and Baseball America (#87) and he has posted a 4.45 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.26 K/BB rate over 145 2/3 innings in his first taste of Triple-A this year.  The southpaw is the second top M's pitching prospect this week to receive a promotion, after Taijuan Walker.  Paxton is under team control through the 2019 campaign and he'll have to be added to Seattle's 40-man roster.
  • The Brewers have called up right-hander Jimmy Nelson, manager Ron Roenicke told reporters (including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy).  Nelson, a second-rounder from the 2010 draft, has been a starter for the last three seasons but the Crew will use him as a reliever.  MLB.com ranked Nelson as the top prospect in the Brewers system and the 88th-best prospect overall, saying that the 24-year-old has "a heavy fastball that elicits ground balls and sits in the low 90s."  Nelson posted a 3.25 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.51 K/BB rate in 27 starts at Double-A and Triple-A this season, though he didn't perform quite as well at Triple-A.  Since he's being called up at this late date in the season, Nelson won't gain Super Two status and will be under team control through 2019.
  • The Orioles have called up middle infielder Jonathan Schoop, according to David Hall of the Virginian Pilot (Twitter link).  Schoop was ranked as the 50th-best prospect in baseball by ESPN's Keith Law (ESPN insider subscription required) before the season and MLB.com ranks him as the fourth-best prospect in the Baltimore organization.  Schoop, 21, hails from Curacao and has gradually evolved from a shortstop to a second baseman over his five minor league seasons could possibly be Brian Roberts' replacement at the position in the Major Leagues.  Schoop was limited to 285 PA at Triple-A Norfolk this season due to a stress fracture in his back, and he hit .255/.298/.397 with nine homers for the Tides.  He will be under team control through 2019, as Schoop's late callup won't give him Super Two status.  Besides Schoop, the O's have also called up Henry Urrutia and right-hander Josh Stinson.
  • As expected, the Reds have purchased the contract of outfielder Billy Hamilton, according to a tweet from his now-former club, the Triple-A Louisville Bats. Hamilton currently stands as the 17th-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The 22-year-old burner has scuffled somewhat in his first season at Triple-A, seeing his on-base percentage drop to a career-low .308 mark and carrying a .651 OPS. Nevertheless, he has swiped 75 bases in 90 attempts, added some pop (he has a career-best six home runs), and transitioned from shortstop to center field. Baseball Prospectus has a full scouting report on Hamilton (subscription required) as he reaches the bigs for the first time.
  • The White Sox have brought up two of the organization's top prospects, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. In addition to well-regarded youngster Marcus Semien, the club has purchased the contract of righty Erik Johnson, who John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranks as the 76th-best prospect in the game. Though he missed the top-100 list of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Johnson did appear at the number two slot among White Sox prospects, with Mayo explaining that he has the repertoire to become a mid-rotation starter. The 23-year-old has an excellent 1.57 ERA over 57 1/3 innings since reaching Triple-A, where he maintains a 8.9 K/9 ratio against 3.0 BB/9.