RHP Jameson Taillon could serve as a weapon out of the Pirates' bullpen.
While top-ranked prospects Nick Castellanos and Billy Hamilton were both called up to the major leagues when the rosters expanded on September 1, only a few teams offered their best prospects an immediate promotion. But as the last full month of the season has unfolded, teams have been more willing to turn to the minor leagues as a means of addressing their last-minute needs.
Here’s a look at one prospect each MLB contender can still call up to impact the playoff race.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 11-3, 150.1 IP, 3.11 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, .266 BAA, 138/39 K/BB (27 GS)
After struggling at Double-A Bowie to conclude the 2012 season, Mike Wright, 23, improved across the board this year while repeating the level. After dominating during the second half of the season, the 23-year-old was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk for the International League playoffs.
In general, the 6’6”, 215-pound right-hander features a three-pitch arsenal that’s highlighted by an above-average to plus fastball. He doesn’t feature Kevin Gausman-like stuff, but his feel for pitching and ability to sequence could help him get a few starts with the Baltimore Orioles, if the need arises, over the final few weeks of the regular season.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 11-5, 140 IP, 2.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .219 BAA, 127/47 K/BB (25 G/24 GS)
The No. 39 overall selection in the 2010 draft, Anthony Ranaudo had a disappointing 2012 season in which he made only nine starts at Double-A Portland and spent most of the year on the disabled list.
Looking to rebound and hop back onto the big league radar, Ranaudo was one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues over the first two months of this season, registering a 1.15 ERA and 58/15 K/BB ratio in 54.2 innings at Portland.
The 24-year-old regressed during both June and July, though that was expected given the heavier workload. The Boston Red Sox promoted Ranaudo to Triple-A Pawtucket for the final month of the season, a challenge he responded to by posting a 2.97 ERA and 21/7 K/BB in 30.1 innings.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 11-8, 145 IP, 3.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .226 BAA, 141/76 K/BB (28 G/27 GS)
A 50th-round draft pick in 2008, Nik Turley is a 6’8”, 195-pound left-hander who has always required considerable projection and, as a result, moved at a slow pace through the New York Yankees’ system.
Aside from a one-stint in Triple-A, the 24-year-old has spent the entire season at Double-A Trenton, where he served as a fixture in the team’s starting rotation.
With an arsenal comprised of a fastball that registers in the low-90s, a hard curveball with downer bite and serviceable changeup, Turley profiles as a future back-end starter in the major leagues. However, given his spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, he could get a look out of the team’s bullpen later this month as a long-reliever.
2013 Stats (Triple-A): 9-6, 124.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .225 BAA, 124/40 K/BB (22 GS)
2013 Stats (MLB): 23 IP, 5.09 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .289 BAA, 17/6 K/BB (5 G/4 GS)
Even though Jake Odorizzi features above-average command of a deep, four-pitch mix, the 23-year-old right-hander doesn’t have swing-and-miss stuff and his evolution into a fly-ball pitcher remains a concern.
Still, Odorizzi has already shown the ability to get out major league hitters this season between two separate stints with the Tampa Bay Rays and should receive more opportunities, in some capacity, following the conclusion of the Triple-A International League playoffs.
2013 Stats (Short Season/Low-A/Double-A): 24.2 IP, 0.36 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, .184 BAA, 32/5 K/BB (21 G)
The Cleveland Indians made Kyle Crockett their fourth-round selection this past June after he turned in a dominant season as Virginia Tech’s closer. While the 6’2” left-hander lacks a plus pitch, both his fastball and slider are at least average and masked by a deceptive, low-three-quarters arm slot. As you can imagine, the 21-year-old is especially effective against same-side hitters.
After signing with the Indians, Crockett was dispatched to the Short-Season New York-Penn League and promptly fanned 16 batters over 9.1 scoreless innings. He then made a brief, four-game stop with Low-A Lake County before moving up to Double-A Akron in early August.
Crockett is on the fast track to the major leagues and could serve as a nice addition to the Indians’ bullpen down the stretch if the need arises.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 8-6, 134.2 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .238 BAA, 155/53 K/BB (26 G/25 GS)
Yordano Ventura was promoted to Triple-A Omaha in early June after an impressive first half of the season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. But the 22-year-old got off to a shaky start at the more advanced level, posting a 5.95 ERA with 26 hits allowed and a 21/13 K/BB ratio over his first five starts. Since then, however, he’s been one of the Pacific Coast League’s top pitchers with a 2.36 ERA and 49/15 K/BB ratio over his last 42 frames (eight starts).
It seemed as though Ventura was a candidate to work out of the Royals’ bullpen as a September call-up. However, that was before the recent news of his suspension for a violation of team rules. Still, if the organization believes Ventura can be a difference-maker in the coming weeks, then there’s a chance he’ll get a taste of the major leagues.
2013 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 23 SV, 53 IP, 1.19 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .229 BAA, 36/14 K/BB (50 G)
Signed by the Detroit Tigers in the spring of 2008, Melvin Mercedes boasts two potential plus-plus pitches ideal for a late-inning role in the major leagues. The 22-year-old throws his fastball with effortless velocity, frequently working in the upper-90s and down in the zone. Meanwhile, he snaps off a nasty slider in the upper-80s with excellent tilt and a late, sharp break.
While he didn’t miss as many bats as one might expect, Mercedes still showed a knack for generating weak contact and closing games.
The right-hander opened the year by posting a 0.96 ERA with 11 saves at High-A Lakewood and was rewarded with a promotion to Double-A Erie in late June. He made a smooth transition at the more advanced level, proceeding to pile up 12 saves with a 1.44 ERA over 26 appearances.
Because he’s already on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, Mercedes could potentially receive a call-up if the organization needs another right-hander reliever.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 9-8, 144 IP, 4.13 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .291 BAA, 97/24 K/BB (25 G/24 GS)
You may remember Arnold Leon better as the Team Mexico pitcher that beaned Rene Tosoni and ignited an ugly bench-clearing brawl with Team Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He’s more than that, though; the 25-year-old is also one of the A’s better pitching prospects.
Assigned to Double-A Midland to open the season, Leon posted a 3.84 ERA and 48/11 K/BB ratio through his first 13 starts and subsequently was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in July. Even though he posted a 4.42 ERA at the more advanced level, Leon was successful against right-handed hitters with a 3.49 ERA and 27/5 K/BB.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 14 SV, 52 IP, 1.04 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .127 BAA, 71/34 K/BB (42 G)
Due to his ability to miss bats consistently, Wilmer Font was converted to a full-time reliever in 2012 following a promotion to Double-A Frisco in late July. He enjoyed immediate success in the new role and ultimately appeared in three games out of the Rangers' big league bullpen.
The 23-year-old right-hander has been outstanding this year in his first full season as a reliever and even added two more scoreless appearances out of the Rangers bullpen to his resume shortly before the All-Star break. Following a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock in late June, he notched four saves with a 0.45 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 20 innings.
Considering that Font dominated in the minors this season and performed well in two brief stints in the majors over the last two years, he’ll likely rejoin the Texas Rangers at some point this month.
2013 Stats (Double-A): 42 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .201 BAA, 70/28 K/BB (35 G)
Signed by the Atlanta Braves as a minor league free agent on August 19, 2011, Jaime missed all of the 2010 and 2011 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The organization decided not to risk another injury with the right-hander and converted him to a full-time reliever upon his return to the mound last year. The right-hander responded by amassing 18 saves with a 3.16 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 51.1 innings.
Moved up to Double-A Mississippi to open the season, Jaime exceeded expectations in his first taste of the Southern League. While the 25-year-old’s 4.07 ERA isn’t particularly appealing, it’s worth noting that his FIP was 2.53. As usual, he missed plenty of bats with his plus-plus fastball and inconsistent slider, posting an absurd 15.0 K/9.
Jaime is already on the Braves’ 40-man roster, so it’s possible that he could still get a look out of the bullpen later this month.
2013 Stats (Double-A): 10-6, 132.2 IP, 3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, .224 BAA, 155/48 K/BB (23 GS)
2013 Stats (MLB): 12 IP, 7.50 ERA, .192 WHIP, .321 BAA, 11/6 K/BB (3 GS)
Coming off a breakout full-season debut across both Class-A levels, Nathan Karns, who was drafted in 2009 but didn’t make his pro debut until 2011 following labrum surgery, continued to make up for the lost time with a red-hot start to the 2013 season at Double-A Harrisburg. So when the Washington Nationals needed a starter at the end of May, they turned to the 25-year-old right-hander.
Although he struggled in his three-start audition in the Nats’ rotation, Karns has the stuff and command to pitch in the major leagues. That being said, he was definitely rushed to The Show with only 45 Double-A innings under his belt. He continued to put up impressive numbers at Harrisburg following a demotion in mid-June, including a 2.90 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 68.1 innings spanning his last 10 regular-season starts.
If the Nationals are officially eliminated from the playoff race, Karns has pitched well enough to warrant another look in the majors.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 4 SV, 21 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, .256 BAA, 19/13 K/BB (22 G/1 GS)
Michael Lorenzen was drafted as a pitcher this past June and immediately placed on the fast track to the major leagues. A lights-out closer at Cal State Fullerton, he boasts closer stuff with an explosive fastball in the mid- to upper-90s and a hammer curveball.
After making his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League, the 21-year-old made brief stops at Low-A Dayton and High-A Bakersfield before moving up to Double-A Pensacola in mid-August. Even though he struggled at the two latter levels, Lorenzen has stuff suitable for the major leagues.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): 147.1 IP, 3.73 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .249 BAA, 143/52 K/BB (26 G/25 GS)
Jameson Taillon has ranked as one of the game’s premier pitching prospects since the Pittsburgh Pirates made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft. While he’s moved at a level-per-year pace through their system, the 21-year-old right-hander has yet to truly put everything together on the mound. Taillon is close to being ready for the major leagues, but his command and pitch execution still need refinement.
Taillon amassed 142 innings last year (not including the Eastern League playoffs), and it’s doubtful he’ll run into a cap with only 147.1 frames (not including the International League playoffs) under his belt this season. The Pirates are known for handling their pitching prospects with extreme caution, and chances are that Taillon won’t reach the major leagues this season. Still, his plus fastball-curveball combination would be a weapon out of the Pirates’ bullpen.
2013 Stats (Double-A/Triple-A): .314/.424/.369, 82 R, 20 XBH, 19 SB, 37/91 K/BB (130 G)
Mike O'Neill flies under the radar because he’s part of a system absolutely loaded with talent from top to bottom. Plus, it probably doesn’t help that he’s undersized at 5’9” and lacks the profile of an everyday outfielder. However, it’s hard to find a hitter with better plate discipline in the minors and pitch recognition.
A 31st-round draft pick in 2010, O’Neill, 25, has amassed 222 walks compared to only 99 strikeouts in 341 minor league games. And it’s not as though he’s all on-base skills; the left-handed hitter's consistent bat has resulted in a .328/.435/.405 batting line over four seasons.
While O’Neill lacks an impact tool, he is a well-rounded player who maximizes his ability and overachieves. And considering that he spent the final month of the season at Triple-A Memphis, there’s still a chance that he’ll see some time with the St. Louis Cardinals this September.
2013 Stats (High-A/Double-A): 29 SV, 52 IP, 1.21 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .197 BAA, 59/12 K/BB (52 G)
A third-round draft pick in 2012 out of Arizona State University, Jake Barrett was assigned to Low-A South Bend last summer for his professional debut. Coming off a long and grueling college season, the right-hander struggled in the Midwest League, registering a 5.84 ERA with six saves and 25 strikeouts in 24.2 innings.
This year, however, Barrett has emerged as the lights-out closer that the organization expected and has jumped on the fast track to the major leagues as a result.
The 22-year-old opened his first full professional season with a 1.98 ERA, 15 saves and a 37/9 K/BB ratio in 27.1 innings for High-A Visalia. He promptly moved up to Double-A Mobile in late June, where he was one of the top relievers in the minors during the second half. In 24.2 innings in the Southern League, Barrett put up excellent numbers, with a 0.36 ERA, 14 saves and a stellar 22/3 K/BB ratio spanning 24 appearances.
With a plus fastball-slider combination ideal that results in excessive whiffs and weak contact, Barrett could still be called up by the Arizona Diamondbacks following the conclusion of the Southern League playoffs. And if that were ultimately the case, the right-hander and his plus fastball-slider combination would be a welcomed addition to the team’s bullpen.
2013 Stats (Double-A): 19 SV, 60.1 IP, 2.54 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, .164 BAA, 85/14 K/BB (49 G)
Yimi Garcia was dominant in his full-season debut last year, registering 16 saves and striking out 82 batters in 52.1 innings between Low-A Great Lakes and High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Though he’s not overpowering, the 23-year-old right-hander’s funky arm action makes him highly deceptive and an uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters.
Moved up to Double-A Chattanooga for the 2013 season, Garcia continued to surpass expectations by improving his command to the tune of an 85/14 K/BB ratio in 60.1 innings. The right-hander was especially effective against same-side hitters with a 1.86 ERA and 53/8 K/BB ratio in 38.2 innings.
If there’s a concern with Garcia, it’s that he yielded nine home runs this season in 60.1 innings after allowing none in 2012. Still, there’s something to be said for his ability to consistently miss bats over the past two years.