Recently promoted to Triple-A, Taijuan Walker could force the Mariners to bring him up before the end of the season.
We have reached the point in the Major League Baseball season where teams no longer have to worry about service time issues with top prospects, meaning we are going to see—or are already seeing—a rush of promotions from a lot of big names.
Just last week the New York Mets brought up Zack Wheeler to pitch in the second game of a doubleheader. The Tampa Bay Rays finally called up Wil Myers after he spent 1.5 years in Triple-A (including his time with Kansas City). Seattle made a surprise move by promoting Mike Zunino to the big leagues.
Beyond that, we have also seen Gerrit Cole pitching in Pittsburgh's rotation, as is Kevin Gausman with Baltimore. Jurickson Profar is, for reasons unknown, sitting on Texas' bench. Trevor Bauer has made a few spot starts for Cleveland. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha made it to St. Louis at different times.
There is so much going on in the upper levels of the minors right now that it can be hard to track. I am going to try and make sense of some of it by talking about the next wave of top prospects likely to get a call to The Show.
Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Jonathan Singleton hasn't missed a beat after returning from a 50-game suspension.
If Jonathan Singleton had not been suspended for the first 50 games of the season after failing a drug test for marijuana last November, he would probably be in the big leagues manning first base for the Astros right now.
The 21-year-old has been brought back into the fold slowly, spending six games in Low-A, 11 games in Double-A and the last nine games playing for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League.
Right now the Astros don't have to rush Singleton to the big leagues with the hope of trying to win a few more games. They are in full-blown rebuild mode, but Carlos Pena could have some value for a contending team that needs a bench bat and could get moved at the trade deadline. If that happens, the next logical move would be to give Singleton reps for the rest of the season so he is ready to go as the full-time starter in 2014.
Kyle Zimmer gets a lot of attention in Kansas City's system, but Yordano Ventura is closer to big-league ready.
Yordano Ventura is a lightning rod for conversation. Those that love him point out that, even as a starter, he can hit 100 mph with his fastball and has never had an issue missing bats throughout his minor league career.
The detractors will say that, even though he has a big fastball, Ventura still doesn't have a consistent off-speed pitch and his 5'11" height prevents him from getting plane on the heater, allowing hitters to elevate it when they get a hold of it. Don't pay a lot of attention to his Triple-A stats (5.49 ERA, 30 baserunners allowed in 19.2 innings) because the Pacific Coast League is a nightmare for any pitching prospect.
Thanks to trades in the offseason, the Royals starting rotation is light years better than it was in 2012. It has a 3.76 ERA this season, compared to 5.01 last year. The bigger problem the Royals have had this year is scoring runs, but eventually they will see what Ventura can do, presumably as a starter at first before determining whether he has to be a reliever.
Jarred Cosart has one of the best arms in the Astros' system and is just biding his time in Triple-A.
Another Astros prospect, Cosart faces the same problem right now that Jonathan Singleton does: no room for him on the 25-man roster. I know that sounds strange because the Astros are comprised of a lot of spare parts, but they don't want to promote someone right now just for the sake of promoting them.
Cosart, also like Singleton, will also be a strong candidate to get the call-up somewhere around the July 31 trade deadline if/when the Astros trade Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and/or Erik Bedard to add more depth to a very good system.
The 23-year-old will likely end up as a reliever in the future—though he should be given every chance to start—thanks to some issues in his delivery that lead to command and control problems, like throwing across his body and a recoil after release. But his big fastball-curveball combination makes him a potentially dominant late-game arm.
With Jose Valverde gone, the Tigers could turn to Bruce Rondon once again.
One of the advantages of playing in a mediocre division, as well as having as deep a starting rotation as any team in baseball, is even with all sorts of problems in the bullpen, you can play around with things to see what sticks.
The Jose Valverde 2.0 experiment is over as the Tigers finally designated him for assignment before their weekend series against Boston. Now they are going to try a few things with hope that they can get through the season and into the playoffs.
Bruce Rondon still has some of the same issues that plagued him earlier in the season and throughout his minor league career—lack of command and no effective secondary offering—but he is still capable of bringing a fastball over 100 mph, and if he can just learn to show a breaking ball, he can get outs.
Eventually, the Tigers are going to bring Rondon back up to see what he can do, though they may try to work him in slowly by pitching in low-leverage spots before putting him in eighth- and ninth-inning situations.
Imagine Taijuan Walker pitching right behind Felix Hernandez.
If you would have asked me a few weeks ago if I thought Walker would be on this list, I would have said no chance. But he has been fantastic since the end of May, throwing 32 innings, allowing just 21 hits, five walks, eight runs (seven earned) and striking out 39.
The Mariners already had Walker on the fast track, putting him in Double-A last season at the age of 19. He was repeating the level to start 2013 just to be sure he gained valuable experience from some of his struggles last year.
Walker has pitched so well that there is no concern of that anymore. In fact, the Mariners just pushed the 20-year-old up to Triple-A Tacoma after a 12-strikeout game against Mobile on June 20.
The Mariners have had to overhaul a lot of their roster this season thanks to the struggles of Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero. They have brought up Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino to fill out their lineup.
The rotation could be the next thing the M's try to fix, as they have no depth in the big leagues after Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Walker is still incredibly young, but let's not forget that the Mariners brought Hernandez up at the age of 19 in 2005. That move has clearly worked out well for them.