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4:30pm: The Astros have issued the following statement regarding the leaked notes:
“Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.
“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”
2:29pm: Extensive trade discussion notes, apparently logged by Astros executives about their talks with other teams, have been leaked onto the site AnonBin here and here, with Deadspin breaking the story and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan verifying the authenticity of the logs. The earliest notes are from June 2013, and the latest are from March of this year. The Astros have yet to comment on the leak, which provides unprecedented detail into how the team values players and approaches trade discussions. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros have been reaching out to people around baseball apologizing for the leaks, and plan to issue a statement soon.
A March feature by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle outlines Ground Control, the Astros’ confidential internal database from which the trade discussion notes were likely taken. At this time, it’s unclear whether the information reached the Internet via a rogue employee of the team, or by some kind of security vulnerability in Ground Control. The trade discussion information, mostly from last summer and offseason, is somewhat dated in the fast-moving baseball hot stove world. The larger ramification is the breach of trust experienced by the many non-Astros executives cited in the notes. It’s unlikely any team would rule out the Astros as a trading partner based on this breach, but some teams could approach talks with added caution. Additionally, I imagine the many other teams with such highly sensitive material online are doubling down on security right now.
The Astros’ trade notes from last summer and offseason range from the blockbuster to the mundane; here are some highlights.
- On November 15th, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow expressed interest with Marlins GM Dan Jennings in slugger Giancarlo Stanton. From the notes: “[Jennings] said he doesn’t think he’ll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be [George] Springer and [Carlos] Correa. [Luhnow] said that would not work. [Luhnow] posited a deal around [Jarred] Cosart and [Delino] DeShields.” It’s not a big surprise that Luhnow rejected Jennings’ proposal out of hand, as Correa and Springer were ranked #4 and #19 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN, and are major building blocks for Houston. That Luhnow didn’t appear to offer either player suggests he was mostly gauging Stanton’s price after an off-year with three years of control remaining. UPDATE: Jennings has commented to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, saying it’s fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to the Astros or any other team, also using the word “laughable.”
- Interest in Astros catcher Jason Castro was strong last offseason, with a few surprising suitors. The Blue Jays and Rangers reached out in mid-October to gauge Castro’s price, the White Sox had “definite high interest,” and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told Luhnow in November that he was getting calls from other teams asking if he could get Castro from the Astros for those teams. Zduriencik offered Dustin Ackley and was turned down.
- Notes for the Astros’ summer trade discussions begin at June 17th, 2013. The team ultimately went on to acquire Ronald Torreyes from the Cubs in June, and also dealt veterans Jose Veras, Bud Norris, and Justin Maxwell near the July deadline. The Astros did not end up acquiring any top 100-type prospects, but they sure did ask for the moon. For Norris, the Astros sought Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn from the Giants, Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman from the Orioles, Marcus Stroman and more from the Blue Jays, Xander Bogaerts, Allen Webster, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox, and Tyler Glasnow plus Luis Heredia or Nick Kingham from the Pirates. The Red Sox offered Ryan Lavarnway or Deven Marrero for Norris and were turned down. In the end, the Astros traded Norris and an international draft slot to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader, and a 2014 competitive balance pick.
- When Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called to express interest in middling Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who had a 5.17 ERA at the time and nearly as many walks as strikeouts, “[Luhnow] told him we would still need a headliner like [Lucas] Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately.”
Harrell was designated for assignment, outrighted, and traded for a pittance nine months later, so the Astros might have overplayed their hand.
- “Untouchable” players from other teams were revealed through conversations with their executives. White Sox GM Rick Hahn wouldn’t consider trading Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, or Avisail Garcia. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos considered Brett Lawrie off-limits. Pirates outfield prospect Gregory Polanco came up as well, in that GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t include him in any Norris deal. In December talks regarding Harrell, the Giants said they would not discuss Brandon Belt.
- More random notes: Mets executive Paul DePodesta asked Luhnow if the Astros would consider trading shortstop Jonathan Villar in a Daniel Murphy deal in December…the Marlins expressed interest in Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez, and others in December.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Bud Norris | Carlos Correa | Chicago White Sox | Daniel Murphy | Delino DeShields Jr. | Deven Marrero | Dustin Ackley | Dylan Bundy | Garin Cecchini | George Springer | Giancarlo Stanton | Houston Astros | Jackie Bradley Jr. | Jarred Cosart | Jason Castro | Jonathan Villar | Jose Altuve | Kevin Gausman | Lucas Giolito | Lucas Harrell | Luis Heredia | Marcus Stroman | Matt Dominguez | Miami Marlins | New York Mets | Nick Kingham | Pittsburgh Pirates | Ryan Lavarnway | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals | Xander Bogaerts
Let’s have a quick look in at the American League East to start the day:
- The Red Sox rotation is now facing questions on several fronts. Clay Buchholz is set to return this week to see if he can salvage his season, but it is unclear whose place he will take with youngsters Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa throwing well in their recent stints. Meanwhile, Jake Peavy is struggling, and as Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, manager John Farrell did not dismiss out of hand the idea that Peavy could lose his turn.
- Then, there is Felix Doubront, who has scuffled to a 4.99 ERA but could be a trade chip, according to the Globe’s Nick Cafardo. A front office source recently told Cafardo that Doubront would draw interest if dangled because he is left-handed, has excellent pure stuff, and is affordable (he makes just $586K this year in his final pre-arbitration season).
- Scott Boras, who represents young Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, discussed the future for the top young talent in an interesting chat with Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. No extension talks have taken place for the 21-year-old, said Boras, who indicated that he believes most early-career extensions do not provide sufficient value to the player (while noting that he is willing to negotiate such contracts when it makes sense or when directed by a player). When asked if he had thought about the possibility of a pre-arb deal for Bogaerts, Boras said with a laugh that he is “usually not the one that raises these subjects.” He went on to explain that most of his attention goes toward helping his clients stay focused and improving as ballplayers, not on making deals.
- It is still early in the span of some of the large free agent contracts doled out last winter, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post says that there is enough information to begin seriously assessing whether the Yankees erred in letting Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson walk while spending big on Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann. The total commitment in dollars and years was very nearly identical between each group of players — albeit distributed quite differently — but Sherman says he believes the Yanks could have saved a fairly significant amount of money had the club aggressively pursued its own free agents. Meanwhile, the early returns on the field suggest to Sherman that New York would be better off with its departed pairing.
If the offseason felt long to you, imagine how Stephen Drew must have felt. Today, the shortstop’s extended spring officially came to a close when the Red Sox announced that they signed him to a one-year deal, reportedly worth the prorated portion of the $14.1MM qualifying offer ($10.1MM). The Red Sox, who had a significant need on the left side of the infield and didn’t have to forfeit a pick to sign their own free agent, have been regarded as a frontrunner for months, but there wasn’t a lot of foreshadowing in recent days. On a conference call this afternoon, I asked General Manager Ben Cherington when the talks got more serious between him and agent Scott Boras.
“I would say that talks picked up over the weekend and into the early part of the week,” the GM said. “We know Stephen well. He did a great job for us last year and he’s a very good Major League shortstop and a good teammate and does a lot of good things that we value…We have a high degree of respect for Stephen, what he can do on the field, and what he can do for our team. We’re happy to have him back on the team.”
The signing of Drew will have a reverb effect for other Red Sox players. Xander Bogaerts, who was charged with manning shortstop in 2014, will shift over to third base, bumping the injured Will Middlebrooks out of the starting lineup. Drew’s arrival also backs things up for well-regarded third base prospect Garin Cecchini. When it comes to Bogaerts, Cherington says that after this season, his future could still very well be at shortstop.
“We believe that he can play shortstop well, things have stabilized there. I know he made a couple of errors last night but we believed last year and during Spring Training that he can play shortstop, we still believe that. This move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short,” Cherington said. “Xander’s ability to play short and third base allowed us to consider different options and alternatives. Stephen just happened to be the one we pursued.”
When asked if Drew’s arrival could signal some sort of position change for Middlebrooks, Cherington was non-committal and said that his main focus was getting the 25-year-old healthy.
As for Drew himself, Cherington confirmed that he’ll be on the Major League roster tonight but won’t be in the lineup against the Blue Jays. Drew will ultimately have a stint in the minors to warm up to big league action, but because of “administrative steps” that need to take place, there’s not an exact timetable for that just yet.
Presumably, Cherington is referring to the fact that Drew needs to pass through optional waivers, which take 48 hours, as the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported earlier this afternoon (Twitter link). Cafardo noted that Drew has consented to head to the minors to pick up 25 at-bats before playing with the big league club.
The Red Sox are no strangers to White House visits over the last decade, though David Ortiz marked yesterday's team trip to Pennsylvania Avenue by taking a memorable selfie alongside another famous face. Here's some more news from Boston…
- With Felix Doubront set to become eligible for arbitration after the season, MassLive.com's Jason Mastrodonato thinks the young southpaw could be an extension candidate if he pitches well in 2014. Mastrodonato notes that Doubront's status becomes particularly important given that Jon Lester and Jake Peavy are both free agents after the season, though Doubront isn't focusing on contract negotiations. "When that moment comes, we’ll talk. You want to stay away from that, for my own good," Doubront said. "If you think about that, mentally it makes things bigger. You just want to stay on the same page. We’ll see what happens after this season."
- Lester's impending free agency was discussed by ESPN's Buster Olney in a radio interview on WEEI's Mut & Merloni Show (partial transcript from WEEI.com's Arjuna Ramgopal). Olney feels the middle ground between Lester and the Red Sox falls in the range of a five-year, $110-$120MM contract and while both sides will "have to go out of their comfort zones," Olney feels Lester will have to budge a bit more. “It’s going to be because Jon Lester makes it happen, the way that Dustin Pedroia made it happen last year. The Red Sox, philosophically, are not going to box themselves in." The Sox and Lester recently tabled their extension talks, though they could be re-open negotiations during the season.
- Xander Bogaerts' rise from an anonymous 16-year-old from the baseball non-hotbed of Aruba to one of the game's top prospects and the Red Sox Opening Day shortstop is chronicled by Sports On Earth's Jorge Arangure Jr. Boston was able to find Bogaerts due to the organization's wide-ranging scouting process, and Bogaerts took it from there, quickly advancing through the Red Sox academy and minor league system.
The Red Sox can clinch a world title at Fenway Park for the first time in 95 years if they win tonight's Game Six against the Cardinals. Though all eyes are focused on the World Series, here are a few hot stove notes out of Boston…
- Xander Bogaerts' strong World Series has more or less cemented his place in the Red Sox lineup next season, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. Bogaerts' right-handed bat and ability to play shortstop gives the Sox breathing room in case Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli aren't brought back, and Britton doesn't think the team will bother bringing in a veteran to compete with Bogaerts at shortstop.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia reiterated that he wants to stay with the Red Sox over the long term but he admitted to ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald that he may have played his last game for the team. "You don’t want to leave but at the same time it’s one of those things where it’s baseball. If it goes in that direction you can’t control it. I haven’t thought too much of a destination, but it’s definitely hit me a few times that this could be the last time," Saltalamacchia said. The catcher has had a tough postseason both offensively and defensively and was benched for Games Four and Five of the World Series. Though MLBTR's Tim Dierkes' prediction of a four-year, $36MM free agent contract for "Salty" was made before the playoffs began, the catching market is thin enough that Saltalamacchia's October struggles probably won't hurt him that much.
- Theo Epstein has kept a low profile during the World Series but CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes that Epstein deserves credit for building the core of this Red Sox team during his tenure as general manager, not to mention helping groom current GM Ben Cherington.
- Would the Red Sox still be in the World Series if Anibal Sanchez, Francisco Liriano, Hiroki Kuroda, Cody Ross, Nate Schierholtz and Joakim Soria had been their big additions of the 2012-13 offseason? WEEI.com's Rob Bradford looks at how the Sox considered all of these names last winter.
- Whatever luster Boston may have lost as a free agent destination last offseason has surely been regained by the club's success, manager John Farrell told repoters (including WEEI.com's Alex Speier).
- The Red Sox improved team chemistry surely helped their turn-around but a few league executives tell The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro that the narrative has been bit overblown. The Diamondbacks are a team that seem to be ranking chemistry as a high priority and other clubs may follow in seeking out good clubhouse personalities like Jonny Gomes, “but if people think [Gomes] is the new market inefficiency, they are going to be disappointed," an NL executive says.
The 20-year-old Bogaerts has mashed his way into a universal Top 10 prospect, ranking third on Keith Law's Midseason Top 50 Prospect list (ESPN Insider required), fourth on Baseball America's Midseason Top 50 and ranking sixth on the current Top 100 list of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The Aruban shortstop is batting .297/.388/.477 with 15 home runs in 515 plate appearances between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this season.
Prior to the season, Law noted that Bogaerts had vastly improved his chances to stay at short, and while he may never become a plus defender at the position, his bat will allow him to be a five-WAR player even with average defense. BA noted that he has plus-plus raw power which he hasn't quite tapped into yet, but his easy swing allows him to spray the ball to all fields and make hard contact. Mayo adds that while he's an average runner, he has surprising range at shortstop and a plus arm. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Chris Mellen projects Bogaerts' ceiling to be an annual 30-homer shortstop once he matures (with more power in his peak seasons), but cautions that he needs to continue to improve his defense at short and also work on his plate discipline.
If he's on the big league roster for good, Bogaerts will miss the Super Two cutoff and be eligible for arbitration three times before reaching free agency as a 26-year-old following the 2019 season. Had the Red Sox kept him down at Pawtucket for the remainder of the season and the first three weeks of the 2014 campaign, they'd have picked up an extra year of team control over Bogaerts and been able to keep him through 2020. As they've shown in the past with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, however, the Red Sox aren't shy about extending core players when they're amenable to a long-term contract. Clearly that's a discussion for a much later date though, as Boston's current hope is simply that the infusion of a young, talented player like Bogaerts will spark a team that has won just three of its past ten contests.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Alex Rodriguez's public battle with the Yankees took another turn today when the slugger denied a report that the club intends to fine him a day's pay for conduct during his recent rehab assignment. According to ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, a hand-delivered letter written by Yankees GM Brian Cashman informed A-Rod that the club plans to punish him for seeking a second opinion on his quadriceps injury and also for failing to appear at Yankee Stadium last month after meeting with MLB officials to discuss the Biogenesis investigation. In an article by Bryan Hoch and Josh Vitale of MLB.com, however, A-Rod denied receiving the letter. "Maybe they sent it to my lawyers," Rodriguez said. "But I'm not really going to talk about that." More Saturday night MLB links…
- Neither Ian Desmond nor Jordan Zimmermann appear close to contract extensions with the Nationals, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports. Zimmermann, 27, said his camp and the Nationals broached the subject in the offseason but didn't come close to an agreement. "I'm not going to give a huge team discount," Zimmermann warned. "Just something fair is all I ask."Meanwhile, Desmond recognizes that he has two years of arbitration remaining and doesn't appear to be in a hurry to put together a deal, according to Ladson.
- Everth Cabrera's recent suspension has reinforced the fact that the Padres' farm system is thin on shortstop talent, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune says. “You’d like to have a shortstop at every level that you feel is a prospect – has a chance to be an everyday guy,” assistant GM Chad MacDonald said. However, as Sanders notes, the club's best prospects at the position remain in the lower minors. For now, former first-round pick Logan Forsythe figures to get an extended look at short for the Friars.
- Astros top prospect George Springer may finish the season at Triple-A, Brian McTaggart and Chris Abshire of MLB.com say. Springer, 23, is hitting .303/.410/.597 with 38 stolen bases across stops at Double-A and Triple-A this season. However, Astros manager Bo Porter didn't give any indication of when Springer might be called up to the major league club when discussing the outfielder today.
- Will Middlebrooks was called up to man third base for the Red Sox because he has more experience at the hot corner than Xander Bogaerts, Scott McLaughlin of WEEI.com reports. Many speculated that Bogaerts, who's hit .300/.392/.487 in 481 minor league plate appearances this season, would get the call, but manager John Farrell says the team prefers that he continue to take reps at third in the minors. The Sox want Bogaerts to be ready in case Middlebrooks struggles or hits the disabled list, according to McLaughlin.
Is this the beginning of a new era for shortstops?
Four publications — Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus (subscription required), Keith Law at ESPN (subscription required), and FanGraphs (compiled by yours truly) — recently released their midseason Top 50 prospects lists. The rankings featured as many as eight elite shortstop prospects. That position is widely considered to be the most important (non-pitcher) spot on the baseball field and those potential star athletes are highly-sought-after commodities on the open market, through trades and via the draft.
Of those eight prospects featured on the four lists, five of the players are found in American League organizations, suggesting we may be soon entering another Era of the Shortstop, similar to what we experienced in the early 2000s with the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Miguel Tejada in the AL.
Let's have a closer look at those eight shortstop prospects…
1. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: Bogaerts was the highest ranked shortstop on all four lists. Boston is clearly planning for the day that the Aruba native is ready to contribute at the big league level as they recently had him playing games at the hot corner — an area of weakness for the playoff hungry club. However, the recent trade of Jose Iglesias, as well as the pending free agency of veteran Stephen Drew, should provide a clear path to the Major League shortstop job for Bogaerts, who has more than held his own at the Triple-A level.
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians: Just 19, Cleveland's top shortstop prospect earned a mid-season promotion from High-A to Double-A after a strong showing both in the field and at the plate. Veteran incumbent Asdrubal Cabrera's uninspired 2013 season could help convince the front office that his time with the organization is coming to an end. Lindor, who is only in his third professional season, could be ready for the Majors by the middle of 2014. He could develop into a perennial Gold Glove winner at shortstop.
3. Carlos Correa, Astros: The first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, Correa has produced above-average offensive numbers in Low-A ball despite being just 18 years of age. The Puerto Rico native has shown a natural hitting ability, but he has yet to tap into his raw power. There are concerns that he'll eventually outgrow shortstop, but he should have the offensive chops to be an above-average player at just about any position on the field.
4. Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez has arguably the best raw power out of any player on this list, and he already has 27 home runs in 98 games this year. Like Lindor (a fellow 2011 first-round draft pick), he's already reached Double-A. Unlike the Indians prospect, though, his offensive game is raw. He has a very aggressive approach at the plate, which has resulted in just 29 walks with 111 strikeouts in 391 at-bats. As is the case with Correa, there has been some talk of moving Baez to third base. However, with fellow prospect Mike Olt (recently acquired from the Rangers) – a plus defender at the hot corner — that move doesn't make a ton of sense now. He could also move out to right field, but the Cubs organization features a lot of depth in that area. If and when everything clicks for Baez, though, Chicago will certainly find a spot for him.
5. Addison Russell, Athletics: Russell, a 2012 first-rounder, burst onto the prospect landscape in a big way last season. His strong play earned him an aggressive assignment to High-A ball to open the 2013 season despite being just 19 years old. He struggled in the first two months of the season but has posted an OPS near 1.000 during the past two months. Russell probably won't be ready until 2015, so current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie likely has one more season of job security before he finds himself at another position or on another club.
6. Alen Hanson, Pirates: The emergence of Jordy Mercer has added some middle infield stability at the big league level for the Pirates but he's not likely to be the long-term answer at shortstop. Hanson, 20, is the best in-house option to eventually take over the position — although his name has popped up more than a few times in recent trade rumors. After a strong showing in High-A ball, the Dominican native was recently promoted to Double-A. The switch-hitter has shown the ability to steal 20-30 bases with solid line-drive pop.
7. Raul Mondesi, Royals: Previously known as Adalberto Mondesi, this shortstop prospect is one of the youngest players in full-season ball, having just recently turned 18. His inexperience has shown in 2013, and he walked just four times in May and June. His raw ability is undeniable, though, and he's made adjustments with a strong month of July — including 13 walks and his highest monthly OPS of the year at .817.
8. Corey Seager, Dodgers: Seager — whose brother Kyle Seager plays for the Mariners — is perhaps the most underrated shortstop on this list. The teenager has enjoyed his time in the Midwest League, and he's been on fire over the summer months with an OPS approaching 1.000. He's also slugged eight of his 11 home runs in June and July. Like Correa, Seager is expected to outgrow shortstop but he's shown enough skill at the position to suggest he may be able to stick there for a few more years. He's likely at least two seasons away from reaching Los Angeles.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Addison Russell | Alen Hanson | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Correa | Chicago Cubs | Cleveland Indians | Corey Seager | Francisco Lindor | Houston Astros | Javier Baez | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Oakland Athletics | Pittsburgh Pirates | Prospect Rumor Roundup | Raul Mondesi | Xander Bogaerts
Phillies lefty Cliff Lee is "eminently available," writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Given that the 34-year-old has at least $70MM remaining on his contract through 2015, his availability has sparked a debate over his true trade value. The latest:
- The Phillies have no no obvious bidders for Lee at this point, tweets Heyman, who adds that he would be surprised to see a team give up three top prospects and take on the remaining $70MM on Lee's contract.
- The Red Sox are no longer pursuing Cliff Lee, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
- There is "very little chance" of the Phillie trading Lee, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said on MLB Network on Tuesday afternoon.
- The Red Sox feel a trade for Lee is highly unlikely, tweets Yahoo's Tim Brown, but Jake Peavyand Bud Norris are still in play for them.
- The Phillies are believed to have asked for a package headed by Bogaerts and Brandon Workman, plus a big league ready outfielder, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark. Stark's source agrees with the consensus, that the Sox won't give up Bogaerts.
- Though the Phillies want Bogaerts as the centerpiece of a Lee deal, the Red Sox "view his inclusion as a non-starter and will not consider proposals that involve him," writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald. He says the Red Sox are willing to deal multiple top ten prospects though.
- The Phillies won't settle for anything less than top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts at the head of any package for Lee, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The Red Sox are the biggest player in the Lee derby, writes Heyman. "If there are other teams heavily involved in talks for Lee, they are doing it in an extremely stealthy manner," he adds.
If you're a moderate to hardcore baseball fan, you've probably heard of the term "Super Two" when top prospects and their imminent big league promotions are being discussed. Basically, it's an important business aspect of baseball that can cause your favorite MLB-ready prospect to spend a little extra time in the minors. For a refresher on the subject, check out Tim Dierkes' article from April and Ben Nicholson-Smith's post from February.
Now that you're up to date and understand why some players have been recently called up to the Majors, it's time to identify the next big-named prospects who could be promoted in 2013, following in the footsteps of the Rays' Wil Myers, the Mets' Zack Wheeler, and the Mariners' Mike Zunino.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox: Bogaerts, 20, didn't let his age stop him from dominating Double-A ball. One of the youngest players in the Eastern League, the shortstop hit more than .300 with strong on-base skills and power. The Aruba native earned himself a trip to Triple-A after less than half a season. A strong start to 2013 earned fellow shortstop prospect (and potential roadblock) Jose Iglesias a 25-man roster spot as the backup to oft-injured veteran Stephen Drew, but Bogaerts has a much higher ceiling. Iglesias is much more likely to end up as trade bait thanks to his high-level play — should Boston need to shore up its roster for a run at the playoffs. Drew is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Red Sox may want to give Bogaerts a chance to get his feet wet in the Majors by the end of the year to gauge if he's truly ready to assume the full-time gig in 2014.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Tigers: Castellanos had a modest start to the 2013 season, but he's seen his offensive numbers improve each month with his OPS rising from .755 to .814 to 1.025. Also working in his favor for a call-up is the fact that he can offer competent defensive assistance at both third base and in the corner outfield. Miguel Cabrera isn't going to be bumped from his starting gig at the hot corner, but the emergence of Castellanos could allow the club to rest the veteran in the second half of the year in preparation for long playoff run. The prospect could also be a solid platoon complement to left fielder Andy Dirks, a left-handed hitter. It would also give Avisail Garcia — another rookie outfielder — a chance to spend more time in Triple-A. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News wrote that Castellanos could be a key player for the big league club as it tries to secure a playoff spot in 2013.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics: Aside from Bartolo Colon, injuries have ensured that Oakland's starting rotation lacks pitchers with more than two years of service time. Due to the volatility of young pitchers, depth could become an issue for the first-place club in the second half of the year. Gray, a former first round draft pick, could offer some help after rebounding well from a disappointing 2012 season. The right-hander has averaged more than six innings per start in his 13 Triple-A appearances and struck out 83 batters in 82 1/3 innings of work.
Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox: Chicago is currently deploying an inexperienced starting rotation with the likes of Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana, and Dylan Axelrod. Johnson, a former second round draft pick, has dominated pro ball and his time at Double-A in 2013 has been no different. He currently has a 2.24 ERA with 74 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 84 2/3 innings of work. Johnson, 23, has a frame that suggests he should develop into an innings-eater and his pitching acumen could eventually help him develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Sox. The California native could offer some assistance to the big league club in the second half of the season, and he has the highest ceiling of any starter in the Sox system at either Double-A or Triple-A. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune recently penned an article after speaking with Johnson, who said he's just taking it one day at a time and not worrying about a promotion to The Show.
Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians: After spending big in the offseason, Cleveland finds itself in a playoff hunt. With a big league starting rotation that features some rather large question marks with the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Carlos Carrasco, Salazar could become a key player at some point during the second half of the season. While splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, the Dominican right-hander has struck out 80 batters in 58 innings of work. If he doesn't figure into the club's plans in the starting rotation, his power arsenal and ability to pitch multiple innings could allow him to offer some assistance in the bullpen in the latter half of the year and even the playoffs. In a piece for MLB.com, John Wagner spoke to Salazar's Triple-A manager, Chris Tremie, who talked about the things that the young pitcher does well.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF, Astros: Singleton's season got off to an inauspicious start when he was suspended for 50 games after violating minor league baseball's drug policy. Since returning, the 21-year-old hitter has appeared in just 10 games, split between Single-A, Double-A and now Triple-A. Thirteen of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases, and he's walked 13 times. Singleton has experience playing both left field and first base but has exclusively played the infield in 2013. Despite that, his clearest opening for big league playing time could be in the outfield where Trevor Crowe, J.D. Martinez, and (recently demoted) Jimmy Paredes have produced less-than-impressive numbers. First basemen/designated hitters Chris Carter and Carlos Pena have also had underwhelming seasons to date (and could become trade bait) but offer much-needed power. The playoffs are out of the question for 2013, but once outfield prospect George Springer joins Singleton in Houston, the club will have a strong middle-of-the-order core to build around.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals: Talented but undersized pitching prospects are slowly shedding the stigma that they're destined for future bullpen work at the big league level. Like Toronto's Marcus Stroman, the slender Ventura doesn't break the six-foot mark, but his upper-90s velocity — which tickles triple digits — has intrigued prospect watchers since he came over to North America from the Dominican Republic in 2010. After opening 2013 in Double-A, a recent promotion has brought Ventura one step away from the Majors. Should injuries strike — or should the Royals tire of the inconsistent performances from Luis Mendoza or Wade Davis — the 22-year-old Dominican could receive the call. Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports Kansas City recently spoke to Royals Assistant General Manager J.J. Picollo who said the organization is looking to have Ventura become more efficient and keep his pitch counts down.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Boston Red Sox | Chicago White Sox | Cleveland Indians | Danny Salazar | Detroit Tigers | Erik Johnson | Houston Astros | Jonathan Singleton | Kansas City Royals | Nick Castellanos | Oakland Athletics | Prospect Rumor Roundup | Sonny Gray | Xander Bogaerts | Yordano Ventura