San Diego Padres – MLB Trade Rumors Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:17:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Padres' 40-Man Roster Options Mon, 15 Oct 2018 03:01:23 +0000
  • With the Padres facing some tough decisions about 40-man roster placements in advance of December’s Rule 5 draft, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune breaks down the current players on the roster and the several minor league candidates to see who is likeliest to make the eventual 40-man slate.  Quite a bit of this conjecture is up in the air, of course, as Acee notes that “there is almost no player the Padres wouldn’t at least consider in trade offerings,” so even the Major League roster could look quite different by the time the Rule 5 draft rolls around.
  • ]]>
    Padres Release Jose Torres Thu, 11 Oct 2018 02:20:58 +0000 Oct. 10: The Padres released Torres after he unsurprisingly cleared waivers earlier this morning, MLBTR has learned.

    Oct. 4: The Padres have designated left-hander Jose Torres for assignment, as per’s official transactions listing.  Torres’ roster status had to be addressed once his 100-game suspension under the MLB/MLBPA joint domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy was up at season’s end.

    Torres didn’t pitch in 2018 after he was charged with multiple criminal offenses during the offseason, stemming from a domestic disturbance incident where Torres was accused of pointing a gun at a woman with whom he was involved in a domestic relationship.  Torres’ charges included assault with a deadly weapon, intimidation, and criminal damage, as well as a charge for possession of marijuana.  He reportedly plead guilty to those charges in March. The Padres placed Torres on their restricted list in February, and Major League Baseball issued Torres with the 100-game suspension in June.

    Torres, 25, made his big league debut in 2016 and then posted a 4.21 ERA, 8.3 K/9, and 3.94 K/BB rate over 68 1/3 innings in 2017.  With the Padres facing a 40-man roster crunch this winter as some of their best prospects become eligible for the Rule 5 draft, it isn’t surprising that Torres would be DFA’d rather than restored to the 40-man.  Torres could be outrighted to the minors if isn’t claimed or acquired during his 10-day DFA period, or it’s possible the Padres could simply release him altogether given the severity of his off-the-field situation.

    Minor MLB Transactions: 10/10/18 Wed, 10 Oct 2018 15:39:11 +0000 We’ll use this post to track the day’s minor moves from around the game …

    • The Blue Jays have outrighted infielder/outfielder Jon Berti after he cleared waivers, per the transactions page. Added to the roster quite late in the season after eight years as a minor-leaguer, Berti never figured to hold a 40-man spot throughout the winter. The 28-year-old, a former 18th-round draft pick, did rap four base hits in 15 plate appearances during his brief debut showing in the bigs. In his 316 Double-A plate appearances this year, he slashed a productive .314/.399/.498.
    • Likewise, southpaw Jose Torres was outrighted by the Padres after being designated for assignment recently. The circumstances are rather different in his case, as his 40-man status had to be addressed after he was reinstated by the league following a 100-game ban relating to domestic violence charges. Torres, who did not appear at any level this year, will remain under control of the San Diego organization, though his future as a professional baseball player certainly appears to be in question.
    Padres To Replace Hitting Coach Matt Stairs, Infield Coach Josh Johnson Tue, 09 Oct 2018 18:14:45 +0000 The Padres are slated to make at least two modifications to manager Andy Green’s coaching staff in the offseason, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Hitting coach Matt Stairs and infield coach Josh Johnson will not return to their posts.

    Stairs, a long-time MLB slugger, joined the Friars after serving in the same capacity with the Phillies in 2017. He lost that job when the Philadelphia organization made broader changes to its field staff. Prior to that point, Stairs had served mostly as a broadcaster after wrapping up his playing career in 2011.

    As for Johnson, not to be confused with the former starting pitcher of the same name, he too will be bumped from the mix after just one season. The former third-round draft pick never made it to the majors as a player. His only prior coaching experience came in one season as the skipper of the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate.

    Despite these changes, it does not appear that the San Diego organization will be embarking on a full hiring search. Rather, per the report, the club intends to promote existing personnel to fill the openings.

    Players Electing Free Agency Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:20:27 +0000 Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.

    As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:

    Athletics: RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Danny Coulombe

    Blue Jays: RHP Mike Hauschild, INF/OF Darnell Sweeney

    Braves: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Miguel Socolovich

    Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons

    Indians: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Alexi Ogando

    Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Mike Morin, INF Zach Vincej

    Marlins: OF JB Shuck

    Mets: RHP Chris Beck, OF Bryce Brentz, RHP Scott Copeland, OF Matt den Dekker, INF Ty Kelly

    Nationals: LHP Tommy Milone, OF Moises Sierra, RHP Carlos Torres

    Orioles: RHP Jhan Marinez, INF Luis Sardinas

    Padres: OF Matt Szczur

    Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe

    Pirates: LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP A.J. Schugel

    Rangers: C Juan Centeno, LHP Anthony Gose, RHP Drew Hutchison, INF Tommy Joseph, RHP Chris Rowley

    Rays: INF Brandon Snyder, RHP Ryan Weber

    Reds: C Tim Federowicz, RHP Kevin Quackenbush

    Tigers: INF Dixon Machado, RHP Jacob Turner

    White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish

    Jedd Gyorko’s Future In St. Louis Sat, 06 Oct 2018 17:38:28 +0000 St. Louis Cardinals incumbent third baseman Jedd Gyorko’s power has diminished each of the last three seasons and it may be time to find a replacement, opines Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It promises to be an important subject for the organization over the offseason.

    Gyorko has provided valuable versatility for the Cards, seeing time at all four infield positions the last three years. His OBP has risen each year in St. Louis (.306 to .341 to .346), but his power output has gone the other way (.253 ISO to .200 to .154). On the whole, Gyorko’s proven a good gamble since his somewhat-surprising acquisition from the Padres in 2015 – and though he’s not known as a defensive stalwart, defensive metrics are less certain, crediting Gyorko with 24 DRS and 4.9 UZR at third base since 2016. Contractually, he’s guaranteed one more season at $13MM before a team option in 2020.

    Finding a player that complements Gyorko’s skill set may be the judicious solution in the short term. The Cardinals front office is said to be “on the edge of giddy” about three third base prospects in their system who could be ready by 2020: Elehuris Montero, Nolan Gorman, and Malcom Nunez.

    Gorman was listed as the Cardinals 6th ranked prospect by Baseball America, but the 20-year-old Montero will likely reach the big leagues before Gorman or Cuban-born Nunez, who is only seventeen years old. Montero tore through the Midwest League in 2018, hitting .322/.381/.529. After 24 games in High-A with the Palm Beach Cardinals, the 19-year-old could reach AA sooner rather than later. 

    For next season, Gyorko’s role is not likely to change a whole lot – save for possibly in volume. Matt Carpenter started 74 games at third this year, but the Cardinals seem to prefer him on the right side. Top catching prospect Carson Kelly could be an option in short stints, as he played the position in 2013. He hit .269/.378/.395 in AAA and is ostensibly blocked behind the plate by Yadier Molina – but that feels more like a plan D than a plan A.

    This year’s free agent class does provide a few palatable options. Bringing home World Series hero David Freese for a season would be a fun retro choice. Mike Moustakas’ name has been thrown out there as a potential stopgap solution as well. Then there are the big names – Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado. It’s unclear if the Cardinals are ready to commit the years and dollars to snag one of the elites, but regardless of the path they choose – they have options.

    Check out the 2018-19 MLB Free Agent Tracker for a full list of upcoming free agents.

    Eric Hosmer Reflects On Disappointing Season Tue, 02 Oct 2018 01:19:12 +0000 On paper, Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer had a trying 2018 in the first season of an eight-year, $144MM contract, though he did impress the team with his leadership, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune details. As for Hosmer’s production – he hit a below-average .253/.322/.398 in 677 plate appearances – the 28-year-old remarked: “I know I’m going to go back and be the player I know I can be. This isn’t the impression I wanted to make the first year, but there’s nothing I can say to make it any better. Just, I’ll be ready to go next year.” Hosmer added that not having to deal with the free-agent process this winter and knowing he’ll be a Padre for the long haul will help him “have a clear mind this offseason.” And the executive who signed Hosmer, general manager A.J. Preller, suggested that the ex-Royal may have been pressing in his first year of a big contract, adding: “We have a lot of faith we’re going to look up next year and it’s going to be an All-Star caliber season for him. Just because of the type of person he is. That’s what gave us the comfort in signing him and a lot of comfort going forward he’s going to be that guy.”

    • Hosmer’s on-base percentage was just above the National League mean of .318, but the Padres as a whole struggled in that department, posting a league-worst .297 mark. The Padres have now recorded the majors’ lowest OBP five times in a row, AJ Cassavell of notes, and that’s a trend they’d obviously like to break. “It starts with getting guys who’ve shown a history of being on base,” Preller said. “From a talent and personnel standpoint we’ll continue to look at changing the mix a little bit. … And then from a messaging standpoint we’ll continue to hammer it home every possible way for guys to understand: Getting on base is probably the most important thing in the game.”
    A.J. Preller On Padres’ Offseason Plans Mon, 01 Oct 2018 00:44:10 +0000 Padres general manager A.J. Preller spoke to reporters (including Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune and AJ Cassavell of today, prior to his team’s final game of what ended up as a 66-96 campaign.  Here are some of the most pertinent items of Preller’s chat, in regards to what his front office has ahead for the coming offseason…

    • The Padres have yet to post a winning record in Preller’s four full years as GM, and haven’t had a winning season of any sort since 2010.  After another year of rebuilding and focusing on young talent, however, Preller believes the team can take a step forward competition-wise in 2019.  “[We’re] starting to climb out of this point where it’s a development mindset, where we’re at the bottom part of the standings….From our standpoint next year we’re going to look to start to compete.  You’ve got to get over .500 to do that,” Preller said.
    • After last winter’s surprising signing of Eric Hosmer, San Diego could again pursue some of the bigger-name free agents in this year’s market, or (as they did at the trade deadline) look to acquire controllable starting pitching.  “I think we start with: Never say no to anything,” Preller said.  “It’s not like anything is off-limits. We’re open to every possibility, every situation.”  In regards to potential trades, the GM noted that “In the last 12 months, any established players that have been put on the trade market, we’ve been part of those discussions.  We’ve had other teams reaching out to us, wanting to tap into some of the resources we have in our system.  I think that’ll be no different this offseason.  We’ll evaluate the guys we have in our system, versus what we’re able to.”
    • While San Diego could dip into its vaunted prospect depth to swing a trade or two this offseason, it would seemingly be surprising if the club dealt any of its top blue-chippers for the sake of immediate improvement.  As Preller noted, his goal is to build a long-term contender: “Every decision we make is built toward a plan.  What we’re not going to do is short-circuit that.  The last few years, we’re building, really, to get away from the mindset of being average.”
    • The Padres have approximately $51.4MM in guaranteed salaries committed to the 2019 payroll, with Preller saying “I feel like we’re going to have some financial flexibility because a lot of the players are younger players. We understand we’re at that point from a plan standpoint where we’re going to have to supplement from the outside – be it the free agent or trade route. We’ll look to do that in the next few months.”
    • The bulk of next year’s payroll expenditures are due to the salaries of Hosmer and Wil Myers, and Cassavell thinks it possible that the Padres could try to move Myers due to the former first baseman’s position crunch.  Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe have earned more playing time in the corner outfield spots in 2019, leaving Myers perhaps at third base (where he struggled defensively, albeit in a small sample size) or maybe in a super-utility role at both corner infield and outfield spots.  Of course, Cassavell also believes that Reyes or Renfroe could be traded to address the crowed corner outfield situation, and obviously either of those two younger players would be easier to deal given that Myers is owed at least $64MM through the 2022 season.
    • Preller said that the team hadn’t yet decided on Myers’ role for next season, though Myers will be informed early so he can properly prepare heading into Spring Training.  For his part, Myers believes that “with an offseason, I will absolutely be able to play third base.”
    • Freddy Galvis could also be a factor at third base, as Preller expressed an interest in re-signing the veteran.  Galvis hit .248/.299/.380 over 656 PA while appearing in all 162 games, appearing as a shortstop in all but five of those contests.  Galvis hasn’t played the hot corner since 2014, but he’d have to shift into a utility role if he returns to San Diego, as the team plans to give more infield time to its top young players next year.
    NL Notes: Kang, Kennedy, Giants, Wainwright Sat, 29 Sep 2018 13:57:59 +0000 The Pirates will be faced with a decision on Jung Ho Kang’s 2019 option this offseason, but GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic that Kang’s performance in this weekend series won’t have an impact on the outcome (subscription required). “Truth be told, there’s not going to be a whole lot of value in the evaluation process of a one-game or a one-plus-game look,” said Huntington. Biertempfel notes, though, that the late promotion could earn a bit of good will with Kang’s camp in the event that the team elects to buy out his $5.5MM option and try to bring him back into the fold for a few million less than that. There’s been no indication one way or another as to how the Pirates plan on proceeding, though the very fact that he was brought up to the Majors at all indicates that they’re not totally closed off to the possibility of continuing the relationship in spite of Kang’s legal troubles over the past few seasons.

    Here’s more from the National League…

    • Padres right-hander Brett Kennedy underwent knee surgery that will sideline him for the first six weeks of the offseason, tweets AJ Cassavell of However, Kennedy is still expected to be able to have a largely normal offseason program, and the operation isn’t expected to impact his availability for the 2019 campaign. Kennedy, 24, didn’t impress in six starts with the Friars this season, working to a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. However, the 2015 11th-rounder fired off 89 1/3 innings of 2.72 ERA ball with 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 52.6 percent ground-ball rate in an extremely hitter-friendly setting with the Padres’ El Paso affiliate in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He posted solid numbers at Double-A in 2017 and at Class-A Advanced in 2016, and with multiple minor league options remaining beyond 2018, he’ll have ample opportunity to cement himself as part of the San Diego pitching staff in come capacity over the next few seasons.
    • The Giants’ search for a new general manager and/or president of baseball operations isn’t expected to be a quick one, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The process could take several weeks as Giants leadership interviews a wide range of candidates with varying backgrounds. Notably, Schulman adds that the Giants aren’t set on hiring any one specific type of executive (e.g. analytically inclined, traditional scouting background, etc.) and seem to be embarking on this process with an open-minded approach.
    • With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination, Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes the uncertain future of Adam Wainwright, who may have made his final start yesterday for the only MLB team he’s ever known. Wainwright’s a free agent at season’s end, and while he spent most of the season sidelined by elbow soreness, he’s rebounded in September to pitch admirably for St. Louis. His 4.84 ERA across his past four starts may not look pretty, but his 3.20 FIP and stunning 6.25 K/BB ratio points to a much more effective pitcher than the version of Wainwright the world had seen across the rest of the past three seasons. Teammate Yadier Molina, for what it’s worth, doesn’t seem to think it’s the last time the two will be batterymates, saying he’s “confident” about that. “It may have been,” Wainwright himself said. “It doesn’t feel like it is. For whatever reason. I haven’t had those emotions. The way I’m feeling now, if that is my last start here it would be kind of hard to walk away knowing the way I’m feeling right now.”
    Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover Fri, 28 Sep 2018 22:40:26 +0000 While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    NL West Rumors: D-Backs, Pence, CarGo, Galvis Fri, 28 Sep 2018 16:08:14 +0000 Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic breaks down the tough choices facing the Diamondbacks this winter. Taking another crack at contention would mean filling several needs. It’d also come with some clear risks. As Piecoro well explains: “For years, the Diamondbacks have had just enough talent to want to keep pushing forward, but not enough to seriously contend for a World Series. And, it seems, each time they’ve tried to load up, they’ve only set themselves back further from a possible championship.” It’s a really interesting initial look at the complicated situation, including some takes from rival executives from around the game.

    More from the NL West:

    • The Giants are expected to wish a fond farewell this weekend to outfielder Hunter Pence, as Kerry Crowley of The Mercury News writes. He’ll get a prominent place on the lineup card, but that’s not solely honorary. Pence has turned in a bit of a late charge, after all, and the Giants still have a consolation prize (keeping the rival Dodgers from a division title) to play for. So, is this the end for Pence? That still seems unclear. He says he’ll “treat it just like I treat every game. You never know your whole career even when you’re young, it could be your last game.”
    • It could soon also be the end of the line for Carlos Gonzalez with the Rockies, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post recently explored. Understandably, the veteran outfielder is focused on finishing out what could be a special season for the Colorado organization. He has been getting less opportunities of late, which seems likely to be the prelude to a departure via free agency this winter. Whether or not that’ll come to pass, CarGo (much like Pence) says he’ll continue to “try to take advantage every night” of the chance to suit up. Soon to turn 33, Gonzalez carries a .276/.329/.463 slash line through 489 plate appearances — good for an approximately league-average overall output once adjusted for park effects and league context.
    • Finally, we’ll turn to yet another pending free agent. While the Padres’ youth movement is the primary hope for the franchise, the team still needs to fill roles. That could conceivably lead to a reunion with shortstop Freddy Galvis. As AJ Cassavell of writes, Galvis has been on a tear at the plate to end the season. And it seems he has generally left a good impression. While fans are pining for Fernando Tatis Jr., skipper Andy Green notes that there are reasons to like the idea of a return for Galvis. Tatis, after all, still has some seasoning left. That leave room at short to open the year, at least, in addition to the possibility that Galvis “could bounce around,” as Green put it. Of course, the veteran infielder is also likely to test the waters to see whether he can pull down more money or a better opportunity elsewhere. He’ll be among several glove-first veterans hitting the open market.
    Silver Linings: National League West Wed, 26 Sep 2018 13:40:41 +0000 It’s time for another installation of our Silver Linings series, where we look at the positive takeaways that can be drawn from otherwise underwhelming seasons. In this edition, we’ll head out to the National League West. As the Dodgers and Rockies sprint towards a photo finish, here are the reasons for optimism for the three clubs that have been left behind:

    [Previous “Silver Linings” Posts: AL Central, NL Central, NL East, AL East]

    Diamondbacks: Bullpen Pieces

    Following an unceremonious exit in the 2017 NLDS at the hands of the rival Dodgers, the Diamondbacks hoped 2018 would be the year they’d break through to win a division title.  Indeed, a blistering start to the season saw Arizona jump out to a 21-8 record, and the Snakes appeared poised to dethrone the Dodgers as division champions. Unfortunately, the D-Backs allowed the rest of the division to catch up over a stretch in May during which the team lost 13 of 14 games. The team now sits at a mediocre 80-78 and has lost 8 of its last 10 games, forcing an early exit from the heated race for the NL West crown.

    Despite the disappointment, there’s obviously talent on hand. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to identify silver linings that portend significant hope for the future. True, the rotation was generally a bright spot, but perhaps not in a manner that’s particularly exciting for the future. Zack Greinke and breakout star Patrick Corbin have anchored the staff, but the former is a highly-paid veteran who’ll be entering his age-35 season and the latter is destined for free agency. Surprising production from the resurgent Clay Buchholz helped quite a bit, but he finished with injury and is also heading back to the open market. The team received contributions from Robbie Ray and Zack Godley, though neither was as effective as might have been hoped.

    If there’s something to carry out of the 2018 campaign, though, perhaps it’s to be found on the other side of the pitching staff. The Diamondbacks’ bullpen was the source of a number of bright spots for the club in 2018. After several lackluster seasons spent pitching in Baltimore, left-hander T.J. McFarland has enjoyed a career year in Arizona, posting a 2.00 ERA in 72 innings. Yoshihisa Hirano, who signed as a free agent after 11 seasons in Japan, proved to be a reliable option out of the bullpen, and Archie Bradley pitched well in 70 games, though not at the same level as he established in 2017. In 48 2/3 innings, Andrew Chafin has yet to concede a home run while striking out more than a batter per inning. And Silvino Bracho arguably pitched well enough in his 28 appearances that he’s deserving of a steady MLB job going forward.

    That relief corps could represent an affordable, reliable unit that allows the organization to invest its resources to address other areas. Make no mistake, there are needs. Center fielder A.J. Pollock will join Corbin in heading onto the open market. The payroll pressures from Greinke’s contracts will not abate. While perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt will return, 2019 is the last year of his current contract. The Diamondbacks’ window for contention appears to be closing quickly, and 2018 looks like a missed opportunity.

    Giants: Rotation Finds

    Coming off a last-place finish in 2017, the Giants set their sights on a bounce-back campaign in 2018. The team acquired a pair of pricey veterans, Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, in hopes that the experienced newcomers would ignite the team. However, the Giants’ offense has fallen flat, and an unlucky streak of injuries has left the club mired in mediocrity. Having scored the second-fewest runs in the National League, the Giants’ offense has been a disaster. The team has posted an overall slash line of .241/.302/.371. Longoria is clearly not his former self, and McCutchen was jettisoned in August after the team fell out of contention. Injuries to regulars Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, and others have sapped the Giants of their firepower.

    Meanwhile, a veteran rotation has fallen apart. Highly paid rotation cogs Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija suffered significant injuries. Staff pillar Madison Bumgarner made it back to the mound and produced good results, but showed reduced velocity and peripherals. Derek Holland turned in a nice bounceback campaign, but he’s a free agent.

    In this situation, it’s not hard to spot the brightest glimmer of hope. Rookie Dereck Rodriguez has been a revelation in the Giants’ starting rotation. Since debuting with the big league club in late May, Rodriguez has made 18 starts, posting an impressive 2.50 ERA. His presence in the rotation has mitigated the damage caused by the absence of Samardzija and Cueto, who have combined to make just 19 starts this season. Rodriguez has perhaps also made it easy to overlook rookie left-hander Andrew Suarez, who has also emerged as a serviceable rotation piece. Whether there’s more in the tank is open to debate, but Suarez still looks to be a nice asset after pitching to a 4.22 ERA across 28 starts.

    If there’s a case to be made that the Giants can remain competitive while rebuilding, it begins with the idea that they’ll have multiple effective and affordable rotation pieces on hand for the coming seasons. And perhaps there’s reason at least to hope for better health and a return to form from some veteran players. It helps, too, that the organization received some strong performances from relievers who remain under control — Will Smith, Reyes Moronta, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, and even a rejuvenated Mark Melancon — though some could also be trade fodder this winter. In truth, the club’s near-term course remains to be seen, in no small part because there’ll be a new regime at the controls.

    Padres: Incremental Gains

    While the Padres hardly sniffed the postseason in 2018, it was not a year without progress in San Diego. Though another losing season marks the 12th consecutive season the Friars will vacation in October, greener pastures appear to be on the horizon in San Diego.

    Perhaps that’s scant consolation for fans who had hoped for a more dramatic leap in 2018. After all, the rebuild has been in the works for some time and it’s still unclear precisely which players will make up the anticipated core of the future. Still, it’s hard to ignore the sheer volume of talent — or its proximity to the MLB level.

    Even with a number of players succeeding after making the leap to the big leagues in 2018, the biggest splashes may be yet to come. Boasting one of baseball’s premier minor-league systems, the Padres expect to receive an influx of talented players that will help to build the club into a postseason threat in coming seasons. With reinforcements waiting in the wings, the early returns look promising for the Padres.

    There was no shortage of impressive rookies in San Diego this season. Pitchers Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer showed promise in their debut seasons, and look to have built foundations that will set the pair up for success in 2019 and beyond. Jose Castillo and Robert Stock are among the first-time big leaguers who have impressed in an intriguing bullpen unit that includes several other youngsters as well as hurlers who’ve thrived despite arriving as castaways (Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates, Matt Strahm). Before his season ended prematurely, Franchy Cordero, who features an intriguing combination of power and speed, injected excitement into the Padres offense, homering 7 times in 40 games. Outfielder Franmil Reyes has increasingly impressed at the plate after looking lost when he debuted in May.

    Top prospect Luis Urias also received a call-up late in the season. Though his season was cut short due to injury, the 21-year-old infielder projects to hit for high average and play solid infield defense as he matures, a welcome addition to any club. The Padres also brought in the game’s top catching prospect, Francisco Mejia, in a deal that sent Brad Hand to Cleveland. Just 22 years of age, Mejia figures into the team’s future plans at a premium position, potentially functioning alongside Austin Hedges to form an impressive duo behind the dish (if the team can find a way to get Mejia’s bat in the lineup at other positions as well). Pitcher Dinelson Lamet, who flashed tantalizing potential as a rookie in 2017 but missed all of this season with a torn UCL, will offer a boon to the pitching staff in 2019.

    Combine these major-league contributors with what may be the game’s deepest prospect pool, and the Padres believe they have a blueprint to contend in the near future. The farm is ripe with pitchers who could debut in the coming years, even if it’s not yet clear which will fully emerge. If there’s a truly exciting presence on the horizon, though, it’s shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who is one of the top prospects in baseball. Though he missed time with a thumb injury, he cemented his status as the organization’s most exciting talent by posting a .286/.355/.507 slash and banging 16 long balls in 394 Double-A plate appearances.

    As their farmhands graduate to the Majors, the Padres hope to build a young core that has the potential to turn this organization into an annual contender. For now, that’s still a vision rather than a reality; the club’s broad collection of interesting players has yet to coalesce. But the waves of talent are now coming ashore. Perhaps 2019 will be the year that the patience begins to pay off?

    The Top Minor League Performers Of 2018 Tue, 18 Sep 2018 23:15:05 +0000 Over at Roster Resource, I rank Minor Leaguers throughout the regular season using a formula that takes into account several statistics with age and level serving as important factors in how they are weighed. These are not prospect rankings!

    This is how it works:

    • Hitters are mostly rated by total hits, outs, extra-base hits, walks, strikeouts and stolen bases.
    • Pitchers are mostly rated by strikeouts, walks, earned runs, home runs and hits allowed per inning.
    • A few counting stats are included (IP, plate appearances, runs, RBI) to ensure that the players atop the list played a majority of the season.
    • The younger the player and the higher the level, the more weight each category is given. Therefore, a 19-year-old with an identical stat line as a 25-year-old at the same level will be ranked much higher. If a 23-year-old in Triple-A puts up an identical stat line as a 23-year-old in High-A, the player in Triple-A would be ranked much higher.

    A player’s potential does not factor in to where they are ranked. If you’re wondering why a certain prospect who is rated highly by experts isn’t on the list, it’s likely because they missed time due to injury (see Victor Robles or Nick Senzel), MLB promotion (Juan Soto) or just weren’t productive enough. While there are plenty of recognizable names throughout the MiLB Power Rankings Top 200 list, it’s also full of players who were relatively unknown prior to the season and have seen their stock rise significantly due to their performance. Here’s a closer look at the Top 20.

    1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

    Guerrero probably deserved to start his MLB career sometime between the debuts of NL Rookie of the Year candidates Ronald Acuña Jr. (April 25th) and Juan Soto (May 20th). All things being equal, that would’ve been the case.

    But his call-up was delayed, mostly because third baseman Josh Donaldson was healthy in May and designated hitter Kendrys Morales was being given every opportunity to break out of an early season slump. As Guerrero’s path to regular playing time was becoming clearer, he suffered a knee injury in early June that kept him out of action for a month. When he returned, the Jays’ playoff chances had dwindled. Instead of adding him to the 40-man roster and starting his service time clock, they chose to delay his MLB debut until 2019.

    You can hate the rule, but I’m certain Jays fans would rather have Guerrero under team control in 2025 as opposed to having him on the team for a few meaningless months in 2018 and headed for free agency after the 2024 season. And maybe it’s just me, but I kind of enjoy seeing what kind of numbers a player can put up when he’s way too good for his competition. And all this 19-year-old kid did was slash .381/.437/.636 with 20 HR, 29 2B, 37 BB, 38 K in 408 plate appearances, mostly between Triple-A and Double-A (he had 14 PAs during a rehab stint in the low minors).  Thanks for providing us with that beautiful stat line, Vlad Jr.

    2. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros Astros Depth Chart

    Despite a slow start—he had 21 hits in his first 83 Triple-A at-bats with one homer and 20 strikeouts— the 21-year-old Tucker showed why the World Champions were willing to give him a chance to take their starting left field job and run with it in July.

    Tucker wasn’t quite ready for the Big Leagues—he was 8-for-52 in two separate MLB stints prior to a recent third call-up—but his stock hasn’t dropped one bit after slashing .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers, 27 doubles and 20 stolen bases over 465 plate appearances in his first season at the Triple-A level.

    3. Luis Rengifo, SS, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

    A 21-year-old shortstop just finished a Minor League season with 50 extra-base hits (7 HR, 30 2B, 13 3B), 41 stolen bases, as many walks as strikeouts (75 of each) and a .299/.399/.452 slash line. If the name Luis Rengifo doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not alone. He kind of came out of nowhere.

    The Mariners traded him to the Rays last August in a deal for Mike Marjama and Ryan Garton. Nine months later, the Rays shipped him to the Angels as the PTBNL in the deal for C.J. Cron. Based on those two trades, I can say without hesitation that the Mariners and Rays did not think Rengifo was this good. Not even close.

    4. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

    Lowe’s breakout season mirrors Juan Soto’s in one way: They both posted an OPS above 1.000 at two different levels before a promotion to a third. Soto’s third stop was in Double-A, and it was a very short stint before heading to the Majors. After destroying High-A and Double-A pitching, Lowe’s final stop of 2018 was Triple-A, where he finally cooled off.

    Still, the 23-year-old has put himself squarely on the Rays’ radar. After homering just 11 times in his first 757 plate appearances, all in the low minors, Lowe broke out with 27 homers and 32 doubles in 555 plate appearances in 2018. His overall .330/.416/.568 slash was exceptional.

    5. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins | Twins Depth Chart

    We’re four seasons into the Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano era—both debuted during the 2015 season—and we can’t say for certain whether either player will even be penciled into the regular lineup in 2019. They could be still turn out to be perennial All-Stars someday. But you can’t blame Twins fans if they temper their expectations for the next great hitting star to come up through their farm system. And yet, that might be difficult with Kirilloff, a first-round draft pick in ’16, and last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Royce Lewis, after the year each of them just had. Both are moving up the ladder quickly.

    The 20-year-old Kirilloff, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, was a hitting machine in his first full professional season. After slashing .333/.391/.607 with 13 homers in 65 games with Low-A Cedar Rapids, he hit .362 with seven homers and 24 doubles in 65 games with High-A Fort Myers. He also had 11 hits in the playoffs, including a 5-hit performance on September 5th.

    6. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

    All Bichette did during his age-20 season was hit 43 doubles and steal 32 bases while manning shortstop for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 2018 Eastern League Champions. It’s unlikely that he’ll join Vlad Jr. in the Majors early next season, but he might not be too far behind.

    7. Peter Alonso, 1B, New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Alonso’s monster season (.975 OPS, 36 HR, 31 2B, 119 RBI between AAA/AA) ended in disappointment when he was passed over for a September promotion. As was the case with Vlad Jr., it didn’t make much sense to start his service time clock and fill a valuable 40-man spot during the offseason—neither Guerrero or Alonso have to be protected from the next Rule 5 draft—while the team is playing meaningless games. The 23-year-old Alonso did establish, however, that he is the Mets’ first baseman of the very near future, and they’ll plan accordingly during the upcoming offseason.

    8. Touki Toussaint, SP, Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    As tough as it will be to crack the Braves’ rotation in the coming years, the 22-year-old Toussaint has put himself in position to play a significant role in 2019 after posting a 2.38 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 24 starts between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s also starting meaningful MLB games down the stretch as the Braves try to seal their first division title since 2013. After spending last October in the Arizona Fall League, where he followed up an underwhelming 2017 season by allowing 10 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, he could find himself on the Braves’ playoff roster.

    9. Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

    The highest-ranked player to spend the entire season in Low-A, the 20-year-old Brujan slashed .320/.403/.459 while stealing 55 bases in his first crack at a full season league (27 games in High-A; 95 games in Low-A). He’ll still be overshadowed a bit in a deep Tampa Bay farm system that includes two of the best young prospects in the game, Wander Franco and Jesus Sanchez, but it’s hard to ignore such a rare combination of speed and on-base ability displayed by a switch-hitting middle infielder.

    10. Michael King, SP, New York Yankees Yankees Depth Chart

    The Yankees’ offseason trade that sent two MLB-ready players, Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith, to the Marlins cleared a pair of 40-man roster spots prior to the Rule 5 draft and brought back $250K in international bonus pool money. They also received King, who—whether anyone expected it or not—was about to have a breakout season.

    After posting a 3.14 ERA with a 6.4 K/9 over 149 innings in Low-A in his age-22 season, numbers that typically indicate “possible future back-of-the-rotation workhorse,”  he looks to be much more than that after his 2018 performance. In 161 1/3 innings across Triple-A, Double-A and High-A, King posted a 1.79 ERA, 0.911 WHIP and 8.5 K/9. He was at his best once he reached Triple-A, posting a 1.15 ERA with only 20 hits and six walks allowed over 39 innings.

    11. Taylor Widener, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Unlike the trade to acquire King, the Yankees appear to have gotten the short end of the stick in a three-team, seven-player offseason deal with Arizona and Tampa Bay. They traded away Nick Solak to the Rays and Widener to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Brandon Drury, who was supposed to fill a short-term need for infield depth.

    While Drury was a bust in New York—he had nine hits in 51 at-bats before being traded to Toronto in a July deal for J.A. Happ—Solak, a second baseman/outfielder, put up terrific numbers in Double-A (.834 OPS, 19 HR, 21 SB) and Widener has emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.75 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 11.5 K/9 over 137 1/6 innings with Double-A Jackson.

    12. Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart

    The offseason signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer certainly didn’t bode well for Naylor’s future with the Padres. Whether he had an MLB future at all, however, was already in question. First base prospects can’t just be good hitters. They need to mash, which is far from what Naylor did in 2017 (.761 OPS, 10 HR between Double-A and High-A). But a 20-year-old holding his own in Double-A is still interesting, nevertheless. So it was worth paying attention when he hit .379 with seven homers, five doubles, 13 walks and 12 strikeouts in April. He also spent most of his time in left field in 2018, adding a bit of versatility to his game.

    Although April was his best month, by far, he still finished with an impressive .297/.383/.447 slash line. He’ll enter 2019 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A who has flashed some power (17 HR, 22 2B in 574 plate appearances) and above-average plate discipline (64 BB, 69 K).

    13. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

    Unlike the Jays and Mets, who had multiple reasons to keep Guerrero and Alonso in the Minors until 2019, the Sox’s decision to bypass Jimenez for a September call-up was more questionable.

    Already on the 40-man roster and without much to prove after slashing .337/.384/.577 with 22 homers and 28 doubles between Triple-A and Double-A, Jimenez’s MLB debut appeared imminent as September approached. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, citing Jimenez’s need to improve his defense, confirmed in early September that he would not be called up. Of course, the 21-year-old probably would’ve benefited greatly from playing left field in the Majors for 20-25 games in September. And, of course, Hahn is just doing a good job of not saying the quiet part out loud: Eloy under team control through 2025 > Eloy under team control through 2024.

    14. Dean Kremer, SP, Baltimore Orioles Orioles Depth Chart

    After posting a 5.18 ERA in 2017, mostly as a relief pitcher in High-A, Kremer’s stock rose quickly with a full-time move to the starting rotation in 2018. In 16 starts for High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA with a 13.0 K/9. After tossing seven shutout innings in his Double-A debut, the Dodgers included him as a key piece in the July trade for Manny Machado. Kremer continued to pitch well with Double-A Bowie (2.58 ERA, 45 1/3 IP, 38 H, 17 BB, 53 K) and now finds himself on track to help a rebuilding Orioles’ team in 2019.

    15. Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals Royals Depth Chart

    Lopez started to turn some heads during last offseason’s Arizona Fall League, and it carried over into 2018 as he slashed .308/.382/.417 with nine homers, 15 stolen bases and more walks (60) than strikeouts (52) between Triple-A and Double-A.  It’s a sign that the 23-year-0ld’s bat is catching up with his stellar defense and that he’s closing in on the Majors, where he could team with Adalberto Mondesi to form one of the better young middle infield duos in the game.

    16. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins Twins Depth Chart

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft didn’t disappoint in his first full professional season, posting an .853 OPS, nine homers, 23 doubles and 22 stolen bases in 75 Low-A games before a 2nd half promotion to High-A Fort Myers. He didn’t fare quite as well (.726 OPS, 5 HR, 6 SB in 46 games), but he did hit three homers in the playoffs to help his team win the Florida State League championship. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the if he reached Double-A early next season as a 19-year-old with a jump to the Majors in 2020 not out of the question.

    17. Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

    Throwing a 100 MPH fastball isn’t as rare as it used to be, but Kopech has reportedly touched 105 MPH, putting him in a class of his own. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old right-hander is expected to join a long list of pitchers who have had their careers interrupted by Tommy John surgery after he was recently diagnosed with a torn UCL.

    The timing isn’t great, as Kopech had just arrived in the Majors in late August and would’ve likely been a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in 2019. Still, he’ll only have to prove that he’s back to full health before he returns to the Majors—he should be ready to return early in the 2020 season— after making a strong impression in Triple-A with a 3.70 ERA and 12.1 K/9 in 24 starts.

    18. Kevin Smith, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

    Not only do Guerrero, Bichette and Cavan Biggio likely form the best trio of infield prospects in the game, two are sons of Hall of Famers—Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Craig Biggio, and Bichette’s dad, Dante, was also pretty good. And yet, another Blue Jays infield prospect with a very ordinary name and without MLB lineage managed to stand out. The 22-year-old finished the season with 25 homers, 31 doubles, 29 stolen bases and a cumulative .302/.358/.528 batting line between High-A and Low-A.

    19. Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    The former first-round pick wasn’t overly impressive in his first full Minor League season in 2017, slashing .244/.331/.362 with seven homers and 27 stolen bases for Low-A Great Lakes. A move to the hitter-friendly California League in 2018, however, seemed sure to give his offensive numbers a boost. It did. Lux had a .916 OPS and 41 extra-base hits in 404 plate appearances, but he also didn’t slow down once he reached the upper minors late in the year.

    In 28 regular season games with Double-A Tulsa, the 20-year-old Lux slashed .324/.408/.495 with four homers in 120 plate appearances. It didn’t end there. Over an eight-game playoff run, the left-handed batter went 14-for-33 with five multi-hit games.

    20. Patrick Sandoval, SP, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

    Acquiring the 21-year-old Sandoval from the Astros for free agent-to-be catcher Martin Maldonado could turn out to be the steal of the trade deadline. While the lefty didn’t stand out in Houston’s deep farm system, he was having a strong season at the High-A and Low-A levels at the time of the trade (2.56 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 88 innings). The change of scenery didn’t affect him one bit as he tossed 14 2/3 shutout innings in the California League before finishing the season with four impressive Double-A starts (19 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 27 K).

    Power Ranking Leaders By Level

    Hitter: Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
    Starting Pitcher: Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
    Relief Pitcher: Ian Gibaut, Tampa Bay Rays

    Hitter: Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
    Starting Pitcher: Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks
    Relief Pitcher: Matt Pierpont, Colorado Rockies

    Hitter: Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies
    Pitcher: Emilio Vargas, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Hitter: Chavez Young, Toronto Blue Jays
    Pitcher: Jhonathan Diaz, Boston Red Sox

    Short-Season A
    Hitter: Tyler Freeman, Cleveland Indians
    Pitcher: Jaison Vilera, New York Mets

    Hitter: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
    Pitcher: Joey Cantillo, San Diego Padres

    NL Notes: Harper, D-Backs, Buchholz, Senzel, DeGrom Fri, 14 Sep 2018 05:31:33 +0000 As ever, there’s plenty of water-cooler chatter about the eventual destination of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who — had you not heard? — is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Particularly for fans of a Nats organization that is just weeks away from wrapping up a brutally disappointing campaign, it’s a subject of much attention. So eyebrows were raised recently at comments from Harper and, especially, club president of baseball ops/GM Mike Rizzo that could be interpreted as hinting at a reunion. In an appearance on MLB Network (Twitter link), Harper at least acknowledged a reunion is possible, saying that “it’s going to be an exciting future for the Nationals, and we’ll see if I’m in those plans.” Innocuous enough, to be sure, but perhaps the line could be interpreted as a wink toward contract talks. As for Rizzo, Chris Lingebach of 106.7 The Fan rounded things up. Those interested in parsing the words fully should click the link, but the key phrase at issue from Rizzo is his statement that he “won’t discuss [negotiations with Harper’s camp] until there’s something to announce.” Did the tight-lipped, hard-nosed GM tip his hand? It’s at most an arguable point.

    From this vantage point, there’s enough here to make you think, but hardly a clear indication as to how Harper’s fascinating free agency will turn out. Here’s the latest from the National League:

    • The Diamondbacks had held a strong position in the postseason race for much of the season, but as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes, they’re now left hoping for a memorable late-season comeback to get in. “[B]reakdowns occurring in every facet of their game,” Piecoro writes, have spurred a ghastly 4-16 run that has reversed the team’s fortunes. Unfortunately, odds are that the Arizona club will head back to the drawing board at season’s end — while watching two significant players (A.J. Pollock and lefty Patrick Corbin) hit the open market. Still, it’s notable that the club has largely followed up on its successful 2017 campaign, as the thought in some quarters entering the year was that there wasn’t really enough talent to keep pace.
    • As is also covered in the above-linked piece, the D-Backs suffered an unwelcome blow in advance of tonight’s loss when they were forced to scratch righty Clay Buchholz. The veteran hurler has been an immense asset for Arizona, throwing 98 1/3 innings of 2.01 ERA ball since joining the club in mid-season as a minor-league signee. He’s now headed to Phoenix for testing, though the hope still seems to be that he’ll return this year. Regardless, it’s unfortunate news for the team but even more disappointing for the 34-year-old, who has dealt with plenty of health problems of late and will be reentering the open market at season’s end.
    • It has long been wondered what the Reds Baseball America points outwill do when they are ready to call up top prospect Nick Senzel, who’s blocked at his natural position of third base. We may be seeing the hints of an answer; as , Senzel is listed as an outfielder in the organization’s instructional league roster. That hardly guarantees anything, of course, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Senzel — who’s opportunity for a late-2018 callup was taken by a finger injury — come into camp in 2019 looking to crack the roster in the corner outfield. Just how it’ll all play out, though, remains to be seen.
    • Speaking of top prospects … among his many notes today, Jon Heyman of Fancred writes that the Mets took a targeted approach to discussions with other teams regarding ace righty Jacob deGrom. As Heyman puts it, the New York organization “focused” on the handful of clubs it deemed to have assets worth haggling over. When those teams weren’t willing to give up their best young assets, talks sputtered. Heyman cites “the Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Yankees, and perhaps to a lesser extent the Brewers” as clubs that were engaged. But the ultra-premium prospects and young MLB players in those organizations simply weren’t on offer. It’s hard to argue with the Mets’ rationale; deGrom reached a new level this season, after all, and certainly shouldn’t be parted with by a major-market club for less than a compelling return.
    Could Reyes Emerge As Trade Chip? Thu, 13 Sep 2018 00:40:11 +0000
  • Dennis Lin of The Athletic takes stock of the Padres’ wide-ranging slate of Major League debuts in 2018 (subscription required), noting that 14 different players got their first taste of the Majors in San Diego this season. (Francisco Mejia, who came to the Friars with just 14 career plate appearances, is effectively receiving his first MLB audition as well.) While the results have varied, 2018 gave Friars fans their first look at a number of potential building blocks, including Luis Urias, Mejia and Joey Lucchesi, among others. Notably, Lin speculates that given the Padres’ wealth of outfield options and questions surrounding Franmil Reyes’ glovework, he could become a trade chip in talks with American League clubs this winter. The 23-year-old has batted .265/.316/.525 through 215 plate appearances this season, including a monstrous .313/.365/.635 slash with nine homers and a dramatically improved strikeout rate since being recalled from the minors on Aug. 5 (104 PAs).
  • ]]>