1 In-House Roster Move Every MLB Team Should Make ImmediatelyMay 28, 2021
1 In-House Roster Move Every MLB Team Should Make Immediately
With the exception of a few under-the-radar deals, the MLB trade market won't heat up until two months from now when the July 30 trade deadline approaches and a clearer divide exists between contender and pretender.
In the meantime, teams are forced to rely largely on in-house talent.
Whether it's promoting a minor leaguer off to a hot start, shuffling the batting order, changing roles on the pitching staff or something else, there is also room to tinker with the 26-man roster.
We've highlighted one move each MLB team should consider making immediately, based on short-term impact on the MLB roster and long-term impact on certain players.
With journeymen Pat Valaika and Stevie Wilkerson manning second base, the Orioles have a clear path if they want to give potential shortstop of the future Terrin Vavra a look at the keystone to begin his MLB career.
Baltimore acquired the 24-year-old from Colorado in the Mychal Givens trade, and he's hitting .281/.431/.509 with three home runs in 15 games at Double-A. He's a polished, high-floor player who could skip Triple-A if the O's decide to give him an early look.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox's search for a third productive starting outfielder to play alongside Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe continues. While J.D. Martinez, Enrique Hernandez and Danny Santana have all seen time in the grass, Jarren Duran would provide a long-term solution.
The top outfield prospect in the Boston farm system, Duran is hitting .278/.366/.625 with seven home runs in 18 games at Triple-A Worcester. Expect to see the 24-year-old in Boston in 2021.
New York Yankees
With Luke Voit (50 PA, 53 OPS+) on the injured list and fellow first baseman Mike Ford (62 PA, 75 OPS+) off to middling start offensively, it might be time for the Yankees to see if Chris Gittens can provide a spark to the lineup.
A 12th-round pick in 2014, Gittens posted an .893 OPS with 23 home runs at Double-A in 2019, and he's hitting .323/.523/.774 with four home runs and more walks (12) than strikeouts (8) in 11 games at Triple-A this year.
"He has huge power, but Chris also is a good hitter," Triple-A manager Doug Davis told reporters.
Tampa Bay Rays
It might be time for the Rays to move Kevin Kiermaier into a part-time, fourth outfielder role. The 31-year-old is hitting .207/.277/.272 in 101 plate appearances, and he has an 81 OPS+ since the start of the 2018 season. He's still a stellar defender and could be an oft-used late-game defensive replacement, but his offensive game has bottomed out.
In his place, top prospect Vidal Brujan could provide a spark with his 70-grade speed and 60-grade hit tool. A middle infielder by trade, the 23-year-old has played some center field this year at Triple-A where he is hitting .333/.412/.653 with seven home runs and eight steals in 18 games.
Toronto Blue Jays
Michael Kopech has been a weapon for the Chicago White Sox this year in a multi-inning swingman role, posting a 1.78 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 30.1 innings spanning three starts and 10 relief appearances. That might be the best way for the Blue Jays to utilize Nate Pearson.
The 24-year-old has a 6.64 ERA in 20.1 career innings in the majors, but he has been dominant in two appearances since being sent down to Triple-A with 12 strikeouts in 6.2 innings. Turning him loose in shorter stints might be the best way for him to build confidence in the big leagues.
Chicago White Sox
With a .194 average and 11 strikeouts in 44 plate appearances, Jake Lamb has provided little production as a left-handed power bat off the White Sox bench.
Cutting ties with him would clear a path for 2017 second-round pick Gavin Sheets, who offers a 50-hit/50-power offensive profile. Similar to Lamb, the 25-year-old is a first baseman who can also man both corner outfield spots, and he's hitting .297/.342/.473 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 18 games at Triple-A.
It's time for Cleveland to move on from Jake Bauers, who is hitting .207/.296/.310 for a 69 OPS+ in 99 plate appearances as the team's primary first baseman. The former top prospect has 251 games of big league action under his belt and has yet to show signs of living up to his potential.
In his place, slugger Bobby Bradley could provide much-needed thump in the middle of the lineup. His surface-level numbers at Triple-A do not look great, but he started the year 0-for-13 and has since posted an .897 OPS with six home runs in 15 games.
For the sake of his development as a potential long-term piece of the rebuilding puzzle, it's time for the Tigers to send Willi Castro back to the minors.
After hitting .349 with 12 extra-base hits in 36 games as a rookie last year, he has an ugly .199/.257/.312 line with a 46-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 152 plate appearances. The 24-year-old still has intriguing tools, but his overaggressive approach is not working, and he needs to develop a better approach at the plate.
Kansas City Royals
Brady Singer and Kris Bubic are currently filling spots in the MLB rotation and Daniel Lynch made his MLB debut earlier this year. It's only a matter of time before fellow 2018 first-round pick Jackson Kowar gets his first taste of the big leagues.
The 24-year-old allowed four hits and one earned run while striking out 10 in his most recent outing for Triple-A Omaha, and he's now 4-0 with a 1.25 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 21.2 innings through his first four starts.
The Twins bullpen ranks 25th in the majors with a 4.78 ERA and has accounted for 14 losses and nine blown saves in 19 chances. Meanwhile, 6'6" left-hander Andrew Vasquez is mowing hitters down in relief for Triple-A St. Paul.
The 27-year-old has struck out 17 of the 32 batters he has faced while posting a 2.08 ERA and 0.69 WHIP in eight appearances. That should be enough to earn him another look after 10 forgettable big league appearances in 2018 and 2019.
The departure of George Springer has left a hole in center field, and the duo of Myles Straw (174 PA, 61 OPS+, .227 BA) and Chas McCormick (50 PA, 81 OPS+, .176 BA) has failed to fill the void. Could Jose Siri be the answer?
The 25-year-old has showcased loud raw tools since posting a 24-homer, 46-steal season at Single-A in the Cincinnati organization in 2017, but he has yet to get an extended look in the majors. The 25-year-old is hitting .371/.400/.726 with seven doubles and five home runs in 15 games at Triple-A, and while he strikes out a lot, he could make up for it with his power and capable center field defense.
Los Angeles Angels
Jo Adell should soon get another shot in the big leagues. The 22-year-old hit .161 with 55 strikeouts in 132 plate appearances as a rookie last year, but he's swinging a red-hot bat at Triple-A. After batting .191 with 21 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances over his first 11 games, he's hitting .375/.412/.969 with six home runs in his last seven.
"He's been very consistent at the plate over the last week after a rough patch early in the season," general manager Perry Minasian told reporters. "Overall he's definitely on the right track with what he's done over the last week."
With Mike Trout injured, this could be the time to give him another look.
Once ranked among the top prospects in the Yankees farm system, Domingo Acevedo put himself on the prospect radar by touching 103 mph with his fastball in the lower levels of the minors in 2015. After failing to develop as hoped in a starting role, he moved to the bullpen in 2019, and he signed a minor league deal with Oakland in November.
The 27-year-old still has the power stuff to be a high-leverage reliever, and he has struck out 15 of the 31 batters he has faced in seven appearances at Triple-A. He'll need to be added to the 40-man roster, but that will be a no-brainer if he continues to impress.
The surprise winner of the left field battle during spring training, Taylor Trammell hit .157 with 41 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances before he was optioned back to Triple-A.
The 23-year-old is annihilating minor league pitching, hitting .460/.473/.880 with six doubles, five home runs and 16 RBI in 12 games. The Mariners have a starting outfield of Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger, but they could rotate those guys through the DH spot to open up playing time for Trammell.
The Rangers are sacrificing a ton defensively by having Willie Calhoun (minus-14 DRS, minus-14.0 UZR/150 career) play left field on a regular basis to open up at-bats for Khris Davis in the designated hitter spot. In the final season of a two-year, $33.5 million contract, Davis is hitting .167 with a 54 OPS+, and for a team that has made it clear a youth movement is in full swing, it's time to cut ties.
Releasing Davis would allow Calhoun to shift to the everyday DH role, opening the door for Delino DeShields to be promoted from Triple-A. The speedy outfielder is hitting .365/.441/.577 with six extra-base hits and two steals in 13 games.
It's time to give left-hander Tucker Davidson an opportunity to earn a regular spot in the Atlanta rotation.
With Mike Soroka shelved thanks to shoulder trouble and Huascar Ynoa set to miss significant time with a fractured hand, the starting staff has a vacancy. Davidson allowed five hits and three earned runs in six innings in a spot start earlier this year, and he has a minuscule 0.90 ERA, 0.60 WHIP and 23-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 innings at Triple-A.
After a lackluster 2019 season in the upper levels of the minors and a 1-for-25 showing in his MLB debut last season, Jesus Sanchez saw his prospect star fade a bit heading into 2021.
Still just 23 years old, he is raking to the tune of a .449/.479/.884 line with three doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 20 RBI in 17 games at Triple-A. The Miami outfield is crowded, even with Starling Marte on the injured list with a rib setback, but it's time to find a place for his bat.
New York Mets
With 17 players on the injured list at last count, including six outfielders and Jeff McNeil, who spends some time in the grass as well, the Mets have been forced to dig deep to field a viable roster.
That meant rushing prospect Khalil Lee, who has been thoroughly overmatched in going 1-for-17 with 12 strikeouts. They would be best served sending him to Triple-A in favor of former Yankees top prospect Mason Williams, who is hitting .333/.415/.472 with five doubles in 15 games at Triple-A and can play all three outfield spots.
Remember once-dominant closer Neftali Feliz, who won AL Rookie of the Year with the Rangers in 2010 but quickly flamed out? The 33-year-old is still grinding as he looks to return to the majors for the first time since 2017.
The Phillies relief corps is once again an issue, as it has a 4.71 ERA that ranks 24th in the majors. Meanwhile, Feliz has yet to allow an earned run while striking out 12 of the 28 batters he has faced in 6.1 innings at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
For a Nationals offense averaging just four runs per game, it might be time to shake things up.
First baseman Josh Bell is off to a slow start, hitting .215/.278/.413 for a 92 OPS+, and he's batting just .171 with runners in scoring position. Moving him out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup in favor of surprise contributor Josh Harrison could provide a spark.
Harrison, 33, is hitting .324/.395/.618 with runners in scoring position, tallying a team-high 17 RBI in those clutch situations.
The Cubs took a one-year, $2.5 million roll of the dice on Trevor Williams during the offseason, hoping he would return to his 2018 form. Through nine starts, he has a 5.97 ERA and a .303 opponents' batting average, and it may be time for a change.
With a career-high 10.0 K/9, Williams might be a useful bullpen arm, so flipping him with rookie Keegan Thompson is a logical first step. The 26-year-old Thompson pitched almost exclusively as a starter in the minors and made a spot start earlier this year. He has allowed 10 hits and one unearned run in 14.1 innings over eight appearances.
The Reds are in need of pitching help, but in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez will make a spot start on Friday, but it's another Triple-A pitcher who could be ready to make a significant impact.
Tony Santillan was the No. 69 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2019 season, and while his stock dipped a bit that year, he's off to a terrific start with a 1.86 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. The burly right-hander could be ready to carve out a spot in the middle of the rotation.
Who doesn't love a good underdog story?
A 20th-round pick by the Nationals in 2017, right-hander Jake Cousins spent part of the 2019 season pitching for the indy league Schaumburg Boomers before catching on with the Brewers. He then spent another year on the indy circuit last season when the minor league campaign was halted.
The 26-year-old is pitching in the upper levels of the minors for the first time this season and has allowed just four hits while striking out 12 in eight scoreless innings, tallying three saves. He's earned a big league chance.
The Pirates are going to shuffle through Triple-A talent all season, so almost everyone on the 40-man roster will likely see big league action.
Right-hander Miguel Yajure was acquired from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade, and he allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings in his spot start on May 14. There's no reason he shouldn't get a long look in the MLB rotation during another rebuilding year.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals always seem to unearth some out-of-nowhere contributors each season, and Lars Nootbaar is one to keep an eye on this year.
An eighth-round pick in 2018 out of USC, Nootbaar is hitting .315/.431/.593 with four home runs and 14 RBI in 15 games at Triple-A Memphis. As the team continues to search for production from the corner outfield spots, he could play his way into an MLB opportunity soon.
Despite averaging 64 appearances per season from 2016 through 2019, and posting a 2.87 ERA and 1.16 WHIP during that span, Ryan Buchter was forced to settle for a minor league deal from the D-backs this offseason after a mediocre 2020.
The 34-year-old southpaw has looked the part of a polished veteran at Triple-A with a 2.79 ERA, 11.2 K/9 and six saves in nine appearances. The Arizona bullpen ranks 27th in the majors with a 5.33 ERA, so there is certainly room for improvement.
Another year, another dumpster fire of a bullpen in Colorado.
After tossing 3.1 scoreless innings in the majors last season, right-hander Joe Harvey has tallied 7.1 scoreless frames at Triple-A with 10 strikeouts. The 29-year-old is not a member of the 40-man roster, so someone would need to get the boot for him to be called up, but a number of candidates could be cut loose from one of the league's worst teams.
Los Angeles Dodgers
With newcomer Yoshi Tsutsugo (16 PA, 14 OPS+, .143 BA) and rookie Sheldon Neuse (51 PA, 42 OPS+, .180 BA) providing next to nothing in the way of bench production, the Dodgers could be ready to make a change along the margins.
With Chris Taylor capable of playing all over the diamond, the team could afford to option Neuse to the minors in favor of right-handed-hitting first baseman/outfielder Rangel Ravelo. The 29-year-old has always had intriguing raw power, and he's hitting .382/.485/.709 with six doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI in 16 games at Triple-A.
San Diego Padres
It's nit-picking, but with Brian O'Grady off to a 3-for-22 start, the Padres could stand to upgrade the final spot on the bench.
Versatile Ivan Castillo can play both middle infield spots, along with some third base and outfield, and he's hitting .375/.423/.438 in 52 plate appearances at Triple-A. The switch-hitting 25-year-old is already on the 40-man roster and O'Grady has two minor league options remaining, so it would be a simple swap.
San Francisco Giants
Infielder Thairo Estrada was the No. 8 prospect in the Yankees farm system in 2018, and he still has a chance to be a useful utility infield piece with some offensive upside.
With Wilmer Flores and Tommy La Stella both on the injured list with hamstring issues and Mauricio Dubon providing limited offensive production, Estrada could soon hit his way into the MLB picture. The 25-year-old has a .368/.434/.676 line with six doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 16 games. He's on the 40-man roster, and Dubon has an option remaining.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, and accurate through Wednesday's games.