This week’s installment of Knocking Down the Door features four Double-A players and another who has only played nine games in Triple-A. Am I reaching a bit? Maybe. But there aren’t many obvious call-ups remaining, at least none that I haven’t written about already. The well is running a bit dry this time of the season. Many prospects have already been promoted. Young pitching prospects are more likely to be shut down than called up to the big leagues. Some prospects will be passed over for a promotion for reasons related to service time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some players in the minors who can help a contender down the stretch or get an early 2017 audition for a non-contender.
Luke Weaver, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
The Cardinals have been able to go with the same five starting pitchers in all but one game this season and that was due to a rainout that caused the team to play six games in five days. In this day and age where teams were forced to use an average of 11 starting pitchers last season, mostly due to injuries, that is an amazing feat. Still, the Cardinals’ “sixth starter” on that day, Mike Mayers, gave up nine earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. If the Cardinals are not fortunate enough to continue using the same five starters through the end of the regular season, they’ll need a better option.
While top prospect Alex Reyes would likely succeed in the majors now as a reliever, he’s still a work in progress as a starter and, therefore, was passed over for a promotion when the team recently needed another spot starter and opted to move Jaime Garcia up to pitch on three days rest. He gave up six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
The good news, though, is that Luke Weaver is quickly becoming someone that they wouldn’t hesitate to call on the next time there is a need. The 22-year-old right-hander got a late start to the season due to a wrist injury, which could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. His limited workload (77 innings in 12 starts) could allow him to pitch deep into the regular season and post-season, if necessary. Since returning in June, he’s been absolutely dominant with a 1.40 ERA, 1.2 BB/9 and 10.3 K/9 while showing the consistency, command and repertoire that would play in the Majors now.
Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians (Triple-A Columbus)
The division-leading Indians were aggressive at the trade deadline, pulling off a deal for one of the best relief pitchers in the game, and nearly acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who ended up vetoing the deal. While many of the team’s best prospects were traded or nearly traded, outfielder Bradley Zimmer is one that they were happy to retain.
With Michael Brantley slow to recover from a shoulder injury and currently lacking a definitive timeline to return, the 23-year-old Zimmer could potentially join the Indians’ outfield for the stretch run. While he’s posted an .843 OPS with 15 homers and 33 stolen bases in the upper minors (he’s off to an 11-for-33 start with Triple-A Columbus), Rajai Davis has slumped badly in the last few weeks and Abraham Almonte, while able to produce in short stretches throughout his career, isn’t the answer on a team trying to hold off the red-hot Detroit Tigers over the next two months.
The Red Sox recently called up Andrew Benintendi, allowing them to put the three most talented outfielders in their organization on the lineup card. The Indians shouldn’t hesitate to do the same with Zimmer.
Chance Adams, SP, New York Yankees (Double-A Trenton)
The deadline trade that sent Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates opened up an opportunity for one of three pitchers—Chad Green, Luis Severino and Adam Warren—who have been pitching out of the Yankees’ bullpen. Green was first up on Wednesday, but he was knocked around by the Mets. Severino was impressive in relief of Green, which likely earns him a start when the spot comes around again. Alternatively, the Yankees could turn to Chance Adams, a 2015 draftee who is moving quickly up the ladder.
In 21 starts between High-A and Double-A, the 21-year-old Adams has a 2.26 ERA. 2.7 BB/9 and 10.2 K/9 while holding opponents to a .171 batting average. He’s had just one bad start out of nine in Double-A and hasn’t allowed more than one run in seven of those.
While we’re getting to the point of the season when young pitchers are close to being shut down in order to limit workloads—Adams is currently at 108 1/3 innings pitched; he threw 94 1/3 innings in 2015 between his final collegiate season with Dallas Baptist and 14 professional relief appearances—the Yankees can have Adams throw his final innings of the 2016 season in the Majors in what would be an early audition for the 2017 season.
Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
With Cody Asche not doing enough to secure a spot in 2017 Phillies’ outfield and Nick Williams having an underwhelming season in Triple-A, Dylan Cozens has worked his way into the mix with a monster season for Double-A Reading.
After a three-homer game on Wednesday, pushing his season total to 30, it’s safe to say that the 22-year-old Cozens has done enough to earn a promotion. He also has 31 doubles, 18 stolen bases and a .962 OPS. Now it’s up to the Phillies to decide whether they want to bump him up one level to Triple-A or see him up close against Major League pitching.
At 6’6″ and 235 pounds, the left-handed hitting Cozens would be quite a presence in the middle of the Phillies’ lineup and would balance out a cast of right-handed hitters—Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Aaron Altherr and Cameron Rupp all figure to be in the middle of the 2017 lineup. While he is going to strike out a lot—he has 134 in 452 plate appearances—he’s also walked 53 times and has shown an ability to make adjustments.
Andrew Moore, SP, Seattle Mariners (Double-A Jackson)
Two months left in the season and the Mariners’ rotation is struggling to get to the finish line. Even if Taijuan Walker can stay healthy once he returns from the disabled list on Saturday, Felix Hernandez (17 ER in last 23 2/3 innings) has not been himself, and it’s unlikely that Wade LeBlanc can hold down a rotation spot through the end of the season. They’ll need some more help.
Ariel Miranda will make his first MLB start on Thursday and Zach Lee could also make his Mariners’ debut before the season’s end. Not the most exciting options, but there are a lot of innings left in the season and someone has to pitch. Look a little deeper into the farm system, though, and Double-A starter Andrew Moore is doing everything he can to make the jump to the big leagues before the end of his first full professional season.
After tossing a five-hit shutout in his last start, the 22-year-old Moore lowered his ERA to 2.30 with a 1.6 BB/9 and 6.9 K/9 in 22 starts between High-A and Double-A. While he’s closing in on 130 innings for the season, he tossed over 160 in 2015 between Oregon State and Short-Season Everett and might be capable of pitching into September with the Mariners.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.