Top MLB Prospect Call-Up Radar Report, Week 20
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.
Highly regarded youngsters like Marcus Stroman, Jonathan Singleton, Gregory Polanco and Ken Giles 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.
With the trade deadline further in the rearview mirror, the next notable portion of the season that will affect top young talent is the September 1 roster expansion from 25- to 40-man rosters, which should allow for plenty of promotions of prime prospects.
Already in the past week or so, the Minnesota Twins brought up righty Trevor May for his debut, and the same happened for Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb, San Diego Padres outfielder Rymer Liriano and Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor.
Beyond that, Anthony Ranaudo and Rafael Montero, right-handers with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively, as well as Detroit Tigers lefty Robbie Ray all came back up to help fill out rotations and/or make spot starts.
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.
- Yellow: Call-up within a month.
- Green: Call-up within a week/call-up is imminent.
Here's a look at the top-prospect call-up report for Week 20 of the 2014 MLB season.
Others on the Cusp
Jacob Lindgren, LHP, New York Yankees
Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Micah Johnson, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Alexander Guerrero, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mookie Betts, 2B/OF, Boston Red Sox
Kyle Parker, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Tim Cooney, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Andrew Lambo, 1B/OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Robert Refsnyder, 2B/OF, New York Yankees
Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): .341/.448/.689, 107 R, 72 XBH (39 HR), 100 RBI, 15 SB, 135-73 K-BB (516 PA)
As fantastic as Kris Bryant has been this year—seriously, just go back and look at the stats—the chances that the 22-year-old gets a shot at The Show in his first full professional season are, well, slim to none.
Here's how Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune put it:
[Chicago Cubs] President Theo Epstein reiterated his previous stance that Bryant needs more work before being called up. That means he won't be playing for the Cubs until next April at the earliest.
"Nothing has changed," Epstein said. "I still don't foresee a scenario where Kris would get called up this year. It would really take extraordinary circumstances to call up anybody in his first full professional season. For us...not only would the player have to be doing extraordinary things, but there would have to be unique circumstances with the big league team, where we were in a pennant race and really needed that boost."
While Bryant is living up to the "doing extraordinary things" part of Epstein's explanation, the Cubs obviously aren't holding up their "in a pennant race" portion. Plus, Epstein did acknowledge that Bryant still is working on specific elements of his game, namely defense and his mastery of the strike zone.
"[Bryant]'s doing a phenomenal job," Epstein said before adding this reminder: "I think people forget because of the success that he's had, he was just drafted 14 months ago."
At this point, perhaps the speculation on Bryant should start focusing on whether he'll be Chicago's third baseman on Opening Day or a few weeks into the season, so the Cubs can maintain control over the 2013 No. 2 pick for an "extra" year.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, New York Mets
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 8-6, 4.76 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 119:37 K:BB (113.1 IP)
It's no secret that Noah Syndergaard's numbers, including a bloated 4.76 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, haven't been anywhere near as good as they have been in the past. It's also no secret that he's actually thrown the ball well but has struggled in large part because he's pitching in the hitter haven at Las Vegas and in the offense-heavy Pacific Coast League.
Syndergaard's elevated .385 BABIP proves he's been unlucky, and his 9.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 show he's still got the same top-of-the-rotation stuff and skill set. Plus, the soon-to-be 22-year-old has been fantastic of late, with a 1.88 ERA and 32-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his past five starts (28.2 innings).
Nonetheless, the New York Mets chose to call up fellow righty Rafael Montero when rookie Jacob deGrom hit the disabled list, and general manager Sandy Alderson acknowledged via Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that Syndergaard may not debut until next season.
"You look at where Vegas is now and in fact should be in the playoffs," Alderson said of Syndergaard's Triple-A club that's fighting for a postseason berth. "With the number of innings he has left, it is conceivable he wouldn’t be up here, also possible he will be."
So the door is closing, but it has not yet shut on Syndergaard, who has pitched 113.1 innings—his career high is 117.2 last year—and could be shut down once he approaches the 130 range. If that happens, expect to see nothing more than an appearance or two in Flushing.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats (Rookie/High-A): 0-0, 4.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 13:4 K:BB (9.0 IP)
It's not often that a player makes his MLB debut in the same year in which he's drafted, but Carlos Rodon might be a rare case.
The 21-year-old, who was drafted out of NC State as the No. 3 overall pick a little more than two months ago has reached High-A Winston-Salem after a brief two-game stopover in Rookie ball. In all, Rodon has made five appearances across the two levels. His last outing on Aug. 7 was his longest yet, a three-inning start in which he didn't allow a run while giving up two hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
Given his pedigree, polish and repertoire—including a wipeout slider—Rodon just might get a taste of the bigs before 2014 is over, as Scott Merkin of MLB.com writes:
There's a better-than-average chance that Rodon could follow the Chris Sale development path from 2010 and pitch in the majors during the same season in which he was drafted. Any addition of Rodon most likely would come when rosters expand in September. He also would work out of the bullpen...to manage his workload.
Hey, it worked for Sale, another big-armed college lefty picked in the first round, so it's certainly in the realm of possibility for Rodon. Then again, Sale already had debuted by Aug. 6 of his draft year in 2010 after just 10.1 innings in the minors. Still, this is something to monitor as Rodon kicks off his pro career.
Maikel Franco, 1B/3B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .244/.290/.386, 52 R, 40 XBH (10 HR), 59 RBI, 2 SB, 72:28 K:BB (476 PA)
The season as a whole hasn't been a good one for Maikel Franco, the Philadelphia Phillies' breakout prospect of 2013.
After hitting .320 with 31 homers and 103 RBI a year ago, Franco's average is at .244 to go with 10 home runs and 59 RBI. Part of Franco's struggles can be attributed to a reduced batting average on balls in play this year (.269), plus he still is very young for the Triple-A level, as he turns just 22 Aug. 26.
The good news, though, is that he's picked up the pace over the past month and a half, slashing .319/.340/.532 since the start of July.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly that there's a possibility Franco will be up once rosters expand in September but likely not before that.
It might make sense for the righty-swinging Franco to see some action as a platoon partner for Cody Asche at third and/or Ryan Howard at first, since both hit from the left side
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): 8-6, 3.20 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 120:26 K:BB (112.1 IP)
Much like his four-start cameo with the Miami Marlins, Andrew Heaney's performance since being sent back to Triple-A has been a mixed bag.
The 23-year-old, who posted a 6.53 ERA with the Fish but actually made two solid starts, owns a 4.79 ERA over his seven most recent turns with New Orleans. He has, however, turned in four quality starts in that span, including his past two.
With Henderson Alvarez expected to come off the disabled list Saturday, Aug. 16, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, Miami is going to have a bit of a rotation crunch shortly, so there's no easy way to fit Heaney in anytime soon. Then again, it's not like Brad Hand and Brad Penny (yes, that Brad Penny) are major obstacles, either.
If the 59-61 Marlins—only 4.5 games out of a wild-card spot—decide to go all arms on deck, Heaney should be one of those arms, whether it's as a starter or a reliever.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (Triple-A): .302/.425/.568, 85 R, 45 XBH (27 HR), 63 RBI, 26 SB, 130:81 K:BB (474 PA)
At this point in the season, with no clear opening in the still-crowded Los Angeles Dodgers outfield, maybe the more interesting narrative involves keeping Joc Pederson in Triple-A so he can take a run at history.
The 22-year-old Pederson, you see, currently has 27 home runs and 26 stolen bases, putting him on pace for the first 30-30 campaign in the Pacific Coast League in a long (looooong) time, as Eric Stephen of True Blue LA points out.
Meanwhile, Pederson bides his time, awaiting an injury to one of the approximately 38 outfielders ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. He's still striking out a lot (27.4 percent), but the lefty-hitting Pederson also has drastically improved against southpaws, as he's sporting an OPS that is nearly identical against both right- and left-handers.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (Double-/Triple-A): .269/.338/.383, 62 R, 27 XBH (9 HR), 57 RBI, 27 SB, 81:45 K:BB (480 PA)
While the trade of incumbent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera helped clear a path for Francisco Lindor, there's no need for the Cleveland Indians to rush a 20-year-old kid with fewer than 100 at-bats at Triple-A. What's more, he's had his struggles at the plate, hitting just .233/.275/.360 at Columbus.
Plus, veteran Mike Aviles and rookie Jose Ramirez are holding down the fort in Cleveland for now, as Jordan Bastian of MLB.com writes.
And yet, the Indians' defense continues to be a problem—the team still ranks dead-last in errors—and Lindor's glove is his biggest asset. He also homered Tuesday as part of a second straight multihit game, so maybe if he can find a groove with the stick fast, the Indians will take their potential Opening Day 2015 shortstop for a test drive.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 6-5, 3.32 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 132:57 K:BB (114.0 IP)
OK, so Alex Meyer's last outing didn't go all that well. The 24-year-old made it through only two innings while surrendering nine baserunners and four runs.
That might have come at a bad time given that the Minnesota Twins recently traded away Kevin Correia and still could use another quality arm, even after the acquisition of Tommy Milone and the promotion of fellow prospect Trevor May.
It's not like one start is going to do in Meyer's chances at his big league debut. What might, though, is his innings total, as he's now thrown 114.0 on the year and has never exceeded the 129.0 he reached in 2012.
An outside-the-box idea: Minnesota could bring up and break in Meyer in a relief role down the stretch to help him cut his teeth in the bigs, because he's going to be a key part of its 2015 rotation.
Heath Hembree, RHP, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (Triple-A): 1-3, 3.73 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 50:15 K:BB (41.0 IP)
Acquired as part of the Jake Peavy deal in July, Heath Hembree made a strong—and lengthy—first impression with the Boston Red Sox over the weekend.
A reliever by trade, the 25-year-old hurled (count 'em) four scoreless frames—the most he's thrown in one appearance as a pro—against the Los Angeles Angels in that 19-inning epic last Saturday.
"Honestly, I was getting a little tired," Hembree told Ricky Doyle of NESN.com, "but I was just trying to give everything I had and just empty the tank."
For his efforts, Hembree was swiftly demoted back to Pawtucket, but that was primarily because the big league club was badly in need of fresh arms. Expect Hembree, who has closer stuff and 19 saves on the year, to return to Boston once he's rested up.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (High-/Double-/Triple-A): 6-3, 4.34 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 69:20 K:BB (64.1 IP)
In a perfect world, Taijuan Walker wouldn't even be eligible to be included in this column by now because he would have spent the majority, if not all, of the season pitching for the Seattle Mariners.
Alas, a shoulder injury in spring training set him back, and he has since been on a bumpy shuttle back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle, all while drawing the frustration of the big league club for his inconsistency on the mound.
In fact, Walker, who turned 22 Wednesday, demonstrated as much in his past two turns. On Aug. 4, he had his worst outing of 2014, allowing eight runs on eight hits in just 2.1 innings; but he followed that up Aug. 10 with arguably his best start of the year, firing 7.0 innings of two-hit, one-run ball while whiffing a career-best 13.
Here's the reaction of manager Lloyd McClendon, who has been critical of Walker recently, to that shove-it start, via Greg Johns of MLB.com: "That was certainly a step in the right direction. It was a nice outing for him and hopefully he can build on that and continue to pitch well. We just want him to continue to pitch and get better. We'll see where that takes us."
In other words, a call-up isn't necessarily looming, but it also could happen at any time—as long as Walker throws well—especially since the M's are trying to limit rookie Roenis Elias's innings.
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