We’ll kick off this Sunday by taking a look at some injuries and minor-league news around the Junior Circuit.
- Athletics center fielder Ramón Laureano is making slow but steady progress from a stress reaction in his shin, he tells Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Laureano plans to begin running next week in an effort to mount a late-season comeback. His July 31 injury was always expected to shelve him for at least a month, and there’s little indication his early-September target date to return has changed. The 25 year-old has quietly emerged as one of baseball’s better young players. In 595 MLB plate appearances since debuting last August, Laureano has coupled well above-average offense (a .285/.341/.506 slash, good for a 122 wRC+) with a flair for the dramatic on defense, even if he’s not always the most consistent at tracking down fly balls, per Statcast. His return would be welcome news to a club just a half game out of the league’s final postseason spot.
- Laureano might not be the A’s only end-of-season reinforcement. Matt Harvey, whom the club brought aboard on a minor-league deal this week, acquitted himself well in his first action with his new employer, notes Melissa Lockard of the Athletic (via Twitter). Harvey tossed four scoreless Triple-A innings in the hitters’ haven that is Las Vegas, striking out five without issuing a walk along the way. He’ll obviously need more than one encouraging outing to erase the memories of his woeful past few seasons, but as MLBTR’s Connor Byrne noted Wednesday, it’s not hard to imagine Harvey factoring into the club’s uncertain pitching mix down the stretch.
- Harvey isn’t the only minor-league pitcher who could impact his team’s playoff push in the coming weeks. As Do-Hyung Park of MLB.com pointed out, the Twins have pushed pitching prospects Brusdar Graterol and Jorge Alcala up to the minors’ highest level, where both will work out of the bullpen. The promotion of Graterol, a husky 20 year-old righty from Venezuela, will generate the most attention. A top 100 prospect at Fangraphs, Baseball America and MLB Pipleline, Graterol pitched well in 11 games with Double-A Pensacola. The organization surely hopes he can emerge as an above-average starter long-term, but it isn’t hard to imagine him contributing in the bigs in short stints imminently thanks to his plus three-pitch arsenal. Alcala, too, might factor into the Twins’ end-of-season bullpen, where command issues always figured to push him anyways. The 24 year-old Dominican righty was acquired from Houston in the Ryan Pressly trade last summer and boasts mid-high 90’s gas, but he’s long issued too many walks to be an elite prospect and has an ERA pushing 6.00 in Pensacola. Both hurlers have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to avoid selection in the Rule V draft, so the Twins could expedite their promotions a few months given their tenuous hold on the AL Central.
- In non-playoff news, young Blue Jay Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. will get more clarity on a return date from a left quad strain after an MRI today, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. The 25 year-old has been out since August 9 and hopes to return by the end of the month. Gurriel’s yet to settle in defensively- he’s now playing left field after breaking in as a subpar infielder- and doesn’t sport great plate discipline, but he’s emerged as a solid right-handed power bat in 2019. Over 321 plate appearances, Gurriel’s hitting .279/.331/.548 (127 wRC+).