This week’s installation of “Knocking Down The Door” includes two highly-touted center field prospects, a reliever who had been doing his best Kenley Jansen impression in Double-A before a recent promotion to Triple-A, and a pair of starting pitchers who can’t be too far off from making their MLB debuts after dominating in their last outings.
Chance Adams, SP, New York Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre)
If the Yankees, one of three teams in baseball to have only used five starting pitchers this season, need to dip into their farm system for rotation help, they appear to be in good shape with Chance Adams waiting in the wings.
The 22-year-old right-hander has risen up the ladder swiftly without much of a struggle in 220 2/3 minor league innings. After posting a 1.03 ERA in six Double-A starts to begin the season, he hasn’t slowed him down one bit since a promotion to Triple-A. He recently lowered his ERA to 1.57 after tossing one-hit ball over six shutout innings with two walks and a season-high 12 strikeouts in his fourth start with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
There doesn’t appear to be an immediate opening in the Yankees’ rotation, although Masahiro Tanaka’s recent performance—21 earned runs and 30 hits over his last 17 2/3 innings—might be an indication that he’s not completely healthy and could use a stint on the disabled list.
Paul Blackburn, SP, Oakland Athletics (Triple-A Nashville)
Acquired from the Mariners this past offseason for Danny Valencia, Blackburn has not wasted time in impressing his new organization. After not allowing a run in three of his last four starts, including seven shutout innings on Sunday, the 23-year-old has his ERA down to 3.26 with a 2.4 BB/9 and 6.7 K/9.
With Jharel Cotton’s demotion to Triple-A last month lasting only two starts due to injuries to Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn, Blackburn’s emergence could afford the A’s the opportunity to get him back down to there to work on things for an extended period this time around.
Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros (Triple-A Fresno)
It’s clear that Fisher’s overall game needs some work—50 strikeouts in 53 games; caught stealing 10 times in 19 attempts—and the powerful Astros lineup doesn’t appear to need any help right now. But it’s hard to ignore the rest of his numbers (.338/.397/.606; 14 HR, 16 2B, 19 BB) and not wonder how much more firepower he could add to the bottom of the Astros’ lineup in place of left fielder Nori Aoki, who isn’t doing much out of the No. 9 spot (.624 OPS).
Prior to a hitless game on Sunday, the 23-year-old Fisher had been on a nine-game hitting streak in which he had a .486 batting average (18-for-37), four doubles and four homers. It would likely benefit him to continue working on his game down in Triple-A, but he could also learn on the job in a low-pressure environment while giving the Astros much more production than they’re currently getting out of left field.
Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis)
When the Pirates were in need of an outfielder in mid-April after the 80-game suspension of Starling Marte was announced, Meadows was in a deep slump and not deserving of his first MLB call-up. With Marte’s return still more than a month away, however, it’s not too late for the Pirates to get a look at their top prospect, who has turned things around and has the potential to give a struggling team a much-needed shot in the arm.
Since posting a .503 OPS with five walks and 20 strikeouts in April, the 22-year-old has hit .302 with two homers, 12 doubles, 11 walks, 20 strikeouts and six stolen bases over his last 31 games. Adam Frazier, who is currently getting most of the starts in left field, has been one of the few bright spots for the Pirates. His ability to play multiple positions, however, makes him valuable as a super-utility man, which will be his role if Meadows gets the call.
Jesen Therrien, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Therrien is only one scoreless appearance into his first Triple-A stint, but if his numbers at Double-A are any indication—1.26 ERA, 28 2/3 innings, 14 hits, three walks, 39 strikeouts—the 24-year-old right-hander shouldn’t be far away from helping a beleaguered Phillies bullpen.
With Joaquin Benoit on the disabled list, Jeanmar Gomez demoted to the bottom of the depth chart and Edubray Ramos not having the impact the team was hoping for, the rebuilding Phillies could not only use some reinforcements, they could also start looking towards the future and finding out which young arms will be able to help them in 2018 and beyond.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.