- MLB.com’s Thomas Harding addresses a number of Rockies-related issues in his latest Inbox column, writing that while fans are champing at the bit to see Brendan Rodgers in the Majors, it may very well that infield prospect Garrett Hampson beats the more highly-touted Rodgers to the big leagues. Rodgers is still just 21 and has yet to play in Triple-A, Harding notes, while Hampson was recently promoted to Triple-A, has experience hitting leadoff and has a strong history of on-base skills. With DJ LeMahieu on the shelf, that skill set holds some appeal to the organization. Harding also looks at what could be a challenging trade deadline for Jeff Bridich as he looks to improve an inconsistent offense, though he adds that he isn’t hearing any indication that the Rox are aggressively exploring the trade market just yet. Of course, in late May, that’s hardly an uncommon stance for any team.
- In addition to a sprain in his left thumb, Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu has a small fracture, he told reporters on Thursday (link via Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post). While it’s not great news for the Rockies or LeMahieu, it’s hardly a worst-case scenario, either. LeMahieu is likely to miss at least three weeks or so with the injury, though the infielder explained that an exact timetable will be difficult to pin down before the swelling in his thumb subsides. On the plus side, doctors have told LeMahieu that he’ll avoid surgery and needs only rest to let the injury heal. He’s hoping to swing a bat as early as next week.
- Not long after returning from a brief DL stint, Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu is going back on the shelf, this time with a left thumb sprain. It’s not clear how long he’ll be out, but there’s also no reason to suspect it’ll be a lengthy absence. The 29-year-old, a pending free agent, has played well thus far, slashing a sturdy .279/.350/.457 with five home runs in his 143 plate appearances. Utilityman Pat Valaika takes the open roster spot.
- Ian Desmond’s struggles have become a glaring problem for the Rockies, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. However, manager Bud Black and the Colorado front office still believe the veteran will turn things around despite his .170/.213/.355 slash this season and his unsightly .244/.294/.369 line since coming to the Rockies in the 2016-17 offseason. Desmond’s problems are all the more concerning given the struggles of Ryan McMahon earlier this season, leaving the Rox with little in the way of in-house options. Saunders notes that talks between the Rockies and Mark Reynolds never really took off, though he suggests that if Reynolds loses his roster spot in Washington once Ryan Zimmerman returns, the two sides could again explore a fit. However, Saunders also hears from those within the organization that the team wouldn’t relegate Desmond to the bench in favor of Reynolds, which could make a return to Denver a tough sell.
- Speaking of slumping first basemen, Ian Desmond’s struggles continued today with an 0-for-4 day, dropping his slash line to an ugly .170/.213/.355 over 150 PA. The Rockies are lacking in viable alternatives at first base, The Athletic’s Nick Groke writes (subscription required), with Ryan McMahon recently demoted due to his own lack of production, Daniel Castro and Josh Fuentes both lacking experience at first base, and prospect Jordan Patterson hitting well but carrying a high strikeout rate at Triple-A. It isn’t probable that Gerardo Parra returns to first base, as “his defense lacked and he disliked the idea” of the position change in limited action at first last season. It stands to reason that first base could be a target area for the Rockies at the trade deadline should they remain the pennant race — like the D’Backs, the Rockies have also been competitive (22-19 after today’s loss to the Brewers) despite a lack of production at first base. A new addition, however, wouldn’t help solve the bigger-picture problem of Desmond, who has been a sub-replacement level player since signing a five-year, $70MM free agent deal with Colorado in December 2016.
A combination of poor offensive output and surging young Rockies outfielders staking claims to playing time has led to an unusual “platoon” situation for Carlos Gonzalez, as Kyle Newman of the Denver Post writes. CarGo is hitting just .236/.278/.427 on the season with three homers, while David Dahl and Noel Cuevas both boast wRC+ figures above 100 (though each has a BABIP above .420). Gerrardo Parra has also seen a reduction in playing time thanks to the young duo’s hot streaks. Newman notes that manager Bud Black is making his lineup card each day with many factors each day, including rest, pitching matchups and the hot hand. Gonzalez signed a one-year, $8MM deal with the Rockies this past season after struggling for much of 2017.
A pair of other items out of the West…
- Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the Athletics could start running more often following the promotion of speedy outfielder Dustin Fowler to the big league club. Enter Thursday’s game, Slusser notes that the A’s were just 7-for-14 in steal attempts on the season; those steals and steals attempts totals both rank second to last in the majors. In the meantime, Fowler was 8-for-10 during his time in Triple-A this year. Manager Bob Melvin describes Fowler as a “true base stealer”. Said Fowler on the subject: “That’s something I’ve worked on my whole career, so I’d like to step it up and see how I can do at the big-league level as much as I can.”
- Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has reportedly resumed his rehab assignment (h/t Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports). Pence, who has been on the DL since April 20th after suffering a thumb injury, was originally expected to miss no more than the ten-day minimum. However, Pence began feeling some recurring thumb soreness during his initial rehab assignment, necessitating a retreat from playing in games for a bit. That was only five days ago, so it appears the setback wasn’t viewed as particularly serious. With Mac Williamson still being held out of games following concussion symptoms, the Giants will hope they can get Pence back into their depleted outfield mix sooner than later.
The Rockies announced Tuesday that they’ve selected the contract of infielder Daniel Castro from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned first baseman Ryan McMahon to Albuquerque in his place. To open a spot on the 40-man roster for Castro, lefty Zac Rosscup was moved from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list.
It’s been an ugly start to the season for the 23-year-old McMahon, who entered the year heralded as one of baseball’s best prospects but has been used sparingly in a crowded mix of position players in Denver. In 60 plate appearances over the life of 28 games, McMahon has batted just .180/.317/.200.
McMahon looked to be in line for regular at-bats before Colorado’s late and somewhat puzzling deal to bring Carlos Gonzalez back into the fold. That signing pushed Ian Desmond from the outfield back to the infield and cut into McMahon’s playing time substantially. He’ll be in line for regular at-bats down in Triple-A, where he he laid waste to opposing pitchers with a .374/.411/.612 batting line in 2017, as he looks to get his swing back on track.
Castro, meanwhile, will step into the infield mix and provide depth at multiple spots. The 25-year-old hit .217/.250/.265 in 239 plate appearances for the 2015-16 Braves but has enjoyed a productive run with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate dating back to Opening Day 2017. Castro is primarily a middle infielder and should help to cover for the short-term loss of DJ LeMahieu, who went on the disabled list yesterday. He also has experience at third base should a brief need arise for any reason.
Here are some recent minor moves from around the game:
- The Rockies announced Monday that right-hander Zach Jemiola cleared waivers yesterday and has re-signed a new minor league deal with the club. Jemiola, 24, was a ninth-round pick of the Rockies back in 2012 but found himself protected from the Rule 5 Draft after turning in a pair of solid seasons in A-ball and Double-A, respectively, in 2015 and 2016. Jemiola faltered with a 6.48 ERA in 93 innings last season, however, though he did turn in a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League (2.74 ERA, 19 strikeouts, nine walks in 23 innings), perhaps creating additional optimism that he can yet be a contributor for the Rox at the big league level. Now on a new minor league contract, he’ll return to the only organization he’s known and serve as continued depth for the organization.
- Lefty Jack Leathersich will remain with the Indians after clearing waivers and being outrighted, the club announced. Though the 27-year-old has shown he can get swings and misses from major-league hitters, he has also struggled to control the number of walks he issues. Both aspects of the southpaw’s game have been on display early in 2018, as he compiled a 10:7 K/BB ratio in six innings at Triple-A. That showing caused the Cleveland organization to bump him from the 40-man roster, but also helped get him through waivers after he had been claimed several times previously.
- Carlos Gonzalez is likely to be activated from the Rockies’ disabled list on Monday, the Athletic’s Nick Groke reports (Twitter link). Gonzalez was placed on the DL with a hamstring strain and was eligible to be activated today, so he’ll end up missing slightly more than the 10-day minimum. The veteran outfielder had managed only a .235/.264/.426 slash line over his first 72 PA of the season as Gonzalez tries to rebound from a disappointing 2017 campaign.
The Rockies announced on Tuesday that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Brooks Pounders from Triple-A and cleared a spot on the 40-man roster by designating fellow righty Zach Jemiola for assignment. Right-hander Scott Oberg was optioned to Triple-A to open a spot for Pounders on the 25-man roster.
Pounders, 27, has appeared in the Majors in each of the past two seasons, totaling 23 innings between the Royals (2016) and Angels (2017) but struggling to a 9.78 ERA in that time. The 6’5″, 265-pound righty has posted solid K/BB numbers, punching out 25 batters against eight free passes (one intentional), but he’s been far too homer prone in that time as well. In those 23 big league frames, he’s surrendered a whopping 10 home runs.
However, Pounders has consistently thrived at the Triple-A level, where he’s pitched 141 2/3 innings of relief with a 2.99 ERA, similar K/BB numbers and a much more palatable 0.7 HR/9 rate. He’d notched a 3.60 ERA with nine strikeouts against four walks to begin the 2018 season in Albuquerque.
Jemiola, 24, was a ninth-round pick of the Rockies back in 2012 but found himself protected from the Rule 5 Draft after turning in a pair of solid seasons in A-ball and Double-A, respectively, in 2015 and 2016. Jemiola faltered with a 6.48 ERA in 93 innings last season, however, and a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League (2.74 ERA, 19 strikeouts, nine walks in 23 innings) ultimately wasn’t enough to save his spot on the 40-man roster when the Rox found themselves in need of a fresh arm at the big league level.