Top MLB Prospect Call-Up Radar Report, Week 9
The 2014 season has already seen a collection of notable prospects receive promotions to the major leagues. Undoubtedly, there are many, many more to come. And soon.
In fact, with the Super Two target deadline approaching (likely around mid-June), there should be plenty of promotions of primo prospects over the next two or three weeks.
Already, highly regarded youngsters George Springer, C.J. Cron and Rougned Odor are each starting for their respective clubs following early season call-ups.
On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves finally gave in and promoted Tommy La Stella to help with their lack of production at second base, as Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports.
Prior to that, the Detroit Tigers brought up reliever Corey Knebel, their top pick last June, while the Los Angeles Dodgers dipped down to Double-A to call up infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, signed over the winter for $25 million out of Cuba. Both made their debuts last week.
It shouldn't be long until other impact talents join the mix.
So, who will be the next to reach the major leagues? In order to predict estimated times of arrival in the majors this season, we've classified prospects using the following scale:
Red: September call-up at best
Orange: Second-half call-up
Yellow: Call-up within a month
Green: Call-up within a week/call-up is imminent
Here's a look at the prospect call-up report for Week 9 of the 2014 season.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats (N/A): N/A
Kyle Zimmer gets a mention here not because a promotion to the majors is impending, but rather for the exact opposite reason.
Prior to the season, the 22-year-old Zimmer was expected to be a Kansas City Royals rotation reinforcement in the second half, but that plan has been all but scrapped in the wake of the latest news on 2012's fifth overall pick.
Despite having not yet pitched in 2014—the club was conserving him for a late-summer debut—Zimmer has been pushed back another six to eight weeks due to a lat strain, per the team. Frankly, if he pitches in the minors (let alone the majors) this year, it should be considered a win for Kansas City at this point.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 5 W, 4.02 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 6 HR, 57:19 K:BB (53.2 IP)
A week ago, Noah Syndergaard, 21, checked in as a "yellow," but he's been downgraded here after suffering an injury in the interim.
The big right-hander's sore elbow landed him on the disabled list earlier in the week—and caused something of a panic among New York Mets fans. Rightfully so, given the rate at which pitchers are being felled in 2014.
The good news is that Syndergaard's MRI came back clean, according to Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News.
"Everything appears to be OK," general manager Sandy Alderson said, "and hopefully this is a short-term disablement."
Maybe, but now Syndergaard, who was likely to get the call by mid-June, certainly won't reach the majors before the All-Star break in July. And that's assuming his arm actually is healthy.
Dariel Alvarez, OF, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats (Double-A): .335/.352/.557, 33 R, 26 XBH (9 HR), 42 RBI, 2 SB, 23:5 K:BB (214 PA)
Baltimore Orioles fans should think of Dariel Alvarez as the Henry Urrutia of 2014: a Cuban import in his mid-20s whose success in his first full minor league campaign could lead to a trial as a platoon/backup outfielder/designated hitter in Baltimore.
With Urrutia on the DL most of this season so far, the 25-year-old Alvarez has hit his stride at Bowie after signing with the O's last summer.
There are two factors helping the righty hitter's cause. One, he's considered capable of playing all three outfield positions, and two, Delmon Young and David Lough aren't exactly road blocks in his path.
Alvarez needs to prove he can sustain his hitting success despite a swing-at-all-costs approach (only five walks!), but if he does, he could be a July arrival as a bench bat, much like Urrutia was last year.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .232/.307/.351, 25 R, 14 XBH (4 HR), 19 RBI, 1 SB, 30:18 K:BB (205 PA)
For a quick minute after Cody Asche was placed on the DL with a hamstring strain over the weekend, it appeared that Maikel Franco might be his replacement on the Philadelphia Phillies' 25-man roster as the starting hot cornerman. That would have qualified as "green" here.
General manager Ruben Amaro ultimately decided against such a decision, though, telling Matt Lombardo of NJ.com:
There’s no reason to bring Franco unless he’s ready to be a big leaguer as far as I’m concerned. Offensively, he’s made some adjustments, he’s made some improvements better than in the earlier part of the season, but he’s not really going on all cylinders now.
In this case, the conservative route is the smart one. Franco is the franchise's top prospect after a breakout 2013, but he got off to a very slow start in April (.487 OPS) and is still only 21 years old. If he can maintain his improved showing with the stick since (.821 OPS), he could get a chance in late summer.
Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (Double-A): .358/.448/.560, 50 R, 25 XBH (6 HR), 30 RBI, 22 SB, 16:33 K:BB (230 PA)
Blocked by Dustin Pedroia at second base in both the short and long term, Mookie Betts is starting to learn a new position as a way to get to the Boston Red Sox faster.
"Right now, it's a split between outfield and second base," GM Ben Cherington said of the franchise's plan for deploying Betts via Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. "He's played center field so far, he'll probably see some action in both of the corners at some point also."
While continuing his ridiculously hot start to the season, the 21-year-old has played seven of his past 10 games in center field after spending all of 2012 and 2013 at second. With Jackie Bradley Jr.'s growing pains (.201/.286/.289), Betts conceivably could get a sooner-than-anticipated call-up to see if he can provide a spark for a Red Sox club that is six games under .500 at 23-29. First, though, he'll need to show he can transition to a new position.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .340/.448/.629, 43 R, 25 XBH (15 HR), 32 RBI, 13 SB, 63:38 K:BB (232 PA)
If Joc Pederson's first two months are any indication, he might be this year's version of George Springer as a top outfield prospect who puts up the loudest statistics in the high minors. Whether his debut gets pushed off until the following season, as Springer's did, will depend on variables Pederson can't control.
The 22-year-old has been mashing (15 homers) and running (13 steals) his way to the top of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League leaderboard, and he's walking (16.4 percent) and whiffing (27.2 percent) at very high rates too.
Pederson is also playing a solid center field, which is important if he wants to make his way to L.A. this year, since the Dodgers lack a true center fielder and have begun using Matt Kemp in the corners.
Thing is, Kemp is but one of four big-name outfielders in Pederson's way. While MVP candidate Yasiel Puig won't be going anywhere, there's always the chance that something (injury/trade/slump) happens to either Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford. In fact, Crawford just went on the DL with a sprained ankle, but the Dodgers chose to call up minor league veteran Jamie Romak for a temporary fill-in role, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
Should something more extensive and/or permanent occur on the outfield front, expect Pederson to be the call next time.
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .325/.373/.524, 30 R, 23 XBH (7 HR), 40 RBI, 1 SB, 25:14 K:BB (209 PA)
Oscar Taveras' situation with the St. Louis Cardinals isn't all that different from Pederson's in L.A. The top-tier young talent is performing in Triple-A, but there's no clear path to playing time with the big league club due to an overcrowded outfield, as Bernie Miklasz writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Taveras, 21, has been playing center field more regularly—13 of his last 16 games in the field, in fact—but the team still questions whether he can handle that position in the big leagues.
"He's a nice corner outfielder," GM John Mozeliak told CBS Sports Radio 920 in St. Louis. "He's got some improving to do if you really want to put him in center field. I think it would be tough place to play day in and day out at the Major League level."
Mozeliak, however, also said this: "From a pure baseball standpoint, he could play in the big leagues." If it's a trade, injury or Taveras' hitting simply forcing the team's hand, expect something to happen by the end of June.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .265/.394/.535, 35 R, 23 XBH (13 HR), 40 RBI, 1 SB, 50:40 K:BB (226 PA)
Earlier in the season, Jonathan Singleton was so hot, it seemed like there was a chance the Houston Astros would call him up soon after they promoted George Springer. That didn't happen, perhaps because of service time circumstances, but the 22-year-old's first game in Houston is only a matter of weeks away.
While Singleton has cooled some in May, with a .233 average in the month, he's also sporting a .389 on-base percentage, which speaks to the slugger's biggest strengths—patience and finding a way to get on. That's the sort of approach that could really lengthen an Astros lineup that's been clicking of late with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dexter Fowler at the top.
By mid-June, the Marc Krauss-Jesus Guzman "Era" should be over. Mercifully.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .355/.419/.570, 36 R, 26 XBH (6 HR), 43 RBI, 11 SB, 40:21 K:BB (222 PA)
There's really not much more to say at this point about Gregory Polanco, whose radar color is yellow with shades of green seeping in. The Pittsburgh Pirates, whether they'll admit it or not, are playing the wait-out-the-Super-Two-deadline game with the 22-year-old big league-ready outfielder.
In the meantime, they've gone from a Jose Tabata-Travis Snider platoon to trying utility man Josh Harrison in right field for much of May. All the while, Pittsburgh has ranked in or near the bottom five in runs per game and been stuck about a handful of games under .500.
As soon as the Pirates deem Polanco "ready," he'll be up.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): 5 W, 2.09 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2 HR, 66:13 K:BB (64.2 IP)
The No. 9 pick in 2012, Andrew Heaney was jumped from Double-A to Triple-A by the Miami Marlins last week, meaning he's now this close to the majors—especially for a franchise that only recently lost ace Jose Fernandez to season-ending Tommy John surgery and just might have another injured arm on its hands after Henderson Alvarez had to leave his Wednesday start with elbow discomfort.
For now, the decision to remove Alvarez is being called a precautionary one, according to Craig Davis of the Sun Sentinel. Even if that's the case and the right-hander takes his next turn, Heaney simply might pitch his way to Miami sooner than later considering his second start for New Orleans was a one-hit shutout with seven strikeouts over six innings Tuesday.
At 28-25, the surprising Marlins are just a half-game back of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, and this is an organization that has never been shy about pushing its top prospects to The Show. Something is going to give here—and soon—because there's only so many spot starts that scrapheap veteran Randy Wolf can make.
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