Top MLB Prospect Call-Up Radar Report, Midseason Edition
The 2014 season has seen a number of notable prospects receive call-ups to the major leagues. Undoubtedly, there are more to come—and soon.
In fact, with about a month until the trade deadline, which will open up a number of 25-man roster spots, there should be plenty of promotions of prime prospects.
Already, highly regarded youngsters like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton and Gregory Polanco are starting for their respective clubs.
Over the past week or so, the biggest name to get his shot in The Show was Andrew Heaney, the Miami Marlins left-hander who pitched well in his debut.
More recently, the St. Louis Cardinals were forced to dip down to Double-A to bring up left-hander Marco Gonzales, their top pick a little over a year ago, to help cover the rotation while Michael Wacha—picked with the same No. 19 selection in 2012—and Jaime Garcia are on the disabled list.
In other prospect transaction action, the San Francisco Giants, in search of a second-base solution, brought up 2011 first-round pick Joe Panik. Meanwhile, their NL West mates, the San Diego Padres, recalled rookie right-hander Jesse Hahn, who has since allowed just two earned runs in his three starts—all wins—and also gave a turn to Cuban defector Odrisamer Despaigne, who twirled seven scoreless innings while filling in for the injured Andrew Cashner.
Other impact young talents will continue to join the mix.
Who will be the next to reach the major leagues? In order to predict estimated times of arrival this season, we've classified the prospects on this list using the following color-coded 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 at the midway point of the 2014 MLB season.
Others on the Cusp
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B, Chicago Cubs
Kyle Parker, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
Heath Hembree, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Houston Astros
Alexander Guerrero, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jon Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .229/.285/.424, 33 R, 24 XBH (11 HR), 43 RBI, 14 SB, 91:18 K:BB (270 PA)
This hasn't been the best season for Javier Baez, who got off to a terrible beginning upon starting out the season at Triple-A despite making a push to come north with the Chicago Cubs during spring training.
The 21-year-old's aggressive, swing-hard-at-all-costs approach has led to a career-high strikeout rate of 33.7 percent. Even for Baez, that's scary.
And yet, it's hard to imagine the Cubs wouldn't find a way to work in one of their promising power bats (the other being Kris Bryant). Perhaps they wouldn't want to "reward" Baez for his efforts so far, but if he can get hot after the break, he'll start smelling Chicago.
Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .328/.396/.535, 39 R, 27 XBH (4 HR), 25 RBI, 11 SB, 43:22 K:BB (227 PA)
Chris Taylor's surge toward Seattle was interrupted by injury in May, and he hasn't exactly been hot since returning. In those 14 games, he's just 11-for-53 (.208). He does, though, have six extra-base hits and 10 runs and walks apiece in that time.
The reason the 23-year-old is here? Because even though Brad Miller has been better—.990 OPS the past two weeks—he's still sporting a .280 OBP on the season with the Mariners.
With the club currently in a playoff position, more will be needed at shortstop, so if Taylor can regain his early season form, he could get a chance early in the second half.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): 3-7, 2.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 69:28 K:BB (91.2 IP)
The Pittsburg Pirates are hanging around the fringes of the NL playoff picture at 39-39, but it's hard to believe their rotation can hold up in its current state, even with Gerrit Cole expected to return this weekend, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Should the club want—or need—to reach down to the minors for further reinforcements during a playoff push, Nick Kingham is proving he'd be up to the task. Through his first three starts since getting promoted to Triple-A in mid-June, the 22-year-old has allowed but a single earned run in 20.2 frames to go with a 15-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Mookie Betts, 2B/CF, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): .350/.436/.527, 68 R, 33 XBH (8 HR), 48 RBI, 28 SB, 33:47 K:BB (351 PA)
The Boston Red Sox's outfield production remains putrid, and veteran Shane Victorino, who was expected to be activated Friday, just can't stay, let alone get healthy, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.
Here's manager John Farrell with the latest on Victorino, who's been dealing with hamstring and back ailments for most of the season:
He’s got some discomfort in the lower back area that kept him down for a couple of days. So that delayed his return to us. We don’t have a time frame for that...Once the volume [of playing during his rehab assignment] started to ramp up a little bit he felt more stiff and more restriction on the lower back. We’ve got to address that.
One way to address it would be to call upon the dynamic Mookie Betts, a natural second baseman who has played 15 of his 21 games in center field since bumping up to Pawtucket at the start of June.
Kyle Hendricks, RHP, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 8-5, 3.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 82:21 K:BB (88.2 IP)
Kyle Hendricks doesn't get much pub in prospect circles, but he may be the most big league-ready arm still in the minors for a Chicago Cubs organization that's heavy in young position player talent.
The 24-year-old, drafted in the eighth round back in 2011, has made a slow and steady climb through the minors, earning his reputation as a potential back-of-the-rotation innings-eater along the way.
In need of a starter for Saturday's doubleheader, the Cubs have decided to call up Dallas Beeler to pitch in, according to Bruce Miles of the Chicago Daily Herald, but Hendricks is next in line. Considering that the Cubs are going to be selling off arms like Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel between now and July 31, that line should be moving soon.
Trevor May, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 8-4, 2.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 81:31 K:BB (79.2 IP)
While Alex Meyer, the more highly regarded right-hander, continues to struggle—he's thrown just 8.2 frames and allowed seven runs on 14 hits over his past three starts—Trevor May's most consistent campaign is ongoing.
The 24-year-old wasn't at his best last time out (5 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 3:2 K:BB), but he still was steady and won for the third-straight time and seventh in his past eight.
At 36-40, the Minnesota Twins seem to be slipping in the standings, but May's performance so far has him in fine position to be brought up as a rotation or bullpen reinforcement. Or perhaps as a see-what-he-can-do option should they fall further.
Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .295/.377/.493, 43 R, 34 XBH (12 HR), 47 RBI, 4 SB, 92:38 K:BB (337 PA)
Two of the three outfield positions in Houston are producing, thanks to center fielder Dexter Fowler and right fielder George Springer. The left field spot? Not so much.
Astros left fielders—mostly a combination of Robbie Grossman, Alex Presley and L.J. Hoes—have combined for a ghastly .202/.287/.305 line to date. That batting average is the worst at the position in all of baseball. In other words: Help wanted.
That could come from Domingo Santana, who is hitting very well in his first taste of Triple-A and turns 22 on August 5. He should make his debut while he's still 21. With Santana being named to the World Team for the Futures Game this week, the question is whether he'll be promoted to Houston before he can participate in this year's event.
Tim Cooney, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 7-5, 3.91 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 64:35 K:BB (89.2 IP)
In case you haven't been paying attention, the St. Louis Cardinals' stable of arms took a pair of hits this week when ace-in-the-making Michael Wacha and injury-prone Jaime Garcia were lost to shoulder ailments. Oh, and Shelby Miller had to leave his most recent start early with back trouble.
As mentioned in the intro, that caused the Cards to call up last year's top pick Marco Gonzales from Double-A, and the left-hander managed to not get blown up while surrendering five runs in five frames at Coors Field. (Talk about a tough assignment for your MLB debut.)
Whether Gonzales will get another spin remains to be seen, but it's another southpaw who could get a look in the coming days. Tim Cooney, a 23-year-old who was the club's third-rounder in 2012, has had a few blowups while pitching in the hitter-friendly PCL—including his most recent outing Saturday (4.0 IP, 8 ER, 8 H, 5 BB)—but he's more or less ready to help if needed. And by the looks of things in St. Louis, he's needed.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 8-2, 1.79 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 96:27 K:BB (90.1 IP)
Marco Estrada may have extended his stay of execution with a solid start Wednesday in which the right-hander, who leads the majors with 24 home runs allowed, managed to keep all balls in the park for just the second time in 16 turns.
The writing is on the wall, however, and it reads that Jimmy Nelson, 25, should be on his way back to Milwaukee soon enough. He made a spot start for an injured Yovani Gallardo in late May—he hurled 5.2 scoreless innings—and he's simply pitched too well not to get another shot in the Brewers' five-man.
The Brewers are playing .600 ball and own the NL's best record, so there's no need to shake things up, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be a better team with Nelson going every fifth day instead of Estrada. Sooner rather than later, it will happen.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (High-/Double-/Triple-A): 3-1, 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 46:12 K:BB (40.0 IP)
If his stellar outing on Tuesday is any indication, Taijuan Walker is not only ready to make his 2014 Mariners debut, he's leaving nothing about his health and performance to doubt.
The 21-year-old top-tier pitching prospect went the distance at Triple-A for his first career complete-game shutout as a professional against the Oklahoma City RedHawks (the final out of which can be seen above). Walker allowed just four hits and posted an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Mariners already have sent down fifth starter Erasmo Ramirez, indicating they believe Walker is ready and healthy enough to join their rotation after bouts with shoulder soreness set him back and cost him an Opening Day roster spot.
As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes:
So who will take Ramirez’s place in the rotation?
“That move is pending,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I don’t have it right now.”
It seems by most indications that top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker will make that start on Monday in Houston.
Walker had been pitching on the same schedule as Ramirez with Tacoma for a reason. He was the likely replacement once he built up strength and consistency.
Clearly, Walker displayed as much with his gem on Tuesday.
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