Today's Free Picks for
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.
Luis Castillo (RHP - CIN)
The Reds are calling up 24-year-old Luis Castillo to make his major league debut today (June 23). For a while now the scouts have assumed that Castillo would eventually wind up in the bullpen where his stuff could make him a dominant closer. However, his previous team, the Marlins, moved him back to starting and the results have been great. The longer he shows he can be successful starting, the more likely it becomes that this is where he will stay. He has the stuff to be a No. 2 SP if he reaches his ceiling. His fastball sits in the high-90s mph and can reach 101. He adds to that a power slider and an improving changeup. It's that changeup that is the key to his staying a starter. Castillo comes from Double-A, thus the promotion is not to Triple-A but to the majors and that’s a big leap. Will he stay up? Unlikely considering he has no Triple-A experience, and the team probably just wants him to get a feel for the majors before heading down to continue working on his secondary pitches. Yet, if he does well out of the gate, it would not be the first time a pitcher has jumped to the majors from Double-A. He certainly has dominated at that level this year, after only 14 IP last year for Miami's Double-A team. His K-rate of 9.1 is well above his career mark of 8.3, and his great control is in line with his recent stellar work preventing walks. Hitters are only hitting .233 against him, very much in line with his career-long ability to limit hits. He's only 24, and as noted he has no Triple-A experience, so expectations should be tempered in the short term. This may just be a brief learning experience for him. In the long run, the future looks bright for Castillo. Whether he stays as a starting pitcher, or he takes that 100+-mph heater to the bullpen, he seems likely to find major league success eventually. The Reds are about to find out if eventually begins now. In six minor league seasons his ERA is 2.66 with a 1.12 WHIP in 460.1 IP.
2017 STATS: Pensacola (AA) – 14 g, 14 gs, 4-4, 2.58 ERA, 80.1 IP, 1.5 BB’s/9l, 9.1 K’s/9, 5 HR, .233 oppBA
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL: #2 starter/closer
Mark Leiter Jr. (RHP -PHI)
The 26-year-old was summoned to the big leagues for the first time in early May and has been pitching out of the pen since. Leiter, whose father of the same name pitched in the majors, was a 22nd-round pick of the Phillies in 2013. Unfortunately, he has a fraction of the talent that his Pop had. Leiter has been a reliable workhorse with loads of durability and stamina despite a slight frame. He uses a drop and drive delivery that he repeats consistently, though his fastball mostly sits in the high-80s. He generally throws consistent strikes and is able to locate his fastball to both sides of the plate. His other pitches consist of a fringy curveball and average change-up. Leiter’s margin for error is quite slim as he doesn’t miss many bats. Then again, he offers a hint of deception that may make him difficult to hit the first time through a lineup. Thus, his future may be best in the bullpen. Leiter only has 19 innings of Triple AAA experience. Out of the Phillies ‘pen this year, he has thrown 19 innings over 12 appearances but has uncharacteristically walked 14 batters. He comes in with an xERA of 5.92 after those aforementioned MLB innings and he’ll now be asked to start in Arizona (a massive hitter’s park) of all places.
He has a career 3.37 ERA, 2.3 BB/s/9 and 8.4 K’s/9 in the minors mostly in Single and Double-A. Pass.
CURRENT ROLE: Middle reliever/starter
POTENTIAL: #5 starter / Long reliever
Andrew Moore (RHP - SEA)
The Mariners recalled the 23-year-old after optioning RHP Christian Bergman to the minors. Moore, a 2nd round pick in 2015, has been a quick riser in the system and will make his major league debut here as a starter versus the Tigers. He began the year in Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A in early May. What he lacks in size and velocity, he makes up for with well above average command and pitchability. Moore is very polished and has found success with moving the ball around the strike zone and sequencing his average arsenal in an advanced fashion. He effectively adds and subtracts from his 88-93 mph fastball and he locates it with precision. Moore’s best pitch is a change-up that is thrown with deceptive arm speed. His tight curveball can be average, but he tends to leave it up in the zone. As an extreme flyball pitcher, he could become the victim of HR’s in the majors. His overall mechanics are both quick and smooth. Moore may not have ever become a strikeout guy—though he’s seen an uptick in his K rate in 2017—but he is a solid bet to become a back-end rotation innings eater due to his easy arm action and durability. He owns a career 2.59 ERA, 1.6 BB’s/9 and 8.0 K’s/9.
STATS: Tacoma (AAA) – 8 gs, 3-1, 3.19 ERA, 48 IP, 1.5 BB’s/9, 8.3 K’s/9, 5 HR, .213 oppBA
Arkansas (AA) – 5 gs, 1-2 2.08 ERA, 34 IP, 2.3 BB’s/9, 8.6 K’s/9, 4 HR, .219 oppBA
CURRENT ROLE: Starter – may only be up for one start but that is yet to be determined.
Parker Bridwell (RHP - LAA)
The tall and athletic 25-year-old made his first major league start on Tuesday, May 30 against the Braves and went six full and allowed three runs on six hits. Obtained for cash from Baltimore in mid-April, Bridwell was once a very promising prospect. He still has some upside due to his frame and pitch mix, but he needs to prove his command gains are for real. He was moved to the bullpen by the Orioles in the middle of 2016 and he reached the majors as a reliever, appearing in two games late in the year. His failure to find consistency with his command and control has put a damper on his prospect status, but he still owns a solid-average 90-95 mph fastball and potentially plus changeup. Bridwell uses his height to throw downhill and he doesn’t allow many HR as a result. He mixes in two breaking balls—both below average—and he’ll need to add polish to one of them to remain a starter in the big leagues. Further, the effort in his delivery may work better in the bullpen where he could see a continued uptick in his velocity. Bridwell has posted a 4.64 ERA, 4.0 BB’s/9 and 8.2 K’s/9 in his minor league career. Perhaps more telling is that the Orioles gave up on him, which one could take one of two ways. The Orioles have proven that they’re clueless in evaluating pitchers so perhaps they misjudged Birdwell. The other way to look at it would be that if Birdwell couldn’t crack the Orioles staff, he should be thinking about another career because when Wade Miley is your “ace”, it might be the worst starting staff in history.
STATS: Salt Lake (AAA) – 4 g, 3 gs, 2-1 0.92 ERA, 19.2 IP, 0.9 BB’s/9, 8.7 K’s/9, 0 HR, .145 oppBA
Norfolk (AAA) – 2 g, 0-0 18.00 ERA, 4 IP, 10 hits, 1 BB, 6 K
Mobile (AA) – 3 gs, 0-1 2.00 ERA, 9 IP, 9 hits, 1 BB, 7 K
CURRENT ROLE: Spot starter – likely to return to minors after one start
Ryan Merritt (LHP - CLE)
Never known for being a strikeout artist, Ryan Merritt’s strikeout rate increased from a poor 4.8 K’s/9 last year to a mediocre 5.6 this year. Merritt succeeds with impeccable control. His outstanding control shows that Merritt makes the batter beat him. Looking at his career minor-league WHIP, it seems the lack of walks helps, but his hit rate is often on the high side. Batters hit .286 against last year and they’re hitting .289 against him this year. When all of the pitches are around the plate, some of them get hit. So while his ceiling isn't high, he does have the three pitches that would let him be a back end starter at this level. His fastball only reaches the low-90s mph, but it's complemented by a mid-70s curve and a high-70s change-up. He can change speeds, mixes his pitches well, get movement on the ball and he has a clean delivery. By using the same arm speed on all of his pitches, he gets more out of them than the quality of the pitches would indicate. He will always be prone to big innings when the batters get ahold of his pitches and the hits fall in succession but a pitcher who can control the ball can have some use in the majors, and even if he gets sent back down soon, he has shown that he can survive Triple-A. The next step is to carve out a role in the back of a rotation where he can give his team innings that, thanks to a low WHIP, can be useful enough. He started one game last year for Cleveland and he’ll make his first start this year here against another first time starter. Given the choice between he and Adam Wilk, we would take Merritt for sure.
Adam Wilk (LHP - NYM)
The Mets recalled Adam Wilk from Triple-A in early May for a spot start due to the suspension of Matt Harvey. It wasn’t pretty and he subsequently was put on waivers and that’s how he ended up on the Twins. Wilk has pitched in the majors before—in 2011-2012 with the Tigers and 2015 with the Angels. He has a 6.49 ERA and with 6.5 K’s/9 in 26 innings. The Twins are his sixth organization and he very well likely will be in Triple-A for most of the rest of his career and after this, the first game of a double-header. While the tall and lean pitcher can spot his pitches impeccably to all quadrants of the strike zone, he lacks the velocity and dependable breaking ball to fool hitters. Wilk’s fastball sits in the high-80s and he doesn’t have the heat to pitch upstairs. His other pitches—cutter, curveball, change-up—are all below average offerings that rarely miss bats. His strikeout rate appears better than it truly should be. He can retire minor league hitters by mixing, but that likely won’t translate to the big leagues. Wilk has been very durable throughout his career and could best profile as a spot starter or long reliever. For his career, he has a 3.67 ERA, 1.7 BB’s/9, and 7.0 K’s/9 but don’t let the 7 K’s per nine fool you. He’ll be lucky to strike out three batters per nine with the pedestrian stuff he exhibits. His BAA in the minors was .305 and he’s in line to get torched here. Pass.
Miguel Diaz (RHP - SD)
Another Rule 5, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time player, the 6’1”, 175-pound Diaz comes over from the Brewers, an organization which similarly two years ago held a low Single-A player, Wei-Chung Wang, on their major league bench in order to effectively steal him from his original organization. Diaz’s best pitch is a plus 94-96 mph fastball that he gets good tailing life on due to his short, quick arm action. While he uses his average slider more often than his average change, it’s this pitch that may eventually become his second-best offering, as he shows feel for the pitch and gets excellent separation from the fastball from a similar slot and arm action. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done here because prior to this year, Diaz has never pitched above A-ball. He has worked 24 innings out of the pen this year and has a BB/K split of 13/18 with a ERA/xERA split of 7.50/5.33. The ingredients are here for Diaz to be a rock-solid starter down the line. Whether or not that happens on the Padres remains to be seen, but they’re intent on keeping him and allowing him to progress at this level as oppose to losing him. The task for Diaz is to get through the order multiple times. That’s where Diaz has to make his biggest strides, which means he’ll be watched closely as the game develops. He has a nice three-pitch mix and he does it with ease of operation. He’s not stressed out there. He doesn’t look like he’s using everything he’s got in the tank to throw the ball 97 mph. The future is bright but the present is very risky because he’s so raw. Watch closely.
Diaz’s career line in minors: 236.0 IP, 3.51, 8.5 K’s/9, 2.8 BB’s/9 11 HR, .233 oppBA, 1.26 WHIP.
Jacob Faria (RHP - TAM)
The Rays will recall the 23-year-old from Triple-A and he’ll make his major league debut with a spot start today (Wednesday, June 7). Faria was leading the International League in strikeouts prior to his promotion and his deception could continue to help him register swings-and-misses at the major league level. He is a tall righty who throws downhill and uses his 88-94 mph sinker to induce his fair share of groundballs. He shows an outstanding feel for changing speeds and has the confidence to use his plus change-up in any count. Faria has success pitching backwards at times and uses his change-up to set up his other offerings. While his curveball is fringe-average at best, he can get hitters to chase it when he’s ahead in the count. His control is merely passable and for him to have lasting success in the big leagues, he’ll need to command his fastball better. Because of his delivery, size, and outstanding ability to change speeds, he’ll remain a very interesting option for Tampa Bay. He was ranked the #7 prospect in the system prior to this season and he’s done nothing to diminish that ranking. Faria has a career 3.13 ERA with 9.8 K’s/9 in the minors. Watch closely.
STATS: Durham (AAA):
11 gs, 6-1 3.07 ERA, 58.2 IP, 3.3 BB’s/9, 12.9 KL’s/9, 7 HR, .204 oppBA
Ben Lively (RHP - PHI)
Ben Lively was a 4th-round pick of the Reds in 2013 before being shipped to the Phillies in December 2014. As a career starter, he’s proven to be very durable with his tall, strong frame. He relies more on deception than natural stuff and has predictably struggled to maintain his strikeout rate as he’s moved up the ladder. Lively made mechanical adjustments early in 2016 that resulted in him throwing downhill and living in the lower half of the strike zone. Additionally, he held hitters to a .192 oppBA. His pitch mix consists of a low-90s fastball, two breaking balls and an improving change-up. He has been a consistent strike-thrower and must continue to command the plate to have success at this level. Lively has been effective at the upper rungs of the minor league ladder and he has a nice future ahead of him. The Phillies need a pick me up and this could be the guy to do it.
He owns a career 3.08 ERA, 2.7 BB’s/9 and 8.5 K’s/9
2016 STATS: Lehigh Valley (AAA) – 19 gs, 3.06 ERA, 117.2 IP, 3.3, 2.1 BB’s/9, 6.9 K’s.9, .196 oppBA
Reading (AA) – 9 gs, 7-0, 1.87 ERA, 53 IP, 2.6 BB’s/9, 8.3 K’s/9 1 HR, .185 oppBA
Tyler Pill (RHP, NYM)
A fourth-round selection out of Cal-State Fullerton in 2011, Pill has progressed through the minors as a pitchability guy who continually exceeds his tools. 6’2” and 200 pounds, Pill works with a four-pitch mix that he’s able to locate and sequence effectively. The only average offering here might be his fastball with good sink and location but even that’s a stretch, as it sits around 87 mph and touches 90. He also throws three below-to-fringe-average secondaries in a curve, slider and change. Pill’s held opponents to a .234 oppBA, with a 1.96 ERA this season, pitching in the difficult environs of Triple-A Las Vegas, after previously failing to make the transition from Double-A to Triple-A three times prior. The 26-year-old’s peripherals there (4.5 K’s/9, 2,8 BB’s/9) don’t scream major league success and it’s likely that Pill is more of an up-and-down guy than someone who sticks in the majors. However, he was an Eastern League All-Star last season, so perhaps there’s something there but we doubt it. Pill is physically unimposing but sturdily built at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. His frame and stuff evoke Ian Kennedy and his tenacity is a major asset but his stuff is not.
Just to recap….Tyler Pill has been in the minors since 2011. Three prior times he was promoted from Double-A to Triple A and all three times he could not stick because he was whacked. His 1.96 ERA this year at Triple-A Las Vegas looks good on paper but in 46 frames, he has walked 14 and struck out a mere 23 batters. Pill does not have much upside but his feel for pitching and makeup got him drafted and his determination since has him where he is now. Not recommended.
Pill’s career minor league line:
610.2 IP, 4.01 ERA, 2.5 BB’s/9, 7.3 K’s/9, 47 HR, .270 oppBA, 1.31 WHIP.
Eric Skoglund (LHP - KC)
With Danny Duffy going on the disabled list and with Nathan Karns not yet ready to come off the disabled list, the Royals are going to call up Eric Skoglund to make his major league debut for the May 30 start. The 24-year-old lefty has moved steadily up the minor league levels including almost 44 IP in Triple-A Omaha this year. He has shown a remarkable consistency at each stop with a K-rate in the 7-8 per nine range, a low WHIP and a moderate ERA. Skoglund stands 6'7" and only weighs 200 pounds so he's a tall and thin pitcher but he knows how to repeat his delivery and arm slot and to mix his three pitches with deception. His fastball only reaches the low-90s mph, so striking out a lot of major league bats isn't probably in his future unless his fastball increases its velocity. Though with his frame and his age, that is a possibility. His change-up needs more development as it currently lacks movement and arm speed. He can use his curve to drop in for strikes. In his minor league career, batters have only hit .251 against him. Couple that with his reluctance to walk batters and you have the makings of a nice workhorse with potential. However, let’s not ignore that this is an emergency start and if not for injuries, Skoglund would not be here. Thus, he’s likely here for a turn or two before heading back to Triple-A to keep improving his game. Cannot be recommended because he’s not MLB ready yet.
In four minor league seasons his ERA is 3.74 with a 1.18 WHIP in 310.2 IP.
2017 STATS: Omaha (AAA) – 8 g, 8 gs, 2-3, 4.53 ERA, 43.2 IP, 2.1 BB’s/9, 8.2 K’s/9, 5 HR, .266 oppBA.
Tyler Danish (RHP - CWS)
22-year-old right-hander Tyler Danish is being called up to start the second game of the doubleheader today (Saturday, May 27). This is not Danish's first MLB experience, for he appeared as a reliever in three games for the White Sox last June. Repeating Triple-A Charlotte this year has seen Danish with a mix of ups and downs: His control has improved slightly but his K-rate is way down to 4.5 from 6.4, yet the hits have also dropped and given him a much better WHIP. That's how it goes when you don't strike out batters and you get lots of ground balls: If the defense gets to those ground balls, you look like a better pitcher, and if they don't, your stats suffer. Standing only 6'0" and weighing 200 pounds, Danish is a short, strong starter who has good movement on his pitch mix. His fastball only reaches the low-90s mph, so he is never going to dominate batters. He has to use his good change-up with late action to complement that fastball. His slider is below average. He throws from a low 3/4 slot for deception, but the results are more or less what we see in his career. The batters put the bat on the ball and maybe the defense gets to it or maybe they don't. In the lower levels his K-rate was in the 7s, but in the upper levels it has leveled off in the 5s or 6s. A 4.5 level in Triple-A so far this year simply won't cut it in the majors unless he keeps his control pristine and hopes the hit balls don't find many holes. In five minor league seasons his ERA is 3.52 with a 1.32 WHIP in 452.0 innings.
2017 STATS: Charlotte (AAA) 8 g, 8 gs, 1-3, 3.15 ERA, 45.2 IP, 2.6 BB’s/9, 4.5 K’s/9, 5 HR, .251 oppBA.
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.
(Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)