Scouting Reports and Predictions for All 30 MLB Teams' Top September Call-Ups
September 1 marked the expansion of every team’s active roster from 25 to 40 players. In general, it allows teams to address their needs at the major league level by essentially plucking specific talent from within their farm system to add bench and bullpen depth.
More importantly, at least as far as we’re concerned, the final month of the season represents a time when teams have the freedom to audition their top prospects at the highest level.
Even though most organizations hold off on promoting their young talent until the completion of the minor league playoffs, which are set to begin this week, three big-name prospects received a call-up on Sunday: outfielders Nick Castellanos (Tigers) and Michael Choice (Athletics) and infielder Jose Ramirez (Indians). Meanwhile, speedster Billy Hamilton (Reds) is expected to join the Reds on Monday.
As part of our ongoing coverage here at Prospect Pipeline, we’ve put together a list of each team’s promotions from Sunday. And as news pertaining to September call-ups develops over the coming month, we’ve got you covered with updated information and predictions on baseball’s top prospects.
Sept. 2 (Update): The Orioles will call up infielder Jonathan Schoop, outfielder Henry Urrutia and right-hander Josh Stinson on Tuesday, per Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports.
Here's what you need to know about Schoop, who ranked as the Orioles' top position prospect and No. 3 overall prospect heading into the 2013 season.
Assigned to Double-A Bowie last year in his age-20 season, Schoop, who was one of the youngest everyday players in the Eastern League, emerged as the Orioles' second baseman of the future by batting .245/.324/.386 with 24 doubles and 14 home runs in 124 games.
After a strong showing for the upstart Dutch in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Schoop jumped to Triple-A Norfolk to begin the season. However, the 21-year-old got off to a sluggish start at the more advanced level and posted a .636 OPS in April. And when it seemed as though Schoop was finally putting things together in mid-May, he was forced to miss the next six weeks with a stress fracture in his back.
Following his return from the disabled list in late July, Schoop had struggled to get going at the plate, batting .245 with 30 strikeouts in 36 games. But with a spot on the Orioles' 40-man roster, he'll now have the chance to get his feet wet in the major leagues over the final month of the season. And if the team officially falls out of the playoff hunt, expect Schoop to be auditioned at second base in anticipation of a potential everyday role in 2014.
Here are my scouting notes on Schoop, who I got an extended look at last year in the Arizona Fall League:
Schoop has solid footwork and defensive actions that will play up due to his instincts; has played both second base and shortstop where he makes the plays but he lacks the agility and quick feet of a high-level defender; consistent glove; arm strength plays at shortstop, but profiles better at second base; average runner who will likely lose a step as he adds strength.
Right-handed hitter who understands how to attack pitches with the barrel; gets bonus points for using no batting gloves; comfortable driving the ball the other way; ball jumps off his bat thanks to strong top hand and extension after contact; slightly above-average power potential; majority of his power is to the pull side; has started to generate more backspin carry as he's moved up the ladder; approach and pitch recognition skills need refinement, but should naturally improve with more experience; has a tendency to bar his front arm and wrap the bat, making him vulnerable to velocity on his hands.
Sept. 1: The Orioles didn’t promote any of their prospects on Sunday, though they did recall Steve Clevenger from Triple-A. A left-handed hitting catcher, Clevenger came to the Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade in July.
While he only batted .199/.262/.275 in 79 games with the Cubs, the 27-year-old has always shown a serviceable-at-worst bat and consistent approach. Over eight seasons in the minor leagues, including 20 games with the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate this year, Clevenger has an impressive batting line of .311/.373/.428 and 222/204 K/BB ratio in 227 plate appearances.
However, injuries limited the Baltimore native to only 592 games during those eight years. After making the Cubs’ Opening Day roster this season, it seemed as though Clevenger would finally receive a chance to prove himself in the major leagues. Sadly, but somewhat predictably, he suffered a severe oblique strain on a game-ending strikeout swing in April that resulted in a stint on the 60-day disabled list and ruined his chances of sticking with the Cubs.
With the Orioles, Clevenger will have the chance to be a solid backup to Matt Wieters during the final month of the season and could potentially make a strong case for a similar role with the club in 2014.
Boston Red Sox
Sept. 8 (Update): The Red Sox have recalled right-hander Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Acquired by the Red Sox last summer in the blockbuster deal that sent half of the team’s starting lineup to the Dodgers, Webster was outstanding over the first two months of the season at Triple-A. In his eight starts during that span, the 23-year-old registered 2.39 ERA and 46/17 K/BB ratio in 37.2 innings. As a result of his overwhelming success in the minor leagues, the Red Sox called up Webster to start the back end of a double-dip on April 21. Overall, Webster registered a 9.57 ERA with 36 hits allowed (seven home runs) and a 21/14 K/BB ratio in 26.1 innings (six starts) with Boston.
Since then, he’s bounced between the minors and the major leagues four separate times and struggled in each opportunity with the Red Sox. And even though he was shaky upon returning to the Triple-A rotation in mid-July, the right-hander has pitched significantly better since the beginning of August with a 2.67 ERA and 33/11 K/BB ratio in 33.2 innings (six starts). He's expected to work out of the team's bullpen for the final month of the season.
Sept. 7: The Red Sox have recalled outfielder Jackie Bradley from Triple-A Pawtucket to play center field in the wake of Jacoby Ellsbury's foot injury. Here is what you need to know about Bradley:
Bradley struggled in his first taste of the major leagues after breaking spring training with the Red Sox and has battled several minor injuries this season following a demotion to Triple-A. However, the 23-year-old’s bat started to heat up since the beginning of August, as he batted .265 with eight extra-base hits and 17 runs scored in 22 games prior to the promotion.
Sept. 1: The Red Sox are expected to wait until after the Triple-A playoffs to recall top prospects such as Jackie Bradley and Allen Webster.
New York Yankees
The Yankees promoted several prospects to the major leagues on Sunday, including catcher J.R. Murphy and a trio of relievers in Dellin Betances, Brett Marshall and Cesar Cabral. Here is what you need to know about the two notable prospects, Betances and Murphy:
Dellin Betances, RHP
Once considered a top prospect in the Yankees’ system, Betances is getting his third audition in the major leagues.
Betances was selected by the Yankees out of a local high school in the eighth round of the 2006 draft and emerged as one of the more high-ceiling pitching prospects in the game. The 6’8” right-hander has an imposing presence on the mound and will back it up with a mid-90s fastball and heavy curveball.
After a strong showing at both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2011, Betances was called up by the Yankees for the final two weeks of the season. His first stint in the major leagues was one to forget, as he posted a 6.75 ERA with six strikeouts in 2.2 innings spanning two appearances. Since then, Betances’ once-promising career has steadily deteriorated.
Opening the 2012 season back at Triple-A, Betances registered a 6.51 ERA with 73 hits allowed and 30 walks in 56.2 innings before receiving a demotion to Double-A. Things didn’t get better for him at the lower level, as he posted a 6.39 ERA and 71/69 K/BB ratio in 74.2 innings.
Because Betances lacks the athleticism and mobility necessary to repeat his delivery consistently, it’s always been believed that he would wind up in the bullpen. Well, after seven frustrating seasons as a starter, the Yankees decided to make him a full-time reliever early this year. While his control hasn’t been great in the new role, it’s definitely better. At the time of his promotion, the right-hander owned a 2.68 ERA and 108/42 K/BB ratio in 84 innings and held opposing hitters to a .178 batting average.
The Yankees want to see what the 25-year-old has left in the tank, so expect him to get his share of looks in non-pressure situations during the final month of the season.
J.R. Murphy, C
Murphy won’t open eyes with his play on either side of the ball, but the 22-year-old has been very consistent since entering the Yankees' system in 2009. Currently enjoying the best year of his professional career, Murphy batted .269/.347/.426 with 29 doubles, 12 home runs and a 73/47 K/BB ratio this season in 108 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The 22-year-old figured to be a September call-up given that the Yankees would need to add him to the 40-man roster after the season to avoid losing him to the Rule 5 draft in December. Murphy’s playing time will likely be limited over the next month, as he’ll serve as the Yankees’ third-string catcher behind Chris Stewart and Austin Romine.
Tampa Bay Rays
No word yet on the Rays’ September call-ups. However, there is an interesting storyline in the making, as the team purchased the contract of outfielder Delmon Young, whom they selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft but traded to the Twins before he reached the major leagues.
There’s also a realistic chance the Rays will promote infielder Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, at some point this month, as he’s already on the 40-man roster. The thought of those two players on the field for the Rays at the same time is, well, interesting, to say the least.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays haven’t announced their September call-ups, but they’ve indicated that catcher A.J. Jimenez is likely in the mix.
With a career 42 percent caught-stealing rate over six minor league seasons, Jimenez has always been viewed as a glove-first catcher capable of holding his own at the dish if he could only stay healthy.
Even though he’s missed a majority of the 2013 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 23-year-old has offered a taste of his offensive potential with a strong showing in the high minors. In 67 games across three levels this season, mostly at Double- and Triple-A, Jimenez is batting .287/.332/.406 with 19 doubles, four home runs and a 42/18 K/BB ratio.
However, Jimenez recently had a nerve flare-up in his right elbow and hasn’t played since August 27. So expect the Blue Jays to wait for more information on his injury before offering a promotion.
Chicago White Sox
Update (Sept. 2): The White Sox have purchased the contract of right-hander Erik Johnson from Triple-A Charlotte. Here is what you need to know about him:
Johnson emerged as the White Sox’s top pitching prospect this season in what has been an overall quick ascent through their system. The 23-year-old right-hander features an impressive four-pitch mix, as he’ll work comfortably in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball and complements it with one of the better sliders in the minors.
After excelling at Double-A Birmingham over the first half of the season, Johnson was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte in late June. However, after making three starts at the new level, he landed on the disabled list with an oblique strain and missed most of July.
The fact that Johnson missed roughly a full month actually works in his favor in terms of a September call-up, as he’s logged only 142 innings with room left to work. Plus, few pitchers have been hotter than Johnson since the beginning of August.
In six starts, the right-hander has registered a 1.15 ERA and 36/9 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. And of his 24 starts this season between both levels, Johnson has allowed more than three earned runs only twice.
Sept. 1: According to Scott Merkin of MLB.com, right-hander Erik Johnson, the team’s top pitching prospect, and hard-throwing reliever Daniel Webb will “almost certainly be added” to the 40-man roster and called up at some point in September.
The White Sox recalled Charlie Leesman on Sunday morning, and he’s expected to work out of the bullpen over the final month of the season. Until now, the 26-year-old left-hander has worked as a starter exclusively—not including two relief appearances in the rookie levels after signing in 2008—with 125 starts over six minor league seasons.
Even though Leesman has posted a 3.02 ERA in 223.1 innings with Triple-A Charlotte over the past two seasons, his 1.4 WHIP and 8.9 H/9 speaks to his lack of projectable stuff and overall hittability.
Leesman returns to the major leagues after making his debut on August 9 against the Twins, when he allowed one earned run on four hits over five innings. He struck out eight and walked five in the game, needing 113 pitches (61 strikes) to complete the outing.
The Indians get the nod for making the day’s most unexpected call-up, promoting 20-year-old infielder Jose Ramirez from Double-A.
Ranked as the team’s No. 10 prospect heading into the season, Ramirez, a switch-hitter, will reach the major leagues after playing in only 180 games at a full-season level. With Low-A Kane County in 2012, he batted .354/.403/.462 with 20 extra-base hits, 15 stolen bases and a 26/24 K/BB ratio in 67 games.
Bumped directly to Double-A Akron for the 2013 season, Ramirez excelled as one of the younger everyday players at the level, batting .272/.325/.349 with 25 extra-base hits and a 41/39 K/BB ratio in 113 games. He also led the Eastern League with 38 stolen bases and ranked fourth with 78 runs scored.
While Ramirez’s speed will likely make him the team’s go-to pinch runner over the final month of the season, he’s also capable of playing anywhere on the infield—though his defensive tools are best suited for second base—and could get a look at several positions.
Here’s my scouting report on Ramirez:
5’9”, doesn’t involve much projection, but gets the most out of his tools; switch-hitter with a simple swing and direct path to the ball; demonstrates similar and consistent approach from both sides; lots of hard contact; strong top hand and bat-to-ball ability.
Potential for plus hit tool; drives the ball despite undersized frame; can be overaggressive at the plate, but does a nice job of keeping weight back without drifting; below-average power, but decent pop to the gaps; plus runner who gets down the line in a hurry; constant threat on the bases; already a good base stealer who’s still learning how to read pitchers.
Natural second baseman; arm is weakest tool, though sufficient for the position; smooth, clean actions; quick feet lends to above-average range; solid glove and hands; second-base-only prospect; value will always be tied to his hit tool.
The Tigers called up top prospect outfielder Nick Castellanos from Triple-A Toledo before Sunday’s game against the Indians.
Left field has been a weak spot the Tigers this season, as they’ve used a mixture of Andy Dirks, Matt Tuiasosopo and Don Kelly depending on the matchup. Meanwhile, Castellanos’ path to playing time was cleared when the Tigers dealt outfielder Avisail Garcia to the White Sox at the trade deadline.
Despite posting a .678 OPS in 79 games last year for Double-A Erie, the Tigers aggressively promoted Castellanos to Triple-A Toledo to begin the 2013 season. Overall, he’s made significant adjustments at the plate this year, demonstrating a more advanced approach that's led to more walks and fewer strikeouts. While he's shown plenty of gap power in the past, the 21-year-old has developed more consistent over-the-fence pop this season. His defense is another story—he moved from third base to the outfield a little over a year ago—as both his reads and routes can be rough.
While Castellanos isn’t expected to take over as the Tigers’ everyday left fielder, he should receive his share of playing time over the final month of the season. With a strong showing, he could contend for a spot in the team’s Opening Day outfield in 2014.
Here is my scouting report on Castellanos, who was ranked as Prospect Pipeline’s No. 15 overall prospect in July:
Pure hitter with highly advanced bat-to-ball skills; ability to consistently barrel the ball; natural inside-out swing with lots of power to right-center field; quick hands and bat speed; loose wrists and a fluid swing; lots of extension after contact but not a lofty swing. Not physically strong for his size, but possesses plenty of wiry strength.
Power should continue to develop as he gains more experience at higher levels; should always be an extra-base machine; prone to chasing sliders low and off the plate; has barrel control to be an above-average hitter in the major leagues; noticeably improved approach and pitch recognition this season at Triple-A.
Drafted and developed as a third baseman until mid-2012 but moved to the outfield as a way to potentially expedite his arrival in the big leagues; has the arm strength for the position. Has shown noticeable improvements this season but has his bad days out there; still needs to learn how to make consistent reads; actions can be stiff; not a particularly strong runner but moves well once he hits full stride.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals called up left-hander Francisley Bueno and catcher Brett Hayes from Triple-A Omaha before Sunday’s game, but none of their notable prospects, such as Yordano Ventura and Bubba Starling.
The Twins were expecting to call up catcher Josmil Pinto from Triple-A when the rosters expanded on Sunday. However, after dealing Justin Morneau to the Pirates on Saturday, the 24-year-old was called up a day early.
Signed as an international free agent on February 14, 2006, Pinto is currently playing in his eighth season in the Twins’ system. Although he showed promise early in his career as a teenager in the complex leagues, Pinto didn’t emerge as a notable prospect until the 2012 season when he batted .295/.362/.482 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 73/43 K/BB ratio in 105 games between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.
This year, the 5’11”, 210-pound backstop is enjoying his best season as a professional. Through 126 games between New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, Pinto, a right-handed hitter, batted .309/.400/.482 with 32 doubles, 15 home runs, 74 RBI and an 83/66 K/BB ratio in 528 plate appearances.
Defensively, Pinto has always drawn high praise for his ability as a receiver and blocker, as well as his overall feel for handling a pitching staff. Over his eight-year career in the minor leagues, the 24-year-old has thrown out baserunners at a 33 percent clip.
With Joe Mauer still on the disabled list and working his way back from a concussion, Pinto, along with Chris Herrmann and Ryan Doumit, is expected to see his share of opportunities behind the plate over the final month of the season. More significantly, he’ll likely audition for a role as the Twins’ backup catcher in 2014.
Although the Astros house impact prospects such as George Springer and Jonathan Singleton at Triple-A Oklahoma City, they, as well as some of the team’s other high-level prospects, are unlikely to receive a promotion until the completion of the Pacific Coast League playoffs later this month.
The organization has already stated that Springer, who is currently making a last-minute push for the first 40/40 season in the minor leagues since 1956, will not be promoted to The Show this season, per MLB.com beat writer Brian McTaggart. However, I think that I speak for everyone when saying that I hope the club changes its mind.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels promoted only one player on Sunday, reliever Ryan Brasier. Brasier, 26, owns a 4.27 ERA in 262 career games in the minor leagues and allowed two runs in two innings during two appearances out of the Angels’ bullpen in early May. This season, the right-hander has recorded 10 saves and posted a 4.13 ERA in 38 appearances for Triple-A Salt Lake.
The Angels are expected to call up more players next week, as their top three minor league affiliates have all qualified for the playoffs.
Among the A’s call-ups on Sunday was outfielder Michael Choice, who ranked as the team’s No. 3 overall prospect heading into the season.
The No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Choice probably would already be in the major leagues had he not suffered a broken hand during the 2012 season. While he hasn’t showcased the robust light-tower power that he did during his full-season debut in 2011 (30 home runs in 118 games), Choice has made noticeable adjustments to his approach this season and improved his strikeout and walk rates as a result.
At the time of his promotion, the 23-year-old was batting .302/.390/.445 with 29 doubles, 14 home runs, 89 RBI and 115/69 K/BB in 132 for Triple-A Tacoma. While Choice is capable of playing all three outfield positions, he’s expected to see time at both corner spots. And the fact that he’s fared well against both right- (.825 OPS) and left-handed pitching (.871 OPS) makes him an even more intriguing option for manager Bob Melvin.
Here is my scouting report on Choice:
Launched 30 home runs in the California League (High-A) during full-season debut in 2012; struggled in 2012 at Double-A, but picked up the production after the All-Star break; suffered a season-ending injury in late July when a hit by pitch resulted in a broken hand.
Physically strong with plus raw power; vicious bat speed the result of a max-effort swing; produces tape-measure home runs; efficient weight transfer in swing, but still involves too many moving parts; will have to continue to simplify his swing and approach; timing is easily thrown off against quality breaking pitches; shortened his swing this season, which has cost him some power but led to a higher average.
Average speed has allowed him to play center field in the minor leagues; adept to getting consistent reads and takes aggressive routes; arm strength is average at best and limits him to either center or left field; will likely end at the latter due to his lack of speed and range, which could be exposed in the Coliseum.
Sept. 3 (Update): The Mariners have called up left-hander James Paxton, according to Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News.
Paxton was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2009 draft, but as a Scott Boras client, opted not to sign. He re-entered the draft in 2010 and was selected by the Mariners in the fourth round.
The left-hander turned in a dominant professional debut after signing, registering a 2.37 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 95 innings between Low-A Clinton and Double-A Jackson. Assigned back to Double-A for the 2012 season, Paxton missed six weeks with patellar tendinitis early in the year but made up for lost time with a dominant second half. Though he posted a 3.05 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 106.1 innings, Paxton also struggled with his control and walked 54 batters during that span.
As expected, the Mariners promoted the 24-year-old to Triple-A Tacoma for the 2013 season with the hope he’d be able to put things together at a more advanced level. Unfortunately, it was more of the same, as Paxton owned a 4.45 ERA and 131/58 K/BB ratio with 158 hits allowed in 145.2 innings at the time of his promotion.
While it’s unclear what role Paxton will have over the final month of the season, but my gut tells me that he’ll work out of the bullpen. The left-hander obviously has the stuff to miss bats at the highest level, but an inconsistent delivery and fringy command limit his ceiling as a starter. Paxton lacks experience out of the bullpen, but his effectiveness against left-handed hitters—he’s held them a .222 batting average this season with 36 strikeouts in 38.2 innings—could make him a legitimate late-inning option.
Here are my scouting notes on Paxton after seeing him throw in the Arizona Fall League:
6’4” left-hander has serious mound presence with long, flailing limbs; holds velocity deep into games; stabbing arm action on the backside impedes his overall command; too much movement with his upper body as he prepares to deliver pitch.
Fastball is crisp in the low-to-mid-90s and could be a plus pitch with improved command; can reach back for 96-98 mph in shorter stints; curveball is an easy plus pitch with a tall shape and sharp break; also works in a changeup, though it’s noticeably less advanced than his fastball-curveball combo; struggles to command the offering due to his long, exaggerated delivery; over-the-top arm angle is deceptive and makes him difficult to barrel when he’s around the plate.
Sept 1: The Mariners did not promote any prospects on Sunday. Taijuan Walker's impressive major league debut will have to hold us over for now.
In addition to activating four players from the disabled list on Sunday, the Rangers also recalled right-hander Cory Burns and catcher Robinson Chirinos from Triple-A Round Rock.
The team also purchased the contract of 28-year-old Jim Adduci from Round Rock. Adduci has spent the past 10 years in the minor leagues, playing in 889 games before finally getting the call on Sunday.
At the time of his promotion, Adduci was batting .298/.381/.463 with 43 extra-base hits (16 home runs), 32 stolen bases and a 107/65 K/BB ratio in 127 games. A left-handed hitter, he’s posted a .908 OPS against right-handed pitching this season.
Sept. 8 (Update): The Braves have recalled catcher Christian Bethancourt, the team's top position prospect, from Double-A Mississippi.
Bethancourt is viewed as one of the better defensive catchers in the minor leagues thanks in part to an 80-grade arm and receiving skills that have steadily improved over the last two seasons. However, a punchless bat has prevented the 21-year-old from approaching his ceiling.
This season, his second straight at the Double-A level, Bethancourt has finally made significant strides in his development at the dish. In addition to making more consistent contact and striking out less, he’s been especially hot since the beginning of July, batting .291 with 19 extra-base hits and a 17/10 K/BB ratio in 43 games.
With the Braves’ catching situation undecided for the 2014 season and Bethancourt already on the 40-man roster, expect the club to give him a look next month. He’s more than capable of serving as a valuable defensive replacement—with a few starts sprinkled in so as to rest Brian McCann and Evan Gattis—as the team rests its regulars in anticipation of the postseason.
Sept. 5: The Braves recalled right-hander David Hale from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Already on the team's 40-man roster, the 25-year-old will receive his first taste of the major leagues. This season at Gwinnett, the right-hander posted a 3.22 ERA and 77/36 K/BB ratio in 114.2 innings including 20 starts. He's expected to serve as a long-reliever and mop-up arm over the final month of the season.
Sept. 1: The Braves did not promote a prospect when the rosters expanded on Sunday.
Update (Sept. 2): According to The Miami Herald, left-hander Brian Flynn will start Wednesday against the Cubs. Here is what you need to know about him:
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 moved up the organizational ladder 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 posted a 2.80 ERA and 122/40 K/BB ratio in 138 innings. And with a lack of long-term options in the starting rotation beyond Jose Fernandez and Jacob Turner, it makes sense for the Marlins to audition Flynn in the major leagues over the final month of the season.
Sept. 1: It was recently announced Jose Fernandez will make two more starts this season before reaching his 170-inning limit, both of which will come at home in Miami. Therefore, the team will need to replace Fernandez in the rotation on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Left-hander Brian Flynn is one of the top candidates, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.
New York Mets
The Mets promoted three players when the rosters expanded on Sunday, including right-handed reliever Vic Black, who was acquired on Thursday from the Pirates as part of the deal for Marlon Byrd.
Coming off a breakout 2012 campaign at Double-A Altoona, Black took a major step forward this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. Appearing in 38 games, the 25-year-old collected 17 saves and posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 63/21 K/BB ratio in 46.2 innings. His 5.4 H/9 and 4.0 BB/9 rates both represent the best marks of his minor league career.
Black also received his first taste of the major leagues this season with the Pirates, making three appearances out of the team’s bullpen following the injury to closer Jason Grilli. He allowed two earned runs on six hits, walked two batters and fanned three in four innings.
In general, the hard-throwing right-hander has demonstrated improved control of his upper-90s fastball and swing-and-miss slider this season. He should get an opportunity to make an impact with the Mets as a late-inning reliever over the final month of the season. More importantly, he could be auditioned as the team’s closer with the hope of making Bobby Parnell expendable this winter.
Sept. 3 (Update): Among the Phillies' six call-ups before Tuesday's game was catcher Cameron Rupp, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. A third-round pick in the 2010 draft, Rupp, 24, batted .258/.318/.437 with 14 home runs in 94 games this season between Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley.
Sept. 1: The Phillies did not call up any prospects on Sunday.
Sept. 3 (Update): As expected, the Nationals recalled left-hander Xavier Cedeno on Tuesday, as well as outfielders Corey Brown, Jeff Kobernus and Eury Perez. The team also purchased the contract of shortstop Zach Walters from Triple-A Syracuse.
Prior to joining the Nationals on Tuesday, Walters, 23, batted .253/.286/.517 with 32 doubles, 29 home runs and a 134/20 K/BB ratio in 134 games with Syracuse.
Sept. 1: The Nationals are yet to announce their September call-ups. According to MLB.com’s Tom Schad, the team is likely to recall left-handers Ian Krol and Xavier Cedeno, as well as outfielders Corey Brown and Jeff Kobernus.
Another player that could receive a September call-up is Triple-A infielder Zach Walters. In 132 games this season, the 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .252/.386/.521 and leads all International League hitters with 29 home runs. The one drawback to Walters’ overall game is his propensity to swing and miss (134/20 K/BB ratio), which in turn prevents him from getting on base at a favorable clip.
The Cubs activated outfielder Ryan Sweeney and third baseman Luis Valbuena on Sunday, but none of their roster moves involved top prospects.
The Reds have announced that speedster Billy Hamilton will be promoted to the major leagues on Monday. Because he’s not on the 40-man roster, they will need to make a corresponding move.
After a monster 2012 campaign in which he posted an .830 OPS with 112 runs scored, 159 hits and a record-breaking 155 stolen bases across two levels, the expectations for Hamilton’s highly anticipated follow-up effort were both lofty and unattainable. Moved up to Triple-A Louisville for the 2013 season, the 22-year-old has taken a step back in terms of his bat-to-ball ability and on-base skills. However, the speedster has actually been more successful on the basepaths this year than he was a season ago.
While Hamilton likely won’t see many starts for the Reds over the final month of the season, he’s likely to serve as a late-inning weapon off the bench as a pinch runner and defensive replacement. The Reds will try to utilize his game-changing speed as often as possible, and it’s conceivable that the 22-year-old could steal 10-plus bases in a backup role.
Here’s my scouting report on Hamilton when I ranked him as Prospect Pipeline’s No. 37 overall prospect in July:
Has struggled to put ball in play consistently compared to 2012 season; always puts pressure on opposing defense; feet never stop moving on the baseball field, especially on the basepaths. Development of hit tool and approach has regressed this season; lack of consistent contact; natural extra-base power from left side thanks to more leveraged swing. Fastest player I’ve ever seen on a baseball field; best home-to-first time I’ve ever recorded or heard of; legitimate top-of-the-order potential at maturity; secondary skills need ongoing refinement.
Developed as a shortstop until fall 2012; elite speed gives him tons of range and closing speed. Arm stroke that was awkward at shortstop; plays well in center field given his length on the backside. Speed allows him to compensate for poor reads; he’ll get to even more balls as his jumps and instincts improve; still learning to sprint to spots rather than track balls.
Sept. 2 (Update): The Brewers will call up right-handers Johnny Hellweg and Jimmy Nelson on Tuesday, according to Mike Vassallo, Brewers senior director of media relations.
Here's what you need to know about Nelson, who is widely regarded as the team's top prospect:
A second-round selection in the 2010 draft out of the University of Alabama, Nelson enjoyed a breakout campaign last year after a disappointing full-season debut in 2011. Opening the year at High-A Brevard County, the right-hander registered a 2.21 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 81.1 innings. However, his command regressed following a midseason promotion to Double-A Huntsville, as Nelson posted a respectable 3.91 ERA but ugly 42/37 K/BB ratio in 46 innings.
Assigned back to the level for the 2013 season, the 24-year-old made across-the-board improvements during the first half with a 2.74 ERA and 72/15 K/BB ratio over his first 12 starts (69 innings). But since his promotion to Triple-A in early June, Nelson's command has been inconsistent with a 91/50 K/BB ratio in 83.1 innings.
At 6’6”, 245 pounds, the right-hander has a physical presence on the mound and pounds the lower half of the strike zone with a heavy fastball in the low- to mid-90s. However, the major part of his success this season in the high minors stems from his improved feel of and ability to execute his secondary offerings. While his command has regressed after reaching a more advanced level, the 24-year-old is certainly deserving of a call-up for the final month of the season and should audition for a spot in the 2014 starting rotation.
Sept. 1: The Brewers are not planning on promoting a bunch of prospects, according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. However, they are debating bringing up right-hander Jimmy Nelson, the team’s top pitching prospect.
The Pirates promoted left-hander Kris Johnson and veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth on Sunday and also activated outfielder Travis Snider from the disabled list. However, none of their roster moves involved their big-name prospects.
St. Louis Cardinals
Sept. 3 (Update): As expected, the Cardinals recalled shortstop Ryan Jackson, first baseman-outfielder Brock Peterson from Triple-A Memphis before Tuesday's game. They also purchased the contract of catcher Audry Perez from Memphis.
In 82 games between Springfield and Memphis this season, Perez, 24, batted just .210/.232/.318 with 21 extra-base hits and a 49/5 K/BB ratio. However, he's posted a 36 percent caught-stealing rate over six minor league seasons.
Sept. 2: The Cardinals will recall Michael Wacha to start Tuesday against the Reds, according to Jenifer Langosch on Twitter. They will also recall right-hander Carlos Martinez and southpaw Tyler Lyons from Double-A Springfield before Tuesday's game.
Here is my scouting report on Wacha, the Cardinals' top pitching prospect who was ranked as Prospect Pipeline's No. 18 overall prospect:
Despite his lankiness at 6'6", 195 pounds, Wacha repeats his delivery well with minimal wasted movement; fastball was clocking mid- to upper-90s this past summer out of the bullpen; more of a low-to-mid-90s guy as a starter; changeup continues to be his best pitch and could be a legitimate plus-plus offering by the time he’s big league ready; criticized for lack of a true third pitch at time of draft, but curveball has continued to improve and flashes potential to be an average-to-above-average pitch, significantly improving the chances he reaches his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.
Sept. 1: The Cardinals made one roster move on Sunday, recalling reserve outfielder Adron Chambers from Triple-A Memphis. The team is expected to call up numerous pitchers on Tuesday.
Sept. 3 (Update): In addition to recalling third baseman Matt Davidson on Tuesday, the Diamondbacks also purchased the contract of shortstop Chris Owings from Triple-A Reno.
Owings, 22, enjoyed a spectacular season with Reno, batting .330/.359/.482 with 180 hits, 31 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs, 81 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 125 games. He was recently named as both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League.
Here are my scouting notes on Owings:
Owings is only 5’10”, 180 pounds, but his tools play much louder. Right-handed hitter employs a compact swing thanks to strong hands and above-average bat speed. Understands how to maximize power; can turn around good velocity; improved pitch recognition; needs to work deeper counts and coax more walks to be a top-of-the-order hitter. Improved on-base skills should result in more stolen bases. Bat has some underrated juice and could yield 15-20 home runs in the major leagues; key to his development will be consistency.
One of the better defensive shortstops in the minor leagues; instinctual defender with quick feet; showcases excellent body control in all directions; smooth actions; plays through the baseball; plus arm strength more than enough for the position.
Sept. 1: The Diamondbacks recalled relievers David Hernandez and Tony Sipp from Triple-A Reno on Sunday to address their overworked bullpen. While they did not promote any prospects, it appears that shortstop Chris Owings will be among their call-ups at some point this month.
In 123 games with Triple-A Reno this season, the 22-year-old has batted .327/.357/.477 with 175 hits, 48 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 255 total bases, 18 steals and a 98/22 K/BB ratio. He returned to action on August 27—the same day he was named the Pacific Coast League’s Rookie of the Year—after missing roughly two weeks with a strained hamstring.
According to manager Walt Weiss, per Ian McCue of MLB.com, only one of two players may join the team when the rosters expand on Sunday. However, more players will likely join the team on Monday following the conclusion of Triple-A Colorado Springs’ season, and apparently a few players from Double-A Tulsa are also being considered for a roster spot.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers called up five players from Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday; however, none of them are notable prospects. Given their huge lead in the National League West, the team could conceivably give some of their top young players, such as right-hander Zach Lee, a look at some point this month.
San Diego Padres
The Padres did not promote any of their prospects on Sunday.
San Francisco Giants
Sept. 2 (Update): According to Alex Pavlovic of Bay Area News Group, the Giants will call up Hembree prior to Tuesday's game.
Sept. 1: While a majority of the Giants’ call-ups will be players familiar with the major leagues, the team is expected to promote right-handed reliever Heath Hembree on Tuesday following the conclusion of Triple-A Fresno’s season.
Viewed as the Giants' future closer when the team selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, Hembree might have already reached the major leagues if not for a lengthy stay on the disabled list in 2012, as well as the emergence and ongoing success of Sergio Romo. When healthy, Hembree, a 6’4” right-hander, boasts a plus fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and sharp slider that serves as his out pitch.
While he’s struggled with his command at times this season at Triple-A Fresno, the 24-year-old has pitched especially well since the beginning of July, with 15 saves, a 2.50 ERA and 24/5 K/BB ratio in 21.2 innings.
Overall, Hembree has recorded 31 saves and posted a 4.07 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 63/16 K/BB ratio in 55.1 innings spanning 54 appearances. He should see time in the seventh and eighth inning for the Giants over the final month of the season and, in the process, lock down a spot in the team’s 2014 Opening Day bullpen.