RHP Sonny Gray could bolster the A's starting rotation later this season.
Since the beginning of June, more and more teams have turned to the minor leagues in order to address deficiencies on the major league roster.
In addition to the obvious lack of service-time concerns at this juncture in the season, teams have begun to “harvest the farm” with the intention of improving their on-field product. However, not all teams buy into this strategy; many lack an impact prospect capable of contributing in the major leagues this season.
But for organizations capable of contending for a postseason berth, the promotion of a top prospect is a shrewd decision that can pay huge dividends over the duration of the season.
Here’s a look at each team’s most major league-ready prospect who could have the most influence on their success over the second half of the 2013 season.
Note: The player doesn’t necessarily have to be major league-ready right now, but is expected to be at some point during the second half.
2013 Stats (AA): 6-2, 78.2 IP, 4.12 ERA, .265 BAA, 75/26 K/BB (15 GS)
After posting a 4.91 ERA through 12 starts at Double-A Bowie to conclude the 2012 season, Wright, 23, has been more consistent this year in his second tour of the level. The 6’6”, 215-pound right-hander features a three-pitch arsenal that’s highlighted by an above-average fastball-to-plus fastball.
Moving forward, the key for Wright will be the development of his secondary offerings (slider/curve/changeup), which presently are average overall. However, his feel for pitching and ability to sequence could help him get the major leagues during the second half of the season.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 8-2, 90.2 IP, 3.08 ERA, .235 BAA, 97/26 K/BB (15 G/14 GS)
Workman has cruised through the Red Sox’s system since they selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft, and is currently enjoying his best season as a professional. After a strong showing back at Double-A Portland to begin the season, the 6’4” right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’s registered a 2.16 ERA with 23/9 K/BB through four starts.
While the Red Sox have a nice selection of arms to pick from in the upper minors (De La Rosa, Webster, Ranaudo), I think Workman is the next in line for a major league audition.
The 24-year-old has a durable frame ideal for eating innings and is a strike-thrower with an advanced feel for roughly five pitches. He doesn’t have the pure stuff of Webster/De La Rosa/Ranaudo, but, at the same time, it’s good enough to profile as a back-end starter.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 2-4, 54.2 IP, 2.96 ERA, .198 BAA, 61/25 K/BB (12 G/11 GS)
Mark Montgomery would have been my choice for this article had he not been placed on the seven-day DL for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. So, I’m going with Jose Ramirez instead.
After three seasons between both Class-A levels, Ramirez, 23, has finally put everything together. Nobody ever questioned the quality of his stuff or ability to miss bats, but a lack of control and consistency has always held him back. This season, however, the 6’3” right-hander has been a different pitcher; his fastball-slider combo has been deadly against minor league hitters, and he’s made noticeable strides with the changeup.
Ramirez got off to an excellent start with Double-A Trenton, registering a 2.76 ERA and .192 BAA with 50/15 K/BB in 42.1 innings, and the organization felt good enough about his development to promote him to Triple-A earlier in the month. Provided that he retains a sense of command at the more advanced level, it’s likely that Ramirez will reach the major leagues during the second half of the season.
2013 Stats (AAA): 5-1, 63.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, .222 BAA, 66/21 K/BB (11 GS)
With Chris Archer and Alex Colome currently on the 25-man roster—and Wil Myers now entrenched in the middle of the lineup—the only prospect in the minor leagues seemingly capable of helping the Rays this season is Jake Odorizzi.
Although he boasts a deep, four-pitch mix, the 23-year-old right-hander doesn’t have the swing-and-miss stuff of Archer or Colome, and his evolution as a fly-ball pitcher remains a concern. Still, Odorizzi has already shown the ability to get out major league hitters this season and should receive ample opportunities to prove he belongs during the second half.
2013 Stats (AA): 4-1, 36 IP, 3.25 ERA, 37/11 K/BB (8 GS)
Selected by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2012 draft, Stroman sat out the first 50 games of the 2013 season while serving a PED-related suspension. Since returning, though, the 5’9” right-hander has been excellent in the Double-A starting rotation after working strictly as a reliever during his professional debut last summer.
Despite his diminutive build, Stroman showcases ridiculous arm strength with an explosive fastball that reaches the upper-90s, and he complements the pitch with a swing-and-miss, wipeout slider. His changeup is an underrated offering that flashes above-average potential given his natural arm speed, but still lags behind his other pitches.
The organization will continue to develop him as a starter this season, though I expect he’ll be coming out of the major league bullpen by August.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 8-2, 3 CG, 90.2 IP, 2.18 ERA, .193 BAA, 80/26 K/BB (15 GS)
One of the few bright spots in the White Sox’s barren system, Johnson should have a chance to crack the team’s rotation later this season, especially if they move a starting pitcher around the trade deadline. Featuring a projectable four-pitch mix, the 23-year-old right-hander will work comfortably in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and complements it with one of the better right-handed sliders in the minor leagues.
After excelling at Double-A Birmingham to open the season, the organization recently promoted Johnson to Triple-A. While he shouldn’t be long for the level, the White Sox will presumably hold off on calling him up to the major leagues until he has a clear path to innings.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 3-5, 66 IP, 3.55 ERA, .236 BAA, 90/22 K/BB (15 GS)
After missing most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, Salazar has surged through the Indians’ system since making his return to the mound. The right-hander has been electric this season and missing tons of bats with a plus-plus fastball, above-average slider and plus changeup.
And after an outstanding start to the 2013 season at Double-A Akron, the 23-year-old was promoted to Triple-A in May and is seemingly on the fast track to the major leagues.
2013 Stats (AAA): .296/.375/.476, 35 XBH (10 HR), 57/40 K/BB (80 G)
One of the better pure hitters in the minor leagues, Castellanos has made the necessary strides in his development this season at Triple-A Toledo by improving his plate discipline and hitting for more power.
In general, the 21-year-old outfielder has been more consistent on both sides of the ball this year and is on the verge of receiving a promotion to the major leagues. He may not immediately serve as the Tigers’ everyday left fielder, but his promising bat at least gives the organization a more formidable platoon option at both corner spots.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 5-3, 77.1 IP, 3.14 ERA, .209 BAA, 92/30 K/BB (15 GS)
After adding considerable strength to his wiry, 5’11” frame over the last year, Ventura has blossomed into a legitimate starting pitcher this season in the high minors. While he’s showcased a legitimate elite fastball that reaches triple digits, the improvement of his hammer breaking ball and average changeup has directly influenced his success against more advanced competition.
The 22-year-old is a safe bet to reach the major leagues during the second half of the season, though it will be interesting to see whether the Royals initially run him out there as a starter or reliever.
2013 Stats (AAA): 7-5, 92.2 IP, 3.01 ERA, .229 BAA, 79/28 K/BB (15 GS)
I’m admittedly cheating a bit with this one, as the Twins have already announced that Gibson has been called up to make his debut on Saturday. After missing most of the 2012 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 25-year-old has re-established himself as the team’s most big league-ready pitching prospect since returning to the mound.
With an arsenal that consists of three above-average-or-better pitches, Gibson profiles as a solid No. 3 or 4 starter in the major leagues. He still endures bouts of inconsistency, though they should decrease as he continues to regain his overall feel for pitching.
2013 Stats (A/AA/AAA): .258/.397/.536, 14 XBH (6 HR), 36/22 K/BB (29 G)
After missing the first 50 games of the 2013 season following a second positive test for a banned drug, Singleton has already made it to Triple-A Oklahoma City. The left-handed hitter had always shown a promising combination of plus bat speed and raw power, but it wasn’t until last season that he began utilizing both with regularity.
And while he’ll always have some swing-and-miss to his game, the mature plate discipline will allow him to both hit and reach base at a favorable clip in the major leagues. Since there’s obviously no need for the Astros to rush him this season, expect Singleton to keep getting at-bats in Triple-A before an inevitable promotion during the second half.
2013 Stats (A+): 3-2, 33.1 IP, 2.43 ERA, .193 BAA, 53/16 K/BB (22 G/2 GS)
Because the Angels have the weakest farm system in baseball, it’s not surprising that Alvarez is the only prospect capable of making an impact in the major leagues this season. Drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft and expected to move quickly, Alvarez has been dominating young hitters in High-A with his plus-plus fastball and may not be long for the level.
It’s doubtful that the Angels will promote him directly from the low minors, so expect there to be a stop in Double-A before a second-half call-up.
2013 Stats (AAA): 7-5, 88.1 IP, 2.85 ERA, .254 BAA, 90/29 K/BB (14 GS)
Coming off an underwhelming season—mostly at Double-A—Gray has come into his own this year as part of the Triple-A Sacramento starting rotation. The 23-year-old has shown improvement on all fronts over the first half of the season: He’s worked down in the zone and missed bats consistently while significantly trimming his walk rate.
While Dan Straily is still the A’s go-to guy to fill a hole in the starting rotation, his recent struggles have quietly opened the door for Gray.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): .316/.397/.510, 35 XBH (11 HR), 6 SB, 47/35 K/BB (67 G)
Since entering the Mariners’ system in 2011, Miller has been a hitting machine. Currently thriving for Triple-A Tacoma, the 23-year-old’s intriguing blend of advanced plate discipline and an above-average hit tool undoubtedly has him on the major-league radar.
However, he lacks a clear path to playing time in the majors unless he replaces Brendan Ryan at shortstop. While he’d be able to hold his own at the position, Miller is nowhere near as qualified defensively. So, even though his bat is ready for an audition in the major leagues, his lack of a defined position may continue to hold him back.
2013 Stats (AA): 9-2, 81 IP, 2.89 ERA, .176 BAA, 97/36 K/BB (15 GS)
Due to a rash of injuries to the team’s starting rotation, the Rangers have been actively plugging holes by dipping into the minor leagues all season. And if it weren’t for Ramirez’s disappointing 2012 season, he might have opened the year in the major leagues instead of Nick Tepesch.
The 24-year-old has regained his 2011 form this season at Double-A Frisco, and arguably has been the top pitcher in the Texas League over the first half. A 6’4” right-hander, Ramirez effectively commands four pitches throughout the strike zone and is very difficult for opposing hitters to barrel.
And since he’s drastically resuscitated his stock this season, he’s a candidate to start some games—or perhaps work as a long reliever—in the major leagues later this season.
2013 Stats (AAA): .322/.358/.588, 42 XBH (18 HR), 59/19 K/BB (79 G)
Primarily a corner infielder since entering the Braves’ system in 2010, Terdoslavich had appeared in only one minor league game as an outfielder headed into the 2013 season. However, the Braves decided to move the 24-year-old to the outfield for a full-time role this year. He’ll never offer much defensively at either corner outfield position, though his bat should help get him to the major leagues at some point during the second half.
And considering the recent struggles of the team’s core outfielders—otherwise known as the law firm of Upton, Upton and Heyward—the switch-hitter could potentially receive a promotion earlier than expected.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 3-8, 3.40 ERA, .249 BAA, 91/22 K/BB (16 GS)
Acquired last July in the deal that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit, Flynn has made a strong impression during his first full season with the Marlins. At 6’7”, 240 pounds, the left-hander has started to put things together this season and has started to move quickly as a result.
After registering a 1.57 ERA over four starts for Double-A Jacksonville, the 23-year-old was promoted to Triple-A New Orleans, where he’s continued to miss a bat per inning. And given the lack of long-term options in the Marlins’ starting rotation beyond Jose Fernandez and Jacob Turner, it’s only a matter of time until Flynn gets his first taste of the major leagues.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 7-4, 86.2 IP, 2.91 ERA, .226 BAA, 92/16 K/BB (15 GS)
While right-hander Zack Wheeler has received all the love, Montero has quietly enjoyed a rapid ascent through the Mets’ system since the start of the 2012 season. Although he doesn’t have the pure stuff of a Harvey or Wheeler, the 22-year-old right-hander possesses an outstanding feel for pitching with above-average command.
Boasting four pitches that he can throw for a strike in any count, Montero made quick work of the Eastern League before a recent promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas. He probably won’t miss as many bats in the major leagues as he has in the minors, but still has the potential to emerge as a solid back-end starter for the Mets by the end of the 2013 season.
2013 Stats (AAA): .274/.333/.445, 30 XBH (8 HR), 74/26 K/BB (75 G)
Coming off a breakout 2012 campaign in which he posted impressive numbers at Double-A Reading, Asche has held his own this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Although he doesn’t have the ideal profile of a power-hitting corner infielder, the 22-year-old has a solid left-handed swing that should enable him to hit for average in the major leagues.
And considering the Phillies’ lack of production this season from the hot corner, Asche stands to receive an audition in the major leagues at some point this summer.
Taylor Jordan will replace the injured Dan Haren in the Nationals rotation.
2013 Stats (A+/AA): 9-1, 2 CG, 90.1 IP, 1.00 ERA, .208 BAA, 72/15 K/BB (15 G/14 GS)
As I did with the Twins’ Kyle Gibson, I’m cheating with my choice to include Taylor Jordan in this article. The 24-year-old will be called up to make his debut on Saturday afternoon against the Mets after dominating at both High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg this season.
The 6’3” right-hander was putting up impressive numbers in the low minors before undergoing Tommy John surgery that ultimately sidelined him until late 2012. Since his return, though, Jordan has been all business on the mound while demonstrating outstanding command of three pitches.
2013 Stats (AAA): .341/.382/.488, 8 XBH, 8 SB, 15/5 K/BB (22 G)
With Starlin Castro battling through the worst slump of his career, the organization may decide to give him more days off moving forward. And due to the lack of a legitimate shortstop at the major-league level to occasionally spell him, the team may ultimately turn to the minors for help.
While they won’t promote either Javier Baez or Arismendy Alcantara into such a limited role, they may consider 23-year-old Junior Lake, who’s off to a hot start this season at Triple-A Iowa. And if organization takes that route, then it only makes sense to get him some looks at third base too.
2013 Stats (AAA): .247/.302/.344, 18 XBH (5 HR), 49 SB, 64/25 K/BB (75 G)
After a breakout 2012 season in which he established a new single-season stolen base record and showed vastly improved secondary skills, Hamilton’s performance this season at Triple-A Louisville has been inconsistent.
But even though his bat and approach have progressed as hoped thus far, he’s developed into an above-average defender in center field while improving his success rate on the basepaths. While the Reds have no need to rush him to the major leagues this season, Hamilton should still receive a promotion later this summer and serve as a weapon off the bench.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 5-6, 84 IP, 2.79 ERA, .243 BAA, 87/28 K/BB (15 GS)
As the Brewers continue to audition some of their top pitching prospects in the major leagues, it only makes sense that they turn to right-hander Jimmy Nelson sometime soon. At 6’6”, 245 pounds, the right-hander is a presence on the mound who pounds the lower half of the strike zone with a heavy fastball in the low to mid-90s.
Furthermore, a large part of his success this season—especially as it relates to his command—stems from his ability to consistently execute his secondary offerings. The organization will presumably monitor his progress at Triple-A Nashville following a recent promotion, and if they like what they see, the 24-year-old could become a fixture in the starting rotation during the second half of the season.
2013 Stats (AAA): 11 SV, 25 IP, 2.52 ERA, .178 BAA, 35/11 K/BB (20 G)
Although the Pirates’ system is both deep and loaded with impact talent, many of those players are still at least a full year away from debuting in the major leagues. But if there’s one prospect that can be expected to contribute, it’s right-hander Vic Black.
A first-round selection by the Pirates in 2009, the 6’4” right-hander has emerged as one of the top closers in the minors over the last two seasons thanks to a plus-plus fastball and sharp (but inconsistent) slider. The only reason he’s yet to receive a call-up is fringy control, though it’s been better this season at Triple-A Indianapolis.
2013 Stats (AAA): .306/.341/.462, 17 XBH (5 HR), 22/9 K/BB (46 G)
Regarded as the best pure hitter in the minors—and Prospect Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect—Taveras has the potential to be an MVP-caliber player in the major leagues for a long, long time.
However, due to both the sustained health and production of the Cardinals’ outfielders this season, there has been no temptation to promote the 21-year-old. Plus, it doesn’t help his case that he’s back on the disabled list due to the lingering effect of an ankle injury sustained earlier in the season.
However, as soon as there’s a need for Taveras in the major leagues—or at least when the rosters expand in September—the organization won’t hesitate to call him up.
2013 Stats (A+): 15 SV, 27.1 IP, 1.98 ERA, .198 BAA, 37/9 K/BB (28 G)
Even though the Diamondbacks’ system is stacked with prospects within striking distance of the major leagues—more specifically Chris Owings, Archie Bradley, David Holmberg and Matt Davidson—right-handed reliever Jake Barrett may stand the best chance of receiving a second-half promotion.
Nabbed in the third round of the 2012 draft, the 6’3” right-hander has a plus fastball-slider combination that’s ideal for a late-inning bullpen role. And considering that he was recently promoted to Double-A Mobile, the 21-year-old is officially on the fast track to The Show.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): .289/.354/.537, 39 XBH (13 HR), 13 SB, 67/22 K/BB (72 G)
Coming off a down year in 2012 in which he posted a .705 OPS at Double-A Tulsa, Matthes has fared much better this season in his second tour of the level. In fact, he was recently promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs when Corey Dickerson was called up to the major leagues.
The 26-year-old really isn’t much of prospect anymore and has endured numerous injuries throughout his minor league career, though he would provide the Rockies with some much-needed right-handed power in the outfield.
2013 Stats (AA): 5-5, 81.1 IP, 3.21 ERA, .248 BAA, 74/22 K/BB (16 G/15 GS)
The Dodgers rushed Lee up the organizational ladder last year, as he registered a 4.39 ERA as a 20-year-old between High-A and Double-A. However, they’ve handled him more admirably this season by allowing him to develop naturally back at Double-A, and as a result, the right-hander has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the Southern League.
In terms of the Dodgers' rotation, right-hander Stephen Fife has been effective lately as the fourth starter, though he’s really more of a fill-in or temporary option. Therefore, considering Lee’s improvements this season at Double-A—not to mention the organization’s track record of promoting pitching prospects directly from that level—it’s likely that the 21-year-old right-hander will make his debut at some point during the second half of the season.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 14 SV, 1.26 ERA, .163 BAA, 52/12 K/BB (33 G)
Much like current Padres’ closer Huston Street, right-hander Kevin Quackenbush has the ability to miss bats and get outs despite a lack of overpowering stuff—and that’s exactly why the 24-year-old has emerged as the most effective closer in the minor leagues since the start of the 2011 season.
Following a recent promotion to Triple-A Tuscon, it won’t be long until he joins the San Diego bullpen. And if the team decides to move Street next month in return for starting pitching, Quackenbush may be auditioned as the team’s closer over the final months of the season.
2013 Stats (AAA): 14 SV, 31.2 IP, 5.40 ERA, .269 BAA, 37/10 K/BB (30 G)
Viewed as a future closer when the team popped him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, Hembree might have already reached the major leagues had he not spent significant time on the disabled list last season. When healthy, the 6’4” right-hander boasts a plus fastball in the mid- to upper-90s and sharp slider that will be an asset as a late-inning reliever.
And although he’s struggled with his command this season at Triple-A Fresno, the 24-year-old’s stuff is good enough to warrant a call-up during the second half.