June and July are notable not just for the run-up to the trade deadline, but also a typically robust set of promotions of top prospects. These things are intertwined, of course: teams are motivated at least in some part to see what they can expect out of their top-level talent before deciding whether to pull the trigger for veterans.
There are other factors at play, too. Developmental prerogatives are important, and at this stage clubs have a better idea whether certain players are ready for the challenge of a full run at the majors. And service time is always a critical consideration. While there is no firm Super Two cut-off, teams can generally expect players called up for the first time in early June to fall shy of qualifying for an added year of arbitration. Those youngsters who have already had a taste of MLB action, meanwhile, will at some point no longer have a chance of reaching a full season’s worth of service time by the end of the year.
Several impactful players were brought up last year in the months of June and July. Youngsters like Carlos Correa, Kyle Schwarber, Steven Matz, Michael Conforto, Luis Severino, and Stephen Piscotty all played significant roles for organizations that made the post-season. And others — Miguel Sano, Francisco Lindor, Joe Ross, Aaron Nola, Ketel Marte — were quality performers at the game’s highest level.
We’ve already seen several youngsters reach the majors in recent weeks. Julio Urias, for instance, has made two starts for the Dodgers, exhibiting his immense talent while also struggling to record outs. And Byron Buxton recently received another shot with the Twins after underwhelming early results.
With less than two months to go until the trade deadline, here are some other top names whose potential promotions could have a big impact on the market:
Ready For A Second Shot
Trea Turner, Nationals: It seemed for a moment that the 22-year-old was set for his first real shot at earning a full-time job at shortstop. Instead, he only saw action in one game while filling in over the weekend. Turner has proven himself at Triple-A already; he reached the level last year, and owns a .310/.376/.472 batting line with 17 steals in 17 attempts thus far in 2016. If he is able to gain traction in the majors, then Washington could comfortably forego pursuit of an outside alternative to supplement its defensively-proficient but offensively-challenged shortstop duo of Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew.
Blake Snell, Rays: The talented lefty already made an impressive debut earlier this year, but that spot start only suggested what he could do with an extended opportunity. Snell has seen his walk rate move in the wrong direction at Triple-A, but he’s still proving extremely difficult to hit. Of course, Tampa Bay is blessed with a number of rotation options — all the more so once Alex Cobb is back. But that’s precisely what makes Snell so interesting: if the team is willing to give him a shot, it could free up other arms for trade bait.
Joey Gallo, Rangers: He appeared briefly with Texas in 2016 after a lengthier stint last season, but Gallo still hasn’t been given a full shot at the majors since an excellent start to the year at Triple-A in which he’s shown new-found plate discipline while maintaining his eye-popping power. What’s interesting about Gallo’s situation is that he could conceivably impact Texas by stepping in for Mitch Moreland or Prince Fielder, either of whom could theoretically be traded, or by turning into a huge trade piece in his own right if the team decides to chase a top-end starter.
Jose Peraza, Reds: Cincinnati may face a tough question with shortstop Zack Cozart, who has another year of control remaining and is playing at a high level on both offense and defense. He could potentially bring an appealing return — as might Brandon Phillips, if he’ll waive his no-trade clause — but the Reds may be hesitant to throw too much uncertainty into the infield mix. That’s where Peraza could come in. He’s received a taste of the majors in each of the last two years, though he’s struggled. While he’s not exactly tearing up Triple-A, Peraza is hitting at a reasonable enough rate (.295/.335/.389, with eight steals) to warrant a full opportunity.
Clamoring For A First Call-Up
Jameson Taillon / Tyler Glasnow, Pirates: While the Bucs have had some ups and downs in their major league rotation, they have two high-powered righties tearing up Triple-A. Either or both could be throwing in the majors sooner rather than later. Pittsburgh will need to watch their innings, but could conceivably utilize them from the pen as well as in the rotation to maximize the impact. If that takes place, the Pirates may even end up with some excess arms at the deadline.
Alex Reyes, Cardinals: After missing the start of the year due to a marijuana suspension, Reyes has turned in three quality starts at Triple-A. The 21-year-old could obviate the need for the Cards to make an addition to the rotation or the pen, depending upon how their needs shake out. While the lost time early sapped some developmental opportunity, it did also serve to slow Reyes’s innings, which will be controlled since he’s only barely topped 100 total frames in prior years. St. Louis will also need to consider his still-high walk rate, too, though all those concerns would be lessened if Reyes were deployed as a late-inning reliever.
Matt Chapman, Athletics: In his first full shot at Double-A, Chapman owns a .243/.345/.495 slash with 14 home runs in just 238 plate appearances. As a third-year pro who was taken out of college, and is seen as a quality fielder, it seems fair to think he could be ready for a big league chance in the relatively near term. If Chapman proves ready, then Danny Valencia or Jed Lowrie could become trade pieces.
Alex Bregman, Astros: As it seeks to climb out of an early hole, Houston could go in any number of directions. Bringing up Bregman could conceivably provide a boost at the major league level while also turning Luis Valbuena into a trade piece. While he’s destroying Double-A pitching, though, the recent draftee is still learning a new position in his first full season as a professional. (For those wondering: yes, I also considered A.J. Reed, but Jon Singleton could now be first in line for a first base promotion.)
Hunter Renfroe / Manuel Margot, Padres: The Friars could stand to give their fans something to look forward to upon arriving at the park while getting a look at some of their rising talent. Renfroe has twice cracked twenty long balls in a season, and he’s already got a dozen through his first 212 plate appearances in his first full attempt at Triple-A. He owns a .950+ OPS in over 300 trips to the plate at the minors’ highest level over the last two seasons. Margot, meanwhile, is just 21, but he’s impressed with a .305/.363/.436 slash and 16 stolen bases in his first 248 Triple-A plate appearances. Adding either or both to the big league mix could help free the team to deal Melvin Upton, Jon Jay, and/or Matt Kemp.
Orlando Arcia, Brewers: One of the game’s best shortstop prospects, the 21-year-old Arcia has continued to produce upon reaching the highest level of the minors. He’s off to a .309/.344/.420 start, with four long balls and nine stolen bases, over 221 plate appearances. It’s unclear whether Milwaukee will choose to start his service clock, but adding the talented youngster to the infield mix could accompany a trade of veteran Aaron Hill.
Ready To Come Up, But Held Down?
Tim Anderson, White Sox: Chicago is already said to be looking for early trade strikes, so it appears that the time is now for the South Siders. Anderson is not exactly destroying Triple-A pitching, with a .297/.321/.392 slash and ten swipes, but the Sox could choose to gamble on his talent. On the other hand, though Jimmy Rollins isn’t doing much with the bat, he’s a sturdy defender, and Tyler Saladino has been a solid all-around contributor.
Bradley Zimmer / Clint Frazier, Indians: The Indians outfield always looked short on strong options and susceptible of upgrades, and despite some sturdy performances from surprising places that still appears to be the case. Recent developments only increase the need. Though it’s said to be unlikely that Cleveland will bump up either of its top prospects, both are currently laying waste to Double-A pitching. It’s worth remembering, too, that the Mets got a huge boost last year from Conforto after he skipped the highest level of the minors. And giving a shot to one or both of these top youngsters could allow Cleveland to avoid paying a high price to acquire a veteran at the deadline.
Albert Almora, Cubs: The Cubbies are already loaded with high-performing, young talent, but they could add to that group with Schwarber down for the year. Almora only recently turned 22, but is putting up a strong .322/.339/.450 batting line with ten stolen bases in his first attempt at the Triple-A level. Of course, the opportunity won’t come easy — though Jason Heyward is scuffling, he’s not going anywhere, and the Cubs are getting outstanding production from reserves Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella. The same goes for 24-year-old Willson Contreras, who is putting up Schwarber-esque numbers at Triple-A but is still looking up at Miguel Montero, David Ross, and Tim Federowicz.
Jose De Leon, Dodgers: Los Angeles has shown little hesitation in relying on young players in big roles — Urias being the most recent example — but it’s unclear what they intend to do with the 23-year-old right-hander. He was handled with care early this year, and only has a single Triple-A appearance on his ledger … but it was a doozy, as he allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out nine in five innings of shutout work. That slow start also means that De Leon has plenty of innings left in the tank after reaching a career-high of 114 1/3 frames a season ago.
Pick It Up For A Call-Up
Jose Berrios, Twins: Berrios has dominated at every level during his steady rise, but was knocked around in four big league starts earlier this year. He has uncharacteristically walked 29 batters in 48 total innings on the year between the bigs and the top level of the minors, so he’ll need to re-establish his command before earning another chance. If Berrios can do that, though, he’d possibly help the club ship out a veteran starter over the summer.
Carson Fulmer, White Sox: While Fulmer doesn’t profile as a near-term rotation options, the scuttlebutt was that he could reach the pen in short order. But he’ll need to turn things around quickly at Double-A to make it to the majors as swiftly as had been hoped. Fulmer has walked nearly as many batters as he’s struck out while posting a 5.54 ERA in a starting role.
Aaron Judge, Yankees: We’ve heard some chatter that New York could look to trade away a veteran such as Carlos Beltran to clear the way for Judge while still remaining competitive. I remain skeptical of that scenario, particularly since Judge has yet to conquer Triple-A through nearly 500 plate appearances over the last two seasons.