- Outfielder A.J. Pollock has officially returned to action for the Diamondbacks, with the club announcing that he has been activated from the 10-day DL after a lengthy absence owing to a groin strain. Arizona hasn’t encountered any real troubles in his absence, but the return promises to make for an even more compelling roster. The surprising D-Backs not only seem a shoe-in for a Wild Card spot, but currently sit just two-and-a-half games out of the NL West lead.
- Infielder Tony Renda has been dealt from the Reds to the Diamondbacks in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon tweets. The 26-year-old had been outrighted over the winter after struggling in his MLB debut last year. Through 198 plate appearances at Triple-A in 2017, he was slashing just .260/.305/.326 — albeit with just 18 strikeouts to go with a dozen walks.
Here are some notable National League international signings not yet covered elsewhere on MLB Trade Rumors. All signing information can be found in these invaluable compilations of the initial flurry of July 2 action from Baseball America’s Ben Badler and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez; the information here is from those sources unless otherwise credited…
- The Mets agreed to deals with Dominican shortstops Ronny Mauricio and Adrian Hernandez. Mauricio will get a $2.1MM bonus while Hernandez receives $1.5MM.
- The Phillies reached agreement with Dominican shortstop Luis Garcia on a deal with a $2.5MM bonus.
- The Marlins have agree to sign Ynmanol Marinez, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic. The exact figures on Marinez’s bonus aren’t known, though the 16-year-old will get in the neighborhood of $1.3MM-$1.5MM.
- The Brewers agreed to sign Dominican outfielder Larry Ernesto for a bonus in the range of $1.7MM-$1.8MM (BA had the lower figure, MLB.com the higher). Milwaukee has also reached a deal with Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Rodriguez for a $1.355MM bonus.
- The Cubs agreed to sign Mexican shortstop Luis Verdugo for a $1MM bonus.
- The Diamondbacks have an agreement with outfielder Kristian Robinson. The 16-year-old native of Nassau, Bahamas will receive $2.5MM from Arizona.
The fractured right hand shortstop Nick Ahmed suffered this week could force the Diamondbacks to address the position prior to the trade deadline, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. With Ahmed out for the foreseeable future, general manager Mike Hazen indicated that he’s open to acquiring a shortstop. “I felt like we had a clearer path,” Hazen said. “I do think, as you take on injuries, those things do change a little bit. I think over the next month, we have to be somewhat flexible given what may happen with the major-league team. I do think we have areas, like I’ve said before, that we’re going to at least focus in on to see if there are ways to improve the club.” Piecoro names the Reds’ Zack Cozart, the Tigers’ Jose Iglesias and the Phillies’ Freddy Galvis as potential targets, suggesting that each are likely defensive upgrades over the Diamondbacks’ in-house tandem of Chris Owings and Ketel Marte.
- 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).