Top MLB Prospect Call-Up Radar Report, Week 21
The 2014 season has seen a number of notable prospects receive call-ups to the major leagues. Even with the final month approaching, there will be more to come—and soon.
September brings with it expansion to 40-man rosters. Only a little more than a week away, that should allow for plenty of promotions of prime prospects.
Highly regarded youngsters like Marcus Stroman, Jonathan Singleton, Gregory Polanco, Ken Giles and Javier Baez have been seeing regular time for their respective clubs for quite some time now. Others, like Oscar Taveras and Taijuan Walker, have been shuttling up and down between the minors and majors for much of the year.
Earlier this week, the Boston Red Sox recalled outfielder Mookie Betts for yet another stint. He should stick for longer this time, considering they demoted incumbent center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. to Triple-A Pawtucket to free up playing time for Betts.
Meanwhile, other non-contenders brought up prospects for their debuts, including left-hander Andrew Chafin of the Arizona Diamondbacks and outfielder Matt Szczur of the Chicago Cubs.
More young impact talent will join the mix too. 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.
- Green: Call-up within a week/call-up is imminent.
Here's a look at the top prospect call-up report for Week 21 of the 2014 MLB season.
Others on the Cusp
Cam Bedrosian, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Heath Hembree, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Maikel Franco, 1B/3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Alexander Guerrero, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jacob Lindgren, LHP, New York Yankees
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Chris Reed, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Nick Tropeano, RHP, Houston Astros
Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals
Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Tim Cooney, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Robert Refsnyder, 2B/OF, New York Yankees
Matt Reynolds, SS, New York Mets
Andrew Lambo, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Kyle Parker, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (High-/Double-A): .234/.307/.395, 19 R, 10 XBH (4 HR), 16 RBI, 6 SB, 36:10 K:BB (137 PA)
In a season in which a number of top prospects lost significant chunks of time to serious injuries, perhaps none was more disappointing than the youngster generally considered the top prospect in the entire sport.
Set to start 2014 at Double-A New Britain, Byron Buxton injured his wrist in spring training and then re-aggravated the injury to the point where he missed all but five games before July. After the 20-year-old's wrist finally had healed, however, he suffered a concussion in a violent outfield collision (see video above, if you dare) on Aug. 13—his first game at New Britain, no less.
While the wrist problems had decreased the chances that Buxton was going to debut in the majors at all this year, there was at least a tiny, outside shot that the Minnesota Twins could bring him up for a September look-see if he were healthy. Alas, the club has decided to shut him down for the rest of the season in light of the concussion, per Ashley Marshall of MiLB.com.
The hope now is that Buxton can recover in time to participate in the Arizona Fall League, which starts in early October.
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): .333/.441/.678, 108 R, 74 XBH (40 HR), 103 RBI, 15 SB, 144:77 K:BB (537 PA)
Speaking of injuries to the very best of prospects, the Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant had his very own scare this past week.
Fortunately, the 22-year-old's left foot contusion, which caused him to leave last Saturday's game early and miss Sunday's contest, wasn't a big deal. In fact, Bryant was used as a pinch hitter Monday then made it back on to the field at third base for Triple-A Iowa's game Tuesday. On Wednesday? He hit his baseball-best 41st home run.
"He's fine," Cubs manager Rick Renteria relayed via Daniel Kramer of MLB.com. "He's doing great—no issues."
In other words, this blip shouldn't impact Bryant's chance at getting called up, which the club's front office continues to stress won't happen in his first full professional season.
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Rookie/Double-/Triple-A): .317/.413/.650, 36 R, 35 XBH (12 HR), 47 RBI, 0 SB, 43:30 K:BB (213 PA)
While Kris Bryant is firmly in the have-to-see-it-to-believe-it range in terms of being promoted to the majors this year, Triple-A teammate Jorge Soler has a slightly better possibility of debuting come September.
Even though Soler, 22, lost about half the year with hamstring trouble, he's been a force since returning midseason. Sure, he's cooled some at Iowa, where he's hitting only .222 (including .065 over the past week), but he still has a .500 slugging percentage at the level.
Plus, Soler already is on the Cubs' 40-man roster, while Bryant isn't, so it's simply a matter of whether the organization's decision-makers want to get his feet wet in preparation for a full immersion in 2015.
Christian Binford, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats (High-/Double-/Triple-A): 8-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 133:17 K:BB (132.2 IP)
Folks, in case you haven't heard, seen or read, the Kansas City Royals are in first place in the AL Central. That means two things.
One: They are in position to reach the postseason for the first time since—drum roll, please—1985.
Two: They are going to make use of some of their top young talent to help ensure they get there.
That includes Christian Binford, a 21-year-old starter who was recently promoted to Triple-A to work out of the bullpen.
"We'll get our best arms and evaluate and see what we have," Kansas City manager Ned Yost told Dick Kaegel of MLB.com. In other words, Binford could be called upon as a September reinforcement.
Same goes for Brandon Finnegan, the 21-year-old left-hander drafted 17th overall out of TCU just this past June, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats (Rookie/High-/Triple-A): 0-0, 2.87 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 23:8 K:BB (15.2 IP)
It's sounding more and more like the Chicago White Sox might handle Carlos Rodon, this year's No. 3 overall draft pick, the same way they did fellow southpaw Chris Sale in his draft year. That is to say, the 21-year-old North Carolina State product could make it to the majors by the end of his first season as a pro.
Rodon made his Triple-A debut Tuesday, and it was a bit of a mixed bag, as Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. The plan was to have Rodon throw 60 pitches or four frames, but he wound up exiting after three frames and 55 pitches, in part because he walked three batters.
Still, Rodon did allow but one hit and only one run while also striking out three. There's no reason to rush Rodon, but if he finds some more rhythm over the next few outings, it wouldn't be surprising to see him pitch out of the bullpen on the South Side in September.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats (High-/Double-/Triple-A): 11-1, 2.22 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 148:36 K:BB (113.2 IP)
Few pitching prospects have had a better 2014 than Daniel Norris. The 2011 second-rounder struggled in his introduction to pro ball, but he has broken out and jumped three levels this season—and is close to making it four.
Promoted to Triple-A Buffalo in early August, the 21-year-old's first two turns with the Bisons have been so brilliant that the Toronto Blue Jays are considering him for a September call-up, as Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star notes. Norris has hurled 11.2 frames of five-hit, one-run ball while sporting a ridiculous 23-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Jays pushed fellow top young arm Aaron Sanchez to the majors in July and have been using him out of the bullpen. The club could take the same approach with Norris, whose next start is slated for Friday. It just might be his final one as a Bison.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 6-6, 3.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 149:60 K:BB (123.1 IP)
Getting his control under, well, control remains the biggest priority for Alex Meyer, which is why his start Wednesday night was very much encouraging.
The 24-year-old, who stands a towering 6'9", gave up three earned runs on eight hits in 5.2 frames, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an immaculate 10-to-0. It was only the third time all year that Meyer, who is walking 4.4 per nine, didn't allow a single free pass and was his first-ever game with double-digit whiffs and no walks.
Might that be enough for the Minnesota Twins to bring him to the bigs next month? As Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes:
Even if Meyer only comes up to make a few appearances out of the Twins bullpen, there is support for that within the Twins big-league coaching staff. Having worked a quick inning at the All-Star Futures Game in July, Meyer, 24, could benefit from additional exposure to Target Field and the major leagues in general before hitting his team-imposed innings limit.
Berardino goes on to speculate that figure is somewhere in the range of 145 to 155 innings. Meyer currently has 123.1 on the year, with only two starts left before Rochester's regular season ends.
Beyond that, Berardino points out that Meyer must be added to the 40-man roster this offseason to avoid being available for selection in the Rule 5 draft, so the Twins simply could get that over with in September—by putting him on the 25-man roster.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): 9-6, 2.99 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 129:28 K:BB (120.1 IP)
Andrew Heaney has been throwing so well at Triple-A New Orleans of late that he soon should be getting a shot at a big league do-over.
The 23-year-old made four so-so starts for the Miami Marlins midseason but was sent back down to regain some confidence and work on his command. Mission? Accomplished. In his last turn Sunday, Heaney took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and wound up allowing just one single while whiffing nine. It marked his third straight quality start.
Even with Henderson Alvarez's return from the disabled list and the trade-deadline acquisition of Jarred Cosart, Heaney could be in line to step in for fellow left-hander Brad Hand in the Fish's rotation. If not, a bullpen role would work too.
With the Marlins at .500 and sticking around the NL wild-card picture, it wouldn't be shocking to see them bring Heaney back up sooner than September.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .299/.426/.574, 92 R, 48 XBH (30 HR), 68 RBI, 28 SB, 135:88 K:BB (503 PA)
Sure, Joc Pederson's batting average recently dipped below .300 for the first time since the second game of his season at Triple-A, but he's continuing to do damage with the bat and run like crazy on the bases.
To wit, the 22-year-old hit his 30th home run Monday, Aug. 18—his sixth in a 10-game stretch—which leaves him just two stolen bases from becoming the first 30-30 player in the Pacific Coast League since Frank Demaree did it 80 years ago, per Ashley Marshall of MiLB.com.
As the video above proves, the lefty-swinging Pederson has been hitting southpaws better in 2014 too, addressing what had been a concern by posting an OPS north of 1.000 against them.
Even if there isn't an opening in the Dodgers' overcrowded outfield, Pederson should be up in early September, because the Albuquerque Isotopes are out of the PCL playoff race.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (High-/Double-/Triple-A): 7-3, 4.09 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 78:23 K:BB (73.1 IP)
All Taijuan Walker has been doing at Tacoma recently is shoving it. He followed up his career-high 13-strikeout gem from last week with six innings of three-hit, one-run ball with nine more whiffs over the weekend.
In his most recent turn Wednesday, the 22-year-old fired yet another quality start, giving up three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts over six.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, rookies Roenis Elias and James Paxton and, somehow, Chris Young are holding down the three rotation spots after studs Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
That leaves no present opening for Walker, but he's doing his darnedest to bust one. His best hope might lie in the fact that Paxton is on same schedule, and the lefty has battled injury issues for much of 2014. His start Wednesday wasn't especially encouraging, either, as he gave up four runs (one earned) on nine baserunners in four innings in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
That's not to say that Walker will be replacing Paxton any time soon—just that he could. With the M's a game behind the Detroit Tigers for the second wild card in the AL by two games in the loss column, they don't have much margin for error. Walker is the kind of arm who will be up to pitch in (literally) one way or another down the stretch.
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