In this section, we'll give you scouting reports on MAJOR LEAGUE CALLUPS, mostly starters that will be making their pitching debuts. If you want an update or scouting report on any call-up, be it pitcher or everyday player, feel free to ask on Twitter or email me anytime and I would be happy to oblige.
Dinelson Lamet (RHP - SD)
The Padres will called up the 24-year-old from Triple-A and he’ll make his major league debut with a start today (Thursday, May 25). He could make multiple starts if all goes well initially. Lamet was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 and has flown under the radar ever since despite posting impressive numbers at each level of the minors. Not only is he tough to make hard contact against, but he misses bats with two plus offerings in his 92-96 mph fastball and high-80s slider. Lamet has a tall, strong frame and can pitch downhill with his arm slot. His fastball also features late, tailing action which gives him high groundball tendencies. While he just started to use a change-up in 2016, it has shown promise and should become another decent pitch in his arsenal. Lamet has been effective against hitters from both sides, but he needs to seriously upgrade his command in order to exceed his lofty expectations. If he can get ahead in the count and rely on his slider, he could become a high strikeout pitcher in the majors. He is certainly worth watching and if the Mets had anyone but deGrom pitching today, we’d probably grab Lamet at this price. Lamet has a career 2.99 ERA, 3.8 BB’s/9 and 10.1 K’s in the minors.
STATS: El Paso (AAA) – 8 GS, 3-2 3.23 ERA, 39 IP, 4.6 BB’s/9, 11.5 K’s/9, 2 HR, .222 oppBA
Miguel Almonte (RHP - KC)
Signed in 2010 and first appearing in the 2013 Royals top prospects list, the 6’2”, 210-pound Dominican got some push as a possible frontline starter back then. Fast forward four years later and Almonte remains a high-upside guy who continues to frustrate. Armed with two potential plus-plus pitches in his fastball and changeup, he has the requisite skills to record high K rates, but due to his inability to command the mid-90s fastball, nor develop a consistent, even fringe-average breaking ball, many scouts think he’s better suited for the bullpen. There, his fastball/change combo would play up for the late innings, but Kansas City seems intent on keeping him in the rotation and early 2017 dividends are paying off. Almonte’s currently sporting 1.8 BB’s/9 and 10.7 K’s/9 over 24.1 innings at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and remains in their rotation to date. He credits his improved results due to a focus on his mechanics as well as pitching exclusively from the stretch. He’s up because Ian Kennedy is on the 10-day DL and/or because Chris Young can’t get anyone out. The shine is off, but there’s still upside here in Almonte’s profile and he’s worth watching to be sure. Still, we’re not crazy about a starter making the jump from Double-A to the majors so we’ll watch one time before backing him.
Almonte’s career line: 533.1 IP, 3.86 ERA, 3.1 BB’s/9, 8.7 K’s/9, 35 HR, .246 oppBA, 1.25 WHIP.
2017 STATS: Northwest Arkansas (AA) — 5 G, 1-0. 1.85 ERA, 24.1 IP, 1.8 BB’s/9 10.7 K’s/9, 2 HR, .186 oppBA, 0.86 WHIP.
Paolo Espino (RHP - MIL)
After 10 years and 1,304 innings in the minor leagues, the 30-year-old will make his major league debut with a spot start on Friday, May 19. Mostly a starter in his career, Espino is in his fourth organization. He was a 10th-round pick of Cleveland in 2006 before signing with the Cubs as a minor league free agent in 2013. He was released at the end of spring training that year and caught on with the Nationals for three seasons. Espino doesn’t have a blazing fastball or a knockout breaking ball, but he commands the plate with precision and doesn’t beat himself. His fastball sits between 87-91 mph and he mixes in a curveball and solid-average change-up that keeps hitters off guard. His short, stout frame gives him plenty of durability, though he doesn’t work deep into games. Espino has been a moderately high strikeout pitcher in the minors with a very low walk rate. The strikeout rate is more on deception and working ahead in counts than a true swing-and-miss pitch. He has a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB’s/9 and 8.3 K’s/9 in his minor league career.
STATS: Colorado Springs (AAA) – 7 gs, 4-0 2.54 ERA, 39 IP, 1.2 BB’s/9, 9.2 K’s/9, 5 HR, .241 oppBA
Jeff Hoffman (RHP - COL)
The Rockies promoted the 24-year-old from Triple-A to be used as the 26th man for the doubleheader on Tuesday May 9, against the Cubs and now he’ll start for the first time this season. Hoffman is an excellent prospect. He was a first-round selection of Toronto in 2014 before being sent to Colorado in a blockbuster trade in July 2015. He has electric stuff, though it hasn’t yet translated to domination at any level of pro baseball. He started six games in 2016 with the Rockies and posted a 4.88 ERA with a 4.55 xERA. With a potentially dominant 93-96 mph fastball and a plus, hard curveball, Hoffman should miss more bats than he does. He has a tendency to nibble at the corners as opposed to pitching aggressively and letting the ball fly. He also mixes in an occasional slider and average change-up that continues to show improvement. Hoffman’s command comes and goes and he’ll need to sequence better to thrive in the big leagues. At times, his mechanics get out of whack and can lack deception. Otherwise, his delivery and arm action are quick and clean. If all comes together, he could develop into a front line starter. He has a career 3.58 ERA, 2.8 BB’s/9 and 8 K’s/9 over 257 minor league innings. For Albuquerque of the hitter friendly PCL league, Hoffman started six games this year and posted a solid 3.71/3.31 ERA/xERA split with an oppBA of just .222 over 35 frames. Don’t be surprised if he gets whacked because he’s young and still learning but there is a ton of potential here so watch closely.
Trevor Williams (RHP - PIT)
Trevor Williams was in the running for a spot in the Pirates starting rotation until the final days of spring training. The 24-year-old Williams just missed out and instead stuck as the Pirates swingman. The 6'3", 230-pound Williams had a great spring, striking out 18 in 17.2 IP while walking only two batters. As a prospect, he hasn't impressed that much, being known as more of a durable starter with a four-pitch mix where only two of the pitches are average or above. His fastball sits in the low-90s, but his change-up is above average sitting in the high-70s and showing good fade. He has a slider and curve, but neither are much so both will need to show improvement. He is a smart pitcher who knows how to set up hitters and throw strikes. He just doesn't have the stuff to dominate, as he showed in a brief appearance for the Pirates last year and in six appearances this year covering 12 frames. Still, he has the potential to becoming a #4 or #5 starter in the big leagues and he made a good impression this past spring. Pitching out of the pen this season, Williams has walked seven batters in those aforementioned 12 frames. His first-pitch strike rate is 48%. What’s interesting is that he’s never had control problems in the past so that tells us he’s “pitching scared” for fear of getting hit hard. In other words, he’s nibbling and ending up walking guys. He dominated at Triple AAA Indianapolis last year over 20 starts with a 2.53 ERA and if he gets it in his head that he belongs, he should be fine, especially when you consider he’s working with the best pitching coach in the business. He’ll make his first start today (May 8) at Los Angeles, which isn’t a bad venue to get your feet wet. That said, he’s up against Alex Wood in his debut, which is not favorable for the Pirates so we’ll pass.
Chase De Jong (RHP - SEA)
When Dillon Overton went on the paternity list, Seattle called up 23-year-old prospect Chase De Jong to fill in for a few days. The 6'4", 205-pound right-hander appeared in three spring training games, pitching 9 innings, striking out three and walking three. De Jong throws three pitches with a low-90s fastball that can reach 94 and shows location and movement. His curve is average to above average in the high 70s, and his change-up is fringe. He had a good season in 2016, making observers think he could become a back-end starter. He is not a particularly athletic pitcher, with a somewhat stiff delivery. But he doesn't hurt himself by issuing many walks, with a career 2.1 BB’s/9 that adds to a great command. As a starter, he can give the team innings during Overton's absence. In the long run, this former Blue Jay and Dodger might be serviceable at the back end of the Mariners rotation in a year or so. In five minor league seasons his ERA is 3.43 with a 1.14 WHIP in 448.1 IP.
That said, he’s looked very uncomfortable in his three innings of relief work with three walks, 2 K’s, a troublesome 29%/64% groundball/sly-ball split and a measly 3% swing and miss rate. The sample size in the majors is puny but the risk looks too great right now.
2016 STATS: Tulsa (AA) – 25g, 25gs, 14-5, 2.86 ERA, 141.2 IP, 2.1 BB’s/9, 7.9 K’s/9, 15 HR, .207 oppBA
Nick Pivetta (RHP, PHI)
The Phillies recalled the 24-year-old from Triple-A to make a start today (Sunday, April 30). The power pitcher has gotten off to a hot start to the 2017 campaign by allowing only two earned runs in his first three starts to go along with 24 strikeouts. Pivetta is an intriguing under-the-radar arm with a solid 91-95 mph fastball that features late life. He keeps the ball on the ground due to the downhill plane from his 6’5” frame. His best pitch is a hard curveball that picked up a few ticks of velocity in 2016. He uses it as a chase pitch, but can also drop it into the strike zone. His other secondary pitches include a middling slider and change-up. One positive trend has seen Pivetta’s strikeout rate increase in the upper minors. Many believe the key to his future development and potential role is based entirely the development of his change-up. Presently, he slightly slows his arm action on it, but it is gotten better the past few years. If the development stalls, it would be interesting to see how he fares as a high-leverage arm in the bullpen. Pivetta has a career 3.61 ERA, 31 BB’s/9, and 7.5 K’s/9. He was acquired from the Nationals in July 2015 in the Jonathan Papelbon trade.
2016 STATS: Lehigh Valley (AAA) – 5 gs, 1-2 2.55 ERA, 24.2 IP, 3.7 BB’s/9, 9.9 K’s/9, 2 HR, .233 oppBA
Reading (AA) – 22 gs, 11-6 3.41 ERA, 124 IP, 3.0 BB’s/9, 8.1 K’s/9, 10 HR, .235 oppBA
Casey Lawrence (RHP - TOR)
After demoting RHP Dominic Leone to the minors on April 8, the Blue Jays turned to Lawrence, a 29-year-old pitcher from Triple-A. He has spent the past three seasons bouncing back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A. Though mostly a starter throughout his career, he was utilized as a reliever when he was first called up. With both Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ on the rack, Lawrence gets the call today (April 22) against the Halos. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2010, he has been with the Blue Jays for his entire career. He’s best known for his exceptional control and ability to pitch down in the strike zone. As a groundballer, he pitches to contact and generally has posted high opponent batting averages in previous seasons. Lawrence modified his delivery mid-way through 2016 which resulted in a few more ticks to his middling fastball. Now sitting between 90-93 mph, he still isn’t a flamethrower, but he has a little more punch. Lawrence also works with an average curveball and passable change-up. There is very little upside here and he likely will be on the shuttle between Triple-A and the majors until some of the Blue Jays' more acclaimed arms are ready. He has a career 3.83 ERA, 1.7 BB’s/9, and 5.9 K’s/9 over his minor league career.
Buffalo (AAA) – 15 gs, 5-6 3.83 ERA, 87 IP 2.5 BB’s/9, 6 K’s/9 5 HR, .260 oppBA
New Hampshire (AA) – 13 gs, 3-6 4.56 ERA, 75 IP, 1.6 BB’s/9, 6.0 K’s/9, 8 HR, .311 oppBA
Jayson Aquino (LHP - BAL)
Aquino is a 23-year-old left-hander who spent most of his minor league career in the Rockies' organization. Owned by several MLB teams in 2015 and with Baltimore last year, this is Aquino's first big league start. The 6'1", 225-pound Aquino is known as a soft-tossing pitcher who found the going tough when he reached the upper level of the minors. His K-rate dipped all the way down into the 5s last season, so he dropped off the radar a bit. He does have some good qualities: a groundball approach (more than a 2-to-1 ratio last year), he usually has decent control, and his hit rate has been reasonable with a career .237 oppBA. He throws a 88-92 mph fastball, with a plus change-up that he can throw for strikes and that he uses to keep the batters off balance. He has a curve, but it is below average, and would need improvement for him to succeed as a starting pitcher. He knows how to work his fastball well to both corners, and by keeping the ball down, he can give his defense a chance to get quick outs. The strikeouts crept back up to a 6.2 per 9 rate last year in Bowie, but that is still down from his career mark. He will need to keep the walks down, improve the strikeouts and work on that third pitch to reach his ceiling as a #5 starter. It was encouraging to see his improvement last year compared to 2014 and 2015, but it would be better to see him consolidate those gains in Triple-A before spending much time in the majors. Aquino has paid his dues in the minors by pitching over 700 monor league innings for 11 different teams.
In seven minor league seasons as a starting pitcher, his ERA is 3.09 with a 1.32 WHIP and .243 oppBA in 728.1 IP
Brian Johnson (RHP-BOS)
Johnson has a strong frame with plenty of durability and average arm strength. He uses his 6’4” height well and throws from a high three-quarters slot to keep the ball low in the zone. Johnson’s fastball can be relatively straight, but because of his height and angle, he is more of a groundball pitcher. He has an advanced feel for pitching with an above average repertoire. His fastball sits between 88-93 mph, but his best attributes revolve around his sequencing, changing speeds, and command. Johnson has two breaking balls at his disposal with his curveball being the better of the two. He also mixes in a good changeup that he throws with the same arm speed as his other offerings. Without a plus pitch, he’ll need to rely on his savvy and moxie in the majors. Had it not been for an injury (ulnar nerve issue in his elbow), he would have been called up earlier but make no mistake, this kid can pitch .Johnson owns a career 2.58 ERA, 2.8 BB’s/9, and 8.5 K’s/9 in the minors since his selection in the first round of the 2012 draft.
2017 STATS: Pawtucket (AAA) – 2 gs, 10.2 IP, 1.69 ERA, 15K, 4 BB, 0 HR, .225 oppBA.
Dylan Covey (RHP - CHW)
Despite only pitching 29.1 innings in Double-A with the Athletics in 2016 due to injury, the White Sox selected the 25-year-old in the Rule 5 draft in December 2016. He’s been rewarded with a placement on the Opening Day roster. While he will initially be in the bullpen as a long reliever, he could see a spot start or two depending on the calendar and the health status of Carlos Rodon. Covey has a power arm and returned with aplomb in the Arizona Fall League after his injury-plagued campaign. He’s long had potential since he was an unsigned first round pick of the Brewers in 2010. Oakland later drafted him in 2013 after his college days at San Diego. Covey hits his spots with a terrific 89-94 mph fastball and keeps the ball down in the zone for groundballs. He likes to use his sinker early in the count. His big breaking curveball registers strikeouts, but he has trouble throwing it for consistent strikes. A decent change-up gives him a third average offering. Covey has a good pitcher’s frame, but given he’s only pitched 29 innings above High-A, he may struggle initially in the majors. He owns a career 4.20 ERA, 2.9 BB’s/9 and 6.4 K’s/9 in the minors.
Jordan Montgomery (LHP NYY)
Jordan Montgomery was selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and signed on June 16 of that same year. His track record in the SEC pushed him up some draft boards and he;s been getting progressively better ever since. He stepped into South Carolina's rotation as a freshman, helping the Gamecocks reach their third straight College World Series finals in 2012. He replaced Michael Roth as the Gamecocks' ace in 2013, posting a 1.48 ERA that ranked 11th in the nation. He ranked second in the Southeastern Conference with 60 strikeouts in 65 innings. Montgomery is no power pitcher, despite his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame. He locates an 90-94 mph fastball and when he locates it inside, he's able to pitch away with his above-average changeup. He has a fringy, slow curveball and has mixed in a cutter to give hitters a different look. Montgomery has climbed the ladder quickly. He went from Hi-A ball to Double A to Triple A all in the span of less than 16 months. He has dominated at all levels with the latest being at Triple-A Scranton, where in just 37 innings, he allowed just 28 hits with a BB/K ratio of 9/37 to go along worth a 0.97 ERA. Montgomery is raw with very little experience at any level of professional baseball but he may be one of those rare jewels that come along from time to time and may just be worth keeping a close eye on.
Zach Lee (RHP - SD)
In need of another arm, the Padres recalled the 25-year-old from Triple-A. and he’ll make his first start today (April 12) although it’s an emergency one after Luis Perdomo was scratched. Lee’s role hasn’t yet been determined as he could either stay in the bullpen for long relief or make a spot start or two. The former first-round pick in 2010 has never lived up to the billing. In fact, he’s made only one major league start—in 2015 with the Dodgers, his original organization. They later traded him to Seattle in June 2016 before being claimed off waivers by the Padres in December. He was poor all season in 2016, though there is still hope he’ll translate his plus athleticism into quality outings at the big league level. He has the feel and touch for his craft, but remains too hittable with average stuff. Lee’s strikeout rate continues to fall, but he throws consistent strikes and gets good movement to his arsenal. He uses an 88-93 mph fastball, slider, curveball and below-average change-up. At his best, he attacks with his fastball/slider combo, but that has been quite infrequent. For his career, Lee has a 4.29 ERA, 2.4 BB’s/9, and 7 K’s/9 but his opponent BA of .315 really sticks out as a red flag.
Amir Garrett (LHP - CIN)
24-year-old Amir Garrett has been named the Reds #4 starter out of a spring training where he struck out 14 of the 95 batters he faced while walking six of them in 21.1 IP. The 6'5", 228-pound lefty started his sports career playing basketball for St. John's University before switching to baseball exclusively in 2014. Since then he has seen steady progress. He has a low-to-mid 90s mph fastball that he can use to dominate batters, but which he has struggled to command consistently. He is improving though, and that is a heavy fastball that works away from the batter. His slider is another tool that could develop into a plus offering, and his change-up has seen marked improvement. Since 2014 he has moved methodically up the minor league ladder and now finds himself in the big leagues. As long as the control stays steady, his command will provide him with big league success. He has a minor league career ERA of 3.94 ERA with 8 K’s/9 and 3.7 BB’s/9 in 496.0 IP.
2016 STATS: Louisville (AAA) – 12g, 11gs, 2-5, 3.46 ERA, 67.2 IP 7.2 K’s/9 4.1 BB’s/9 6 HR, .202 oppBA
Rookie Davis (RHP - CIN)
Named as the #3 starter for the Reds out of spring training, 23-year-old Rookie Davis finds himself in the big leagues for the first time. The 6'5", 255-pound righty is a ground ball specialist, not a strikeout artist. The Reds infield will get a workout when he pitches. Davis is a strong, tall right-hander who can command his pitches. His fastball is plus and sits low-to-mid 90s mph with solid sink. He has a curve and change-up that are both average pitches. The key for Davis is he can command each of his pitches in and out of the strike zone. So while he won't strike out guys, he won't walk them either, and is more of an inning-eater 4th-starter type. He might not have much upside, but he has a solid floor. He had a nice spring, striking out 25% of the 67 batters he faced while walking only three of them. That .258 oppBA from the spring is in line with his career minor league mark of .264, but beware that his Triple-A oppBA last year was .355 leading to an ugly 1.88 WHIP. He should have big league success as long as the defense is ready to help him. If the hits get through, heavy WHIPs could follow. He has a career 3.87 ERA, 7.5 K’s/9, 2.4 BB’s/9 in 450.2 IP in the minors and all but 24 of those innings were at Double AA or lower. In other words, he’s pitched just 24 Triple AAA innings and may not be ready for prime time.