MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has recently taken a look at some potential impact rookies throughout the AL Central and AL West. Steve Adams handled the NL West. Now let’s move on to the NL East, whichwas one of the strongest divisions in baseball in 2019, with four teams finishing .500 or above. 2020 figures to be just as competitive. Perhaps a strong rookie season could be a difference-maker for one of these teams. Who could it be? Let’s take a look at some of the contenders.
The Braves already have a crowded outfield at the big league level. But if any kind of opportunity should present itself, Cristian Pache is going to be waiting in the wings. The 21-year-old has received more praise for his defense and speed than for his offense. But his bat seemed to turn a corner in 2019. Over 433 plate appearances at Double-A, he put up a slash line of .278/.340/.474, good enough for a wRC+ of 134. His Triple-A numbers aren’t as strong, with a line of .274/.337/.411 and a wRC+ of 92. That was over a smaller sample of 105 plate appearances, though, and he was only 20 years old.
Pache could have competition in the form of fellow outfield prospect Drew Waters, who is following a similar trajectory. Waters was also 20 last year and spent the bulk of the season at Double-A, where he managed a lofty 144 wRC+. He also had a cup of coffee at Triple-A, where his wRC+ dropped to 84 at Triple-A. While both Pache and Waters while played 26 games at Triple-A, Waters dwarfed Pache in the strikeout column, 43 to 18.
On the pitching side, the Braves have a pile of young arms who are slated to be in Triple-A to start the year, fighting to be the first one to get the call. The 24-year-old Kyle Wright has electric stuff but hasn’t been able to translate it into success at the big league level yet. It’s a similar story for 22-year-old Bryse Wilson. Ian Anderson is only 21 and isn’t on the 40-man, but he has already been bumped up to Triple-A after dominating in Double-A.
The rebuilding Marlins already have lots of promising youngsters on the roster right now, and there are more on the way. Sixto Sanchez hasn’t reached Triple-A yet, but after dominating in Double-A with a 2.53 ERA over 103 innings, it’s possible he won’t need too much time there. Same goes for Edward Cabrera, whose Double-A ERA was just a smidge higher at 2.56, though in a smaller sample of 38 2/3 innings. Evaluators are split as to which of the two should be ranked higher. If you’re the Marlins, that’s a good problem to have.
In terms of position players, the most exciting options are outfielders. Jesus Sanchez has a tremendous bat but lacks plate discipline. Monte Harrison’s defensive skills give him a decent floor. But the bat will need to take another step for him to reach his ceiling. He put up a decent line of .274/.357/.451 in Triple-A in 2019, good enough for a wRC+ of 97, just below league average.
The Mets’ rotation took a big hit when it was announced that Noah Syndergaard will undergo Tommy John Surgery. And while they may turn to veterans like Michael Wacha or Seth Lugo to pick up the slack, they could also look to some of the rookies they have in the minors.David Peterson hasn’t reached Triple-A just yet, but he threw 116 Double-A innings in 2019, with an ERA of 4.19 and 9.47 K/9. Franklyn Kilome missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018, but he was the Mets’ fifth-best prospect at that point. Stephen Gonsalves was once a highly-touted prospect in the Twins’ system, though an injury-plagued 2019 led to them losing him to the Mets on waivers. He’s still 25 and could be a wild-card factor if he can get healthy and regain his form.
As far as position players go, shortstop Andres Gimenez is an exciting prospect (mostly because of his speed and defense). The 21-year-old swiped 66 bags from 2018-19, so the big question is how he’ll do with the bat. Gimenez spent 2019 at Double-A, slashing a mediocre .250/.309/.387, but he’s still young. And since the Mets have plenty of middle infield options such as Amed Rosario, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil and maybe even Jed Lowrie, it will be difficult for Gimenez to contribute as soon as 2020.
For the Nats, the most important rookie is definitely Carter Kieboom, one of the best prospects in baseball. The infielder had an excellent 2019 at the Triple-A level, slashing .303/.409/.493 for a wRC+ of 123. The 22-year-old wasn’t able to carry those numbers into his MLB debut last season, but it was only an 11-game sample size.
With Anthony Rendon moving to California, there’s an opening for Kieboom to be the everyday third baseman. He’ll have to earn it because the Nats brought back Asdrubal Cabrera as a fallback option, but they’d surely prefer for the 22-year-old Kieboom to take the job. That would enable the Nats to use Cabrera in a utility role.
Alec Bohm’s calling card is his bat. As a 22-year-old in 2019, he played 22 games in A-ball and produced a wRC+ of 196. In A+, he played 40 games with a wRC+ of 165. In 63 games at Double-A, the wRC+ was 146. If he can keep hitting in Triple-A, the question will be where to put him. Bohm mostly plays third, but many evaluators feel that his defense is too weak for the hot corner and suggest a move to first. The Phillies would surely love for Bohm to prove those evaluators wrong because they have Rhys Hoskins entrenched at first. Their current plan for the rest of the infield is to deploy Jean Segura at third, Didi Gregorius at short and Scott Kingery at second. But since Segura can also play shortstop or second, Bohm could nudge his way into the picture if any one of them goes down with an injury.
On the mound, the big name to watch is Spencer Howard. Despite injuries limiting his total output in 2019, he still put up great numbers when healthy. In 30 2/3 innings at Double-A, his ERA was 2.35. And Howard, 23, capped off his season with 21 1/3 innings of 2.11 ERA ball in the Arizona Fall League. The Philly rotation is a bit flimsy, with guys like Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin keeping a tenuous hold on back-end spots, so a healthy Howard could shove his way into the equation.
For the millions of fans missing baseball on what would have been Opening Day, the Strat-O-Matic gaming company will try to help fill the void by providing a simulated version of every game originally on the schedule. Today’s action included Brock Holt hitting a three-run walkoff homer to lead the Brewers to a 7-4 win over the Cubs, a 13-inning marathon between the Rockies and Padres that saw Trevor Story hit two homers in a 10-7 Colorado victory, and Chris Archer tossing six shutout innings in a 4-1 Pirates win over Archer’s former team, the Rays.
Some (real life) notes from around baseball…
- Noah Syndergaard, Chris Sale, and Tyler Beede are a few of the pitchers who have chosen to undergo Tommy John surgeries in the days since the league-wide shutdown, which has led to some questions about when (or should) such procedures be performed given that medical facilities the world over are increasingly halting or postponing elective surgeries to free up resources for COVID-19 patients. The topic is broached in pieces from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, each featuring comments from several medical professionals debating both sides. The issue is further complicated by the fact that there isn’t yet any nationwide standard about such practices in the United States, which is why clinics in different states can have varying approaches.
- Baseball America’s Ben Badler profiles another batch of international prospects expected to sign with MLB teams when the next international signing window opens (a date that now could be pushed back from July 2 to as late as January 2021). The Orioles, Rangers, Padres, Royals, and Rays are connected to the five players in Badler’s piece, with some contractual bonus information known for two of the youngsters. Kansas City is expected to spend “north of $1.5MM” on Dominican shortstop Daniel Vasquez, while Tampa Bay is expected to spend “a little below $2MM” on Dominican outfielder Jhonny Piron. While the dollar figures for this year’s international spending pools haven’t yet been released, the Rays already figure to have committed a big chunk of their available funds on Piron and Carlos Colmenarez, given that Badler previously described Colmenarez as “making a strong case to be the No. 1 player” in this year’s international class. This would seemingly put Colmenarez in line for a major bonus, though the Rays can always add to their international pool by trading with other teams. It’s also fair to assume that the bonus pool system could also see some type of alteration if and when the signing window doesn’t open until January.
The Rockies announced on Thursday that they have optioned right-handed pitchers Jose Mujica, Ryan Castellani and Jesus Tinoco, as well as outfielder Yonathan Daza to Triple-A Albuquerque (Twitter link).
The most noteworthy name in the bunch is Mujica, as he was the only free agent signing for the Rockies this past offseason. Mujica had Tommy John surgery in September of 2018 and was cut loose by the Rays shortly thereafter. After missing all of 2019, the Rockies signed him in November. However, it appears the team viewed that signing as more of a long-term investment, given that he doesn’t have a spot in the rotation for the short term. But since he’s still only 23 years old, there’s still time for him to force his way into the picture.
Castellani should also be in the Triple-A rotation, battling Mujica for position on the depth chart. The 24-year-old will be looking to get back on track after a miserable 2019, during which injuries limited him to 43 1/3 innings of 8.31 ERA ball. Castellani did have an encouraging conclusion to his season in the Arizona Fall League, though, as he put up a 2.16 ERA through 16 2/3 innings.
Tinoco logged decent bottom-line production in 2019, with an ERA of 4.75 in 36 innings out of the bullpen. But FIP and xFIP weren’t nearly as impressed, pegging him at 7.91 and 5.84, respectively. He was optioned and recalled three times over the year and seems poised for a similar fate in 2020.
As for Daza, the 26-year-old has put up solid numbers in the minors but didn’t impress during his 105 plate appearances at the big league level in 2019. He slashed .206/.257/.237 for a wRC+ of 19.
The Rays and Reds have worked out the final details of a pair of offseason trades between the two clubs, as per multiple reporters (including MLB.com’s Juan Toribio). Back in November, the two clubs engaged in two trades, one that sent right-hander Jose De Leon to Cincinnati and (a week later) another that sent first baseman/outfielder Brian O’Grady to Tampa Bay. Both trades saw the players exchanged for either cash considerations or a player to be named later, and today’s news confirms that the two teams have agreed to accept money to complete the transactions.
Cincinnati optioned De Leon to the minors two weeks ago, after the righty posted a 6.75 ERA over 2 2/3 Spring Training innings. When and if the season gets underway, the 27-year-old De Leon will continue to work to get back to the form that made him a highly-touted top-40 prospect prior to the 2016 and 2017 seasons. De Leon’s progress was halted, however, by Tommy John surgery in March 2018. He returned to throw 56 minor league and four Major League innings in 2019.
O’Grady was also optioned to Triple-A just earlier today, which was expected given that the Rays already have a number of left-handed hitting first base options. O’Grady’s ability to handle all three outfield positions could end up being his clearer path to playing time in Tampa Bay, as the Rays are forever looking for players with defensive versatility. An eighth-round pick for the Reds in the 2014 draft, O’Grady made his MLB debut in 2019, making 48 plate appearances (and hitting .190/.292/.429) over 28 games. The 27-year-old O’Grady has a .252/.354/.453 slash line over 2276 career PA in the minor leagues.
With the coronavirus at least delaying the Major League Baseball season, MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement on several key issues Thursday night, as Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported. Service time, players’ salaries, roster moves, the draft and the upcoming international signing period are all addressed in the deal, which owners will vote on Friday. If it’s ratified, a roster freeze will go into an effect for an indeterminate period of time, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic.
A typical season would have featured 186 days overall, giving players up to 172 days of service time. We don’t know how many there will be this season, though, and that could have had lasting effects on players and teams had the two sides not hammered something out. Now, thanks to this agreement, all players who are active or on the injured list for the entirety of a shortened 2020 season will receive a full year of service time, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Players’ service time will be pro-rated in the event of a truncated campaign, Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds. So, if there’s a 100-day season and a player’s active for 50 of those days, he’ll get half a year of service. If no season happens at all, service time accrued will be based on the amount of days the player earned in 2019, per Rosenthal.
The service time portion of this pact is especially welcome news for many who are due to become free agents next winter. The likes of Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto and George Springer will all remain in position to reach free agency then even if a season does not take place. Meanwhile, pre-arbitration players (including names like Matt Chapman and Gleyber Torres) will stay on track to go through the arb process for the first time.
For now, those major leaguers and the rest around MLB will receive a $170MM advance (3 to 4 percent of their full salaries) spread over two months, Rosenthal reports. The union will distribute the money to four classes of players, but those with guaranteed contracts stand to rake in the largest total. The players’ salaries will be pro-rated based on how long the season lasts, and they won’t be able to sue for their full amounts. Rosenthal adds.
Looking ahead to the summer, this year’s amateur draft could go down to five rounds, per Passan, but MLB will have the ability to increase that total, Rosenthal relays, adding that the event won’t occur later than July. Players’ signing bonuses will be deferred, not given out up-front, and they’ll receive 10 percent now and 45 percent over the next two years. Meanwhile, undrafted free agents will be able to sign for up to $20K, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
In another decision that will have some effect on young talent from around the game, the upcoming international signing period could be delayed until as late as January 2021, Passan writes. It’s currently scheduled to run from July 2 of this year through June 15, 2021.
These are certainly noteworthy steps for baseball during a time of such uncertainty, though there are still more details to work out. For example, as Rosenthal notes, agreements on spring training and roster size have not come together to this point. Under normal circumstances, we’d have seen 26-man rosters this year, but it’s possible that number will increase for 2020 if a season does occur. According to Passan, there’s a possibility that if the regular season does happen, it will last from June through October and include more doubleheaders. The playoffs would bleed into November and perhaps include games at neutral sites.
Astros legend Jimmy Wynn passed away today at age 78, the team announced. The Astros’ official statement:
Today, we lost a very big part of the Astros family with the passing of Jimmy Wynn. His contributions to our organization both on and off the field are too numerous to mention. As an All-Star player in the 1960s and 70s, Jimmys success on the field helped build our franchise from its beginnings. After his retirement, his tireless work in the community impacted thousands of young people in Houston. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on at Minute Maid Park, at the Astros Youth Academy and beyond. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Marie, daughter, Kimberly, son, James, Jr., to the other members of his family and to his many fans and admirers.
Wynn hit .250/.366/.436 with 291 homers, 225 steals, and 1105 runs scored over his 8011 career Major League plate appearances, with the first 11 of his 15 seasons coming in Houston. Wynn first played for the Astros (known as the Colt .45s) in 1963, the franchise’s second season in existence, and he was one of the headline stars of the early days of Houston baseball. Between his 5’9″ height and big throwing arm, Wynn also boasted one of the era’s best nicknames, as he became known as the “Toy Cannon.”
While Wynn’s numbers are already impressive on the surface, he is often cited as a player who true ceiling as a hitter may have been obscured by a pair of extra factors. Firstly, his prime years came in the 1960’s, the most pitching-friendly decade in modern baseball history. Secondly, Wynn played the majority of his home games in the huge Astrodome, which suppressed his power numbers.
Despite these obstacles, Wynn twice topped the 33-homer plateau while playing for Houston, including a 37-homer campaign in 1967 that stood as the Astros’ team record until Jeff Bagwell broke the mark in 1994. Even among all the great offensive players who have suited up for the Astros in more hitter-friendly era, Wynn still sits prominently within the top ten in most of the franchise’s all-time offensive lists. Wynn also set a new National League record with 148 walks during the 1969 season, and that total is still tied for the 14th-highest single-season walk total in baseball history
Wynn posted a 129 OPS+ and 130 wRC+ over his career, which also includes stints with the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, and Brewers. He was a three-time All-Star, with two of those appearances coming during his two seasons in Los Angeles. Wynn’s first year with the Dodgers, 1974, saw him bat .271/.387/.497 with 32 homers, helping carry the team to a National League pennant before falling to the A’s in the World Series.
We at MLBTR send our best wishes to Wynn’s family and legions of fans around the game.
The Yankees pared down their roster Thursday, optioning three pitchers – Deivi Garcia, Mike King and Ben Heller – as well as infielder Thairo Estrada to the minors. The club sent Garcia to Double-A Trenton and the rest to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Garcia and King may be the most intriguing names in this quartet. It wasn’t long ago that both pitchers were competing for season-opening roles in the Yankees’ banged up rotation. But if the coronavirus does delay Opening Day until June or later, injured left-hander James Paxton figures to begin the year in the Yankees’ starting staff. That would give them a complete five-man rotation with Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery complementing Gerrit Cole.
While Garcia and King aren’t ticketed for season-opening roles in New York, the pair could find themselves in the majors soon enough. The two undoubtedly count among the Yankees’ best farmhands, with Baseball America ranking the 20-year-old Garcia as their No. 3 prospect and placing King, 24, at No. 13.
Estrada, also 24, made his MLB debut in 2019 and batted .250/.294/.438 with three home runs in 69 plate appearances. He played both middle infield positions and both corner outfield spots during that brief stint.
Heller, whom the Yankees acquired from the Indians in the teams’ 2016 trade centering on Andrew Miller, has totaled just 25 1/3 major league innings thus far. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018, thereby sidelining the 28-year-old for all of that season and for the majority of last year.
The Diamondbacks have optioned right-hander Taylor Clarke and infielder Kevin Cron to Triple-A Reno, the team announced.
The 26-year-old Clarke, a third-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2015, got an extended look in the club’s staff last year. The D-backs battled injuries to Luke Weaver and Taijuan Walker, and they subtracted Zack Greinke via trade, which helped lead to 23 appearances and 15 starts for Clarke. But Clarke didn’t show especially well in that 84 2/3-inning span, pitching to a 5.31 ERA/6.41 FIP with 7.23 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9. Clarke was worse with Reno, though, as he put up a 6.63 ERA/5.87 FIP and 6.87 K/9 against 4.17 BB/9 over 36 2/3 innings in the offensively charged Pacific Coast League.
Cron, on the other hand, was among the players who thrived the most in the PCL last year. He slashed an otherworldly .331/.449/.777 (good for a 182 wRC+) with 38 home runs 377 plate appearances. The 27-year-old walked nearly as much he struck out in Reno (61 free passes, 77 Ks), but wasn’t able to carry that success to the game’s highest level. While Cron did put his his prodigious power on display as a Diamondback (six home runs, .310 ISO in 78 trips to the plate), a 35.9 percent strikeout rate against a 5.1 percent walk mark had a hand in holding him to an unspectacular .211/.269/.521 line.
The Phillies shuffled six players off of their 26-man roster, according to a team announcement. They are lefties Austin Davis and Cole Irvin, righties Edgar Garcia and Reggie McClain and outfielders Kyle Garlick and Nick Williams
On what was originally scheduled to be Opening Day, the big baseball action of the day has instead been reruns of past games and procedural moves such as this one. None of these moves are particularly surprising.
The four pitchers all saw some time in MLB in 2019. But since they all posted ERAs north of 5.75 in their respective seasons, they will all have to go back down to the minors and wait for their next opportunity.
As for Garlick and Williams, they each had a decent shot of earning a roster spot a couple of weeks ago. But that was because Andrew McCutchen was not going to be ready to rejoin the team until April and therefore open the season on the IL. Now that the start to the season has been delayed until at least May, McCutchen should be able to get healthy in time to reclaim his regular role in left field. And with Bryce Harper, Adam Haseley, Jay Bruce and Roman Quinn also on the roster, that seems to push Garlick and Williams down the depth charts and into the minors.
St. Louis is among many teams that has trimmed down its roster Thursday. The team announced that it has optioned four players – right-handers Alex Reyes and Junior Fernandez, lefty Genesis Cabrera and catcher Andrew Knizner – to Triple-A Memphis.
Reyes, once among the highest-rated prospects in the game, is the most recognizable name in the group. Thanks in large part to a variety of injuries, the 25-year-old hasn’t been able to live up to the vast hype he generated in his younger days. As of a couple months ago, the hope was that he’d at least emerge as a quality bullpen piece this season for the Cardinals. Perhaps that will indeed happen, but he’ll have to work his way back from the minors first. Thus far, Reyes has endured his fair share of difficulty in Triple-A, including during a 2019 showing in which he stumbled to a 7.39 ERA with 12.2 K/9 and 7.7 BB/9 in 28 innings.
The hard-throwing Cabrera, 23, wasn’t a great deal more successful at preventing runs than Reyes last year in Memphis, where he put up a 5.91 ERA with 9.64 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9 over 99 innings. But Cabrera, like Reyes, still counts as one of the Cardinals’ most promising young arms. Baseball America ranked Cabrera as the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect after last season, when he totaled 20 1/3 major league innings with a 4.87 ERA and 8.41 K/9 against 4.87 BB/9.
BA also has favorable opinions of Fernandez (the Cardinals’ No. 13 prospect) and Knizner (No. 8). The 23-year-old Fernandez debuted at both the Triple-A and major league levels last season. He was especially strong in 24 1/3 frames as a member of Memphis, with which he logged a 1.48 ERA, induced grounders at a 61.7 percent clip and struck out 9.99 batters per nine with 4.07 BB/9.
Knizner batted .276/.357/.463 with 12 home runs in 280 Triple-A plate appearances a year ago, though the .226/.293/.377 line he registered in his first 58 PA in the majors fell well short. He’ll continue to remain behind Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters in the Cardinals’ pecking order at catcher.