- The D-backs announced last night that catcher Oscar Hernandez, who was designated for assignment over the weekend, has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Double-A Jackson. The former Rule 5 pick (out of the Rays’ system in 2014) has posted a woeful .197/.263/.352 slash line through 156 Double-A plate appearances this year. Hernandez is still just 23, though, and he’s considered a strong defensive backstop. He’s shut down 43 percent of attempted stolen bases against him and has received strong framing grades from Baseball Prospectus in each of the past couple of seasons.
- The Diamondbacks announced today that backup infielder Nick Ahmed has been placed on the 10-day DL with a fractured right hand, and offseason acquisition Ketel Marte has been recalled from Triple-A Reno in his place. Per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, Ahmed had three pins inserted into his hand and will be shut down from baseball activity for the next six weeks (Twitter link). It could be eight weeks before Ahmed, the team’s best defensive infielder, returns to the team. Ahmed is hitting just .251/.298/.419, but his glove will be missed. From 2015-16, Ahmed posted a +32 mark in Defensive Runs Saved and a +19.9 mark in Ultimate Zone Rating. As for Marte, the second key piece acquired in this offseason’s Taijuan Walker/Jean Segura/Mitch Haniger trade, he’ll debut in Arizona on the heels of a .338/.391/.514 batting line thus far in Triple-A.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a weekly feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
Corbin Burnes, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (Double-A Biloxi)
The Brewers’ starting rotation has been much better than expected and, arguably, the biggest reason why they’re sitting atop the NL Central with a 41-37 record. But while their five starters are healthy and performing well at the moment, the team’s rotation depth has taken a hit as of late. Top prospect Josh Hader was moved to a relief role in order to balance out a right-handed heavy bullpen, and Brandon Woodruff landed on the disabled list when he suffered a strained hamstring just before his MLB debut. All of a sudden, Burnes is not only rocketing up the prospect lists with his impressive performance in 2017, he could actually help a playoff-contending Brewers team at some point.
A fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, Burnes posted a 1.05 ERA in 10 High-A starts before a June promotion to Double-A. The 22-year-old right-hander hasn’t slowed down one bit, allowing two earned runs and 10 hits over 23 2/3innings in his four Southern League starts. He threw close to 140 innings in 2016 between the NCAA and the Minor Leagues, so it’s realistic that he can exceed 150 innings this year—he’s currently at 83 2/3—and that some of those innings might actually be thrown at the Major League level.
Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota Twins (Triple-A Rochester)
The Twins’ patience with Byron Buxton paid off as he was productive over a 146 plate appearance stretch (.746 OPS from April 21-June 14) after a slow start. But he’s gone ice cold again—he’s 5 for his last 38 with no extra bases and 13 strikeouts—while the Twins have been one of the worst offenses in baseball this month. If they’re looking for a spark, and a player who can at least spell Buxton occasionally in center field, it’s becoming clear that Granite could be a solution.
After his third consecutive two-hit game on Monday, the 24-year-old has a Triple-A slash line of .365/.419/513 in 48 games. His 17 walk-to-22 strikeout ratio might be his most enticing stat considering that Buxton and left fielder Eddie Rosario have combined for 34 walks and 127 strikeouts.
Tyler Mahle, SP, Cincinnati Reds (Triple-A Louisville)
Mahle is the first player to earn “Knocking Down The Door” honors for a second time in 2017, although he was dominating at the Double-A level when I pegged him as a potential call-up in early May. This time around, he’s coming off of an impressive Triple-A debut in which he pitched four-hit ball over six innings with no earned runs allowed and nine strikeouts.
A struggling Reds’ rotation was hoping for a shot in the arm with Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan both back from the disabled list. But Bailey’s 2017 debut was disastrous (1 2/3 IP, 8 ER) and Finnegan is headed back to the DL with a shoulder injury. The Reds have already used an NL-leading 12 starting pitchers and are certain to dip into their farm for reinforcements again at some point. Will the 22-year-old Mahle be the 13th?
Gabriel Moya, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Double-A Jackson)
Fernando Rodney and Archie Bradley have been the keys to solidifying what appeared to be a very suspect Diamondbacks bullpen heading into the season. But, will it hold up down the stretch as they try to lock down their first playoff berth since 2011? It would be a surprise if general manager Mike Hazen didn’t acquire some late-inning help prior to July 31st, but they could also take a look at some potential in-house options prior to the deadline. Moya, a 22-year-old who has been close to unhittable as the Double-A closer, should be considered.
The left-hander out of Venezuela has allowed a run in only two of his 26 appearances while holding opponents to a .139 batting average and walking only 12 hitters with 52 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. Right-handed hitters have a .107 batting average against him, which is at least an indication that he could be more than a situational reliever.
Caleb Smith, SP, New York Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre)
With Chance Adams still waiting for a much-deserved and much-anticipated MLB call-up, Smith’s work in Triple-A has gone relatively unnoticed. The 25-year-old lefty has made 14 starts in 2017 and has allowed two earned runs or less twelve times, including back-to-back gems (13 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 13 K) to lower his ERA to 2.84 with impressive peripherals across the board (6.5 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9).
The Diamondbacks have designated catcher Oscar Hernandez for assignment, per a club announcement. His roster spot was needed so that the club could select the contract of righty Rubby De La Rosa, who’s headed back to the majors. Righty J.J. Hoover is headed for a DL stint owing to shoulder inflammation.
Arizona picked up Hernandez through the Rule 5 draft, plucking him from the Rays and then managing to secure his rights despite letting him into only 22 MLB games. The youngster understandably didn’t hit much; he had never previously played above the Class A level.
Now nearing his 24th birthday, Hernandez will either be traded or exposed to waivers. Though his calling card is his defensive work behind the dish, he’ll obviously need to show some life with the bat to make it back to the majors. Through 156 plate appearances at Double-A this year, Hernandez carried a sluggish .197/.263/.352 batting line.
- D-backs right-hander has hired Dan Lozano of MVP Sports as his new representative, writes FanRag’s Jon Heyman as part of his weekly NL Notes column. Once one of baseball’s top prospects, Delgado didn’t pan out as a starter but has become a solid piece in the Arizona bullpen in recent years. He’s made four starts this year and fared nicely, but he’s back in the ’pen and is on his way to perhaps his best season. Through 51 2/3 innings, Delgado has a 3.48 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and a 46.3 percent ground-ball rate. Delgado, 27, is controllable for one more year before hitting the open market after the 2018 campaign.
The Diamondbacks have agreed to an at-slot deal with first-round pick Pavin Smith, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The team has announced the signing. Smith, taken seventh overall, will receive a $5,016,300 bonus.
That payday falls just a bit shy of the $5.1MM bonus locked up earlier today by Smith’s former University of Virginia teammate, Adam Haseley, who was taken just one pick later in the draft. Both are seen as advanced hitters.
Smith is expected to remain at first base as a professional, which obviously puts more pressure on his bat. But he carries an extremely polished approach with him to Arizona. In 2017, Smith swatted 13 home runs while going down on strikes just a dozen times.
The major question, perhaps, is just how much power can be expected. Smith is not viewed as possessing significant raw power, though it seems he may be able to maximize his strength with his outstanding contact abilities. He is expected to be a quality defender at first.
Taking in the total package, MLB.com ranked Smith eighth on its draft board, though other pundits weren’t quite as impressed. On other prominent lists, he placed 12th (ESPN.com’s Keith Law), 15th (Baseball America), and 20th (Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen).
Here are some of the day’s notable draft signings:
- The Reds have agreed to terms with three of their top four picks, according to reports from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon (on Twitter) and Jim Callis (also via Twitter). 32nd overall selection Jeter Downs and 38th pick Stuart Fairchild have both signed for at-slot bonuses, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter). Downs, a high-school shortstop, will receive $2,084,400 to forgo his commitment to the University of Miami. The MLB.com prospect team was the only one to place him inside the top 50, at #37, citing his solid all-around profile and rising status entering the draft. Fairchild, a junior outfielder out of Wake Forest, will take the $1,802,800 slot money. ESPN.com’s Keith Law was the highest pundit on Fairchild, ranking him 31st among eligible players while noting his strength and potential ability to remain in center field as a professional. Meanwhile, third-round pick Jacob Heatherly will land well over the $743,900 slot value of the 77th overall pick. The prep lefty will take home a $1,047,500 bonus, per Callis.
- Brewers second-rounder Caden Lemons has struck a deal with his new team, he tells Kyle Parmley of the Vestavia Voice. The Ole Miss commit elected to turn pro for a still-unreported bonus amount. Lemons was taken 46th overall, a pick that comes with a $1,493,500 allocation. Entering the draft, the righty was ranked as high as 52nd overall. He received that grade from ESPN.com’s Keith Law, who cites Lemon’s projectability as well as concerns about his ability to stick in the rotation with a slight build.
- The Yankees are in agreement with their second-round pick, righty Matt Sauer, pending a physical, MLBTR’s Steve Adams reports on Twitter. Bonus terms remain unknown at this time, but the 54th overall pick comes with a $1,236,000 allocation. Sauer, a California high-schooler who had been ticketed for the University of Arizona, drew top-thirty billing from MLB.com, Baseball America, and Fangraphs. While Sauer’s big fastball and slider point towards significant upside, the analysts agree he’ll need to work on a third offering to make it in a MLB rotation.
- Tigers second-rounder Reynaldo Rivera is in agreement on a $850K bonus, Callis tweets. That’ll save the organization nearly $300K against the slot value to utilize on other players. Rivera, a power-hitting first baseman from Chipola Junior College, did not draw any top-100 prospect tabs but did land in the 150th place on MLB.com’s board.
- Diamondbacks supplemental second-round choice Daulton Varsho will receive the slot value of $880,100 that comes with the 68th overall pick, Callis reports on Twitter. The Wisconsin-Milwaukee backstop, who’s the son of former big leaguer Gary Varsho, was the last player to reach the top 100 on Baseball America’s ranking.
- In bonus news, the Rays gave second-round pick Michael Mercado $2,132,400, Callis tweets, which is well over the $1,714,500 bonus allocation for the 40th overall pick. His signing had previously been reported. Angels second-rounder Griffin Canning will indeed receive the slot value of $1,459,200, Callis tweets, as had previously been suggested.
Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock has suffered a new injury while on a rehab assignment, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Pollock, who is working back from a groin strain, is now said to be day-to-day with tightness in his right quad. The severity isn’t yet known, though the presence of another lower-body muscle issue will surely cause the organization to proceed with caution. With the Snakes locked in a surprising and increasingly fascinating battle in the NL West, they will be anxious to get Pollock back, though clearly the long view is required for such an important player with such a checkered injury history.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Veteran righty Tom Wilhelmsen is on the open market after clearing waivers, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports on Twitter. The 33-year-old carried a 4.44 ERA over his 26 1/3 innings with the D-Backs, posting 17 strikeouts against a dozen walks to go with a 49.4% groundball rate. While Wilhelmsen was still working off of a mid-nineties heater, his swinging-strike rate has fallen to just 6.2% — well below his 10.6% career average.
- The Rangers have selected the contract of righty Tanner Scheppers, per a club announcement. To clear a 40-man spot, the club shifted A.J. Griffin to the 60-day DL. Scheppers, 30, is back in the bigs for the first time this year. He wasn’t especially good in his 16 Triple-A appearances, posting a 4.64 ERA with 5.9 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9. Through 179 career MLB innings, Scheppers owns a 4.17 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.
- The Reds recently released reliever Louis Coleman, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports on Twitter. The 31-year-old righty was putting up strong numbers at Triple-A, where he carried a 2.21 ERA through 36 2/3 frames. (In fact, it’s worth wondering whether Coleman exercised an opt-out, though that’s just speculation at this time.) Coleman landed with the Reds organization on a minors deal after giving the Dodgers 48 innings of 4.69 ERA pitching last year after missing much of the prior campaign.
The Diamondbacks have announced that they’ve reinstated outfielder Socrates Brito (finger) from the 60-day DL and optioned him to Triple-A Reno. They’ve also activated righty Zack Greinke from the paternity list and designated righty Tom Wilhelmsen for assignment.
[Related: Updated Arizona Diamondbacks Depth Chart]
Wilhelmsen was a key contributor in the Mariners’ bullpen from 2011 through 2015, but his career briefly went off the rails after a trade to Texas prior to the 2016 season. He fared reasonably well after being released by the Rangers and re-signing with the Mariners last June, then signed a minor-league pact with the Diamondbacks last winter and made the team out of Spring Training. He produced a 4.44 ERA with the Snakes with a disappointing 5.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 over 26 1/3 innings. The 33-year-old still boasts a fastball in the mid-90s and a 49.4 GB%, however, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he wound up back in the big leagues in the near future.